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  • Sue Davey

A Printmakers Calendar

I have just turned over my brown bull with a flower on his bum. No, I am not having an affair with a bronzed Adonis sporting a delicately placed tattoo but have turned over my May calendar page, Taurus the Bull, to reveal the not so flaming June with her Champagne, Horses and Hat.

Taurus is the astrological symbol for MAY. JUNE was inspired by a past Royal Ascot poster.

I like the movement that the continuous line drawings create in this image.

My Calendar project was motivated by my inability to find a suitable kitchen calendar for 2021. All artists and calendar makers, it seems, were on furlough and being very unproductive. With time on my hands because of being locked up and down I decided to produce my own Calendar for 2022. Being a printmaker my aim was to produce twelve lino cut images, one for each month.

I started at the end of January 2021 and as the empty months were stretching ahead, it seemed the simplest of tasks to produce a selection of twelve images plus a front cover in time for hanging in my kitchen next New Year’s Day. Possibly over stretching myself as I then decided I would print ten to fifteen copies to give as gifts to unsuspecting friends. Nothing like forcing one’s art on to the walls of possibly reluctant recipients. Still they would only have to suffer each image for a month before it could be justifiably binned.

Not having thought through a theme for the Calendar, each illustration was a spur of the moment decision. MY work, MY calendar why stick to a theme? (In retrospect perhaps I should have done….hind sight is a wonderful thing). Before I could prevaricate (I am an expert on that) I ordered two blocks of A3 Fabriano printing paper, and printed the calendar blanks using Microsoft publisher. I then had to get cracking.

For JANUARY I decided to borrow a favourite image of mine from the front cover of January ‘Vogue’ 1919. It seems I am not the only fan of this image as I fell over a very similar fur engulfed lady depicted in the F.T magazine ‘How to spend it’. Editor was obviously on my wave length.

Linocut Vogue Cover F.T. magazine photo

FEBRUARY. Well it had to be the astrological symbol ‘The Water carriers’. February is possibly the month when we all want to sing the blues so I decided to celebrate it tropical style. The lovely ladies carrying vessels on their heads. I didn’t insert my birthday in the ‘dates to be observed’ on the February sheet. Nearly did though. I did find the use of Ternes Burton buttons and tabs invaluable for registration. Two blended rolls for the water carriers and then finally a black layer. The white jewellery registered perfectly. I couldn’t have done that by eye.

For MARCH I had an uncontrollable urge to print something using a purple ink alongside the lovely green chartreuse ink made by Hawthorne inks. Sort of mad colours and I am usually very conservative. Any way urge was definitely satisfied with this Mad March Hare and I continued with the rest of the calendar images in my usual sober fashion.

FEBRUARY The Water Carriers The Mad MARCH Hare

I hit on the ‘April showers’ theme for APRIL which I thought fitted the bill perfectly. This turned out to be a totally inappropriate image this year; I should have consulted my crystal ball, or at least, a long term weather forecast. Not a drop of rain or an umbrella in sight during April. The driest for years.

I had wanted to emulate (OK, nearly copy) the wonderful lino print by Ethel Spowers. ‘Wet Afternoon’ but it was well beyond my pay grade so in the end I had to design my own umbrella image. Which of course I should have tried in the first place.

APRIL Lino cut Ethel Spowers ‘Wet Afternoon’

JULY had to be Wimbledon. I decided against strawberries and focused on the tools of the occasion. Just a racquet, a ball and a net on a grass court. Very simple graphics. AUGUST was inspired by some photographs I had taken on a wonderful sailing trip in the Solent a few years back, during Cowes week. Memories of a lovely day. This image had several runs through the press to accommodate the many colours used.

JULY Wimbledon AUGUST Cowes week

SEPTEMBER can be a glorious month. I always know that summer is on its way out when my Rudbeckia flowers start turning their petals downwards to maximise their seed heads. There was no other image I wanted to use. Rainbow roll in yellow and orange and then blue over the top. Centres added last. OCTOBER. Libra. The scales of justice. Another zodiac sign. I used black on yellow to maximise impact.


NOVEMBER: The sight of all those thousands of ceramic poppies displayed around the outside of the Tower of London in November 2014 was quite stunning. Poppy was the perfect image for November. I traced the outline of the leaves and stalk with a pen dipped in caustic soda. Left the block for an hour before rinsing off. This gave a more feathery line.

Last but not least DECEMBER. The Three Wise men were from a collagraph block I made a while back. I didn’t like the way it printed so put it on one side. I resurrected the design for a lino cut. I fully intended to use two colours….gold and blue. The blue did not work so I just left the gold to tell the story. The design also doubled up as my Christmas card. What a bonus.


The icing on the cake….The front cover: 2022 is the Chinese year of the Tiger. I needed to depict a benign tiger and not one that looks unfriendly and fiercely hungry. This one is nearly smiling.

Just in time for Christmas. I managed to get the 12 copies finished. Beautifully collated and bound by Jay printers in Wokingham. All the images were reduction lino cuts using Ternes Burton tabs for registration where needed. Inks were either Caligo water washable oil based inks or traditional oil based inks.

As inspiration comes in fits and starts, mostly fits, and certainly not with the frequency required. I did borrow and alter a bit some of the images that I used. As Picasso famously said. ” Good Artists copy. Great Artists steal.” So I’m in good company.


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