Completed: Monoprinted concertina book

Claire Brach, In Isolation, 2020,
free-standing articulated concertina book,
commercial & handmade paper, mixed media drawing & painting, monoprinting

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2020 07 02 Image of the week

Kevin Foley, Dog Tired

As a printmaker of longstanding Kevin Foley finds inspiration in what he sees around him on his small farm and surrounding district in central Victoria.

His ‘model’ for this image is his border collie, Scout, who, although sadly passed away now, is evident through many of his prints over the years.

Being such a dog lover myself I’m obviously drawn to this image of Scout but also the technical side of the print.  The textural background is fascinating, as I’ve often considered how to produce terrain covered with layers of decaying leaves, fallen twigs or the like.  Here I see dry spiky straw on dry earth or similar.  I note the subtle colour change as well.

As I’ve been slowly struggling through repeatedly drawing my dog, Jack (although I’ve lapsed for quite a while), I also enjoy the rendition of Scout and feel I could run my fingers through her fluffy coat and tickle her belly.

To see more of Kevin’s work please click on the link below.

Image reproduced with permission from the artist.

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Part 3: Monoprinted vignettes

Finally every page printed.  32 different plants printed in isolation, each showcased in their own right.  Here is a selection.

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I also printed some of my book pages without the background.  The plants are so lovely on their own I didn’t want to clutter them.

Having decided how the book construction should look I spent half a day making some handmade paper as fly leaves between the sections.  Using recycled cotton rag paper scraps combined with banana tree pulp I created the finest paper I’ve ever made.  Hold it up to the window and I can see through it. . . well, almost.

These sheets, now dry, have been cut to size and attached to a  more robust plant fibre paper to be sewn into the spine.

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2020 06 23 Image of the week

Sebastian Wasek, Storsandnes Beach in Moon Light,
photo uploaded to 3/2/2019

Being a person who finds blue a difficult colour to work with, this picture is a beautiful study of blue tones.  Stunning photography and I can feel the bone numbing cold radiating from it.


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Part 2: Monoprinted vignettes

In part 1 I showed the waste prints from this project and explained the process of transferring plant material, mainly leaves, to paper.

Each page was initially prepared by printing a textural backdrop representing the concept of different terrain.  Jack and I walk bush trails, streets, through parks, on pathways, through burnt undergrowth & across creeks and I’ve included colours that encompass these different aspects.

Here are 12 of the 32 completed background pieces, ready for the plant overlay.

The range includes single layer prints sometimes using masks, whilst others encompass a design feature once the mask from the previous print has been removed.

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2020 06 16 Image of the week

Ethel Spowers, Wet Afternoon, 1929/1930, linocut, printed from four blocks on thin ivory laid tissue, 23.9 x 20.2 cm image (irreg.)

I’m a huge fan of Ethel Spowers.  I can learn a lot from her multi-block linocuts.


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Part 1: Monoprinted vignettes

When looking back over my recent online mixed media course I was struck again at how much I had enjoyed creating temporary vignettes from plant material.

So over recent weeks I’ve been diligently collecting, pressing and drying plant material with the aim of creating a permanent record of my time in isolation.  Having been cooped up in the house for a couple of months or more my main outlet has been walking my dog, Jack, on bush trails, giving me the perfect opportunity to build a plant collection.

Some weeks ago I completed the front and back inner and outer sections of the book as well as the concertina spine (not posted yet).

For the last 3 weeks I’ve been working on creating 32 pages, each showcasing a different plant.  In this post I’m showing some of the waste prints, the trials I suppose you would call them.

My printing experience tells me that plant material prints much better the second or third time.  The initial pass through the press flattens the foliage properly and deposits some ink, but often not enough.  So it’s good to trial every one before re-inking and placing the item on good paper.

I like to look at the print plate (in this case a sheet of acetate) after the leaves have been through the press and removed, and see the remaining image on the plate.  If I’ve a good imprint I put the plate through again, sometimes with different papers.  It’s amazing what comes out.

From these photos it’s clear to see where the plant material has been printed on plain paper, to gauge the ink pick-up, and where the acetate plate has been printed once the foliage has been removed.  I enjoy the positive/negative aspects of these.

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2020 06 08 Image of the week

Lyndal Campbell, Glampervan, 60 x 90cm, oil on oil painting paper

I couldn’t go past this riot of colour and energy.  This would look terrific on my workroom wall, which is where I spend most of my day.  Every time I look at it I discover something new.


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Exploring Mixed Media: 7

Working with nature: Plant Drying

In anticipation of creating some nature monoprints I’ve continued to collect fallen flora.  Each leaf has been carefully laid out and pressed between paper, in single layers, using my Albion press and book blocks.

These leaves are more robust than the last ones I tried, where I learned to only press single layers at a time.  The veins on the three larger types are very prominent and I’m hopefully of excellent print transfer definition.  In fact, just during the drying process, colour leached out.

This gives a great indication of what I should be able to achieve when printing.

These small fronds have barely a vein and might only work as a resist but for the next part of my mixed media journey I’m really after leaf prints.  So I’ll experiment and see what I can get.

A friend living on a rural property very kindly sent me these skeletonized leaves, which is a boost to my meager findings.  Even though I live in a bushland environment, and walk daily, I rarely find good specimens such as these.

In mid April I created a range of nature vignettes, which was a new experience.  Having completed the on-line course, I’ve decided to extend this concept and create my vision of printed vignettes.  This collection, added to my existing dried flora, will become the basis for some of the imagery.

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2020 05 25 Image of the week

Parlous Land by Elizabeth Magill is a series of 10 lithographs (editions of 45) and I’ve chosen this very atmospheric image as my feature this week.

Elizabeth Magill, Deer Park Clearing, 2006, lithograph, 61 x 84cm

Resources: – see all 10 prints here.  A beautiful set.

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Exploring Mixed Media: 6

Masks, Stencils & Monoprinting

. . . with a bit of painting and drawing.

A fairly good result.  Perhaps a little less colour in the upper background would have been better.  The buds have more orange and colour variation that has come through on the photo.  Very pleased with the lower rock effect.  Quite a dense image.

Very pleased with the drama of the background.  Possibly need more work on the very light stems.

A much lighter hand with the paint here bringing a more calming effect into play.

The best one of the four prints.  A ravaged landscape, after the bushfires, slowly regenerating.

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2020 05 18 Image of the week

I’ve chosen a video by Erik van Ommen as my pick this week.  I couldn’t go past this artist, both his prints and his paintings.

Check him out on both his website and youtube to learn how his artworks are created.

Video as per link above
Youtube search

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2020 05 11 Image of the week

Debra Luccio, Reach, 2019, monotype on Velin Arches paper, 59 x 42.5cm
(The Australian Ballet’s Marcus Morelli rehearsing Tim Harbour’s Filigree and Shadow)

Turning to the back page of a magazine last week I came across this stunning print by Debra Luccio.  Enthralled, I researched her and spent time perusing her website where I discovered this image is only one of a large selection of monotypes, drypoints and etchings from her exhibition ‘Dancing from the Dark, Looking for the Light‘.

I love looking at artists work on-line but in this case, by visiting Debra’s youtube channel, I was able to share in 2 of her past exhibitions and also ‘attend’ a monotype tutorial.  Seeing her working on a piece from start to finish and then viewing works hung in exhibiting galleries is a real treat, especially in this current climate of disconnection due to isolation.

In her body of work we are treated to an expert at capturing life as it is happening; presenting us with movement, passion and energy, and an incredible sense of drama.

Whether you are a printmaker or not, or any type of artist for that matter, I hope you find these works as captivating as I do.

Click here to visit Debra’s website and learn more about her art practice.

Links as embedded within above text.
Image reproduced with kind permission from the artist.

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Exploring Mixed Media: 5

Continuing with the Gelli printing & stencilling, I used my original source photos as a start point and reproduced some of the images then cut stencils & masks, plus addition pieces to widen my selection.

These thin acetate stencils are quite robust although hard on the hands to cut with an Xacto knife.  I also cut ‘fronds’ from Yupo – much quicker but they will have a shorter lifespan.  Both positive and negative cuts will be used.

Cutting Tip: When making masks or stencils where you are creating several similar shapes it’s a good idea to cut them as one; i.e. with a bar at one end so they stay together.  They are simple to handle and if the bar is placed below the base line of your background it makes picking the stencil up very easy after printing.

This method also provides the option of selectively masking, or printing, areas by slipping some of the stencil sections underneath the paper so they are discounted.  However, one of my main reasons for working this way is so I don’t have loads of stencils getting tangled or lost.  And they are quick to position if you’ve planned them properly in advance.

I’m not a painter and use acrylics infrequently so here are a few of my initial trials:

Left to right: 1. Paint rolled Gelli plate, acetate stencil resist, overlaid paper pressed with a baren. 2. Painted stencil placed directly onto paper and pressed. 3. Remaining paint on Gelli plate left to dry, then grey paint rolled over the surface and print taken.  The plate had been lightly misted with water, hence the speckled effect.

Left to right: 1. Acetate resist fronds, sponge stippling through stencil. 2. Embossing plate pressed onto painted Gelli plate, overlaid with rolled acetate stencil leaf. 3. Acetate resist trees on rolled background, overlaid with paint-rolled rubber bathmat ‘stones’.

What have I learned so far?

  • Acrylic paints dry very quickly, even Flow acrylics, so getting good image transfer onto dry paper can be an issue.
  • Some of my acrylics are Atelier Interactive brand which are reactivated by water so using a thicker paper, dampened with a cloth is enabling better transfer.
  • When colour mixing using a range of paint brands together, as long as one of them is an Interactive it will improve the transfer process to damp paper.
  • Once equipment has been used immediately submerge it in water to aid removal of residual paint.  Then clean completely.  Leaving acrylics to dry on rollers, paintbrushes, sponges, stencils, etc is a mistake and it requires a lot of effort to clean dried paint.
  • Rolling acrylic paint onto slick acetate stencils is very difficult.  Both the roller and the paint slips around and I’ve not yet managed solid coverage.

The next stage is to work on multiple layers.

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2020 05 04 Image of the week

Neil Burnell photography, CRAWL

Well worth clicking on the resources below to find out more about this amazing photographer and see other pieces of his work.  Outstanding atmospheric photographs.


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Exploring Mixed Media: 4

Gelli Plate printing

These first samples have been about re-familiarising myself with the Gelli plate, getting good coverage and colour combinations.  All produced with various brands of acrylic paints.

Creating patterns within the painted layers.

Stencilling: Experiments with different media.

Left to right:
Top row: 1) Water-soluble crayon on paper, overlaid stencil and wiped with damp cloth. 2) Remaining crayon on stencil wiped over clean paper. 3) 2nd print with remaining colour on cloth.
Second row: 1) Water-soluble pencil scribbled on paper, overlaid stencil and wiped with damp cloth. 2) Same as previous but with darker colour. 3) Remaining colour on damp cloth wiped over clean stencil.
Third & Forth rows: Inktense pencils scribbled onto paper, overlaid stencil and wiped with damp cloth or stippled with sponge (to avoid excessive running).  Further prints on clean paper using remaining colour on cloth or sponge.

My preference for adding pattern, at this stage, are the results from the acrylic paints in the Gelli plate section and the water soluble crayon 2nd & 3rd prints.

Moving on to hand cut masks with acrylic paints on Gelli plate.  Not something I’ve really explored before so looking forward to seeing how crisp the images are.  Others in the facebook group write that they are experiencing bleeding and loss of accurate masked shapes.

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2020 04 30 Image of the week

Werner Dieterich photography, Stuttgart Vineyards

Probably my favourite colour scheme.  A landscape but also a brilliant linear composition which is (as anyone who knows me will attest to) what always captivates my eye.


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Another take on natural dyeing

Over the years I’ve done a range of techniques to apply both natural colour (i.e. colour extracted from nature: leaves, bark, berries, plant stems) and natural patterns (i.e. leaf imprints, petals, fronds, pine needles, etc.) to both cloth and paper.

I’ve also created monoprints using commercial inks on paper.

A few years ago I read about a textile artist who buried a flat piece of cloth in the garden for a couple of months and left it to the whims of the weather, before retrieving it to see how it had survived and what colour it had taken up.  I don’t think this is a wholly uncommon exercise as I’ve heard about it several times since.

Two weeks ago I adapted this garden approach into a tray-dyeing trial with paper.  I used 2 standard kitty litter trays.

Tray 1:

  • Layer 1: Blue/grey stones
  • Layer 2: Strips of 250gsm Hahnemuhle print paper
  • Layer 3: Blue/grey stones
  • Layer 4: Strips of 250gsm Hahnemuhle print paper
  • Layer 5: Blue/grey stones
  • Periodically spray with water and alternate between sun and shade

Tray 2:

  • Layer 1: Wood chips
  • Layer 2: Strips of 250gsm Hahnemuhle print paper
  • Layer 3: Wood chips
  • Layer 4: Strips of 250gsm Hahnemuhle print paper
  • Layer 5: Wood chips
  • Layer 6: Off-cuts of paper + wood chips and stones to hold everything in place
  • Cover with clingfilm to keep moisture and stop the wind blowing the wood chips away
  • Periodically spray with water and alternate between sun and shade

Yesterday I liberated the sheets of paper, gave them a wash and ironed them dry.

Tray 1 – Layer 2:

Tray 1 – Layer 4:

Very little, if any, difference between the 2 layers of paper.  Extremely good results and very usable for future overprinting.

Tray 2 – Layer 2:

Tray 2 – Layer 4:

There’s a significant difference in the colour leeching from the wood chips on the different layers.  I was given a range of chips from different trees and I bagged them separately.  Although I wasn’t given the names of each individual wood I ensured I kept them apart when I layered.  Fantastic results.

The underside of the papers have also come out well.

And what about the off-cuts that were used to hold the main sheets down in the wood chips?

Fantastic.  There is a definite grey imprint where the stones rested.

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Exploring Mixed Media: 3

Anyone following this thread will note that I’ve changed the title from ‘Working with nature’ (which were parts 1 & 2) to the overall course title.  I feel happier not being so constrained by the narrow reference to nature.

It’s been an interesting fortnight with much studying, a lot of personal reflection and some interesting (and some crap) art experimentation.

Personal interpretation:

Having totally misunderstood the course instructions I took one of my nature photos, selected the colour palette and splashed some acrylic paints around.  The tutor explained that we were to disregard any form of representation and simply apply colour to paper.

That was fun – using an old credit card to push paint around – and apparently wrong (yep, it was one of the crap experiments).  Great colour scheme though.

I regrouped.  Further instructions revealed I was not to paint the image but, rather, capture the ‘essence’ of it.  Oh-oh, not my strong point.  (Note to self: What does that even mean?).  I thought I’d change image to something with more colour; it might offer more scope.

This got a moderately better (??) response in “Good place to jump off and move to the next part of the course”.  I read that to mean ‘You really don’t have a clue what you’re doing, do you?’.  And she’d be right.

What the heck, let’s have one more go …  I went back to my original image.

This elicited a ‘like’ from the tutor on the group fb page but no comment.  I’m laughing because I’m having fun and not seeing a whole lot of difference between my ‘art’ (used in the loosest possible sense, of course!) and some of the other posts on the group which are fawned over.

Do I care?  Honestly, no.  The more I look at them the more I love my personal interpretation of the exercise – and that’s what it’s all about for me.

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2020 04 24 Image of the week

James Joseph Lloyd, monotype

Jim Lloyd grew up in Devon and spent much of his time walking and camping on Dartmoor.  This image, and others on his site, have been created with reference to photographs from other people melded with memories and influences from his father, R J Lloyd.

Another of his pieces I particularly like is this one.

A beautifully rendered minimalist land and sea-scape.

Google search

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Working with nature: 2

Identifying  colour palettes from photos

This is something I’ve done many times before but this time I’m exploring computer programs that automatically extract colours from photos.

In the past I’ve always painted  swatches or wrapped threads to indicate colours.

Having such a large collection of threads made this a relatively easy task.  Painting swatches adds more difficulty because it relies on a certain level of colour mixing knowledge, but I’ve always found it fun to do and I’ll be getting to that in this course soon.

However, at this stage, it’s all about extracting the main colour hues using technology.  It seems that the norm is to photograph, manipulate and crop images using a mobile phone (iphone is the go for my course) and utilize particular apps to analyse them.  That doesn’t work for me for a number of reasons – primary being that I hate mobile phones.  In addition, I have a superb camera that is almost permanently affixed to my hand.

So, having downloaded my photos to the computer, it was time to explore how to extract the information I needed.  After several very engrossing hours (and several cups of tea) and trials of many programs my choice was made: Adobe Color was it.

It’s a versatile program, with a lot of flexibility and options.  There are a range of preset palettes to choose from; Brights, Mutes, Dark, etc. as well as Custom – and that’s just in one part of the program.

I started by using a preset palette and then customised it by moving the colour icons around the photo.

In the part of the program I’ve used it’s only possible to extract 5 main colours but it is enough for what I need in this instance.

Having been asked to select 9 images and colour analyse them, here’s what I’ve produced.

Can’t wait for the next step.

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2020 04 14 Image of the week

Melody Knight Leary, “Inheritance?”, solarplate, Akua inks on Arches 88, 2018


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Working with nature: 1

This week I joined an online class exploring different ways of working with nature in an art practice.

Initially we were encouraged to explore our environment and collect flora that attracted us.  Obviously, in parks and and on bush trails I only picked up fallen/dead pieces but I also took the pruning shears to a few bits in my garden as I felt my colour range from public land was a little sparse.

Having been collecting, drying and flattening various pieces over recent years to use for printing I felt I had a reasonable collection as a start point.

From here I added other less organic pieces and started creating and photographing small vignettes.

This dried flower head has a deep russet red tinge to it.  It’s some kind of shrivelled gum blossom.  It sits atop a torn piece of Kozo I dyed a while ago.  I felt that the shell and rectangular stone (polished Jasper given to me by a friend) added a contrast to the organic shapes of the other components.

Rusted bolts and a dried and bleached coral found on the beach were added to my garden materials.

It was a challenge to work a design around a long piece of fire grass but the inclusion of items with very different shapes has brought more interest to what could have been just a very long narrow composition.  Torn kitchen hand towel, heavily stained by tea, has been used to create a straight edge to the right.

Love the colour of the Kangaroo Paw I picked yesterday.  Each flower head seems to be tipped with tiny claws.  Then this morning a few red dried leaves drifted to my door, begging to be included.

The piece of stamped copper shim was given to me by a master metalworker I met some years ago and is a keepsake of my creative time teaching in Grafton.  Again I’ve added Kozo, but undyed this time.

Turning the Kozo around changed the composition from horizontal to vertical allowing me to add the 2 shell sections in keeping with the directional pull.  The photo has transformed them from matte white shell slices to shiny pearlised pieces.

Some of the fresh leaves I collected were starting to dry out and today I found that although they were still green in colour they were so dry they disintegrated when I tried to use them, so I just included the fragments in my vignette.  Some of these materials have been used when printmaking and are a little stained with inks.  I think it adds to the colour scheme.

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With the restrictions of being at home pretty much full time I joined a small on-line challenge this week.  Entitled Notan/Counterchange, it was described as follows:

Notan is a Japanese design concept involving the play and placement of light and dark or two different colour elements.
The word ‘counterchange’ means to change parts or (poetically) to chequer, for example with contrasting colours.

It took me a while to come up with an idea but the result has come out better than I anticipated.

Having used white paper as one of the two colour elements this part has, obviously, merged into the background of my website and created a very interesting finished image.

However, if I want to maintain a ‘framed’ look to my piece I need to either increase the size of the red paper to surround the white section or choose a second colour to mount the piece on to.

I don’t think this is half as interesting as the first image.

And there’s always the possibility of adding another colour.

Not quite in the spirit of a counterchange once a third colour has been introduced but it could be the start of an interesting lino or woodcut with added chine collé.  These are only very basic beach hut shapes but a long row of individual huts with added colour and counterchange might be worth exploring.

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Articulated concertina: More complexity

In January I posted the results of my exploration into creating a double articulated concertina book.  I made two samples; one with basic stitching and the other with an attractive beaded join.

Ever since completing the these I’ve been irritated by the unattractive stitching on the top version.  I liked the idea of adding more sections to the cover and having each one provide an articulation but the beading on the second version looks more polished.

So for the last week I’ve been working on how to improve something that was essentially finished but not giving me the visual outcome I wanted.  I turned to my embroidery skills.

Using embroidery threads and beads I’ve managed to transform a good-looking book with average joins into something much more complex and interesting.  The stitched embellishment has been applied to both the front and the back as well as the inside covers.

NOW this project is finished.

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2020 04 06 Image of the week

Ludwig Hirschfeld-Mack, Desolation, Internment camp, Orange, NSW, 1941,
woodcut, printed in black ink on thin ivory wove paper.


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2020 03 30 Image of the week

I’ve been a fan of Suzie MacKenzie and her collagraphs for a while and recently bought her book Making Collagraph Prints as it’s a print style I personally lean towards in my own work (when I’m not distracted trying out other print methods).

I’ve chosen one of her inspirational landscape pieces as my feature for this week.

Suzie MacKenzie, Before the Summer Storm, collagraph & chine collé, 2017 (?)

Suzie MacKenzie facebook

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Finished and framed etching

At the beginning of February I posted my hand-drawn Banksia serrata and my journey to transform it into an etched print.  Today I share with you the finished piece, framed.

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Part 2: Two colour etching

Back at the end of January I wrote about a 2 day workshop I did with Basil Hall.  Click here to read that so you get the idea of what I was trying to achieve.

Essentially I didn’t go with any plan of what to etch into a plate for the first day so I drew a random design that I entitled Circus.

The first plate was printed as a black proof and I applied colour in some areas ready for etching into the second plate.

I was pretty happy with it, seeing as I really hadn’t had any idea of what to expect from the class.

Once both plates were aquatinted and etched they were printed together in blue and yellow.  A reasonable first attempt.  Last week I reprinted the plates using a cyan blue and diarylide yellow.  Unfortunately the registration slipped horribly.

Interesting colours!  Not quite ‘circus’ enough for me though.  So I made a change.

That’s a bit more like it.  Now what can I do with it next?  I think some water-colour might be fun.

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2020 03 23 Image of the week

I have a love/hate relationship with collage.  However, I’m delighted to have come across Derek Gores and his masterful assemblages.

Collage portrait of Salma and Frida

Resources: – some other fabulous pieces of work here.

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2020 03 16 Image of the week

Wayne Viney, Lake Charm Amber Sky, 2018, monoprint

Wayne Viney is currently exhibiting:

The Lake and the Sea
until 22nd March, 2020

Australian Galleries
28 Derby St,
Collingwood 3066

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Monoprinting nature

My previous nature monoprinting had me using inks that complemented the plant material I was using as my imagery; yellow ochre, green and light sepia.  I wondered how they would look in colours that don’t so readily reflect nature.

The left hand image is the best of the unusual colour combinations.  I find it hard to analyze but am not averse to it.  In fact it’s quite alluring and otherworldly.  I mixed a little yellow into the blue for the right hand image hoping I would still retain a blueish tinge but it was immediately lost.

An interesting exercise but not something I feel compelled to continue.

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Self portrait

And now for something completely different.

Having been playing with water colour effects on paper recently I considered how they could be combined with my more usual oil-based printing techniques.  My goal was to produce a printed image on paper already stained with water colours.  The dilemma was to work out when paper should be wet or dry.  After much experimentation I came up with the following.

Initial drawing

I initially drew my self portrait.  This was then dry-point etched on to acetate.

I hoped the sanding discs of my mini Ozito drill would rough up the acetate surface outside my etching to produce an interesting background surround, but I didn’t press hard enough and it came out very scribbly.

Before making a new plate I experimented with water colours.

Using damp 250gsm Hahnemuhle paper, water colour paints were mixed and applied to the surface allowing the paint to flow and merge in places.  Whilst still damp, the portrait was printed over the now randomly coloured base.

The idea was starting to come through but I needed to fix the area outside my portrait and apply more colour to the background.  Using Photoshop I simulated what I could visualize in my mind.

By using a second inked plate and a mask over the etching I hoped to reproduce this.  I anticipated that the background would never appear solid with the water colours just showing across the figure.  My reasoning was that the paper would be wetter in the water colour areas and could not be blotted the same as the non-painted areas or the paint would be removed.  Would the black oil-based ink appear more or less dense where it was applied over the paints?  How much of the dribbled colours would show through?

As can be seen on the left-hand print there was both more water colour paints and ink, so the result is quite defined.  The right-hand print had less of both and the water colours have affected the outer overlaid black quite significantly.

It’s not quite worked the way I hoped but the next step is to apply the water colour to damp paper (so it runs and merges), followed by the figure etching and then allow the paper to dry before printing the black overlay.  That way I should get a better, and more solid, coverage.

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2020 03 10 Image of the week

Whilst at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra recently I came across 4 wonderful etchings by Jessie Traill, part of their permanent collection.

Jessie Traill, Evening, Emerald, 1911, drypoint and foul biting, printed in black with plate-tone and wiped highlights.

I was unable to get a better photo due to glass reflection but really want to share the superb work in this print.  The NGA has a published image and I’ve reproduced that below as my image of the week.

Notations as above

My own photo

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2020 03 02 Image of the week

Watercolour by Australian artist Ian McKenzie.

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Challenge 30 – Day 17

A long gap since my last sketch of Jack but this one hasn’t come out too badly. Despite not having drawn him for around 6 weeks I’m pleased that I’ve retained some of the improvement I made by concentrating on the same subject over and over again.

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Printing: new concepts

Intaglio lino print on 100gsm handmade recycled mountboard & orange skin paper

Me, today, struggling to come to grips with a new printing idea.  Nothing like spending time with the textbooks.  No matter what you think you know there’s always more to learn.

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Monoprinting with nature

The (communal) print studio is currently concentrating on monoprinting and whilst there is some latitude to deviate from this it can become a problem with multiple people wanting the presses set at different pressures.  So with that in mind I stuck to the designated technique and had a bit of fun playing with dried plant material and fabric trim.

Oil based inks – sepia, yellow ochre, olive green ( diarylide yellow & black), 250gsm Hahnemuhle paper.

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2020 02 24 Image of the week

David Frazer, Woe II, etching, 2002, 52.5 x 40cm

What can I say?  What a masterpiece.  Wouldn’t mind that on my wall.


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Printing with water-colour

I’ve spent a week playing with water-colour paints, exploring how they can be transferred to print paper outside of the normal landscape or still-life painting arena.  In the past I’ve gone down the traditional route of water-colour painting and haven’t found it works for me but as I have the supplies I thought it would be interesting to see how they could be incorporated into art pieces that use my print making skills.

So, initially I’ve been looking at what effects I can achieve with water-colour.  Later I’ll start overprinting with oil-based inks through a printing press.

Variable water effects, directly on to paper

Dribbled paint on plastic & paper

Dribbling + water-soluble crayons on plastic & paper

Dribbling + stencils on plastic & paper

Stencils on paper

Dribbling and drawing with water-soluble crayons & pencils on plastic & paper

An interesting exercise and it’s given me food for thought about where to go next with this idea.

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2020 02 20 Image of the week

Maggi Hambling, Rosie, ink on paper, 1963, 48.3 x 34.9cm


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Etched lino: Two colour print

In late December I recorded my initial etched lino process and single colour prints from two of the lino plates.

On my return to the studio a couple of weeks ago I intaglio inked one of the lino pieces in orange with a roll-over in sepia.

The design definition is strong, the colour choices work well and I’m pleased with the outcome so far.  There’s further work to be done with this and my second plate, but currently the studio focus (being a communal space) is on other types of printing so I may not get back to this for several weeks.

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Playing with my photo booth

Having taken some advice from a gentleman by the name of Patrick, a member of a photography group, I finally ordered and received a photo booth.  I can’t promise that all pictures will be perfect from here on, but I can promise that they should be evenly toned.

Over time, having been taking photos with a book shelf to one side and a window to the other hasn’t worked well so I decided to invest in a rigid booth with an assortment of openings, zippers, background colour choices, lighting and a light diffuser.  I already love it.

So, wanting to try it out, I painted an orange and blue abstract design.  Being opposites on the colour wheel is always a challenge and it doesn’t help that blue is my least favourite colour, but my decision was made.  I deliberately chose dynamic and brilliant versions of each and tinted them to a lighter hue to test how the booth lighting would cope.

The design brief was to initially draw one straight line, one wavy line and one shape, then apply colour to the individual sections.

Yes, it was cyan blue, just couldn’t face ultramarine.  There is a great optical illusion where the full strength cyan, abutting the orange, appears to lean towards the aqua green spectrum.  However, when looking at the piece once the orange part has been masked, it is definitely cyan.

I can honestly say this is a faithful photographic reproduction of the painted piece and the photo booth is spot on.  Taken with booth fully enclosed, front aperture open, full strength lighting and light diffuser.  Camera positioned outside the booth, set to auto and preset colour.  That’s about as technical as I’ll be getting, I expect.

Happy days!

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2020 02 10 Image of the week

Mikael Kihlman, Church on the Hill, 2010, drypoint, 13/30

I am delighted to have just purchased this print and hope to obtain another from the same series.

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Part 2: Etching with Basil Hall

In Part 1 of my recent course with Basil Hall I worked on 2 colour etching plates.  That 2 day workshop encouraged a small number of us to visit Basil in his studio for a further 2 days of printmaking.  Having already worked with him 10 days prior I understood better both the processes and technical choices on offer and so was more prepared.

I decided on a photogravure technique using one of my own drawings as the source image.  In December 2017 I drew a Banksia and decided that would be my first subject.  The aim was to produce an image that resembled an old page from a flora specimen book; scratches and a little discolouration included.

Initial drawing

Without going into great detail, suffice it to say that the image was enhanced, printed onto clear film, transferred to a photo sensitive surface atop a zinc plate, then etched.  Additional drypoint work was applied to improve the transfer before cleaning and inking the first proof.

Banksia serrata trial proof

This was looking pretty good as a trial proof but had (unfathomably) picked up 2 unintended linear scratches.  Time was spent burnishing the plate to remove them and adding drypoint to other areas to bring out more detail.  The rest of the marks, ‘dirt’ and scratches were fine in the context of the project.

Chine collé was prepared and 4 prints were taken.

A lovely result, currently drying under weights before adding the relevant annotations.

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2020 02 03 Image of the week

Jörg Schmeisser (1942 – 2012), Diary and ginkgo leaf, 1997
etching, aquatint printed in three colours from three plates on ivory wove paper


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Playing with paints

In anticipation of a couple of book-binding courses I’ll be teaching in a few months time I’m exploring ways of applying different paints to paper without too much mess and water.  Last time I taught at this venue I asked for a room with direct water access but didn’t get it which meant that both myself and my students had to walk through the middle of another workshop to get to a sink.  Not ideal by any means.  Luckily, on that occasion, we only had to clean glue out of brushes not go the whole rinsing out paint route.

So it’s important for me to work out a way to apply colour, texture and pattern onto paper with minimal and easy clean-up.

My first stop was carding acrylic paint onto paper, spraying with water, drying and re-carding to get watermarks.

I like these but my issue is that I came across this technique through a semi-led event in November by a tutor at a group studio.  She introduced us to several methods of mark-making on paper and I don’t feel comfortable using something she has just taught me and passing it on in a class of my own.  Seems rather rude.

I decided to look at my Brusho powders.  They are lovely and produce a beautiful water-colour effect.  To date they have been under utilized.

Colors were applied to wet paper.  I didn’t like it so ran my hand across the lot which pushed paynes gray over the whole surface (Oops!).  In an effort to improve it I dropped brilliant yellow powder onto the wet surface and pulled a skewer through it.  Not my finest work!!

This time I tried to keep the colours apart and was more careful with my paynes grey sprinkling and water spray.  Right, well, I can happily live without this thanks.  What a shocker of a colour choice!

This is better.  Why?  Well, I worked harder on the greens and yellows, building them up and letting them partially dry before adding the grey sprinkle.  And the colourway is an improvement.

In some ways I like this but it other ways it’s annoying.  I used vibrant colours, kept them separate and applied crumpled clingfilm over the surface to get the line effect.  The clingfilm was left in place until the paints were dry.  However, what’s happened to my beautiful colours?  They’ve merged and faded.  Nice if you want a soft look.

This is simply a bit of 110gsm Cartridge (the others are all on 200gsm paper) which I used when cleaning up and it’s much more along the lines of what I was hoping for with these paints.

I don’t feel I can use the first acrylic technique I’ve shown here for the reasons already stated.
Using the Brusho powder in the manner I’ve tried above is extremely hit and miss.  It’s very wet, you need to spray water and have numerous containers with watery colours everywhere.  I feel that it would be easier for inexperienced students to make mud and over-colour rather than come out with pleasing results.  So that’s also a no.

Expect more samples in the coming weeks.

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Part 1: Two colour etching workshop

With Basil Hall

This 2 day workshop was an eye-opener for sure.  The aim was to produce 2 etched plates, with a variety of tones, to layer together to create a coloured print.

No ideas for designs were suggested beforehand and all materials were supplied.  So I went along in what I would consider an ‘unprepared’ state.  I usually like to have at least some preliminary ideas, sketches or a theme in mind but not this time as I really didn’t know what we would be doing.

With multiple technique choices and unable to incorporate everything discussed I decided to go with a soft ground over a zinc plate and a random design.

Circus, drawn on tissue with shading added later

The plate supplied is not one I’ve seen before and had a photo gravure surface which could be used for photo transfer or hardened for hard ground etching.  In my case, this surface was cleaned away and a soft ground was applied which I then worked into.  The second plate supplied had already been fully aquatinted.

Over the course of 2 days multiple etchings were made by timing the seconds or minutes the plates sat in the acid solution, and aquatint was applied to sections of the first plate.  Between etching times the plates were dried and a resist was painted on to different sections of the plates stopping further etching of those areas.  In this manner varying levels of etching were achieved, thereby creating tonal differences.

That’s the overall concept.  However, after I had the initial image etched onto my first plate I took a black proof print and, using coloured pencils, shaded the areas where I hoped to add colour as I moved through the process.

Circus, print proof, black oil-based ink with coloured pencil

Literally 5 minutes before the end of the course I managed to have both plates ready, inked and with paper and registration in place, so I got my first print.

Circus, first colour proof

Excellent start and I look forward to 2 more days with Basil next week.

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Pineapple paper

A friend gave me some semi-prepared pineapple fibre to make into paper.  The fronds of the pineapple plant had been stripped and dried before being shaped into a hank.

I pulled it apart, chopped it into short lengths and boiled it with caustic soda for a couple of hours before cooling, rinsing and pulping.  Even though I did a pulp test in advance of pulling a sheet I soon realised that it liked to drape itself all over the deckle making it very difficult to remove and so form a fairly neat paper edge.  Doubling the time I normally take when pulling sheets, I carefully tried to remove excess pulp from the deckle by either pushing it down onto the mold or gently plucking it away with my finger nails.

An aching back and two afternoons later I achieved 30 lightweight sheets, around 45-50gsm I estimate.  Their colour would best be described as ‘natural’, a slightly light-wood off-white, if that makes sense.

The edges are still very ragged and I haven’t decided what to use them for yet but they’ll make a good addition to my paper supply.

Here’s a close-up of the texture.

And even though they are quite thin sheets they are extremely strong.

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Challenge 30 – Day 16

Short of time today but at least I’ve got the outline down.  The head is definitely a better shape than the previous drawing.

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