Project: Information Highway

Take two products …

Last year I invested in several new stencils. In theory I could have cut some of them myself but the strain on my hands and possible mistakes when doing this wasn’t worth it. So the question becomes this: is my printed outcome really my own work as I’ve used a commercially available product as a start point? Before deciding let’s explore how I used it.

For this project I limited myself to two items, the aforementioned stencil and some sequin waste. I love sequin waste, it gives great results when both printing and masking. If you’re not familiar with it, imagine a strip of coloured synthetic (plastic essentially) ‘foil’ where the sequin shapes have been cut away. The remainder is often sold as a roll in discount shops and I picked some up years ago and have been using it ever since.

When monoprinting a while ago I kept the waste prints from my cut sequin shape. No use as a print but good to upload into Photoshop and manipulate. I painstakingly cut it from the background, resized it and improved the image.

As it was now a psd file and free-standing I was able to use it as and where I wanted in a new composition.

Moving on to the stencil, I chose an existing monoprint I’d made with acrylic paints and clingfilm as my base. By scanning, applying Photoshop filters, layering, rotating and fading I was able to build a multi-layer image over the background before inserting the sequin print scan.

I exposed my solar plate and took a proof print.

And I added colour.

I immediately realised it was impossible to limit a single colour to the ‘information cells’ section without it straying onto the ‘cables’ area, so I approached it from another angle. I mixed varying strengths of blue, strategically spread them across the whole surface ensuring I had the most intense hue on the cells then I overlaid yellow in selected places.

Claire Brach, Information Highway, 2021, oil-based inks on 250gsm BFK Rives

I’ll leave the viewer to decide if this use of commercial products, albeit distorted from their origin, constitutes an outcome demonstrating my own concepts, or not.

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Workshop: Eco-printing with Wendy Joyce

Anyone who follows my site will know I’ve done a bit of eco-printing/dyeing over the years, but I’ve never tried it using a steaming method. Last week I was introduced to this new technique by eco-printer Wendy Joyce in her 2 day workshop.

My experience has always been to sandwich dry paper and plant fibres, building multiple layers, then compress the pile between tightly clamped (or tied) tiles. These have then been submerged in pans of pre-mordanted boiling water containing plant material for a period of time, before removing, separating the layers and drying.

I’ve generally had reasonable results but became a little disillusioned as the plant transfer to paper always came out the same, regardless of which plants were used. One would think that using wildly different flowers and foliage would give wildly different colour results but, in my experience, that hasn’t happened. The simple fact is that the pre-mordanted boiling water seems to have overridden the colour leeching from the plant fibres.

In this course we soaked our paper in trays of pre-mordanted water for a period before layering them damp with plant material and clamping, or tying, between tiles. So, the same construction method I’m used to but a different approach to paper preparation.

These parcels were then placed into a steamer for it to work its magic. Our bundles sat piled on a wire rack above boiling water while we moved on to wrapping around cans using the same pre-mordant method and plant fibre layering between sheets of paper.

Another interesting aspect was the use of fabric either side of the first and last sheets. This is a good way to stop the damp paper sticking to either the tiles or the can and also to avoid string lines around the outer paper wound around a can. Obviously if you want lines omit the fabric layer, but the advantage of having it in place is that plant material can be placed on both the inner and outer sides of your outer sheet, instead of having a plain side.

Once steamed we proceeded to unwrap and dry flat. I cut some of my paper on a slant to make a set of concertina booklets and these were wrapped around cans to dye.

These next two (front and back images) were folded and sandwiched between tiles. They were soaked in different trays, hence the difference in appearance as one tray had plant material in it which allowed the tannin to transfer to the paper, giving it a brown hue.

Different mordants and techniques used over the 2 days produced very different results. Some paper was steamed, some went into a pot of water with all the used leaves (so with a lot of tannin), some was placed back into the mordant trays after colour had transferred – hoping to change the hue. Here are a few showing the wide variety of effects you can achieve.

Obviously the type of paper used also has a bearing on the result. I found quality cotton rag print-making paper and heavyweight watercolour paper worked well for me.

This is a fraction of what I produced over the weekend. A excellent workshop and a new set of skills for the future.

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Exploration: Journey

I’m currently part of an on-line creative exploration course. It’s nothing onerous, just something to stimulate ideas and create some random drawings without too much thought.

The word for the day was ‘Journey’ and I jotted down a few things that came to mind: travel, distance, spread out, moving, traversing, random movement.

I was drawn to ‘random movement’ and using drawing inks, a dropper and a straw I dropped ink onto watercolour paper and started blowing it around.

I immediately thought of the seaweed I walk around when I take the dog to the beach.

‘Journey’ to ‘seaweed’, who’d have thought?

I dropped individual yellow blobs on paper and blew each of them in a single direction. Wetting the paper first I added areas (as opposed to blobs) of turquoise and blew it in as many directions as I could before it dried.

Swimming tadpoles, perhaps?

I added a third colour.

The black became rather overwhelming so this is a crop of the best section. The fine lines on the right hand side remind me of maps and road systems.

I added more colours and drew over the surface.

As an afterthought, I should probably have drawn my ‘streets’ over the yellow/green/red area and left the blue to be perceived as a body of water.

I like the idea of drawing or printing over this kind of background and these short exercises will soon fill my sketchbook.

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2021 04 15 Image of the week

Hverfjall Crater, Iceland


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2021 03 31 Image of the week

Nigel Humphreys, drypoint, aluminium and Somerset satin

This is one of the best pieces of drypoint I’ve seen in a long time. What attracts me? Firstly the subject matter; the fact that the face is only a slight impression leaving me to fill in the blanks and create my own story.

Secondly, well it’s got to be the shading. Beautifully rendered. I’ll have to ensure I look at more of Nigel’s work.

Intaglio Printmaking Facebook site 28/3/2021

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Coptic stitch sketchbook

Last week I did a short online Coptic stitch tutorial. I’ve only done this stitching twice before and neither time has the process really stuck in my mind. However, this tutorial was superb and with the benefit of videos which can be paused and re-watched I’ve finally come to grips with it – and it’s not a difficult binding once you’ve understood and got into the repetitive method of travelling up the book spine.

I’m very pleased with the stitching, it’s very neat and each loop has an even tension. The linen thread was waxed, enabling it to move freely without catching or tearing any of the holes, which is important with this stitch as the tension has to be relatively tight. It opens flat, enabling easy access to the pages when working into the sketchbook.

I decided to give it a simple wrap-around closure using a strip of wide paper tape. Good outcome and another book form I’ll be able to use in the future.

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Banksia solar plates: further prints

I’ve now completed printing the remaining solar plates featuring Banksia designs that I was given. These are currently being dried ready to be formed into a book showcasing the best of the plates.

Here are a few more of the final prints. Some are repeats of previously shown plates but in new colourways. All shown here are the initial prints on 250gsm Hahnemuhle printing paper with further prints having been made directly onto the 200gsm Magnani Pescia Editions book paper I recently dyed for this project.

This plate has come up well in both colour schemes I’ve tried and I’m especially happy with the blending as it will be terrific with the dyed paper in the book.

This was difficult to print as some areas simply would not hold any plate tone.

Again, difficult to hold enough ink on the plate to print well. I don’t have any idea how many times they’ve been printed by their original owner but my sense is they haven’t been exposed long enough to embed the image into the plate in the first place.

I love the strength of colour in this image even though it is pretty much unrecognisable as part of a Banksia plant.

Printing these at home without the stress of being in a hurried class situation has allowed me time to experiment with multiple colours on a single plate and practice accurate colour placement and blending.

This is another showing significant areas where the ink simply wipes away from the plate. However, I do like the residual texture.

This is the third time I’ve printed this plate and the best I think.

Once I started printing these plates I realised how semi-abstract they are and so didn’t try to keep to the actual colours of the Banksia pods, instead treating them as experimental reflections of my own.

Whilst working with the only large plate, showing a full branch of Banksia pods, I decided it might be nice to try it on very lightweight paper suitable for chine colle.

Having spent close to an hour carefully inking in a variety of colours – intending to use this print on the book cover – the paper stuck to the plate.

I painstakingly removed it inch by inch leaving a coating of hairy paper fibres across the entire plate surface. What a disaster.

The print amuses me because it reminds me of the serendipity of printmaking on occasion. No matter how much of your heart and soul you put into something it doesn’t always work out and you are continually relearning the lesson of having, and maintaining, patience.

Here it is.

Imagine you’re looking at a Banksia tree through a mist, or just smile and think about how long it took me to rescue the solar plate ready to reprint. Not a process I’m in a hurry to repeat.

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Gel plate collagraph printing

I recently read an article describing the technique of pressing collagraph plates into an inked gelli plate surface, followed by pulling the print from the gelli plate – not the collagraph. In essence, a transfer print. My normal printing routine involves inking the collagraph base (oil-based inks), applying damp printing paper over the surface and running this through the press.

For these trials I decided to use water-based block printing ink, and as I only own black the remainder had to be acrylic paints. Oil-based printing inks aren’t what I want to use on a fairly delicate gelli plate.

Plate 1

Mountboard backing with very fine silk muslin strips and modelling paste

I thought I would get quite a detailed result from the roughly applied modelling paste and the circles indented into some areas. Wasn’t sure what would happen where the silk strips were laid.

Very disappointing, and this is the better of the two prints I took. The silk fabric sections gave me nothing, whilst the remainder is too formless to even count as a print. My sense is that something with a more defined design might transfer better.

Plate 2

Mountboard base with cotton scrim, cut cardboard and carborundum in glue

Again, not the best but I can see a bit of scope as some detail is evident. Many of the acrylic paints are quite loose, a little runny, and I wonder if the stiffer block-pinting ink is better. Might have been wiser to use the Matisse Structure range instead of the Flow range. But will they dry before I have time to pull the print?

The block-printing ink has done a better job. It remains wet long enough and it’s accepting a good imprint from the printing plate and transfer to paper.

Plate 3

Mountboard base, textured paper, fabric trims, scrim and gel medium. Some cutting into the board.

This print picked up a lot of detail but consistent pressure across the back of the plate when transferring the design to the ink isn’t easy but, overall, not a bad effort.

Again, the addition of the black block-printing ink (to the blue acrylic) gave the media more body creating a thicker ink for the plate to impress, so a better and more even pull has been achieved.

For more reliable and consistent results I prefer my usual method of printing collagraphs with my oil-based inks. Using the gelli plate in this way isn’t at the top of my list to continue with.

Plate 4

I was given a piece of embossed rubber, possibly flooring material but I’m not sure. It has fine cotton mesh on the back and a well defined pattern. So I also tried using that next.

Once the gelli plate was inked up and I’d pressed the rubber into it I realised that I had a good ink transfer onto the rubber so decided to print that first.

Then I turned to the ink remaining on the gelli plate and printed that.

It was interesting exploring the concepts of what I read about on the internet but in my heart I prefer other forms of printmaking.

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2021 03 17 Image of the week

Gold, enamel and diamond butterfly lady brooch by Lucien Gaillard, early 1900s.

Who wouldn’t want to own something like this? So beautiful.


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2021 03 08 Image of the week

Delita Martin, Rain Falls From The Lemon Tree, acrylic, charcoal, decorative papers, hand stitching, 52x72cm, 2020


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Banksia solar plates: new prints

Since my last post regarding the etched solar plates I was recently given I’ve been experimenting with different papers and colourways to see what effects I can get. The plates are several years old and some of the etching isn’t that deep and on occasion it’s been difficult to get the ink to hold and transfer onto a decent print but I’m enjoying the process.

Many of the plates are close-ups of the plant and therefore fairly abstract. However, here are some prints I’ve pulled from a larger plate showcasing a Banksia tree.

Even between these two pieces you can see just gently rubbing back excess ink can make a big difference to the result. This shows clearly on the second print in the centre where the Banksia pods have lost some definition.

The image above shows where significantly more ink was left on the plate, including the mostly un-etched portions. I’d hoped to pick up more of the very light trees in the background and that’s worked well. However, the front Banksia pods have lost some of their definition and seem heavy with no obvious detail apparent.

This highlights how important planning solar plate etching is and the reliance placed on the original imagery when assessing tonal variation.

The print above comes from a very small plate and, again, several prints had to be taken to understand how and where the ink would hold. Examining the etched plate it’s obvious that there’s no detail in the branch and rear right hand pod. The acetate image will have been fairly dense in these areas so no matter how much ink I wipe away I’ll not improve on this because it’s solidly etched into the plate.

Again it’s a good lesson for those inexperienced trying to understand what type of image works well with solar plates. It’s a perfect medium for working with detailed imagery: photography or drawing, as the detail will be picked up. But always keep in mind that where there is a density in the original image that will come across as well.

The next piece is from an etched zinc plate of my own making. The edges of the zinc have been filed back, but a little roughly, which has led to them holding some ink. A thing to watch for when filing if you want to avoid this.

Zinc plates are so smooth they don’t hold any ink where not etched and so plate tone is pretty much minimal, if not non-existent. In this case I tried to leave a little and I’m OK with the result but will likely print this another couple of times in a single sepia or grey tone, perhaps on coloured paper. I’m not thrilled with the colour scheme here. And I think some better filing will make a difference, just to get the edges smooth so I avoid those marks.

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2021 03 01 Image of the week

Jessica Rhoades, Pond Life, 2019, reduction relief print, 12″ x 9″


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2021 02 24 Image of the week

Debbie Mackinnon, mixed media on paper


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Banksia Book – Part 1

I recently wrote about some etched solar plates I’ve been given, which I’ve started printing. My aim is to create a book showcasing the prints to give to the friend who kindly donated the plates.

My criteria are as follows:

  • Eco-dye the paper prior to printing.
  • Individual pages, printed one side only, allowing the other to be filled by the recipient as she sees fit: text, water colour, more printing, collage, etc..
  • Chine colle front and back.
  • Japanese stab stitch binding with wrap-around at spine.

My first dilemma was paper choice. I required something that could be eco-dyed – so would stand up to being immersed in water for a fairly long period without disintegrating – but would also accept my Charbonnel etching inks and produce a good print. In addition, Diana will be adding her own mixed media to blank areas further down the track. She routinely works with drawing inks, acrylic paints, pens and other media, so the paper has to be versatile enough to accept a multitude of mark making techniques.

I chose Magnani Pescia Editions 200gsm fine book paper. It’s described on the Magnani website (in part) as:

100% cotton, luxurious paper for limited editions, artists books, journals. Lightly surface sized, slight tooth, suitable for all types of reproduction including offset, letterpress and digital, or tip in etching, relief or litho images onto your printed page.

I don’t know what ‘tip in etching’ is and having looked it up on Google I’m none the wiser, and the rest of the details seem to point towards working on the paper dry. But it’s 100% cotton so surely it will stand up to a dye bath and then later on a bit of a soak to help my etching inks transfer. What the heck, I went with it.

A few years ago I planted Tiger Grass Bamboo to later prune and make into paper but, as it’s getting rather large, using it to dye commercial paper seemed like a good idea.

After harvesting, I cut length-ways along the stems to open them up before running through the mulcher. Using both the leaves and stems, the whole lot went into a cooking pot and was brought to the boil

For my mordants I chose copper sulphate to brighten the green that was leaching from the cut plant followed by a smidge of ferrous oxide to darken it.

Having clamped the cut sheets between wood blocks I realised they wouldn’t fit in the pot – time to improvise. I placed my paper ‘package’ into a shallow tray and poured the boiling liquid over, along with as much of the plant fibres I could – stuffing them between the protruding paper sheets where possible. There it stayed until the following morning.

Having carefully unwrapped my sheets, rinsed and dried them I’m pleased to see that the green remains true and hasn’t morphed into muddy green/brown.

Part 2 will detail printing the solar plates onto the pages.

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2021 Artists’ Book Award Exhibition

Friday, 19 February 2021 – 10:00am to Sunday, 28 March 2021 – 4:00pm

In partnership with Manly Art Gallery & Museum, Northern Beaches Council Libraries hold an Artists’ Book Award attracting entries from around the world.

From the exhibited selection of finalists, judges choose several books to be acquired and added to the Library’s collection.

I am thrilled to have been selected as one of the finalists with my book entitled In Isolation.

Manly Art Gallery & Museum
West Esplanade Reserve
Manly NSW 2095

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Abstract Banksia solar plates

Late last year a friend gave me 2 etched solar plates depicting collages of Banksias taken from her own photos. I printed these for her (see post here) and she used them as book covers for a gift.

Since then she has given me several packages of used solar plates she’s no longer using. The first packet I opened was entitled ‘Banksia’, and seeing as I’m enthralled with this plant it was a good place to start. The photos used are close-ups of parts of the plant and so are semi-abstract.

I don’t know how old these plates are or how many times they’ve been printed but I’ve been eager to see how they turn out. I recently purchased some Charbonnel etching inks, which I haven’t used in the past but have read good things about, so this was an opportunity to try them out at the same time.

Here are my first trials. All prints are on 250gsm Hahnemuhle paper.

Raw Sepia and Prussian Blue
Raw Sepia and Cerulean Blue
Carbon Black and Prussian Blue
Top image: Raw Sepia Bottom image: Raw Sepia and Geranium Red

Great start and very interesting outcomes. The Charbonnel inks are everything I’d hoped for. I’ll continue with more of the plates, along with other colour schemes.

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2021 02 08 Image of the week

Sonja Reedijk, handmade bowl and plate

Sonja writes: My inspiration was the kintsugi technique, the Japanese art of repairing broken ceramics with gold or silver paint. In Japanese aesthetics, the traces of breakage and repair contribute to the beauty of an object. Instead of paint, I used gold thread.

I came across this image on The Paper Studio facebook page where Sonja shares her love of handmade paper.

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Project: Noise

This project came about when playing very loud music whilst working alone in my studio. Sometimes finding it difficult to remain motivated through the long periods of lockdown and lack of external stimulation I used some of my favourite bands to keep me moving. It’s fair to say Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin at high decibel levels solved the problem. Hence the title of my latest book: Noise.

This mixed media book has been created using monotype printing, various handmade stencils and stamps, line drawing and linocut text.

The structure has been constructed using 200gsm Magnani Pescia for the cover and wrap around, a mix of 130gsm Magnani Pescia and tracing paper for the pages, and pamphlet stitch binding with tie closure.

Wet media includes acrylic paints, drawing inks, fibre-tipped pen and oil-based printing inks.

Here are a few of the pages:

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2021 01 27 Image of the week

Shari Replogle, encaustic art


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2021 01 19 Image of the week

Judy Dekel, Rushing Riverbed, watercolour, 2017


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2021 01 15 Image of the week

I came across this fabulous photograph on the Awesome Librarians facebook page (9/1/2021 post) and couldn’t resist it.

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2021 01 08 Image of the week

Wendy Orville, Fallen Tree, Blakely, monotype, 11″ x 17″

The Hand magazine, issue 29, August 2020, P20

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2020 12 29 Image of the week

Judy Howe, Aerial 1, 2019, monoprint

This monoprint, by my friend Judy Howe, is part of the Hazelhurst Gallery & Arts Centre 20 year anniversary exhibition. I’ve always enjoyed her work; her reduced yet vibrant colour palettes create life in each of her original monoprints.

Judy prints in simple forms and imagery, usually producing works within a series, each complementing the other and together forming a cohesive whole.

Works by 350 local artists, including myself, are currently being exhibited until 31 January, 2021.

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2020 12 22 Image of the week

Paul Catherall, Trellick Grey ll, linocut on 300gsm Waterford paper, 2017, edition of 25

I first became aware of Paul Catherall’s work through an article I read in Pressing Matters magazine earlier this year.

When visiting his site I discovered a treasure trove of graphically designed linocut images of famous landmarks. What strikes me is how recognisable these places are even though they have been reduced to simplified forms and colour palettes.

Pressing Matters, Issue 11, P8 article ‘Sent from Coventry’

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Working with selected colours

The designs I choose from all those I’ll be producing over the coming weeks will be scanned into the computer and used to generate a cohesive whole. I normally create my designs and work up the layers directly from paint or printing ink on paper but I’m in the process of extending my knowledge of Photoshop and will be working within that program to unify a range of individual components.

Using only the four colours I chose from my Colour Selector I’ve started applying paint and stencils to gelli plates and pulling prints. The brayer hasn’t been cleaned between colours which has extended my colour range by natural mixing when rolling or stencilling. Most of the time I’ve used the paints directly from the tube, rolling thinly without adding water, as I’m after strong impressions. Some have been printed on creamy yellow watercolour paper, others are on white cartridge.

The Matisse Flow acrylic paints stay open longer than the Structure paints enabling me to apply stencils and a couple of paint layers without drying out before pulling the print. However, being a more flowing paint it does have a tendency to leak under some of the more lightweight plastic stencils. When I get to the Photoshop stage I’ll be able to clean this up if I want to.

I’m very happy with this start and particularly the colour range but work will have to be done to clean up a few of the samples, depending on which I decide to use. Some of the squares and rectangles could have a better pattern definition. This may be something that will be covered in the class, so I’ll wait until I’m at the point of using them before I do anything.

Meantime I’m cutting a few different stencils to increase the amount of shapes I have to pick from.

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Creating a Colour Selector chart

I’ve designed a system of recording both the variety of paints & drawing materials I own and the items & colours I intend to use for each project I work on. I own quite a range of media including oil-based printing inks, water colours, gouache, acrylics, alcohol inks, Inktense pencils, Graphitint pencils and the like and my new Colour Selector should make choosing the right materials for the job at hand an easy task.

Each individual media type will have it’s own chart and will be updated as I purchase new colours. I’ve started by creating the Selector for my acrylic paints.

Using 200gsm smooth surface paper – Canson Aquarelle watercolour paper – I cut my first templates.

I’ve manipulated the photo a bit so you can see the markings on the paper more easily. The idea is to record all the colours you own (acrylic paints in this example) on the long narrow strips and keep the wider piece to plan the colours you will use for a particular project. I’ve allowed for 3 projects’ colour choices per page.

I painted my swatches in colour hues and marked the back of each block with the colour name and type of paint (Structure, Flow, Atelier, etc) so I can easily locate each one. These swatches are all at 100% saturation but I’ll be creating more using thinned paints to show them semi-translucent. I’ll continue to extend the range by colour-mixing new swatches and recording the ‘recipe’ on the back of each block.

Here’s how it works.

For a project I’m currently working on I decided on grey as my base, main or primary colour – whatever you wish to call it. As paynes grey is a favourite of mine I started there and added another lighter grey from my range. These were painted onto my template before considering what to add to the range.

I picked my green strip and threaded it through the cut sections so it would slide up and down and I could check which colour I liked

Once chosen, I painted it in and continued the process and painted in the fourth colour I intend to use. Once I had completed my colour selection I recorded the names of the swatches on the template.

As can be seen from the first photograph above I left sufficient space between Selectors on the main sheet to allow for several colour choices. I like to use a reduced colour palette and rarely go above 4 or 5 colours, so they will fit on one line but if you’re making your own you can adapt it to fit more if you wish.

My next post will show some of what I’m creating with these colours.

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2020 12 07 Image of the week

Sherrie York, “Come Along, Dear”, reduction linoprint, edition of 15, 12″x18″, BFK Rives paper

I’ve long enjoyed the work of Sherrie York and her skill at creating complex reduction linoprints.

About this piece she writes:

The title of this piece was known long before I even drew it up on the lino… in fact I’ve been thinking about this concept for a couple of years. It’s a quiet family outing… the adults are creating very few ripples because they are moving slowly to accommodate the speed of their offspring. One curious chick is distracted by a twig. A parent lets the little one wander for a bit… and then gently encourages the young explorer to rejoin the group…”Come along, dear.”

Resources: – This print is available for purchase through the website link.

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A gift of solar plates

Last weekend a friend gave me 2 etched solar plates. The designs are from her own photographs, collaged and transferred to acetate and then to the print plates. She asked if I could print the images for her to use for a handmade book she is making as a gift.

I knew she would be looking for earthy colours, especially as the images depict native seedpods but I quickly realised the limitation of my etching inks – I don’t own as many colours as I thought. So some creative colour mixing came into play.

To check the quality of the etching I did a trial on 110gsm dampened cartridge paper using Charbonnel raw sepia etching ink.

A couple of things became apparent. Firstly, the plate has a lack of definition in some areas and the ink won’t grab. It’s an old plate so may have been printed extensively in the past and some areas are worn, or perhaps they didn’t fully etch initially.

Secondly, I’m not thrilled with the sepia but it may well still work when colour mixed.

I was after a russet red but don’t have enough colours to mix it. The two outer samples above aren’t bad – the sepia has been improved – but it’s not what I was hoping for.

I moved from a sepia/red mix to a sepia/green/olive mix and I’m pretty happy with the results. While I had the colours prepared I printed the large solar plate, which grabbed the ink much better.

Super happy with these and they look much better in real life than in the photos. So I’ll be handing them over tomorrow. Fingers crossed that she likes them.

All pieces were printed using Charbonnel etching inks on 130gsm Magnani Pescia Editions Wove Book Paper (100% cotton).

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2020 11 30 Image of the week

Doris Hoyne, ‘Blueprint’ lll, relief print, 26x26cm, 2017

The image above is scanned from a postcard of the original artwork – which I haven’t seen. I purchased the card at a small gallery on the NSW south coast where numerous pieces were on show by a group of local artists, Doris Hoyne being one of them.

I particularly like the very reduced colour scheme and the ethereal effect of the ink transfer. The leaves have the appearance of already drying and disintegrating.

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Working in only 2 colours

I recently taught a colour & composition workshop where we concentrated on the wonderful world of colour choices; tones, tints, likes, dislikes and colour matching. Trying to introduce the participants to a new way of considering abstraction in their work I devised a fun exercise where, working in pairs, they created a design which only comprised 2 colours.

The concept is designed for 2 people who work in different colours and swap part of their work at a certain point through the exercise. However, if you’re working alone you will need to create two samples of each step below.

  1. Draw three straight lines on a sheet of paper. They must start and end at the paper edges but must not cross each other.
Four samples of step 1
  1. Draw two lines which must cross at least one of the original three. These lines can start and finish either at the edge of the paper or at an intersection of the original lines.
Four samples of step 2
  1. Draw two circles overlapping your previous lines.
Four samples of step 3
  1. Choose one colour (per sample you make) and apply it in 3 different tonal values (light, medium and dark, or full strength), filling in each individual area.You may choose to use coloured pencils, water-colours, acrylics, marker pens, pastels or whatever you wish.
Three samples of step 4
  1. If working with a partner, cut your samples in the same place – i.e. on the diagonal, 1/3 of the way along, in half, etc. – and swap one portion. Sellotape the two pieces together on the back. If working alone do the same process with your two pieces.
Cut samples and glued together
  1. Keeping with the colour theme, cut, colour and collage pieces across the surface to unify the two halves.
Sample being worked on

Below are the pieces created by two of my students in their colour collaboration. One was given a magenta pencil, whilst the other was given black and asked to apply colour as black and grey with her third tonal value being white.

Mandy and Lisa’s colour experiments

I challenge anyone to find where they cut, swapped and taped together their pieces. Their integration between the two sections is superb.

I completed my piece by adding outlines to some areas in marker pen and some simple running stitch in other places. The piece was then transformed into front and back covers for my latest double offset concertina book. The book was finished with a couple of coats of water-based satin varnish.

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Celebrating 20 years of art and culture

I am delighted to have been invited to take part in the current Hazelhurst Gallery & Arts Centre exhibition.

To celebrate 20 years of Hazelhurst more than 350 artists from southern Sydney were invited to take part in a massive exhibition in the Regional Gallery. It brings together the region’s artists and is the first time the gallery has hosted an exhibition of this magnitude. Importantly, the exhibition is an opportunity to say thank you for the support artists have given Hazelhurst over the past years.

With no particular theme for the exhibition, artists were instead asked to submit works that represented them and their practice. The works range in date from recent to earlier in the artist’s practice.

I submitted an etching I produced earlier this year when working with Basil Hall in his studio. It was a wonderful experience learning from his many years of printmaking expertise and has been invaluable in cementing my understanding of the process.

Although I’ve produced etchings in the past Basil has a natural ability to both pass on knowledge and drag the best out of those less experienced than himself.

Banksia serrata evolved from a fallen and dried Banksia pod I collected and then drew. My aim was to translate this into a print evocative of an illustrated botanical book page.

Hazelhurst Gallery & Art Centre
782 Kingsway
Gymea, NSW 2227

21 November, 2020 – 31 January, 2021
Open 7 days 9am – 4.30pm

Posted in Exhibitions & Artists, My Creative Pieces, My prints | 1 Comment

2020 11 25 Image of the week

Jessica Yeong, Tempura Udon for Lunch, reduction lino print on 46gsm Awagami Kozo, 7 1/2″ x 7 1/2″, edition of 22

Winner of the Handprinted Collective September 2020 theme Monochrome


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2020 11 02 Image of the week

Eva Juusola, Butterflies,collagraph, 13 x 21cm, edition of 15

I recently stumbled across this collagraph artist (and painter) and immediately fell in love with her work. The one above struck a particular note as I’m currently exploring the print merits of Lamb’s Tongue weeds.


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Finally back to teaching

After a very long time in full- and semi-lockdown I am delighted to have been engaged to teach a weekend workshop at Hazelhurst Gallery & Arts Centre.

Entitled ‘Book Making for Artists‘ this 2 day weekend event will introduce participants to 2 different styles of books.

We will start by creating an offset double-concertina with a hard cover, followed by a larger book incorporating front and back hinges. Participants will learn stitching methods to form decorative visible patterns along their book spine.

This course is offered by:

Hazelhurst Gallery & Arts Centre
782 Kingsway
Gymea, NSW 2227

Saturday 14 & Sunday 15 November, 10am-4pm

Note: Due to covid restrictions necessitating reduced class numbers there are only 2 spots still available. So if you’re interested click on the above button and enrol soon.

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2020 10 27 Image of the week

Angie Lewin, Twisted Stem, Calendula and Pebbles, 2019, watercolour, pen and ink, 56x77cm

I’m a big fan of Angie Lewin and have a copy of one of her books which I use as inspiration towards some of my own work.

The image above comes from her exhibition entitled Nature Assembled recently shown at The Scottish Gallery. Although it has recently finished it is still possible (probably for a short time) to view the works on display in situ by taking a virtual tour.

Angie has also made a short video of her process with a close-up of some of her work.

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Linocut print: Lamb’s Tongue weed

After a couple of trial runs and a bit more carving I completed a very successful print.

Claire Brach, Lamb’s Tongue weed, linocut, 30.5x23cm, 2020

Good outcome with solid ink coverage and I’m pleased that my instinct led me to translate some aspects of the design differently than the original drawing.

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Linocut: Lamb’s Tongue weed

This year, whilst in covid lockdown, I’ve spent a lot of time walking in bushland both observing and collecting flora, mainly weeds.

A few weeks ago I started photographing Lamb’s Tongue weeds (Plantago lanceolata). They have a robust cylindrical shaped head which I can’t flatten and use in monoprinting through my press, so I decided to translate them into a linoprint.

Sitting at my drawing table I started sketching the Lamb’s Tongue along with what I could see across the lawn; my birdbath, some flagstones and fencing.

The birds hopped in and out of their bath, sometimes drinking, sometimes getting a wash.

The angles weren’t right but the idea was solid. I didn’t want a realistic version of my garden, I was after having my weeds in the forefront and the garden falling away behind. After photocopying, tracing and redrawing several times I found myself with a usable design.

I started cutting my lino. Because I never like to make life easy for myself, part way through I decided to swap some of the positive and negative aspects of the image. I’ve just about finished cutting and can’t wait to see the first print proof. Let’s hope I didn’t totally stuff it up.

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2020 10 21 Image of the week

Andrew Sharman, A Dream of Sheep, linocut 30x19cm, 2020

I first discovered the prints of Andrew Sharman via my subscription to the British printmaking magazine pressing matters. I was immediately struck by how he takes landscape imagery and re-imagines it into a simplified (or stylized) design that still encompasses a vast amount of information.

His choice to keep to a very reduced colour palette I find enticing and the use of multiple overlaid shaped blocks is very effective.

pressing matters magazine, Issue 11, P 56-59, 2020
Further work can be found at

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2020 10 13 Image of the week

Klaus Plumer, Meeting in small groups, linocut, 30×40

This image recently appeared in an online group I’m part of and I was immediately struck by the amazing effect achieved in the colour application on this linocut.

My experience with lino printing has always been to roll the relief surface smoothly and cover the entire area but here the artist has applied the ink more organically, still using a roller. How on earth he has achieved the horizontal ‘watery’ or ‘shimmery’ effect I don’t know but I love the combination of black and gold.

I wonder if instead of using oil-based inks, as I do, he uses acrylic paints and they partially dry on the lino surface before the image is transferred to paper thereby creating only a partial pick-up. Very interesting.

A master of many painterly effects, using a wide range of media, his art is well worth checking out on facebook.

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More gelli printing

This week I was introduced to another way of gelli printing, one where texture can be created whilst still being able to produce quite exacting patterns.

In September I blogged about a similar, but slightly different method, and gave the steps I took. However, with that method a colour is placed down and, once dry, a second colour is rolled over the surface. This means that the purity of the first colour becomes polluted by the overlay colour. For example, if you put blue down in sections first and later roll yellow over it the result on the mixed areas is going to be some kind of green or, at best, blue with a green tinge. It’s hard to keep the true colour.

My new method should eliminate this problem and ensure the colours I lay down remain pure.

Good colour result but poor paint pick-up

My first pieces gave me excellent colour results but the transfer of paint from gelli plate to paper was patchy. I realised that both layers of paint had to be fairly liquid so they didn’t dry out before pulling the print. I left the Matisse Structure paints aside and used either Matisse Flow or Atelier Interactive for both layers.

Good colour combinations and improved paint pick-up

The paint application on the above 2 pieces was somewhat uneven but the transfer was much better. A definite improvement.

Colour combinations and transfer working well

Both the colour and pattern transfer worked well on these pieces and I’m very happy with the results. Here’s the method:

  • Using a brayer, apply paint across the entire gelli plate surface and lie a stencil over the top.
  • Using a baby wipe, remove all the paint on the gelli plate surface showing between the gaps of the stencil.
  • Keeping the stencil in place, roll a second colour over the stencil and gelli plate. This will fill up the gaps that were just cleaned with a second colour.
  • Remove the stencil and place paper over the surface, pressing down to transfer paint to paper.

When the stencil is removed it ‘sucks’ up some of the paint trapped between it and the gelli plate and this creates a textural effect in those areas.

Close up of texture from first layer

Interesting outcomes. I’m mulling over what comes next with my gelli plate.

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2020 09 30 Image of the week

Sybil Andrews, The Gale, 1930, Linocut, 21 x 24.6cm

Cutting Edge Modernist British Printmaking, Published by Philip Wilson Publishers, 50 Bedford Square, London, 2019, P55, ISBN: 978-1-78130-078-7

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2020 09 24 Image of the week

Zilvinas Kropas (Lumen print)

Image taken from an amazing article featuring Zilvinas Kropas, Aušra Kropiene & Meta Kropaite about photography of the 21st century.

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New gelli plate printing

Over the last 12 months I’ve done quite a bit of gelli plate printing using a few different methods; random rolling of paints, applying stencils, mark making with objects and the like.  All have been done with either one or multi-layers of wet-on-wet paints.  I’ve enjoyed the loose style of image transfer and the colour mixes.

This week I tried a new method – new to me at least.  My goal was to create more structured patterns that are repeatable.

For my first paint layer I used Matisse Structure acrylics (these will dry quite fast) and for my second layer I used Matisse Flow or Atelier Interactive acrylics (more slow drying).  It’s wise to make note of whether your colour choices are opaque, semi-translucent or fully translucent as each will produce different results.  My paper was smooth 110gsm cartridge.

My method was as follows:

  • Place plastic stencil on gelli plate (it sticks nicely).  Using a small sponge or soft applicator dab a mid to dark colour over the surface.  Carefully remove the stencil and allow the paint on gellli plate to dry.  By the time I’ve washed the stencil it’s ready.
  • Using a lighter acrylic colour, squeeze a little on the gelli plate and roll it across the whole surface.  Your first layer will remain in place.  Immediately place paper over the top and press by hand.  Lift off from one end.  The first layer of dry paint will adhere to the second wet paint layer and all should transfer to the paper.
  • Remove any remaining paint from the gelli plate with hand sanitiser.  It’s quick, clean and easy.  Then you’re ready to go again!

With this method I can build up multiple layers and create detailed imagery.  These would be lovely as endpapers in handmade books.  I’m slowly building my stash.

Posted in Design Play, My Creative Pieces, My prints | 3 Comments

Continuing drawing figures

I’ve continued working on drawing fashion figures.  Referring to my text book, I’ve produced a couple of line drawings demonstrating different poses.  Using one as a template I went on to complete a body shape.

I’m in two minds about the path I’m taking.  These images look very easy to produce and shouldn’t take much time, but to create two reasonable looking legs I probably drew about fifteen or so.  The book encourages rubbing out instead of continually starting again and I find that useful.  It’s instructive to be continually going over and over the same space until you’re reasonably happy with something.

I definitely haven’t got a natural talent for figure drawing but let’s see where this goes.  I’ll continue with it over coming months interspersed with other more immediate projects.

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2020 09 14 Image of the week

Cyril E Power (1872-1951), The Tube Staircase, linocut printed with 3 blocks; yellow, cobalt blue, black on thin cream oriental laid paper, edition of 50, 44.4 x 25.6cm.

Philip Vann, Cyril Power Linocuts: A Complete Catalogue, published by Osborne Samuel Ltd, 2008. Page 49, ISBN 978-1-84822-140-6

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New challenges in drawing

I’ve had a project in mind for a while now but know my drawing skills aren’t up to the job so I’ve bitten the bullet, invested in some basic drawing books and picked up a pencil.

I love fashion illustration and the elongated’ giraffe’ style body draped in wonderfully outlandish costumes, so my new books include both natural looking figures and more fashion-model stylized outcomes.

I started with head shapes.

I tried ‘fashion illustration’ faces.

I went full body.

That’s an interesting exercise, building the body up from block lengths.  I note that fashion illustration leans heavily toward pigeon-toes.

I explored another method.

What have I learned so far?

  • Keep a rubber at hand!
  • Buy a new pencil sharpener.
  • Abandon illustration style faces.
  • Stop stressing and loosen up the hand.
  • Who cares if I use an entire sketch-book and fill it with rubbish?  So just do it.
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2020 09 07 Image of the week

Vivian Maier (photography), New York, NY, 1954

I’ll let the viewer add their own narrative to this, but I can’t help wondering what the future held for the subjects in this photograph.


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Monoprinting shapes – Part 2

Building on the prints from my previous post I created a range of multi-layered monoprints, sticking to a reduced colour palette and using only lines and circles.  Threads of varying thicknesses and types were laid to achieve either resists or laid patterns.  Circles, both the positive shapes and outer masks were incorporated, enabling me to form solid, translucent or chance markings when combined with threads.

A selection of these prints was then made, ready to combine into a new book.

After some consideration I chose to construct a blizzard book using instructions I found on youtube.  This book style is easy to make, assuming you understand how to calculate the number of sections required and cut and fold accurately.

As my print paper was only 110gsm I chose to make a hard cover to help it stand without sagging.  Using previously painted paper I covered 2mm board, inserted the prints into the folded spine and attached the covers.

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2020 08 26 Image of the week

Jan Mankes (Dutch, 1889-1920), Bomenrij, 1915, oil on canvas


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2010 08 17 Image of the week

Yon Sim, To have Missed it, 2018, emulsion-lifted photographic print with shellac-based and acrylic inks

This is one of a set of images in this series, all of which are superb. It’s worth a visit to Yon Sim’s design and photography website to view them all.


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