Print swap

At the end of the year our printmaking group always do a swap and make books using a print from each member. It’s a great way to share and have a record of everyone, as some don’t continue the following year.

This year most chose to create a full size concertina book and stick prints onto each page, often front and back, while others made a narrow accordion spine and adhered each print to that.

In my case I folded a 2″ wide accordion, a little shorter in height than the smallest print, and attached them to each section. As a couple of the prints were very small I first put those onto spare paper before inserting. This gave me a multi-height/width structure with an unobtrusive spine attachment.

These are some of my favourites from the project:

All 3 images above are by Elizabeth. I believe the one to the left is a drypoint and the 2 on the right are hand coloured etchings.

The piece on the left is by Judy and is built from monoprints and collage. The right hand print is an etching by Jan. Strange markings across this one, almost like corrugated cardboard lines.

Linocuts by Cathy.

I always try to make a gift for each person and this time I created small notepads using Japanese stab binding and my own prints as covers. As I always use quality paper this is a great way to cut out selected areas of larger prints (which might not be perfect) for a small project.

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2021 12 24 Image of the week

Love this photo of the view from my workroom window taken by my husband.

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Kozo: Fibre to Paper

I’ve started transforming some of my kozo fibre (general term for the inner bark of mulberry trees) into sheets of paper. I cut some up and left other bits as long strands. I purchased this as per the photo below and know little about it. It’s probably been bleached, maybe treated in some way but I’m not experienced enough with this product to know. It’s time to use it.

I’ve only used the Hollander Beater owned by Primrose Paper Arts (PPA) once, and that was several years ago, so this was another learning experience.

Top left shows the machine in action once the cut fibre has been gradually added to the water. On the right longer fibres are being separated and dropped in with the rest. As the fibre is worked by the ‘water wheel’ and it breaks down you see less of the individual strands and the water appears to be milky (bottom left). This is a result of the fibres softening, separating and turning onto pulp. The fibres over my fingers give an indication of what’s happening as the process continues.

Once this was complete the machine was drained, the fibre and some water put in a bucket and I brought it home. I set up a workstation ready to pull sheets.

I wanted A4 sheets, usually easily achieved, but the fibre clogged the mesh. It went down onto the couching cloths but pulled away again, tearing. It stuck to the mold. Huge air bubbles formed between the pulp and the cloths. It seemed like the fibre wrapped itself onto the mold and decided to stay there – in part, at least.

The A5 mold has a much denser mesh, about double the larger one. I tried that. Worked perfectly. Obviously there’s some subtlety here I haven’t learned about this fibre yet but, hey, I was getting sheets of paper so went with it.

The sheets are very fine, as can be seen from the photo where you can see the couching cloth through it. Once I had my post (pile of alternate sheets and cloths) complete I put it in my book press.

PPA has a fabulous press with a tray around it to catch water as it’s forced out when pressure is applied. I don’t have that so I piled towels below, above and around my stack and they absorbed the excess. Once removed from the press I rolled the sheets onto every available flat surface I could find (washing machine, dryer, fridge, freezer, vanity top …) and removed the cloths.

On a normal day these would take about 12-14 hours to dry but the temperature was high and I watched as some sheets dried in a few minutes in front of my eyes. How did I know they were dry? Well because it happened so fast they curled up away from the surface and ended up looking like poppadoms!!

Luckily only 6 sheets did this and the rest were carefully peeled from their surfaces once dry and have remained beautifully flat.

So 17 sheets, around 30-40gsm, perfectly usable, and 6 poppadoms which I’ll try ironing.

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2021 12 13 Image of the week

Natalia Kleszczewska (Poland), Do Kogo (To Who), 2020, lithograph, 70cm x 50cm.

Artist statement:
A composition built on a reprinted grid of an old correspondence book. It is a sort of experiment in translating the humanoid form into the language of the grid.


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Brain Clutter: Plate 1

New project

I’ve had a lot going on recently and have felt a little overloaded with thoughts, conflicts and noise – all internally. My new project, being created as an extension of my recent collagraphs, aims to document some of this brain clutter.

Each print plate will start with a 5″ x 12″ piece of Enviromount upon which I will build surfaces as well take away areas, thereby creating a range of textural surfaces. Gels and mediums will be used to add tonal variety and, well, whatever they bring on the particular day I pick them up.

Each plate will be created on spec, no advance planning, no drawing and no right or wrong direction. A few tweaks may be required to create unified imagery but other than that they will be what they will be. The aim is a brain dump of some of my brain clutter.

Plate 1

I should have taken the photo prior to printing but in my new unplanned working mode I forgot. Maybe next time. Needless to say, as some of the surface was unsealed inks have stained sections making it hard for the viewer to distinguish materials used. You’ll just have to try from my list below.

Materials: micaceous iron oxide, adhesive aluminium tape, a range of light to medium weight papers cut to shape and overlapped, Lutradur, teabags, gloss medium, pva glue.

The majority of the plate has had items adhered to it but some lines have been cut from the Enviromount to create hollows.


Materials: 250gsm BFK Rives paper, Charbonnel etching ink; Bone Black, Sanguine, Deep Yellow.

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Collagraph: Man-made – progress

I first showed this print plate in October where I discovered the issue of using Shellac that had been made for a while and then shaken to remix. Tiny particles had hardened and subsequently transferred to the plate and printed as ‘interference’ across sections of the design.

I love the design, the layering and the colours I chose but coverage wasn’t great: ink didn’t adhere to the surface well so didn’t transfer, tonal variation wasn’t there although demarcations between sections showed through well and there was no dynamism in the final print.

This week I revisited it.

Using Charbonnel Etching Inks in Bone Black, Sanguine and Deep Yellow I applied colours to selected areas, rubbed back and allowed them to partially blend. I concentrated on removing ink from specific areas to allow highlights to come through.

Great results, great colour scheme and the tiny blotches now feel like part of the design.

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Collagraph: Lines & Boxes

I’m enjoying exploring new collagraph materials and these 15cm square bases give enough space to quickly create small unified pieces.

Stage 1

For this plate I started with varnished mountboard which I lightly sanded to get a roughened surface.

Lines were cut and sections removed from the mountboard surface.

The aim was to wipe away ink from the flat varnished areas while retaining solid coverage in the recessed cut parts.

The first print is never the best. I’m told it’s like making pancakes; the first isn’t usually perfect. However, what has come through is the sanded textural surface and reasonable retention of ink in the shapes.

Stage 2 & 3

I kept the plate as is but added chine colle (below left). As this method has the collage sitting behind the printing it appears very flat.

A while ago I hand made some paper over a sushi mat, which created a ridged sheet once dry. I cut strips and adhered them to the plate surface (below right). Using a stencil over 2 of the plate corners I pushed heavy gloss medium through to create more boxes on top of my original cut out areas.

As the medium dried it sunk into the recesses, giving a variable height to the now raised surface, so some ink was retained when printing but not enough to make this a worthwhile outcome

The textured paper printed well though.

Stage 4

The plate needed more complexity. I cut pieces of adhesive aluminium tape and applied them, pressing into the recessed grooves where they overlapped. I also scratched lines in selected areas. Once the plate was inked and rubbed back I ran a stiff piece of paper over the high points of the textured paper areas. This removed the ink, bringing up a better definition in those parts.

But I still had to work on the gloss medium areas although, overall, the print is working reasonably well. Best colour scheme so far – yes, there were other trials that I won’t be sharing!

Stage 5

The gloss medium boxes wouldn’t hold much ink so I reapplied the stencil over the shapes and painted some abrasive modelling medium over the top of them. I gave them a coat of satin varnish to seal.

In the piece above, the ink held well in the 2 corner sections but I over-wiped the rest of the plate, and I’m not thrilled with the colour scheme. Should have stuck with the sepia and black.

Stage 6

I was happy with the look of the plate but wanted to achieve a difference in colour between the solid blocks and the lines between them.

I was running out of time on that particular day, but we all know what happens in printmaking when you let go of the angst (“I really want the perfect print!”), things happen by themselves because there’s no time to overthink and overwork it.

Not the ‘perfect’ print but a great improvement.

Stage 6

I added stitching to some of them.

Don’t ever consider taking up printmaking unless you have unlimited patience, enough money to purchase reams of paper and the realisation that exact results are usually out of your control.

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Collagraph: continuing Hexagons

I really enjoyed making this plate and the resulting prints I showed in an earlier blog, so I’ve continued with some colour experimentation.

I’ve moved from the warmer sepia, red and orange/yellow hues into a much cooler set of colours; black, moss green and pthalo blue. The application of micaceous iron oxide, applied to the mountboard prior to the tile adhesive hexagons, has ensured a textural surface which grabs the ink extremely well whilst knocking back the intensity of the hue. Hence the bone black ink has become a softer dark grey.

I’ve also altered the orientation of this print as, in this colourway, it feels more balanced to my eye.

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2021 11 09 Image of the week

Bob Cornelis, part of his City Simulacrum series, no further details


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Collagraph: Hexagons

My new collagraph comes as a result of further experimentation leading from my ‘Man-made’ project in October.

The strata has been constructed using a variety of media including, from left to right, Akua carborundum gel, several layers of torn handmade paper, clear tar gel (the dribbled lines), adhesive aluminium, micaceous iron oxide, tile adhesive (the hexagons), all on a mountboard base. Gloss medium and matte sealer were applied in selected areas to create tonal variety. Shellac has been deliberately avoided.

My first print brought up an issue with the tile adhesive.

The micaceous iron oxide background has held the ink perfectly, giving solid coverage. However, the tile adhesive, applied unevenly through a stencil, has held the same amount of ink so I’ve not achieved any tonal variation. The slight ink retention surrounding the shapes has highlighted them to a degree but they’re not standing out the way I hoped. I applied 2 coats of gloss medium to their surface.

In addition to this, I initially adhered a single piece of handmade paper under the clear tar gel dribbles and it’s given good tonal variety from the rest of the plate but feels a bit flat, so I tore small pieces and, using matte sealer, applied them over this area. The effect can be seen on the main print plate above.

Both adjustments worked well and the result is what I wanted. Some of the media used on this plate are new to me, so it’s a lot of experimentation finding out how they take the ink.

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2021 10 25 Image of the week

I had a bit of a slip when out walking with Jack and while taking a breath, with my backside firmly on the ground (hoping no-one would come by), my eyes were level with the stem of a Purple Topped Verbena. Although the flower heads were well past their best and falling off, and many of the leaves were dried and curling, I spotted a brand new shoot emerging.

I love the juxtaposition of the old, dried and textural curling leaves enfolding this tiny new pristine growth.

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Collagraph: Man-made

Using minimal materials; essentially mountboard, a couple of pieces of lightweight paper and some adhesive foil, I built a low-relief multi-layered collagraph plate. I cut into a few areas, removing the mountboard surface, thereby encouraging the ink to ‘grab’ the uncoated inner fibres so those sections would print dark.

Once complete I coated the plate lightly with Shellac, avoiding the recesses. The plate was then printed intaglio using black oil-based ink.

Great idea, horror print. On the left is the fully inked print, showing a lot of ‘interference’, and on the right is the ghost print, having a much smoother appearance. So what went wrong?

After several attempts with no improvement I came to a few conclusions:

  • Not a paper issue. The paper is good quality BFK Rives designed for exactly this type of printmaking.
  • Not a paper preparation issue. Paper was well soaked in a clean tray with fresh water and correctly blotted.
  • Not an ink issue. I used Charbonnel ink from a tube so there was no risk of dried particles accidentally getting onto the piece.
  • Not an inking up issue. Inking the plate was done carefully using a child’s toothbrush, wiped back with fresh tarlatan, with a final wipe with flat tissue.

That only left the collagraph plate itself. By eye it looked fine. When gently feeling the surface with my fingers it seemed smooth. I got out a magnifier, then I could see tiny particles trapped in between the Shellac layers. Dust? No, not dust, I was very careful.

I examined the Shellac jar and found a small amount had settled on the bottom. When I had shaken it before use some of that sediment lifted, in tiny pieces, and swam among the rest of the liquid. Then as I brushed it onto the plate these specks transferred at the same time. Who’d have thought?

And that’s what accounts for the small irregularities in my prints. As the plate has many layers, although still relatively flat, it is a hard to rectify problem. I threw out the Shellac, sanded back the plate surface as much as possible and applied some gloss medium over selected areas, then reprinted.

There’s been some improvement, as can be seen from the left hand print (the other being the ghost print), and I’m not going to get it better than that I suspect. If I continue varnishing the surface I’ll likely lose my tonal variation.

I’ve learned a valuable lesson about plate sealing. I love the design and I’m sure there will be more along this vein down the track, hopefully with better printed outcomes.

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2021 10 18 Image of the week

My chosen image back on 5th August 2019 was entitled ‘Dogs delight, owners nightmare’ and depicted a smashed up bush-trail bridge which I had navigated several times. I’m pleased to say that shortly after that post some very kind, anonymous, person (or persons) made some major repairs and the crossing is now fully restored and robust.

However, Jack (my beagle) and I, being avid bush explorers and knowing about a ‘hidden’ cave decided to veer onto a little used trail to search for it. I knew, from several years ago, that it was approached on both sides by wooden bridges but I was unprepared for what I found.

Dogs and owners nightmare!

This image has been taken after we gingerly shuffled across, with very little to hold on to and quite a steep drop both directly below and to the side of us.

There’s no image of the bridge on the other side of the cave as it was lying collapsed and broken amongst the rocks. I’ll leave it to my readers imagination how we managed. Suffice it to say that all clothing ended up in the washing machine on our return home.

Certainly an adventure but I think I’ll give this trail a miss for now, unless that anonymous person happens along with his repair kit.

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2021 09 15 Image of the week

Laurie Rudling, Les Vieilles Tours 1, collagraph, 15″ x 18″, Edition of 10

Laurie Rudling Pinterest

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Project: trees

Having been in a very restrictive lock-down situation, due to increasing numbers of covid 19 cases in our state, I’ve been close to home for over 10 weeks now without a definite end in sight; possibly some small relaxation of rules coming into force in October.

My saving grace has been bush-walking with my dog Jack. I’ve been observing the Spring emergence of flora, the desolation after back-burning & slow regrowth, along with the gradual return of native wildlife and birds.

I’ve also noticed the increased number of people trail-walking, many of whom are totally unprepared for the terrain, don’t realise their phones lose reception in some areas and seem to have no idea where they are going and in which direction they are headed. It’s quite astounding.

I also see discarded empty food containers, items just thrown to the side of the trails without a thought: chip packets, coke cans, biscuit wrappers, etc.. So disappointing and a lack of respect for our natural environment. I’ve been walking these trails getting on for 20 years and until our first lock-down in 2020 this was not the case.

Despite a lack of recent human contact I find myself heading for little-used minor trails where I’m unlikely to cross paths with many others, where I don’t have to listen to inane chatter because people are invariably on their mobile phones (until they cut out!) or shouting in small groups as they walk without noticing what is around them. On these small trails I meet other walkers like myself and we’ve created loose friendships, passing the time of day, pointing out things of interest, and introducing each other to hidden pathways and quiet tracks.

For the last 2 months I’ve worked on a project entitled ‘trees‘ based loosely around what I see when Jack and I explore. Some artistic licence has been taken as there are definitely NO sheep where we wander.

The book comprises 5 boards, held together with 2 metal circular clips. Techniques used include monoprinting, masking, stencilling, collage, burnt paper, chine colle, stamping, lino cut printing, etching, machine & hand stitching and drawing.

Here are the individual pages:

It’s been a joy working on this book, just as it was working on my ‘In Isolation‘ book during lock-down in 2020.

In Isolation can be viewed here with the individual pages being available to view here.

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2021 09 02 Image of the week

Noel Sandino, collagraph with monotype

Collagraph Worldwide online group
Noel Sandino can also be found on Instagram at @monoprintess

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2021 08 12 Image of the week

Protea in bush surround

Photography: Claire Brach

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Making Boxes from my stash

Over the last couple of years I’ve enjoyed a lot of monoprinting using stencils, masks and pattern-creation with textured items. I’ve amassed quite a stash of prints.

A few of us decided to cut up our prints and create small boxes, in which we would put a tiny gift, to give away to brighten someone’s day. Our box sizes vary but all will fit a wrapped chocolate inside, and who doesn’t like chocolate?

Of course, we started with yet another day of printing because we figured you can never have enough pieces to work with. My aim, in this session, was to work using stencils to create both positive and negative prints.

All were made using acrylic paints, either Matisse Flow or Atelier Interactive, and these are terrific for this type of printing as the paint transfer to paper is easily achieved using hand-pressure, no need for a press. And they’re quick drying.

Each of the prints above are shown vertically in sets of two, the positive and negative of each stencil, some with an additional layer of colour. This was a project with no subtlety of colour, the brighter the better, with the aim of cheerfulness. I intended using one set for each box.

I quickly realised that mixing and matching these ‘sets’ with all my other prints resulted in much more interesting and dynamic pieces rather than keeping them in their original pairs. Below is a photo of the ones I’ve constructed so far. The bases are turned up side down, so you can see the monoprints, with the lids resting atop.

I thought I was doing pretty well, having completed 16, until my friend Lee sent me a photo of her 32!

She’s already filled hers with chocolates and is giving them away. Wouldn’t it be nice if someone gave you one of these totally out of the blue? Lock-down is so miserable and some people are really having a tough time, it’s lovely to bring a bit of cheer where we can.

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Blizzard structures

Hedi Kyle is the coauthor, with her daughter, Ulla Warchol, of The Art of the Fold, a step-by-step guide to making a wide range of original structures.

Over the past 3 weeks I’ve been exploring 6 of her designs based around the concept of Blizzard books. Each one below, with the exception of the Crown Card, start with a 16 fold accordion and are experiments to see how and if my prints can be incorporated in the future – either as the structure or as inserts.

Blizzard Book

This piece is designed to insert business card sized items and has a fully removable cover. It’s essential to have fairly long overlapping folds top and bottom (which fold over the pages creating the pockets) to hold any inserts securely in place. This means that the paper you start with should be at least 3 times the height you want the final piece to finish up.

To scale this up would involve large sheets of paper but the structure is very robust once constructed. I can see this being useful for SMALL individual removable prints within each pocket.

Wheel of Fortune

Of the 6 designs this would be my least favourite. It looks effective, especially the orientation of the one on the right, but for my purposes the pockets are so tiny nothing much could be inserted. The folds over the central pockets hide much of each pocket making the insertion of other items meaningless.

It was a fun exercise but to scale this up would require huge sheets of paper and the folds would still overshadow the pockets.

Crown Book

The left-hand image is the one I’ve just made. It has a narrow concertina spine with the long length of paper enabling a double (folded) cover to be created from the same sheet.

The pages are, again, long sheets folded to size. In this case I used 2 sheets for the pages, each one folded to create 4 double sided pages. The beauty of this book is that the top and bottom folds of the spine between each page hold them in place. If necessary a small tab of double sided tape will stop the first and last pages from popping out.

The image on the right is one I made a while ago, using the same concept but with a hard cover and individual bi-fold folios as the pages. With this method you need to glue or stick each of the pages in place or they pop out.

This new method of creating multiple pages from a single long sheet is definitely an improvement on the structural integrity of the book form I achieved last time. As long as prints or other imagery can be positioned correctly, where folds are made, this one is a winner.

Crown Card

This form is the only one of the set not using a 16 fold accordion. They were quick to do, effective and have scope for printing either on the covers or the page insert. It’s easy to calculate how much paper you need to scale up or down. Another good option for me to use.

Blizzard Boxes

These were interesting to construct and quite surprising when they opened up into sets of 3 boxes. I can see these lying down with concertina books spilling out of each or standing up with small books nestled within the compartments.

I’ll have to do calculations re scaling up and using single-sided patterned paper to gauge effects. I love the fact that they fold all the way down to the size of one box side.

Blizzard Pockets

The left-hand piece has been made using glassine as the pages, hence the reason the folds can be seen within the page structures. The one on the right is lightweight butcher paper. Normally the covers would be removable but I found the pages sat better if the doubled cover had a tab of double-sided tape to hold the front and back page in place.

You can see that gussets have been created top and bottom of each section creating pockets.

These could be a new way for me to display a set of themed prints, each one removable for easy viewing. The construction is fairly easy to scale and more pages could be added.

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2021 07 20 Image of the week

Phil’s World, Common Wombat (Vombatus Ursinus), Guthega, NSW

2020 Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year – Monochrome Winner

Photo Credit: Charles Davis, NSW, Nikon D850, Nikon 200-400mm f/4 VR2, 1/1600, f/4, ISO 250, handheld.


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2021 07 14 Image of the week

Magdeleine Ferru (Glennallen, Alaska), Meandres, rolled up artists book, 25 black & white photographs printed on various papers (glossy, photo paper, transparent paper, inkjet paper…), collage, thread, wool, 3″ x 7′, 2020.


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Project: Treads notebook

From time to time I use my prints as covers for notebooks. Today I used my hand-coloured print from my ongoing Treads project.

Might as well use it rather than shoving it in a drawer for ever. It’s a simple little thing but at least I have something to pop into my bag for when I need to take notes. I’m still experimenting with this etched plate and looking at other print ideas with it.

250gsm BFK Rives printmaking paper, Graphic Chemical etching ink, Brusho inks, handmade paper back cover, linen bookbinding thread, 110gsm text block.

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Project: Treads

Car and truck tires seem to have been in my peripheral vision lately so I drew a few and collaged them together to form a rectangular design.

Being such a fan of geometric and linear imagery I was pleased with this start. It was painstakingly traced and transferred to a Zinc pre-sensitised Mitsui plate and etched. I printed a trial run.

Oops, I missed etching a few of the lines in one corner but it’s quite attractive so I left it as is. I felt it needed more but was unsure what as it’s such a clean, uncluttered piece. I decided to apply some drawing inks to it.

OK, I like that. My next thought was to try to add tonal variation using aquatint and Bitumen blockout. I drew what I was hoping to achieve.

With three distinct tonal variations it meant a lot of precise work. I started by applying an aquatint layer over the entire plate surface. No mean feat as the plate slipped from my fingers twice while carefully transferring it from the aquatint cupboard to the heating rack. I heated and set the aquatint on the second attempt as to my (possibly not very accurate) eye it looked OK.

Bitumen was applied over all the areas I wanted to keep white. The plate was then placed into a 10:1 water/nitric acid solution to etch. Once satisfied I’d achieved what I hoped would be a light tone I then applied Bitumen to the areas to keep at that value and replaced the plate into the same bath for a time. This was done three times, hoping to get variations in tonal depth.

Did it work? Well, partially but not brilliantly. Frankly I think my hand coloured sample above is better.

I’ve pulled several black prints and can’t get solid coverage in the etched areas and some of the lines seem a little fuzzy now. I’m also not thrilled with the tonal variation. I’m mulling over what to do with it next. Options include hand colouring, chine colle or a roll-over, and possibly a different colour may look less patchy even though black usually gives good definition.

This might be one where the technical journey was interesting but the result is relegated to the not-so-successful pile. That aquatint obviously moved more than my eye could detect when the plate nudged a little before heat setting! I’ll do some more work on it later this week.

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2021 06 22 Image of the week

Paul Garcia, Book in the form of a Mobius band

Paul writes about his creation:

A project I started in February 2019. This is a book in the form of a Möbius band, so it has no covers, no beginning and no end. There are over 500 sections; each page has a single letter from the lyrics of ‘There’s a hole in the bucket’ (the version by Harry Belafonte and Odetta that I remember from my childhood), and there are three complete sets of the lyrics. It would probably be happier in a four-dimensional space.

I thought this was spectacular, especially when I glimpsed a little of the work on the pages which I’m showing below.

No wonder it took him so long to complete. What a great project.

Facebook Bookbinding Unbound group, 15/6/2021

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2021 06 08 Image of the week

Chris Tegeler Beneman, High Line Variation XXIV, collagraph/monoprint, 30″ x 22″

I came across the work of this artist via The Hand magazine and was particularly attracted to his interpretations of architectural construction.


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Banksia Book – Constructed

Over recent months I’ve documented my progress in printing some Banksia themed solar plates I was given late last year. Some of them are quite worn, or possibly not etched deeply enough to start with, but they have been a joy to print. I’ve blogged several times showing some of the outcomes on plain paper and I also outlined how I hand dyed some paper ready to take the printed images before collating them into a book.

Once my book was planned I realised that I was short of images so I added to the mix a few of my own Banksia prints and included pockets with ‘hidden’ prints inside, as well as a printed jigsaw in an internal envelope featuring circular cutouts.

Take a look through the book in the slide show below.

This soft-bound book was stitched using a simple Japanese stab binding technique. The pages are slightly warped as the paper used wasn’t designed to be plant-dyed (obviously soaked), dampened for intaglio printing and then wet again with glue to adhere some of the additional collaged hand-made papers and chine colle prints. Despite being placed under weights for over a week it determined not to lie flat.

However, the finished piece was presented to the lady who originally gave me the plates as a memento of her print plates and she was delighted. So job well done I reckon.

Note to self: I need to resolve the buckling issue for the future, obviously that comes down to paper choice.

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2021 06 03 Image of the week

James Pasakos, The Passing, 2014, Monotype, 13.5 x 22cm


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2021 05 12 Image of the week

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


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2021 05 05 Image of the week

Peter Baczek, Diagonals, etching 6″ x 10″

The Hand Magazine, issue 32, contributing artist.
See more work by this artist on his site

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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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