It’s been a stressful week so it seemed like a good time to take a few minutes away from other people to mess about in the studio with some loud music, a bit of paper and some pens.
Going through my stash I landed on one of the pieces I recently painted that I previously blogged about here. I liked it a lot when I painted it but didn’t know what to do with it; whether to work further into the piece, leave it alone, cut it up, make it into a book cover or whatever. It went into my ever-growing pile waiting for further inspiration and today was the day. So this was what I started with:
I folded and cut it into a simple folded booklet.
From the images you can see how the piece is manipulated and folded into a single 4 page booklet. As this is 200gsm paper, covered with a couple of layers of acrylic paint it’s hard to get it to fold down to a book shape without slipping out of alignment so I applied glue to some areas and trimmed where necessary until I had a good solid structure.
Then I got my black Sharpie out. It really felt like a black Sharpie day, along with a ruler and a few homemade stencils.
Well, that’s relieved my brains a bit. Back to the real world.
I had a quick dip into the world of monotypes recently after watching a few short videos. Essentially I spent a bit of time with ink, scrapers and credit cards to see what marks I could make.
These two were fun. I initially thought they were a bit disjointed but I think there’s scope to work further into them and my creative experience tells me that I’ll never get anywhere unless I continue to experiment, whether it works or not.
I then picked up a couple of stencils, some black ink and a paint scraper.
This feels a bit more together than the previous two and was worked in a different method. The top images were created by applying ink, in selected areas, to a blank piece of acetate and running it through the press multiple times – once per each tonal variation. This is called an ‘additive’ process – ink is added to a virgin base.
The third piece is worked by rolling ink over the whole piece of acetate, then removing some areas using a cloth or similar. This is called a ‘reductive’ process – the image becomes apparent where you remove the ink.
I applied a couple of stencils over the surface, removing ink between each one to get the circular patterns. Then a paint scraper was shovelled across the right hand side of the plate removing ink in small ripples.
I enjoyed this exercise. My skills are better with other types of printmaking but it’s good to have a play around with no specific outcome in mind and you never know where it might lead.
I’ve long admired the diaphanous teabag. Once steeped, emptied, unfolded, and ironed, the little pieces of paper resemble parchments; small stories of collections of moments. After flattening the mottled papers, I paint them with streaks of gouache, and then hand print them with carved linoleum plates. I then mount each print on a wooden panel.
Terrific collection of images with many more examples on her site.
Back in 2017 I attended a very good and frantically busy workshop exploring a range of printing methods. During the course we each constructed a collagraph plate, Shellacked, then inked and printed them. This was mine:
On the left is the basic plate – mountboard, torn masking tape, PVA glue with gritty sand sprinkled over, cut textural paper and narrow knife slashes through the board. On the right is the plate once Shellacked, making the textures more visible.
I’ve always liked this plate but have had difficulty getting the glue & grit part to print well. I looked at my original print and did a straight forward reprint to compare.
The left image is the original print from 2017. I thought it was great at the time. Experience over the last 5 years has improved my inking ability and my understanding of how to work with printmaking paper, but I’ve still got the speckling in the grit areas.
I decided to stipple those sections with varnish hoping they would then retain ink in the recesses and on the surface to a lesser extent, giving me a fully printed area with tonal variation.
After one layer of stippled varnish this is the print result. It’s certainly eliminated the speckling but even though I tried very hard I couldn’t remove enough ink from the surface to achieve any tonal variety. Now it appears too solid and heavy compared to the rest of the piece. This isn’t what I’m seeing in my head and hasn’t as yet got to the result I’m searching for.
So, what to do? It’s an old plate and I’m happy to experiment on it and if I ruin it so be it. I’m mulling over whether to remove these heavy areas by cutting down a layer or two into the mountboard base and lifting those sections out. By doing that I can start again and create new textural effects and I might get more success.
As I’m currently involved with a few other projects this one will have to wait for a while, but I’ll get back to it eventually.
I came across this amazing collagraph on the facebook group Collagraph world wide which I’m a member of.
I’ve done a little with silk aquatint but haven’t explored it this far. Now it’s definitely on my to-do list.
The artist, Linda Jules, writes:
This print was made using a collagraph process called Silk Aquatint.
First, a piece of finely woven fabric was glued to a heavy cardboard plate and the plate was sealed with a couple of coats of gloss acrylic medium. (If the plate was inked up and wiped at this point, it would print completely black, as the ink would be held in the tiny squares between the fabric threads.)
Second, successive layers of gloss medium were applied to certain areas of the plate to build up the image: the more coats of medium applied to a certain area of the image, the less ink would be held between the fabric threads and the lighter in tone that area would be. So I had the full range of tones from black to white available to me.
This is a beach scene form Naikoon Bay on Haida Gwaii, BC, Canada.
Resources: Facebook: Collagraph world wide post 20/10/22 Linda Jules
Exploring new techniques to create plates I got my mini drill out and, using a fine tip, applied it to the surface of a piece of mountboard. The aim was to produce a range of organic imprecise lines as opposed to my normal Xacto knife line drawings.
The drill churned through the layers, tearing and pushing uneven ridges up from the surface.
EXACTLY what I was hoping for. Using a paper mask I applied modelling paste to a section, incised some lines with a knife and added Akua Carborundum Gel to 2 of the corners.
The plate was varnished and a proof print taken. This allowed me to see what needed to be adjusted.
Plain mountboard, if lightly varnished – in my case only one layer – will always have a degree of tone, usually a mid-range something-and-nothing colour. And that’s what I got in the background.
The aim of my first proof was to check the balance of shapes, the direction and the intensity of the shapes. I was very happy with those and my narrow knife-drawn lines around the modelling paste were evident.
So it was time to work on the tone. I applied more varnish in selected areas. The mountboard sections surrounding the scribble had several thin layers added to take away a large portion of the plate tone, some parts had more layers than others. The scribble needed to be more dominant without being overloaded with ink as in this sample.
The paste area had achieved what I wanted with regard to shape. The whole thing was varnished again and then multiple more layers were added in parts across it. The aim was to incorporate a different colour here and wipe it back to get tonal variety.
The Akua gel gave me what I was looking for; a strong dark edging.
Once the adjustments had been done I reprinted.
Terrific result: great tonal variety, dominant focal interest provided by the scribble, excellent ink coverage. Very happy with this project outcome.
Now I’ve to print an edition of 12 for a swap. That takes longer than you might think because I rework the incised lines and parts of the scribble before each print ad they’re all supposed to be identical, but I’m already hankering after some colour experimentation!
I noticed how similar my colour palettes were in my two previous pieces so decided to make some adjustments. I also took note of my comment that perhaps squiggles – a bit more organic than my blocks and lines – might work better underneath other layers.
Acrylic paints are out so I stuck with them.
This has been an interesting 5 day time-out from my normal routine and it’s reaffirmed my creative leaning in regard to shapes, blocks and lines – which has long been a part of my art.
I tried masking areas and selecting interesting sections, as I did with the last 2, but nothing really jumped at me so I’m just showing the whole piece.
Even though this type of art isn’t something I’ll avidly pursue I think the results have been worth recording and this type of imagery might come in useful in the future. It’s always worth having a stash of different arty outcomes, you never know when they might come in useful or if another idea pops into your head triggered by these.
Day 5 of the exercise was a wash-out and I didn’t do anything. The guy spent a lot of time directing his comments to those who posted they were daunted, had life experiences that halted them in their progress, had no materials (not sure why you would sign up then), were traumatized by family tragedies, had been told they were useless as children and so on. Then he moved to spruiking his upcoming paid painting course, which isn’t for me.
This solo exhibition by Helen MacRitchie has been showing throughout September, ending on 2nd October. I’ve know Helen for many years and always admired her artworks.
The basis of her practice is wet felted wool on which she creates layered textural surfaces or sculptural forms. She is spectacular with a sewing machine and her free-motion stitching brings a completely different textural aspect to her art when set against the softness of the felting. She dyes her own yarns, threads, fibre and fabrics and is adept at choosing colours that work harmoniously together and to her theme.
The exhibition publicity details how, through her art works, Helen examines her life in Scotland, Australia and England, reflecting on her feeling of home for each of these particular places. Topophilia, more than simply a liking of a place, suggests a cultural connection, a sense of belonging. Recurring felting, wrapping and embroidery techniques with intertwining and nest motifs express this visually. Ancestry, heritage, memories and colourful vistas past and present are her inspiration and points of topophilic identification.
This exhibition was a feast for the eyes, with a very different feel and sense of place for each of the locations depicted. I spent a lovely morning walking around the gallery with Helen while learning the inspiration behind each piece as well as many of the techniques she employed.
Good lunch together at a local cafe afterwards as well.
On day 3 of the challenge I stuck with acrylic paints, as I enjoyed them so much on the first day.
After painting this piece I became stuck on what to do with it next. So I left it alone and tried blocking areas to see what I like about it. I placed ‘L’ shaped pieces of black paper onto the surface, moving them around until I saw something that attracted me.
Mmmmm…. not sure about it but it seems quite lively.
Don’t mind this one but I can’t say I’m super engaged with it.
Again, I’m not sure. Is there something missing or is it a case of ‘less is more’?
What did I learn today? It’s fun mucking around with paint but let’s not get too excited – I think the whole exercise is revealing that in my heart I’m not a painter, printmaking is the way to go for me.
This is a close-up photo using my phone, which is what I have to hand when walking my dog on bush trails. This image, in a similar manner to my previously featured Banksia photo, seems over-detailed (too sharp?) if that makes sense. I must take the camera, rephotograph and compare the shots.
Anyway, back to the subject. This is a section of a Scribbly gum trunk. I’ve always wondered what makes these amazing track marks and Google tells me:
The scribbly gum is a native Australian eucalyptus tree which is easy to spot because of the distinctive markings along its smooth yellow-gray trunk. These zig-zag tracks or ‘scribbles’ are made by the moth grub as it tunnels between the old and new bark.
Last week two friends and I decided to join a 5 day on-line creative challenge. The basis was supposed to be painting but the ethos was pretty much ‘anything goes’. As it was a free thing, designed to enthuse participants to sign up for further paid classes, we were encouraged to use whatever was to hand; be it any type of paints, coloured pencils, markers, collage, or whatever you can think of to get something onto paper.
I chose acrylic paints partly because I use them when I gelli plate print and have a good supply, and partly because I thought splashing around with them would be fun.
The idea was to paint along with the tutor each day during the live video, which ran for about 45 minutes. I’ve never produced anything in 45 minutes before but gave it a go. Day 1 I filled my water jar, grabbed some brushes and a sheet of 300gsm water colour paper and started opening paint tubes.
45 minutes later I had (amazingly) covered the paper in paint. I left it to dry and then added some white gel pen and black Sharpie marks.
It reminds me of …. well, me – blocks, shapes and lines. My favourite things. Of course there’s no planned composition or colour scheme but it’s glaringly obvious that I’ve pretty much avoided blue, which has been a life-long trait. In fact there are a couple of blocks painted with Pthalo blue but as they overlay other colours they’ve edged towards green.
I decided to chop it up (on Photoshop) and concentrate on specific areas.
Not a bad composition, I like the colour placement and the black Sharpie lines but by blowing it up my white pen work looks pretty approximate.
Colours good, black lines good, positioning of white shapes good, not sure I’m thrilled with the squiggles. Let’s turn it around.
I have the same issue, the left hand squiggles aren’t working for me but the rest is fine.
This one I like the best, and a smidge of blue is evident in the bottom right hand corner.
On this day I learned it’s fun to mess about without a plan and I should avoid squiggles unless they are buried under other layers.
I’ve barely posted anything recently but I’ve still been super creative and busy with a variety of projects, all that will be shared eventually.
Earlier this month I taught a one day collagraph workshop. It was fun but extremely busy and I’ve decided that the shortcuts taken to both create and print plates within a 6 hour window (where you also have to fit in lunch!) compromises the results more than I’m comfortable with. Don’t get me wrong, the participants had a terrific time and all achieved great results but with a very short drying time-span they were unable to take advantage of any of the gels and mediums now available. These products create amazing textures but usually have to dry overnight before applying ink – not an option for us.
Anyway, not to worry, they made use of both cutting into their print plate and well as adhering a variety of media to the surface, thereby achieving a good many layers and some textures to work with.
I started by showing a few of my samples and discussing what works, what to look out for and what to avoid.
I demonstrated inking up with oil-based inks.
They were soon working in both plain black and colour.
I only had time to briefly cover chine collé and masking, with a demonstration on one piece.
It was a fun, but full-on, day and the students worked very hard and left with good prints and a better understanding of the technique. I’ve already been asked to teach this for another group but, happily, it will be over 2 days.
An acquaintance of mine, Gail Stiffe (from Papermakers of Victoria), and two others came together to present their exhibition Three Rivers recently and I spent some time at the gallery enjoying the works while Gail was there, so we could chat about her pieces.
One gallery window was dedicated to some of Gail’s work: framed art pieces displayed on easels and a long concertina, all created in tones of blue with a smattering of yellow on pristine white paper.
I like that her concertina books fold back into covers, thereby protecting the individual pages and creating a more finished look.
There were several Coptic bound books, all working to the theme of the Yarra river and its tributaries. The main exhibit of this set was a very long book which, as can be seen below, was formed in coloured sections depending on the paper and water used. The book tells the story of the waterway and is full of both images and text.
In the photo you can see some of the smaller books which represent some of the tributaries. Handmade paper with inlaid plant material form the covers.
There were small handmade boats throughout.
Leaves and plant debris clearly showed trapped within the small paper structures, each one having been dipped in hot wax so creating a semi-translucent effect.
Both the trapping of foliage and wax dipping was repeated in a series of framed wall hangings and Gail had meticulously recorded both the botanical and common names of each piece.
I really liked the wax dipped pieces, especially the framed art works, and it’s not something I’ve seen before. By trapping the foliage between two very delicate sheets of handmade paper then running them through a hot wax bath the colours of the plant material are preserved.
The art pieces were well presented, not cluttered or overcrowded, and the gallery was well lit. Overall, an excellent display of Gail’s skills and her response to the river theme. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit.
I made my first etched plates in 2016 and my first hard ground etching was some swans I had drawn.
This was pretty boring, simple line work, and my tutor at the time thought adding some water and sky would be good. He held the plate over the acid/water solution and proceeded to ‘paint’ the plate with the solution watching as the acid ate into the plate. When he thought the effect had been achieved he rinsed the plate and I went off to print it.
Here’s the plate and the print I did at the time.
What can I say other than I hated it, intensely. Swans on a stormy sea with a tornado in the background, really?
It’s been languishing in the cupboard for the last six years but this month it’s had the dust blown off (metaphorically speaking) and I’ve been trying to revamp it. Revamp? Maybe a total overhaul would be more like it.
I started on the water. Using a scraper and moving left to right I scraped away as much of the unevenly etched surface as I could, followed by a light burnishing. I’ve managed to eliminate the tempestuous sea.
Unfortunately the swan head is very delicately etched and it’s easy to over-wipe. I tried scratching the lines a little more deeply with an etching tool but it didn’t really work and it was hard to keep the tool in the existing lines without slipping out and ruining the whole thing.
I reprinted, adding some green to indicate shrubbery.
Above left: Completely over-wiped and there wasn’t enough texture to hold the green. Above right: I stippled varnish over the bush areas (allowed it to dry before inking up) so now it holds the ink. Improving.
Moving to the top section I scraped away much of the sky, smoothing as much as possible and, using gesso, drew in some mountains.
This image shows the top of the zinc plate part way through this stage. I added 2 layers of mountains.
Note to self: Why am I doing this? Is it actually getting any better?
Well the answer is that whilst I don’t like the plate the experimentation is interesting. Adding stippled varnish to the surface along with gesso areas has increased the complexity of the piece and this experience adds to my options when considering how to manipulate works in the future.
Above left: The green looks great (best part of the print). I should have stuck with only putting in the higher, more distant, mountains. Now it’s too busy and the lower mountains aren’t right – there’s a disconnect in the imagery as well as the lower mountains grabbing the ink where the gesso meets the zinc along the base of them. The sky is better and the far mountains have scope.
Above right: I’m unhappy with the blue ‘shadow’ near the swan neck so tried carrying the green across the whole plate. Still a rubbish print.
More alterations required, so I scraped away the lower mountains and added more stippled foliage. I’d like more variety in the mountains as well. They’re quite flat.
So here’s the final result.
Not the best thing I’ve ever produced in my life but a very interesting couple of weeks developing a discarded plate into something really quite different.
So, the question is this: is my etched zinc plate now classed as a collagraph because I’ve added media to the surface – gesso and varnish? I’ll leave that to the viewer to decide.
A few weeks ago we were in the heat of the Northern Territory and Western Australia. A beautiful holiday that I’ll reference in the future. On arrival back in Sydney we were struck down with illness for a couple of weeks and are only now emerging.
This morning we packed the car, the dog and plenty of warm clothes and headed down the coast to our favourite dog beach. It was bright and sunny but freezing.
I’m always on the lookout for photo opportunities and I snapped a few sights today.
I love the reflections of the clouds in the shallow pools left behind as the tide recedes. I used a similar image from the same location as inspiration for a page in my recent ‘minimal’ project. It can be viewed here.
Looking down into the shallows as I walked across the flat rocks I tried to record the amazing colours of the moss coated underwater stones and pebbles. The light was heightened and diffused by the water and the photos aren’t great, not at all what I was seeing. I’ll have to have another attempt next time I’m there. Love the grainy effect the moving water has created though.
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.