During my recent visit to the Milk Factory Gallery in Bowral I came across the artist Vicki Boswell. She and Susan Heslin were exhibiting their work within the theme of ‘Stepping into View’. I was particularly drawn to Vicki’s work: a combination of paint (mainly water colour or gouache) and collage.
I’ve never been great at working with the human form, especially faces, and I like the way the artist has left some blank for the viewer to imagine. Shading on some of her works adds dimension and a facial impression.
In the pieces above her collage isn’t overpowering but instead adds an abstract surround, anchoring the figures in place.
The two artworks above are made up solely of collaged pieces. In these the background has become more prominent adding to the sense of movement. Again the faces have been left blank for the viewer to imagine.
I guess that as a person interested in collage I’m drawn more to those pieces, exploring how she has integrated torn paper, maps and text into compositions containing minimalist figures.
Some of her works are significantly more painterly which, in my view, creates a very different feel to the outcome.
In the piece to the left she has included facial features, which for me takes away the mystery of the person/people portrayed.
Part of the pleasure I find in her work is the mystery, imagining the expressions, gauging the age of the subject person and concocting my own narrative around the story being portrayed.
A couple of weeks ago I was searching through my somewhat disorganised sketchbooks for something to translate into a photopolymer intaglio print (a solar plate print). This is my least favourite print style (after screenprinting) for a number of reasons.
The print plate is exposed in one go, under an ultra-violet light. Yes, sections can be masked so the light hits different areas for different lengths of time but this can be a hit and miss situation.
Ultra-violet lights aren’t all the same. Some shine ultra-violet which indicates they are strong but the one I have access to in the communal studio shines yellow, so is a very low level light. How is one supposed to assess the length of time to expose the plates for? Run some trials I hear you say but I’m left at a loss when the tutor gives differing lengths of exposure time to each student, all of us with similar black printed acetate. Truth is, if I can’t understand it completely my results are either very lucky or very unlucky.
It’s essential to choose a design that has a variety of tonal variation otherwise the plate will expose all marks equally thereby creating a print matrix with the same tonal depth throughout. Boring.
Once the plate has been exposed, cured and is ready to print it’s possible to scratch into it and create more marks and detail. I’ve had no success with this whatsoever.
It’s terrific for detailed hand drawings and can produce very fine imagery. That type of drawing isn’t my strong point. Some people use images from photographs and I did that some years ago. Can’t see the point, where’s the design aspect? Some of my classmates have ‘collaged’ black and white photos together to make new designs and they’re fine, but not what I want.
But my biggest issue is with the inking of the plate. Despite my plates having been cured for over a week if I accidentally take too much ink off the surface the paper sticks. It’s an intaglio method, so there is meant to be minimal ink on the relief surface but there’s a fine line here between leaving too much and having excessive plate tone or wiping away too much and having your paper stick. And don’t even think about using handmade paper. Here’s my result.
The exposed plate (on the left) has wording well etched into the surface. On the right, part of it was printed using handmade paper from recycled 100% cotton rage paper offcuts, essentially recycled BFK Rives printmaking paper. I spent 2 hours trying to remove the stuck paper before abandoning the idea and chucking the lot in the bin. Tiny pieces of paper can be removed very carefully with a cotton bud but this can (and likely will) affect the remaining surface.
So why am I doing this again? Just trying not to deviate too far from the class print method chosen by the tutor for this term. Being a team player.
OK, back to my sketchbook. A while ago I messed about with watercolours; layering them and blowing them around the page with a straw. One piece has loads of tonal variety. I thought I’d give it a go so went ahead, gave it a trim and enlarged it to the correct size and translated it into a black and clear acetate.
Looking good so far. The acetate went on top of the photopolymer plate and under the lamp for 3 1/2 minutes before being carefully washed out for 5 minutes, dried and cured back under the light for 10 minutes, then out in the sun. It was printed the following week.
The black parts of the original design bit very deeply into the plate and although ink is applied into the recesses many of them don’t print as the damp paper won’t reach into the narrow deep spaces. The paper also doesn’t sink into the areas surrounding small relief sections, as can be seen from the close-up image here.
So this print could be described as a mistake, something where the differing levels of the plate are so extreme they can be inked up but not everything will transfer to the paper.
A mistake? The happiest printing accident I’ve had for a long time in my view. What a terrific effect, I couldn’t have hoped for anything better EXCEPT the paper stuck in a little of the wiped back light tones. What a pain.
Hoping to avoid this I re-inked and applied a roll-over in orange. The aim was to ensure that the higher relief areas were inked. This enabled me to wipe back the black as far as I wanted from the surface as they were then coated in orange ink.
Wow, these are so heavy. The orange was prepared for class use and, for my project, I feel there was simply too much ink on the roller. The second image has a slightly lighter touch so more of the layers can be seen but this isn’t yet what I want it to be.
I liked the image transfer remaining on the roller though so I grabbed a piece of paper and, in the guise of cleaning it for the next person, I rolled it across the surface.
The following week I tried viscosity printing. A great technique, if a little approximate in a class setting with shared ink.
I started by inking my intaglio design in Paynes Grey and wiping back. Using a very hard roller and a low viscosity (ink mixed with linseed oil) yellow ink I lightly rolled over the surface of the plate. This was followed by a second rolling over the surface but this time using a high viscosity (thicker) ink in red with a soft roller.
The concept is that where the yellow oily ink has adhered to the plate topmost surface the red will be rejected. The use of the soft roller with the red should force the colour into some of the crevices where the yellow couldn’t reach.
Barely a semblance of yellow in evidence but it’s obviously there – probably reducing the strength in some of the grey areas – because it’s resisted the red in some places.
This final print is looking great: the image is sharp, I’ve still got those wonderful white areas where the ink is missing, the layers are strong and the colours work well together.
A mistake? No, this plate has turned out to be a lucky accident.
The weather is currently cold and wet with dark days and a lot of wind. However, just a couple of weeks ago, during a sunny spell, when walking the bush trails I saw a sparkling Banksia tree. Not having my camera with me this is a phone photo.
It seems overly sharp but that’s what the phone has given me and I can’t go past the vibrancy of the colours.
As I new member of this exhibiting group I was delighted to see my book ‘minimal’ on display at the Milk Factory Galleries (Pop-up 1 & 2) when I visited on Thursday. It was also an opportunity to see all the other exhibits from the group, many of whom I don’t know yet.
The two galleries were well lit and the works hung with plenty of surrounding space. With a large group of contributors, some with several pieces, there is always a danger of overcrowding but that’s not the case here. The organising committee arranged for a professional hanger to curate the pieces and I can’t fault the outcome.
I was delighted to see my book placed on a circular stainless steel glass-topped table in the centre of one of the two galleries, visible as visitors come down the stairs and approach the space.
With 26 artists showcasing a total of 72 works, with no theme constraint, there is a wide variety of subject matter as well as choice of printing technique.
The building itself is an interesting place with multiple rooms, steps up and down between different spaces, open doorways leading through to unexpected smaller areas, and corridors and niches throughout. It hosts many different artists and short-term exhibitions with a wide variety of art both on and off the walls: painting, prints, small sculptures, jewellery and more.
The Milk Factory Galleries – Pop-Up Galleries
July 1 – 21 33 Station Street, Bowral, NSW 2576 10 – 4pm daily
Both internal and external pages have been printed and bound using reverse piano hinge. Each internal page has a semi-translucent title page preceding it, as an introduction to the following abstracted imagery.
Although previous posts have shown the origin of these stylized prints they no longer resemble or relate to those start points and have been named accordingly.
By choosing to bind the book in this manner it enables it to open up 360˚ showcasing all pages simultaneously.
Materials: 300gsm Hahnemuhle paper, 250gsm BFK Rives, cardstock, tissue, handmade plant fibre paper, oil based inks, acrylics, water based inks, string & thread.
I’ve long been told that it’s difficult to print intaglio on unsized handmade paper, so it was time to give it a go.
I always print on quality cotton rag paper, usually 250gsm BFK Rives, so my failures can be expensive and wasteful. Years ago I started recycling these prints by separating the print from the blank surround, shredding, pulping and making new sheets to use – but the process washes away most, if not all, of the internal sizing.
This means I’m unable to soak paper to create good collagraphs or etched prints but I can spritz them with water instead. What I like about my handmade sheets is that they retain the feel of the original commercial BFK Rives; the soft, slightly spongy texture that slips so well into the recesses on collagraph plates, transferring the ink easily. My hope is that my own spritz-dampened paper will mimic my commercial paper results.
I’ve tried this before using an intaglio solar plate. It was well cured before use but the results were a complete disaster.
My handmade paper is essentially created from cotton rag pulp, and pressed before rolling onto a flat surface to dry. It’s the cellulose that, under pressure, binds together to form the sheets when dry. However, in usage, anything tacky it comes in contact with risks the paper surface lifting and sticking, or even just raising the surface ‘hairs’.
The photo-polymer surface of a solar plate holds on to the paper so once you’ve run a print through the etching press and try to remove the paper the surface layer remains behind adhered to the solar plate. Not only is this a disaster for the print but, in my case, I’ve been unable to remove this residue from the plate, necessitating it be thrown away.
Now I’m trying collagraphs, which I prefer over solar print plates anyway. I picked an old but favourite plate, something well varnished with a very slick surface to avoid the paper sticking.
I couldn’t have hoped for better results. The paper easily peeled away from the print base, the ink adhered well and the surface of the paper remains smooth with no lifting.
So that’s a winner. The paper has curled a little while drying but that can easily be resolved.
There is much bushland around where I live and I walk the trails regularly. Teenagers on bicycles & mountain bikes and older lads on motorbikes are systematically destroying areas of the bush; chopping down trees, pulling out shrubs and native plants and hacking away at ground cover. All this to make ‘jumps’ they can then ride their vehicles over.
I’ve numerous issues with this, not the least of which is that I often see them destroying nature and building sand and dirt hills but in all the years I’ve been walking these areas I’ve NEVER seen a single person use them for pleasure and ride over them.
Walking the trails recently after several weeks of very heavy rain I was amazed to see the state of these hillocks. The rain had been so intense and lashed the ground so ferociously that it had managed to totally re-engineer them. Obviously they were built from sandy earth (maybe limestone) and small rocks, pebbles and clumped mud. They now resemble millions of tiny stalagmites.
Low tide at Bellambi Point dog beach. It’s a place I visit regularly and I’ve many, many photos of rock pools, surf, sea grasses, sand undulations, shells and discarded detritus.
From paper I cut three abstract shapes. This piece was laid over a sheet of 3mm foamex board which was then scored using an Xacto blade and a .5mm cutting tool.
Ink was applied using hand made ‘dollies’ à la poupée (i.e. a doll-shaped bundle of fabric is used to apply different colours to different areas of a single plate, which is then printed in the usual way).
300gsm Hahnemuhle warm white paper, oil-based printing ink
A couple of weeks ago I posted about making paper pulp from a variety of materials including denim and hessian. After the workshop there was plenty left for me to use, so I made some paper from the hessian.
It’s my habit to take my pressed, damp paper home to dry it, instead of immediately rolling it onto boards and leaving it at the Primrose Park studio. As it’s a long drive from my home I’m not always sure when I’ll get back there.
Once I have my paper home, still in a pile (known as a ‘post’) with each piece on a couching cloth, I proceed to roll them on to every smooth surface I can find: the top of the washing machine, dryer, freezer, fridge, vanity in the spare bathroom and even my very well cleaning printing glass. I immediately remove the couching cloth and leave the paper, preferably out of sight of the sun, to dry. This can take over 24 hours but I find this slow process helps to keep the paper flat.
Sometimes, when fully dry, my sheets detach themselves from their surface and slightly curl but this time they remained firmly in place, totally flat.
Drying paper on glass or similar slick surfaces ensures the side against the surface (having had pressure applied when rolling in place) is fairly smooth, whilst the other side remains textural.
The hessian paper doesn’t photograph well to show the difference in the 2 sides of each sheet but below is an indication of this on other papers I’ve previously made.
The top row shows Flame Grass mixed with cotton rag pulp. Top right shows the side dried against glass and is noticeably smoother than the left hand image. The second row has been made from coarsely pulped Strelitzia and even though the glass-dried side still has texture it’s significantly less than the front, and the longer fibres have been pushed forward.
The hessian was finely pulped, creating even sheets without a lot of texture and I’m hoping to print on them. Perhaps a black linocut.
I saw this image on the ABC news website advertising ABC Four Corners and thought it an apt visual prompt to entice me to read the full article regarding taxpayer-funded contracts, worth more than AUS$1.1 billion, awarded to a company – without public tender – for government PPE contracts.
Still taking pictures of the breakwater in Newcastle I was amazed to see rocks heavily pock-marked by wind erosion. Well, I assume that’s what’s caused these amazing indentations in the rocks.
Using Sharpie pen and paper I drew my version of part of a rock, scanned it into the computer, resized it and dropped it into my stencil cutting software. I then cut the design on my Cricut Maker 3, firstly using 100 micron transparency film, and repeating the process using 250 micron acetate.
Using thin transparency film allowed me to create a very fine stencil and outer mask to use for printing, while the thicker acetate provided a robust material to use for blind embossing.
This particular print ended up much more complex than I anticipated. It took several trials and involved me cutting another set of paper partial-masks to cover certain areas I wanted to keep blank. So, whilst it looks very ‘minimal’ there are 4 layers of printing, using 2 masks and a stencil as well as the blind embossing on the right hand side of the photo.
This one was all about accurate registration, patience and a bit of luck!
Last week three of us met at Primrose Park to pulp a variety of fibres to be used to create paper at an upcoming workshop we’re teaching. As there will be several participants it called for a more industrial approach than my normal method of soaking and putting through a household blender. I’d have been at it for days trying to get the volume we require!
I’m not very experienced with the Hollander beater and this was a great opportunity to use it several times to ensure I know what to do if I’m ever on my own with it.
Essentially it’s a mechanical water bath, into which you put cut fibres which travel around the machine. Under the domed section in the photo – which is a guard – there is a water wheel with blades. This turns and the fibres are forced under the wheel between it and the base of the machine. It macerates the fibres as opposed to chopping them as a blender does.
Over time the fibres soften, stretch and start to break down. The wheel is adjusted so it sits closer to the base plate, giving less space for the fibres to get through, causing them to be further beaten.
The process of tightening/lowering the wheel continues until the fibres resemble fine pulp.
You can choose how long you run the machine for and this will create finer or courser pulp, depending on the effect you’re after.
The machine is particularly effective with pre-boiled plant material which can be extremely fibrous, dense and difficult for a blender to manage as it tends to wrap itself around the blender blades and blow the motor.
I provided 2 types of fibres for pulping. As a printmaker I have many failed prints which can be recycled. I cut the printed portion away from the plain surrounding paper and shredded them into individual batches. We should get good quality new paper from these as I always print on 100% cotton rag paper.
The beater was filled with water and set running as we added the white shredded paper handful by handful.
Once this was pulped to our satisfaction the machine was drained into buckets, then cleaned ready for the next fibre.
Jill had cut up a pair of denim jeans. Denim makes great paper as long as it is not elasticized.
Above you can see how small Jill cut the denim up in readiness for the machine. I don’t envy her, that would have taken ages. Imagine cutting up a whole pair of jeans into 2cm squares!
It’s also obvious that the warp and weft are different colours – one blue, the other white. In the first image of the working machine the fibres have started to break down but are still recognizably blue and white. In the second image, which was some time later, they have broken down sufficiently to merge into a uniform pale blue.
The third fibre we pulped was some upholstery hessian. Again Jill had cut it up, but this time into larger pieces, before pulling out the individual strands so it would travel more evenly around the machine.
Little did we know that the hessian pieces would swell as they travelled and join together in ‘woolly’ clumps. So we spent time separating these and gradually lowering the wheel to break them down.
In total it took around 4 1/2 hours to create pulp from these 3 materials, plus additional time cleaning the machine. It’s a labour intensive pastime but it’s definitely the way to make large quantities of even textured pulp.
Next will come the class, then after that – assuming there is some pulp left over – we get to use the rest and make our own paper.
More photos of the breakwater in Newcastle show not only huge rocks in place but also concrete blocks, which I can only imagine were installed by cranes using the handles clearly visible.
300gsm Hahnemuhle warm white paper, oil-based printing ink
Abstracting elements from photos and drawings, which result in prints that bear little or no resemblance or connection to the original, is a new way of working for me and proving very satisfying. The idea that a simple photograph can be the start point and be adapted into something unrelated brings a new freedom to my printmaking – which is demonstrated well in this project.
The inspiration for this project comes from my recent photos and drawings which have been abstracted, simplified and stylised. The end results bear no relation to the original source materials which have been used to inspire exploration of shape, colour and form when creating unified abstract prints.
300gsm Hahnemuhle warm white paper, oil-based printing ink, string, No 12 cotton, pigment ink, glue
All prints have blank space to the left in preparation for stitching into a book format.
For the last couple of months I’ve been working on abstracting designs from drawings and photographs, trialing stencils and masking techniques, exploring textural prints and creating layers. All this for my current project entitled Minimal – having put my Brain Clutter book project to one side while I complete this.
This post contains a ‘dump’ of material and techniques which demonstrates the planning and experimentation that goes into my work – essentially a behind-the-scenes view of print samples, some of which worked and some which didn’t give the results I had hoped for. All have been fun and provide me with useful resources to consider incorporating, or pushing further, within this project and in the future.
A range of rolling, stippling and paper stencilling/masking, building layers.
An acetate stencil was cut and printed positive, negative and from the base matrix (perspex sheet), then applied over a prepared background.
An acetate mask was applied over a printed and stamped background.
An acetate stencil was printed positive, negative and from the base matrix (perspex sheet).
Left: Inked kozo fibre, printed from perspex plate. Right: Wallpaper was applied over an inked perspex sheet and run through the press, thereby transferring ink to the surface. This was run through the press, transferring the design to paper.
Left: Rolled ink, torn paper resist & threads. Right: ‘Tree bark’ effect wallpaper, printed from print matrix (perspex sheet) and from wallpaper directly.
Stencil and mask used with multiple layers of rolled ink. Threads were added between layers to create the impression of texture.
This is a small sample of an enormous pile of pieces I’ve been working on. Some have developed into pages for my Minimal book and will be shown in further blog posts.
A rainbow-coloured fish that lives on “twilight zone” reefs off the Maldives has finally been recognised as a new species, more than two decades after its discovery. Read about this amazing creature here.
I couldn’t resist this stunning photo from the ABC site. What a spectacular image of such a small fish.
I’ve long been a fan of Bob’s work, his abstract shapes have a huge appeal to me and this isn’t the first time I’ve featured his prints. Some of my recent work (yet to post) has a slightly similar feel.
Lyon native Ememem, aka “the pavement surgeon”, examines the streets of European cities and checks for splintered pavement and sidewalks fractured in pieces. Using tiles and stones, he patches the gouged wounds with vibrant mosaics, which nestle into uniquely shaped outlines in walkways and walls.
This week I’ve been building resources in my sketchbook. An A5 pencil sketch of TV remote controls sitting on my cutting mat was followed by a closer view of a specific area in Sharpie pen.
I picked these as my subjects as I’m drawn to lines and shapes, containers and boxes. The pencil drawing was done quite carefully and produced a tight, but fairly accurate, depiction of the items. The pen drawing took only a few minutes and is a little less controlled but still recognisable.
My next pen drawing was produced with a continuous line and without looking at the paper at all. My eyes followed the outlines of the shapes while my hand attempted to follow along blindly.
Using strips of paper I masked off areas of the drawing and honed in on much smaller sections, redrawing them in either pen or ink. Here are a few, cropped, in either pen or ink.
I decided there was scope to use the top left-hand line work further. I printed a few backgrounds, cut a temporary stencil and overlaid the design.
These have become interesting samples. The TV remote has disappeared and morphed into a very free and organic design which I’ll continue to work with for a while.
Jacky Lowry, Cotton Tail Grass 3 1/5 #1, hand coloured collagraph, 25.5 x 11cm. Albany Grasses series.
I’ve only recently become aware of Jacky Lowry and have been enjoying perusing her various sites and collections of work, especially her collagraphs – which is where my printmaking heart predominantly lies.
I couldn’t resist showing another print from the same series.
I’ve made books using Coptic Stitch in the past but yesterday I explored a method new to me.
Previously I’ve worked individual threads up through the text block. So eight holes along the spine equates to 8 separate threads and 8 needles worked in tandem up through the signatures, either front to back or in reverse.
Another method I’ve used is only suitable for an even number of holes in the spine and involves one thread per pair of holes with a needle on either end. I like this because the chains can be worked in opposing directions creating a pattern. Again the system is to work up through the pile of signatures front to back or vice versa.
Yesterday involved one long thread and needle which was worked along the length of the individual signature, so securing it to the previous one (or cover) in its entirety before moving to the next. So, horizontal work instead of vertical.
Covers: 2mm book board, 110gsm monoprinted cartridge paper Text block: Assorted water colour and drawing papers, 100-110gsm Thread: Waxed linen yarn Nel 16/2
Quite a good result, interesting method, fiddly when attaching the final cover.
Last week I attended a 4 day screen-printing course with tutor Julie Ryder. Not only is she a very good practitioner, extremely well versed in the technicalities of the craft, but is also an excellent designer and tutor. Not all craftspeople have the ability to pass on knowledge thoughtfully and cohesively to others but in this case anyone attending her workshops should be able to return home, set-up their own workspace and commence screen-printing. Whether they have her design expertise is another question!
I’ve done a tiny bit of screen-printing before, way back in 2013, and have looked back at my samples. Wow, seriously appalling! OK, maybe the odd (marginally) reasonable piece but overall not good. This previous course was by correspondence and with certain practical applications you really do need face-to-face tuition to get you started before leaping into the world of on-line lessons.
A large proportion of time was spent learning about screens, meshes, squeegees, pigments and pastes, before setting up our individual work stations.
We covered colour theory to a reasonable degree – warm and cool primaries, secondary & tertiary colours, colour mixing, translucency, opacity and layering. I’m au fait with all of this but it was interesting to see how the colours played out using concentrated pigments in Permaset Aqua medium as opposed to my usual oil-based printing inks.
We printed small blocks of primary colours and overlaid others to test combinations and we ‘diluted’ from full strength colours in increments down as far as 1/32 strength.
Stencilling and stamping were covered, both with and without using screens. We looked at screens with photo-emulsion designs on them, enabling multiple prints to be taken of the same image quickly. Think t-shirts, tea towels, napkins and the like here. This method allows you to create very complex designs which would be impossible to cut into a stencil; excellent if you’re in the world of repetitive printing. Using these screens with stencils, designed to block out areas, opens up other options.
Above left: acetate stencil cut by hand, taped to screen and printed. Above centre: silkscreen with photo emulsion design. Above right: photo emulsion design on silkscreen with paper stencil cut to the pear shape, so blocking out the negative space. Acetate stencils for leaves and stem, colour dabbed directly onto the surface without screen use.
A drawback was the length of time for layers to dry as each one must be bone dry before overprinting. With pouring rain and humidity throughout the course this was a definite problem. However, I managed a simple 6 layer screenprinted and stencilled design, repeated 4 times.
The course focused on printing on fabric and we didn’t venture into paper-based work as products used were all tailored towards fabric.
It was an interesting course, a good reintroduction to this print method, which has confirmed it’s not a route I wish to go down in the future. I’m too much in thrall to my oil-based inks, collagraphs and other print forms.
At the end of the year our printmaking group always do a swap and make books using a print from each member. It’s a great way to share and have a record of everyone, as some don’t continue the following year.
This year most chose to create a full size concertina book and stick prints onto each page, often front and back, while others made a narrow accordion spine and adhered each print to that.
In my case I folded a 2″ wide accordion, a little shorter in height than the smallest print, and attached them to each section. As a couple of the prints were very small I first put those onto spare paper before inserting. This gave me a multi-height/width structure with an unobtrusive spine attachment.
These are some of my favourites from the project:
All 3 images above are by Elizabeth. I believe the one to the left is a drypoint and the 2 on the right are hand coloured etchings.
The piece on the left is by Judy and is built from monoprints and collage. The right hand print is an etching by Jan. Strange markings across this one, almost like corrugated cardboard lines.
Linocuts by Cathy.
I always try to make a gift for each person and this time I created small notepads using Japanese stab binding and my own prints as covers. As I always use quality paper this is a great way to cut out selected areas of larger prints (which might not be perfect) for a small project.
I’ve started transforming some of my kozo fibre (general term for the inner bark of mulberry trees) into sheets of paper. I cut some up and left other bits as long strands. I purchased this as per the photo below and know little about it. It’s probably been bleached, maybe treated in some way but I’m not experienced enough with this product to know. It’s time to use it.
I’ve only used the Hollander Beater owned by Primrose Paper Arts (PPA) once, and that was several years ago, so this was another learning experience.
Top left shows the machine in action once the cut fibre has been gradually added to the water. On the right longer fibres are being separated and dropped in with the rest. As the fibre is worked by the ‘water wheel’ and it breaks down you see less of the individual strands and the water appears to be milky (bottom left). This is a result of the fibres softening, separating and turning onto pulp. The fibres over my fingers give an indication of what’s happening as the process continues.
Once this was complete the machine was drained, the fibre and some water put in a bucket and I brought it home. I set up a workstation ready to pull sheets.
I wanted A4 sheets, usually easily achieved, but the fibre clogged the mesh. It went down onto the couching cloths but pulled away again, tearing. It stuck to the mold. Huge air bubbles formed between the pulp and the cloths. It seemed like the fibre wrapped itself onto the mold and decided to stay there – in part, at least.
The A5 mold has a much denser mesh, about double the larger one. I tried that. Worked perfectly. Obviously there’s some subtlety here I haven’t learned about this fibre yet but, hey, I was getting sheets of paper so went with it.
The sheets are very fine, as can be seen from the photo where you can see the couching cloth through it. Once I had my post (pile of alternate sheets and cloths) complete I put it in my book press.
PPA has a fabulous press with a tray around it to catch water as it’s forced out when pressure is applied. I don’t have that so I piled towels below, above and around my stack and they absorbed the excess. Once removed from the press I rolled the sheets onto every available flat surface I could find (washing machine, dryer, fridge, freezer, vanity top …) and removed the cloths.
On a normal day these would take about 12-14 hours to dry but the temperature was high and I watched as some sheets dried in a few minutes in front of my eyes. How did I know they were dry? Well because it happened so fast they curled up away from the surface and ended up looking like poppadoms!!
Luckily only 6 sheets did this and the rest were carefully peeled from their surfaces once dry and have remained beautifully flat.
So 17 sheets, around 30-40gsm, perfectly usable, and 6 poppadoms which I’ll try ironing.
I’ve had a lot going on recently and have felt a little overloaded with thoughts, conflicts and noise – all internally. My new project, being created as an extension of my recent collagraphs, aims to document some of this brain clutter.
Each print plate will start with a 5″ x 12″ piece of Enviromount upon which I will build surfaces as well take away areas, thereby creating a range of textural surfaces. Gels and mediums will be used to add tonal variety and, well, whatever they bring on the particular day I pick them up.
Each plate will be created on spec, no advance planning, no drawing and no right or wrong direction. A few tweaks may be required to create unified imagery but other than that they will be what they will be. The aim is a brain dump of some of my brain clutter.
I should have taken the photo prior to printing but in my new unplanned working mode I forgot. Maybe next time. Needless to say, as some of the surface was unsealed inks have stained sections making it hard for the viewer to distinguish materials used. You’ll just have to try from my list below.
Materials: micaceous iron oxide, adhesive aluminium tape, a range of light to medium weight papers cut to shape and overlapped, Lutradur, teabags, gloss medium, pva glue.
The majority of the plate has had items adhered to it but some lines have been cut from the Enviromount to create hollows.
Materials: 250gsm BFK Rives paper, Charbonnel etching ink; Bone Black, Sanguine, Deep Yellow.
I first showed this print plate in October where I discovered the issue of using Shellac that had been made for a while and then shaken to remix. Tiny particles had hardened and subsequently transferred to the plate and printed as ‘interference’ across sections of the design.
I love the design, the layering and the colours I chose but coverage wasn’t great: ink didn’t adhere to the surface well so didn’t transfer, tonal variation wasn’t there although demarcations between sections showed through well and there was no dynamism in the final print.
This week I revisited it.
Using Charbonnel Etching Inks in Bone Black, Sanguine and Deep Yellow I applied colours to selected areas, rubbed back and allowed them to partially blend. I concentrated on removing ink from specific areas to allow highlights to come through.
Great results, great colour scheme and the tiny blotches now feel like part of the design.
I’m enjoying exploring new collagraph materials and these 15cm square bases give enough space to quickly create small unified pieces.
For this plate I started with varnished mountboard which I lightly sanded to get a roughened surface.
Lines were cut and sections removed from the mountboard surface.
The aim was to wipe away ink from the flat varnished areas while retaining solid coverage in the recessed cut parts.
The first print is never the best. I’m told it’s like making pancakes; the first isn’t usually perfect. However, what has come through is the sanded textural surface and reasonable retention of ink in the shapes.
Stage 2 & 3
I kept the plate as is but added chine colle (below left). As this method has the collage sitting behind the printing it appears very flat.
A while ago I hand made some paper over a sushi mat, which created a ridged sheet once dry. I cut strips and adhered them to the plate surface (below right). Using a stencil over 2 of the plate corners I pushed heavy gloss medium through to create more boxes on top of my original cut out areas.
As the medium dried it sunk into the recesses, giving a variable height to the now raised surface, so some ink was retained when printing but not enough to make this a worthwhile outcome
The textured paper printed well though.
The plate needed more complexity. I cut pieces of adhesive aluminium tape and applied them, pressing into the recessed grooves where they overlapped. I also scratched lines in selected areas. Once the plate was inked and rubbed back I ran a stiff piece of paper over the high points of the textured paper areas. This removed the ink, bringing up a better definition in those parts.
But I still had to work on the gloss medium areas although, overall, the print is working reasonably well. Best colour scheme so far – yes, there were other trials that I won’t be sharing!
The gloss medium boxes wouldn’t hold much ink so I reapplied the stencil over the shapes and painted some abrasive modelling medium over the top of them. I gave them a coat of satin varnish to seal.
In the piece above, the ink held well in the 2 corner sections but I over-wiped the rest of the plate, and I’m not thrilled with the colour scheme. Should have stuck with the sepia and black.
I was happy with the look of the plate but wanted to achieve a difference in colour between the solid blocks and the lines between them.
I was running out of time on that particular day, but we all know what happens in printmaking when you let go of the angst (“I really want the perfect print!”), things happen by themselves because there’s no time to overthink and overwork it.
Not the ‘perfect’ print but a great improvement.
I added stitching to some of them.
Don’t ever consider taking up printmaking unless you have unlimited patience, enough money to purchase reams of paper and the realisation that exact results are usually out of your control.
I really enjoyed making this plate and the resulting prints I showed in an earlier blog, so I’ve continued with some colour experimentation.
I’ve moved from the warmer sepia, red and orange/yellow hues into a much cooler set of colours; black, moss green and pthalo blue. The application of micaceous iron oxide, applied to the mountboard prior to the tile adhesive hexagons, has ensured a textural surface which grabs the ink extremely well whilst knocking back the intensity of the hue. Hence the bone black ink has become a softer dark grey.
I’ve also altered the orientation of this print as, in this colourway, it feels more balanced to my eye.
My new collagraph comes as a result of further experimentation leading from my ‘Man-made’ project in October.
The strata has been constructed using a variety of media including, from left to right, Akua carborundum gel, several layers of torn handmade paper, clear tar gel (the dribbled lines), adhesive aluminium, micaceous iron oxide, tile adhesive (the hexagons), all on a mountboard base. Gloss medium and matte sealer were applied in selected areas to create tonal variety. Shellac has been deliberately avoided.
My first print brought up an issue with the tile adhesive.
The micaceous iron oxide background has held the ink perfectly, giving solid coverage. However, the tile adhesive, applied unevenly through a stencil, has held the same amount of ink so I’ve not achieved any tonal variation. The slight ink retention surrounding the shapes has highlighted them to a degree but they’re not standing out the way I hoped. I applied 2 coats of gloss medium to their surface.
In addition to this, I initially adhered a single piece of handmade paper under the clear tar gel dribbles and it’s given good tonal variety from the rest of the plate but feels a bit flat, so I tore small pieces and, using matte sealer, applied them over this area. The effect can be seen on the main print plate above.
Both adjustments worked well and the result is what I wanted. Some of the media used on this plate are new to me, so it’s a lot of experimentation finding out how they take the ink.
I had a bit of a slip when out walking with Jack and while taking a breath, with my backside firmly on the ground (hoping no-one would come by), my eyes were level with the stem of a Purple Topped Verbena. Although the flower heads were well past their best and falling off, and many of the leaves were dried and curling, I spotted a brand new shoot emerging.
I love the juxtaposition of the old, dried and textural curling leaves enfolding this tiny new pristine growth.
Using minimal materials; essentially mountboard, a couple of pieces of lightweight paper and some adhesive foil, I built a low-relief multi-layered collagraph plate. I cut into a few areas, removing the mountboard surface, thereby encouraging the ink to ‘grab’ the uncoated inner fibres so those sections would print dark.
Once complete I coated the plate lightly with Shellac, avoiding the recesses. The plate was then printed intaglio using black oil-based ink.
Great idea, horror print. On the left is the fully inked print, showing a lot of ‘interference’, and on the right is the ghost print, having a much smoother appearance. So what went wrong?
After several attempts with no improvement I came to a few conclusions:
Not a paper issue. The paper is good quality BFK Rives designed for exactly this type of printmaking.
Not a paper preparation issue. Paper was well soaked in a clean tray with fresh water and correctly blotted.
Not an ink issue. I used Charbonnel ink from a tube so there was no risk of dried particles accidentally getting onto the piece.
Not an inking up issue. Inking the plate was done carefully using a child’s toothbrush, wiped back with fresh tarlatan, with a final wipe with flat tissue.
That only left the collagraph plate itself. By eye it looked fine. When gently feeling the surface with my fingers it seemed smooth. I got out a magnifier, then I could see tiny particles trapped in between the Shellac layers. Dust? No, not dust, I was very careful.
I examined the Shellac jar and found a small amount had settled on the bottom. When I had shaken it before use some of that sediment lifted, in tiny pieces, and swam among the rest of the liquid. Then as I brushed it onto the plate these specks transferred at the same time. Who’d have thought?
And that’s what accounts for the small irregularities in my prints. As the plate has many layers, although still relatively flat, it is a hard to rectify problem. I threw out the Shellac, sanded back the plate surface as much as possible and applied some gloss medium over selected areas, then reprinted.
There’s been some improvement, as can be seen from the left hand print (the other being the ghost print), and I’m not going to get it better than that I suspect. If I continue varnishing the surface I’ll likely lose my tonal variation.
I’ve learned a valuable lesson about plate sealing. I love the design and I’m sure there will be more along this vein down the track, hopefully with better printed outcomes.
My chosen image back on 5th August 2019 was entitled ‘Dogs delight, owners nightmare’ and depicted a smashed up bush-trail bridge which I had navigated several times. I’m pleased to say that shortly after that post some very kind, anonymous, person (or persons) made some major repairs and the crossing is now fully restored and robust.
However, Jack (my beagle) and I, being avid bush explorers and knowing about a ‘hidden’ cave decided to veer onto a little used trail to search for it. I knew, from several years ago, that it was approached on both sides by wooden bridges but I was unprepared for what I found.
Dogs and owners nightmare!
This image has been taken after we gingerly shuffled across, with very little to hold on to and quite a steep drop both directly below and to the side of us.
There’s no image of the bridge on the other side of the cave as it was lying collapsed and broken amongst the rocks. I’ll leave it to my readers imagination how we managed. Suffice it to say that all clothing ended up in the washing machine on our return home.
Certainly an adventure but I think I’ll give this trail a miss for now, unless that anonymous person happens along with his repair kit.
Having been in a very restrictive lock-down situation, due to increasing numbers of covid 19 cases in our state, I’ve been close to home for over 10 weeks now without a definite end in sight; possibly some small relaxation of rules coming into force in October.
My saving grace has been bush-walking with my dog Jack. I’ve been observing the Spring emergence of flora, the desolation after back-burning & slow regrowth, along with the gradual return of native wildlife and birds.
I’ve also noticed the increased number of people trail-walking, many of whom are totally unprepared for the terrain, don’t realise their phones lose reception in some areas and seem to have no idea where they are going and in which direction they are headed. It’s quite astounding.
I also see discarded empty food containers, items just thrown to the side of the trails without a thought: chip packets, coke cans, biscuit wrappers, etc.. So disappointing and a lack of respect for our natural environment. I’ve been walking these trails getting on for 20 years and until our first lock-down in 2020 this was not the case.
Despite a lack of recent human contact I find myself heading for little-used minor trails where I’m unlikely to cross paths with many others, where I don’t have to listen to inane chatter because people are invariably on their mobile phones (until they cut out!) or shouting in small groups as they walk without noticing what is around them. On these small trails I meet other walkers like myself and we’ve created loose friendships, passing the time of day, pointing out things of interest, and introducing each other to hidden pathways and quiet tracks.
For the last 2 months I’ve worked on a project entitled ‘trees‘ based loosely around what I see when Jack and I explore. Some artistic licence has been taken as there are definitely NO sheep where we wander.
The book comprises 5 boards, held together with 2 metal circular clips. Techniques used include monoprinting, masking, stencilling, collage, burnt paper, chine colle, stamping, lino cut printing, etching, machine & hand stitching and drawing.
Here are the individual pages:
It’s been a joy working on this book, just as it was working on my ‘In Isolation‘ book during lock-down in 2020.
In Isolation can be viewed here with the individual pages being available to view here.
Over the last couple of years I’ve enjoyed a lot of monoprinting using stencils, masks and pattern-creation with textured items. I’ve amassed quite a stash of prints.
A few of us decided to cut up our prints and create small boxes, in which we would put a tiny gift, to give away to brighten someone’s day. Our box sizes vary but all will fit a wrapped chocolate inside, and who doesn’t like chocolate?
Of course, we started with yet another day of printing because we figured you can never have enough pieces to work with. My aim, in this session, was to work using stencils to create both positive and negative prints.
All were made using acrylic paints, either Matisse Flow or Atelier Interactive, and these are terrific for this type of printing as the paint transfer to paper is easily achieved using hand-pressure, no need for a press. And they’re quick drying.
Each of the prints above are shown vertically in sets of two, the positive and negative of each stencil, some with an additional layer of colour. This was a project with no subtlety of colour, the brighter the better, with the aim of cheerfulness. I intended using one set for each box.
I quickly realised that mixing and matching these ‘sets’ with all my other prints resulted in much more interesting and dynamic pieces rather than keeping them in their original pairs. Below is a photo of the ones I’ve constructed so far. The bases are turned up side down, so you can see the monoprints, with the lids resting atop.
I thought I was doing pretty well, having completed 16, until my friend Lee sent me a photo of her 32!
She’s already filled hers with chocolates and is giving them away. Wouldn’t it be nice if someone gave you one of these totally out of the blue? Lock-down is so miserable and some people are really having a tough time, it’s lovely to bring a bit of cheer where we can.
Hedi Kyle is the coauthor, with her daughter, Ulla Warchol, of The Art of the Fold, a step-by-step guide to making a wide range of original structures.
Over the past 3 weeks I’ve been exploring 6 of her designs based around the concept of Blizzard books. Each one below, with the exception of the Crown Card, start with a 16 fold accordion and are experiments to see how and if my prints can be incorporated in the future – either as the structure or as inserts.
This piece is designed to insert business card sized items and has a fully removable cover. It’s essential to have fairly long overlapping folds top and bottom (which fold over the pages creating the pockets) to hold any inserts securely in place. This means that the paper you start with should be at least 3 times the height you want the final piece to finish up.
To scale this up would involve large sheets of paper but the structure is very robust once constructed. I can see this being useful for SMALL individual removable prints within each pocket.
Wheel of Fortune
Of the 6 designs this would be my least favourite. It looks effective, especially the orientation of the one on the right, but for my purposes the pockets are so tiny nothing much could be inserted. The folds over the central pockets hide much of each pocket making the insertion of other items meaningless.
It was a fun exercise but to scale this up would require huge sheets of paper and the folds would still overshadow the pockets.
The left-hand image is the one I’ve just made. It has a narrow concertina spine with the long length of paper enabling a double (folded) cover to be created from the same sheet.
The pages are, again, long sheets folded to size. In this case I used 2 sheets for the pages, each one folded to create 4 double sided pages. The beauty of this book is that the top and bottom folds of the spine between each page hold them in place. If necessary a small tab of double sided tape will stop the first and last pages from popping out.
The image on the right is one I made a while ago, using the same concept but with a hard cover and individual bi-fold folios as the pages. With this method you need to glue or stick each of the pages in place or they pop out.
This new method of creating multiple pages from a single long sheet is definitely an improvement on the structural integrity of the book form I achieved last time. As long as prints or other imagery can be positioned correctly, where folds are made, this one is a winner.
This form is the only one of the set not using a 16 fold accordion. They were quick to do, effective and have scope for printing either on the covers or the page insert. It’s easy to calculate how much paper you need to scale up or down. Another good option for me to use.
These were interesting to construct and quite surprising when they opened up into sets of 3 boxes. I can see these lying down with concertina books spilling out of each or standing up with small books nestled within the compartments.
I’ll have to do calculations re scaling up and using single-sided patterned paper to gauge effects. I love the fact that they fold all the way down to the size of one box side.
The left-hand piece has been made using glassine as the pages, hence the reason the folds can be seen within the page structures. The one on the right is lightweight butcher paper. Normally the covers would be removable but I found the pages sat better if the doubled cover had a tab of double-sided tape to hold the front and back page in place.
You can see that gussets have been created top and bottom of each section creating pockets.
These could be a new way for me to display a set of themed prints, each one removable for easy viewing. The construction is fairly easy to scale and more pages could be added.