And back to pencils ……..

Just a quick cube continuing to look at light sources.

Followed by a composition of Okra.

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Still drawing – just differently ……….

I’ve just attended my first Adobe Illustrator course (seriously need this skill for work).  Wow, masses to learn.  After 7 hours tuition I reckon I’ve almost scratched the surface.

Daunted?  Hell, yes!
Excited?  Definitely!
Know what I’m doing?  Not even remotely – but still having fun!
Ready for the next class?  Err…. no, but let’s do it anyway!

Results from my first day (and, yes, I’ll accept any and all encouragement from anyone reading this):Super happy with my ‘floating’ ball – even got a decent shadow.

Huh, UFOs!  Gradients inside gradients.  Loving it.

Resizing, duplicating and shading.  Did I do that (yep, with a lot of guidance)?  Can I do it again?  Well, I’d better try.

It’s a long way from here to designing files for the office but we all have to start somewhere.

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Drawing challenge over! Moving on ……

OK, so I only managed to draw on 10 out of 28 days in February.  I should be feeling like a failure, but I’m not.  This is more drawing in a month than ever before, so I’m at least on the right track.  I’m resolved to start my new drawing challenge and run it throughout April, meantime I’ll try to fit in what I can with a busy work schedule.

And it’s not like I’ve done nothing else, creatively.  Paper-making with size was interesting, and time-consuming, and I’m also back at the print studio every Friday.

Ah, the beauty of clean sheets of glass waiting to be rolled with luscious printing inks; the sticky gluey sound as inks are mixed up into exactly the right colour and consistency …..

….. the expectation and excitement of how collagraph plates will print – having spent many an hour creating and sealing them …..

(Above: mountboard cut into a ‘jigsaw’ ready for surface texture and sealing – see right image – thereby creating a set of collagraph plates ready for printing)

….. the choosing of paper – tearing it to size, soaking and blotting it ready to receive an image.  Bliss!!

Trial 1:

Not enough ink coverage, not enough colour variety,a reasonable indication of how my chosen textures will come through though.

Trial 2:

Much better.  Don’t like the colour scheme?  Well, that’s because you don’t know what it’s for.  Let me give you a clue, these prints will be an integral part of my latest artist book using the original prints from this post.  They looked terrible at the first stage as well – but wait until the project is completed before you criticize.  It’s going to take a few weeks.

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Paper-making with size


1. any of various gelatinous or glutinous preparations made from glue, starch, etc., used for filling the pores of cloth, paper, etc., or as an adhesive ground for gold leaf on books.
verb (used with object), sized, sizing.
2. to coat or treat with size.

A couple of weeks ago, as part of a group, I had a look at adding size to my handmade paper.


An aside:

In new fabric, especially patchwork/quilting cotton, you can feel the stiffness of the fabric, the crisp, smooth, un-creased surface, all achieved by adding size to the mix.  Have you ever wondered why new clothing, fitting so perfectly and hanging just right then goes floppy, out of shape and often shrinks after washing?  That’s because, when new, they are impregnated with size but once washed that has gone down the drain (along with your money if your garments no longer fit!) and you are left with the ‘real’ fabric, I suppose you could say.

So what’s the point of size in paper?  All commercially made paper (hesitate… hesitate… qualify further), and by this I am referring to copy paper, cartridge, Stonehenge, BFK Reeves, and the like, have some size in them.  It helps paper:

  • repel damp (otherwise a nightmare in humid conditions).  Note: in large stationery stores it is possible to buy large boxes of A4 copy paper, the equivalent of 5 reams (2500 sheets) without much packaging.  It’s cheap.  Why?  Because it has minimal size and will absorb any air moisture if not used within a short time – and I mean only a few weeks!!
  • stay crisp (keeps sheets sturdy and separate for going through a copier or scanner).
  • reduce the degree of liquid absorption enabling other media to sit atop the surface (printing inks, glue, pencils and so on).
  • have a smooth surface by acting as a filler or surface glaze.
  • increase surface bond strength, decreasing any fuzziness or furriness on the surface.

Some papers are either unsized or what is termed weak sized and into these two categories fall blotting paper, newsprint, water-colour paper and others that you will find do not repel water or moisture.  However, as a printmaker, I’m interested in sized paper to obtain sharp print outcomes.


We looked at the two methods of sizing; internal and external.


Size is added to the vat as the pulp is being formed into sheets.  So it is an integral part of the finished paper.

I tried both a commercial starch and some wallpaper paste, in separate vats of course!

There was a noticeable change in water viscosity and I obtained good paper from both.


Size is brushed onto existing paper and allowed to dry, thereby coating the surface and allowing some absorption.

I tried gelatine ( used fairly warm otherwise it sets), rabbit skin glue, hercon and konyaku (commercial sizes).

The Results:

Image by Shawn Knoll, DeviantArt

Well, hmmmmm…… not sure that I achieved the correct results.

As I understand it, if a drop of water is applied to the surface it should sit there before being slowly absorbed.  That isn’t happening on most of my sheets.

Maybe it only becomes apparent when you print on it and I’m expecting too much – but I don’t think so.

Below you can see the finished sheets, using internal sizing:

Only the powdered starch with metholated spirits mixed in (to help it dissolve) inhibits the water from passing straight through the  paper.

Using external sizing:

Only the gelatine size has held the water on the surface.  All other samples reacted like blotting paper.

What a fascinating thing.  I need to talk to others who know more than I, to check my results.  Another interesting point is how crinkled the paper became when dry, even though they were rolled onto proper drying boards.  As they dried they unstuck from the boards and curled – some of the sheets remind me of those puffed prawn crackers you get when ordering Chinese take-away!

Click here to see more imagery of the day.

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Feb drawing challenge: Day 10

A few quiet minutes sitting in the garden looking at my terraces.

Not enough tonal variety, the wall isn’t high enough for the first garden bed, proportions are seriously out of whack.  Poor drawing, need to do better next time.

In fact everything is wrong with this – but that’s why I’m doing it, to improve.

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Workshop: Print, Book, Box

Monoprinting with Glen Skein.

January saw me at Sturt Summer School for 5 days of printmaking.  The program included great live-in accommodation, excellent food and several hundred people all involved in a range of workshops.

Unfortunately I was struck seriously ill a few days before the event and was only able to participate in the last 3 1/2 days – having recovered sufficiently to drive the distance and find some brain power to produce some meaningful work.  So glad I went, despite having missed some of the content.

Super facilities.  A huge classroom for all the planning, cutting, designing, book and box construction and the like.  And plenty of space to lie out prints as they dry.  A separate print press room (how spoiled we were!) with tables around all walls for inking up, cleaning and so on.

Continuing my theme of Linear Containment from late 2017, where I was printing designs based mainly on triangles, I moved to more rectangular shapes and chine collé overlaid with black print.

I missed the entire book construction part of the course (but can do that myself once I have a cover designed and printed) but I managed to make a full set of artist pages.

These will be combined into a book of a type I haven’t made before I but understand the concept.  The design work for the cover and spine is underway and will be produced from collagraph plates over the coming weeks.

I also managed to print a very large piece of Japanese tissue paper, with chine collé inclusions.  This print was then used for the lid and interior of the box I made on the last day, plus the covers of a small concertina book which lives in my box.

Already looking forward to next year.

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Feb drawing challenge: Day 9

A shell.  I’ve done this before and got either a very flat unrecognizable piece or some very nice sylised drawings, like this one here.

Today I’ve gone for something more realistic.

Took about an hour to complete.

Fun – hard and not brilliant but I see a shell and it has some dimension to it.

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