Workshop: Liz Powell mixed media

I’ve been lacking in inspiration and drive recently so this workshop came at the right time.  Messing around with a group of like-minded people, using products we all own but aren’t sure what to do with, seemed like it would be fun and it was.  Note: You will see from my samples I’m currently in a ‘brown’ mood!

Liz has many skills and teaches a variety of workshops.  In a few weeks I’ll be doing some bookmaking with her but yesterday was all about experimentation, exploring the effects of layering products, wiping back, adding more, adding resists, buffing surfaces and creating textures.  As I love bookmaking I’m interested in making fabulous unique covers for my books so was eager to see how Liz integrates lots of both physical and colour layers to result in abstract unified designs.


We started by looking at what effects can be produced on kitchen foil using gesso, oil sticks, boot polish, shellac and other colouring agents.  Powders and mediums were mixed and brushed on, cloths were used to buff and blend.

The colours I used adhered to the foil and knocked back the brilliance of the silver.  Crumpling enables colour to be pushed into the crevasses or lightly applied to the peaks.


Using a base of crumpled yellow Unryu paper I added some gesso, various oil based and water mixed products.  Good start but hated the white gesso resist area.  I added some washi paper and tissue over the surface then continued to build up colour layers adding high/low lights where appropriate.  I decided I liked the crumple effect and stayed with it.


Here I used an old sewing pattern as my base, colouring and layering, adding some additional collage and unifying with shellac and oil stick highlights.


This was very thin tissue crumpled and applied to a base with glue stick instead of PVA as the previous samples.  It worked well and had no leakage through the tissue, which happens with glue.

This piece isn’t finished yet as the collaged leaf and elephant paper strip need more integration with the base.

I like the idea of applying more thin paper layers over the surface and then further colour layers.  The collage pieces then disappear into the overall piece and unify better.


Above is some Japanese printed rice paper which has been coloured.  I prefer it before the shellac was added, making it too golden.

We also played with a bit of image transfer using block printing inks.

The Derivan block printing inks are very sticky.  They roll out well and adhere nicely to flattened natural objects such as leaves.

So what’s next? Well I have a textural background semi-prepared (below) and am going to colour the foil before adding more layers.  However, this time I’m staying away from the shellac which gives the golden surface and trying for something completely different.

Let’s see what I can come out with and how well I can disguise the original colour base.  I might even be able to use it as one of my book covers in the next bookmaking workshop.

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Tree theme: Collaging plant fibre

scp-collage-1Working with my semi prepared swiss cheese plant (Monstera Deliciosa) fibre that I prepared here and here I started shaping and mixing the fibre with some cardamom pulp (kindly donated to me by another paper maker, Jill).

Using an old and stained piece of handmade paper by the late Marie Waterhouse – just perfect for this sample – I formed the basis of a tree shape.

Whilst only around A5 size it’s a good start on another technique and has taught me how to create designs using plant material, adhering it on to pre-made and dried paper.  In the past I’ve only worked wet-on-wet.  To help the paper attract the collage I first washed it lightly with water and then applied a heavily diluted glue/water mix to the tree shape.

Whilst this fibre is murderous to pulp (severely testing the motor of my blender!) it has worked brilliantly as a collage – using fibre prior to pulping, which has only been boiled as per my previous posts regarding this plant fibre – and it’s created very good tree bark texture.

Next step in this technique is to create a bigger sample with the addition of some super lightweight plant fibre paper as the tree canopy.

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Tree theme: Collagraph Plate 1

Recently I spent a day photographing trees and plants in the botanic gardens.  I’m contributing to an exhibition to be hosted in the gardens in June and wanted to get a feel for the area.  Although I’ve spent many years attracted to the textures, colours and patterns of different terrain, on this occasion I looked at the same aspects but in relation to plants and trees.

My start point for this trial collagraph was this photo:

bl-plate1aSuch a lovely tree trunk: ringed, with a thin split bark lower portion becoming smooth as you move up the length.

bl-plate1bThe base of the plate is made from mountboard.  An open-weave scrim was cut and torn to create an uneven surface and was stuck to the board.  Modelling paste was applied to create the impression of the rings.  Using a scalpel I carefully cut away areas from the board to create the plant fronds in the background.

An initial print proof was taken, with only the tree itself being inked up.

At this point I was just trialling the colours I would use to bring the tree to life and I was interested in the blank embossing effects from the fronds.

bl-plate1cAbove Left: not enough ink but great surrounding embossing. Middle: ink coverage better but a bit spotty. Right: good coverage with the darker areas towards the edging of the tree giving it a sense of depth and ’roundness’.

bl-plate1dNext I worked on the front fronds, in anticipation of colouring the background.  I’d collected some dried grasses.

Even though I’d pressed the fronds they really weren’t flat, so I inked up some acetate, laid the plant material on and ran it through the press with some spare paper.  A great way of getting ink smoothly onto the surface of things like this, and you can sometimes get an interesting print from the ‘waste’ acetate plate.
The grasses were then ready to be laid over the original print plate and printed in one hit.

bl-plate1eAbove is the waste print made from the above process.  OK, not an artwork but then I was only trying to get ink evenly on the grasses.  Great colour though!  I looked at the remaining ink on the acetate and liked what I saw.  so I took prints of that as well.

bl-plate1fThey’ll be great with some overprinting later on.  However, I digress.  The final prints:

bl-plate1gA good day in the studio and all feeding my brain with ideas for the main project, along with the tea-bag work over the last couple of weeks.

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Paper making & staining: Progress

Well, quite a few days have passed whilst I’ve been playing with teabag staining sheets of my own hand-made paper to use for chine collé and collaging.  As I previously wrote, some staining has been on flat paper and other trials were on crumpled or semi-pleated paper.  All have given some terrific results.

First up, lightweight (around 45gsm) white handmade paper stained flat.  This tended to get very soaked and delicate so after the first time I put kitchen hand towel on top (below right hand picture) to mop up some of the excess and used two layers of the handmade paper together.

tb8This has given some lovely subtle colour changes across the surface with a few darker lines where the teabags soaked to a certain point and then dried with an outline.

Next, let’s look at the same weight paper crumpled in one direction (sort of concertina look).

tb9Even though the paper was beautiful and soft when flat as soon as I started to crumple it to put the teabags on top it started to crack.  You can see on the left where there are small areas broken off.  When fully stained and dried (and dragged around the garden once in my dog’s mouth because I accidentally dropped it on the floor!) I carefully opened the sheets out and ironed them.

I’d hoped to get more of a spider web effect where the tea soaked into the peaks where each bag sat, but that hasn’t been the case unfortunately.  Still a good result and I feel that this would be better with a commercial paper where there is ‘size’ and the pages won’t split.  However, that’s not a test for this time because the whole point is that I’m using my own recycled paper.

Finally to a little thicker handmade paper.  This white recycled mountboard paper is around 70-80gsm.  So fairly robust.  I crumpled.

tb10Actually, I loved it stained and crumpled (which gave me another idea).  I slowly opened it up and could see the first signs of fantastic colour gradations and patterning.  On the right you can see the final ironed piece.

tea-stained-tree-collageSo what’s the aim of this experimentation? 

I’m currently looking at printing and collaging trees and some of the plants I recently photographed during a trip to the botanic gardens.  I think my tea stained paper is working well towards a tree bark collage.

Just for fun I zoomed in on my photo of the ironed paper and ‘cut out’ some tree shapes.  I played with the density of colour and size and was immediately struck by the simplicity, but effectiveness, of this 2 layer computer generated outcome.

So it’s been a worthwhile couple of weeks looking at this and working with the teabags and my paper.  Now it’s time to start looking at some actual printmaking and seeing how this concept can be incorporated.

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Paper making & staining: Recycling teabags

Yes, I know, teabags are old-hat.  Everyone works with them.  However, in my view, they are cheap, readily available, durable but lightweight, stain well, and are an all-round good medium to use for both collaging and new paper production.

So I’m currently saving and using mine.  Start point: a cup of tea of course!

tb1Once the teabag has been used and dried with the tea still in it I cut the bag open, remove the tea and flatten the packet.  These double folded bags are great because they open out to a decent size.

So I don’t waste any of the colour I have been drying them on paper hand towels.  This is great because firstly they are embossed sheets giving me some texture, secondly they crinkle up beautifully when soaked and finally they absorb the tea stains and produce wonderful patterns.  I use the hand towels over and over, drying them once some staining has occurred and then using them again and again until I get the depth of colour I’m after.

tb2Above Left: wet stained kitchen hand towel. Middle: dried hand towel. Right: light on the surface showing the crinkling.

Tea staining paper hand towels this way made me think about what great effects I could get on some of my own hand-made paper.  I’m currently working on some collagraphs that I want to collage on once printed.  tb3Pre-staining some of my damaged hand-made paper would be a good way of incorporating them into my project.  I selected some lightweight (about 50-60gsm) white paper I made from recycled cartridge paper offcuts from some discarded prints.

The damage is obvious – dog paw prints from an over-enthusiastic ‘helper’ when my paper was laid out drying on the bathroom floor!

tb4Because my own paper is beautifully flat I’m not going to get the crinkling effect of the paper hand towels so I’ve tried one lot of teabags on flat paper and another on crumpled to see what different effects I can get.  I may move to using some of my own textured paper to see how the stains fall across the uneven surface.  These pieces have a way to go yet until the full colour spread can be appreciated.

tb5Meantime, what should I do with the dried, flattened tea bags?

tb6Some I left as they are for collaging, but most of them I cut into small squares and soaked them ready to make new paper sheets.
Once fully softened they were liquidised, the water was drained off, the pulp was placed in a snaplock bag and frozen until needed.  My freezer has more stored paper pulp than it does food I think!

tb7Amazingly, despite all the soaking, liquidising and draining the pulp has still retained some colour from the original tea within the individual bags.  I honestly thought it would have fully washed away.

OK, stage one done.  Next will be to form some new sheets and see just what colour I end up with.

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Exhibition: Endless Answers, One Question

Yesterday I visited the Grace Cossington Smith Gallery to see the range of works on exhibition by members of the Open Bite Printmakers group.

open-bite-exhibitionMy first impression was of a professionally hung event with good lighting, spaciousness, a wide range of techniques and quality pieces – and I wasn’t disappointed as I perused the individual artworks.

Here I showcase a few pieces which caught my attention for different reasons (Note: all artworks are under glass so photography has some reflection and colour reduction) :


Megan Edwards, The silence amidst many voices, etching & monoprint

Megan Edwards is exhibiting 4 pieces in a series she relates to silence.

I enjoy the orderly abutted ‘boxes’, the differential but unifying content in each section, the partial imagery, the repetition and the severely reduced colour palette.


Up close it is possible to see some detailed texture, both from imprints – possibly on both the etching plate and the monoprint – and incorporated textile fabric (seemingly a cotton weave/scrim).

Her artist statement says, in part:

These four pieces reference the threadbare and tattered clothing of Australia’s early European settlers when pitted against an unfamiliar and unforgiving natural environment.

Jutta Fuhrmans has produced 2 lovely pieces combining several prints in a woven fashion.


Jutta Fuhrmans, Tidal Weave 2 & Tidal Weave, linocut woven collage/chine colle

My first impression was of rocks, pebbles, tidal pools and water movement but the artist statement reads, in part:

I pursue my fascination of the ballet, its movement, grace, vitality and flow in some of my work, continuing exploration brings me new ways of expression.

Not at all what I picked up from the pieces myself.  Which brings me to the question of the meaning of individual artworks.  If an artist creates a work which has a specific meaning that satisfies the desired outcome they are trying to achieve, does it matter that the viewer takes away an entirely different experience, their own interpretation of what they have seen and may view the result in a very different manner?  Seeing as my strong belief is that all art is extremely subjective, some very personal, and every human being brings their own life experience when either creating or viewing, then no I don’t think it’s necessarily important for everyone to view creative endeavours in the same light.  Take what you will: enjoy or move on.


Monica Chivas, Cloud views, aluminium etching

I had to include this piece by Monica Chivas.

Why?  Well, of course having done some aluminium etching myself recently and come out with swans on a rough sea, in the middle of a storm (!),  instead of swimming serenely on the lake I was delighted to see this technique worked so effectively.

I know how hard it is to achieve what she has done here.  I love the colour gradation, the depth it brings to the image and variation in size, shape and tone of the clouds.

Of the artworks I’ve shown here this next piece by Terese McManus attracts me the most.


Terese McManus, Landscape 1, collagraph with rollup

I have an ongoing love of terrain, landscape, heat & shimmery surfaces, rocks, water pools, and such like (also plants).

I’m not very urban.  I enjoy space, walking in the bush, strolling on the beach, sitting on a bench watching the natural world – and this collagraph portrays for me a vast expanse of empty landscape; somewhere quiet in this mad noisy world, no telephone, no TV, no computer, no commitments, no-one pushing for things to be done, just a huge amount of quiet solitude to rest and refresh the brain and body.

outback-terrainTo the right is my landscape.  Some years ago I attended a workshop in encaustic art.  One of the pieces I produced is entitled ‘Heat Haze’ and it’s my view of central Australia and the heat rising from the parched terracotta coloured earth, with an occasional dwelling almost visible.

Check out Joshua J Smith Photography for some stunning imagery of Ngura in the central Australian desert.  Just outstanding.

My next post will be a short study of two pieces in the same exhibition by Rew Hanks.  The detail in his linocuts has to be seen to be believed.

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New Profile

I’m delighted to have finally got my profile uploaded as one of the members of Primrose Paper Arts.

Click here to view it and then visit the home page to see what else Primrose Paper Arts are up to at the moment.

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