Saturday, April 29, 2017

Monoprinting on Fabric

I've previously blogged about my experiments with monoprinting on fabric, particularly t-shirts and art aprons.   I recently ran a workshop with the Warwick Artists Group and I'd like to share some photos and experiences from the workshop.

We explored sun printing using Dala Sun Colour Paints, gelatine monoprinting and stencil printing with an etching press.

We had heaps of fun with some great results and near misses.  I always enjoy running workshops with art groups, there's a great vibe and lots of light hearted laughter and jokes.  It really makes tutoring less of a 'job' !

Jo's black scarf with white repeated design -
monoprinted but looks like block printing

Jill making a plastic stencil using a
mini-soldering iron.
It melts the edges of the plastic (instead of cutting with a scalpel)
which makes an interesting effect when printed.

Printing using ferns and other pressed plant material,
using oil based etching inks and the etching press.

Jo with her printed tea towel.
It looked like she bought it
from an expensive homewares shop,
just beautiful.
The happy artists with some of their pieces from the workshop,
with 'Presston' the etching press.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

A Day of Papermaking

Yesterday I gathered together with members of Papermakers of Queensland (POQ) on the Sunshine Coast to make paper.  These papermaking days - known as 'Hands on Paper' (HOP) days -  are a POQ tradition spanning 25 years.

Making paper from botanical sources (ie plants) rather than recycled papers is a labour of love. Here's a rough guide to how its done:

1.  Collect fibre - prunings from plants, chop up into small pieces.
2.  Put into old pillow cases.
3.  Boil in a solution of caustic soda (or soda ash) for several hours to break down the fibres.
4.  Rinse, rinse, rinse in water until it runs clear.  I usually do this over several days using a soak then rinse method.
5.  Beat the fibres to break them down into a pulp.  This can be done by hand with a mallet, a garbage disposal unit, a blender, or (the best option) a hollander beater.

The fibre is then ready to be put into vats of water and sheets pulled.

I had the opportunity yesterday to use a hollander beater for the first time, and Helga kindly showed me how it worked.  It was great to see my chunky fibres gradually beaten down to a fine fluffy fibre which hung suspended in the water beautifully.

Our HOP day consisted of members sharing vats of different fibres including Hamil grass, cane, banana, philodendron, lemon grass, and my mixed vat of daylilly, geranium and pineapple leaves.  I also like to add a bit of recycled printmaking paper pulp to my papers to reduce shrinkage when drying.

Once the sheets are formed and the couching stack is high, the sheets are pressed with a hydraulic press to extract the water and compress the fibres.  Then the papers are laid out on boards until dry, then ironed and pressed under weights to get them flat.

Phew!  Lots of hard work but the papers are beautiful and yesterday there was a great vibe of energetic fun making paper with a group of like-minded papermakers.

The Hollander Beater

Lemon Grass fibre n the beater

The Lemon Grass fibre is ready!
Pulling a sheet of mixed fibres, using a mould & deckle

Here I am couchng a sheet

Pressing the couched sheets using a
hydraulic press
Laying the sheets onto boards to dry
The happy papermakers !

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Big Smoke Little Smoke @ Dogwood Crossing, Miles

It's been a while between posts, as I've been busy preparing artwork then traveling out to Miles for installation of my joint exhibition 'Big Smoke Little Smoke' with fellow artist Joanne Taylor.

Here are some photos from the exhibition -

The Gallery building at Miles, based on the iconic Bottle Tree

"Interconnection" made up of
hexagons of prints and papers.
Its a comment on pollination, with the pattern
reflecting the brood of a native bee hive.

Detail of my installation, "Interconnection".

One of my new works, "Natural History", using blueprints
on wooden insect shapes.
Once again my artwork reflects my fascination
with museum collections.

Another new artwork, "I'll meet you at the Mall",
completed during my POD residency last year.
Its drawings of urban birds on takeaway bags,
with textures inspired by the landscape.

Joanne and I at the opening night function.

Thanks to Lyn and Paul for the photos.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Research and Reading

Its been a month since I returned from my residency in Tasmania, and since then I've been busy finalising artworks for my upcoming exhibition.

I'm exhibiting 'Big Smoke Little Smoke' with fellow artist Jo Taylor at the Dogwood Crossing Art Gallery at Miles during February and March this year.  This is a follow up to our exhibition at Tambo early last year.  The exhibition space at Miles is bigger than Tambo so Jo and I have both been working on new artworks to make the most of the new space.

My focus for the exhibition is on my favourite theme of urbanisation of nature.  I've been reading a lot of books relating to introduced animals and historical accounts of how today's Australia was shaped by a lot of bad behaviour by colonial settlers.  I've been blissfully diverted by tales of Tasmanian Thylacines (extinct or roaming Tassie somewhere?) as well as reading about how our national identity is linked to the animals around us, both native and introduced species.

As part of my art practice, I read a lot of books that focus on the conceptual side of my art. Gone are the days where I just read novels and technique based books.  A wide range of reading sources have really helped me to develop the ideas or conceptual side of my art practice.  I've been able to use my research to spark interesting ideas and lines of investigation which I then develop further into artworks.  I learnt this from attending workshops with artist/writer/educator Ruth Hadlow.

As I read my books, I flag interesting paragraphs and sentences. Then after I finish reading the book, I refer back to the flagged pages and write notes in my ruled A4 notebook, its nothing flash or visually exciting.  I write down details of the book, where I got the book from (eg local library or my bookshelf), and the page numbers of each note that I make so I can refer back to that section of the book if I need to.

These notes then become my resource when developing artworks or writing exhibition/grant proposals.

Ruth Hadlow also had another great tip which I use frequently - read the references section at the end of each book, it gives hints on other sources and books to look at on related topics.  Its almost like a rainy day spent on the internet, where you go from one YouTube video to the next, drift along happily in Pinterest etc.  You never know where it may lead you.

For me, I don't just want to make an artwork that may be decorative or pretty.  I now take the time to research and read widely to broaden my thinking and develop my ideas from external influences.  Its not just all about technique, which of course is the fun bit, but I also want to have a story worth sharing with my viewer.

A4 Notebook and books I'm currently reading

Sample page from my Notebook

You can see the flags I use, like
mini Post-It notes
Invitation for my exhibition (front)
Invitation - reverse side

Monday, December 12, 2016

Investigating the Gorge Part 3

Artist in Residence, Cataract Gorge, Launceston, Tasmania

I've spent a few days at the Kings Bridge Cottage printing monotypes using leaves I've picked up during my walks during the gorge.  The prints I've done are fairly formulaic for me, but its like therapy and its been interesting having to work with limited materials.  I only brought a basic selection of colours of inks - yellow, ochre, blue, red, black, brown and white - so its been a challenge to find the 'right' combinations.  I dislike using colours straight from the tube, so I'm always mixing or toning them down a bit so they're not so bright.

In my studio, I use an etching press for my monoprints (except when I do gelatine monoprinting).  I have a table top press that prints A4 but its pretty heavy and takes up a small suitcase on its own, without all the associated consumables like inks.  So for this trip, I invested in a Xpress die-cut machine after getting a lead from the facebook group 'Top Printmaking Tips'.  For more information about the machine:

Using the Xpress die-cut machine, I was able to print my small collagraphs and monoprints.

I also purchased some lovely paper from the local Birchalls store at a bargain price, though I had to fold it to fit it in my backpack so I could ride home with it.  It was almost painful to fold a beautiful A1 sheet!

I've really enjoyed my 2 weeks at Cataract Gorge, the mix of urban and natural areas was very interesting and fits perfectly with my themes of the urbanisation of the natural world.  This site is particularly interesting due to its history and the manipulation of the landscape since the late 1800's. Its also been refreshing to be away from my daily routine, to wake up in the morning with very little planned except to walk, ride, read and create.  Heaven!

Printing in the cottage's kitchen with the Xpress Diecut Machine

Monoprint in progress

I donated an artwork to the Cottage,
this one's a monoprint using Dogwood leaves
found on the Duck Reach Walk

I found some fresh Kangaroo Grass but it was too green and fleshy to use.
Here it is squished on the plate after the first print.
The Kangaroo Grass at home in Queensland is dry and easy to work with.

Monoprint using local grasses

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Investigating the Gorge Part 2

Artist in Residence, Cataract Gorge, Launceston, Tasmania

Its the second week of my residency, and I've become familiar with the gorge, its flora and fauna, the people and the CBD of Launceston.  Walking and riding my bike are my only way of exploring the area, and luckily the weather has been mild and quite sunny.

My days have been spent walking through the gorge, then returning to the cottage to work on my art.  I also have joined the LINC library so I can research the history of the gorge and the cottage.  At the library I found an interesting book 'Paper Tiger' by Carol Freeman which looks at how colonial imagery of the Thylacine (Tasmanian Tiger) contributed to its elimination by humans and eventual extinction.  Its given me a few ideas about how visual imagery can impact on the lives of animals and plants.

At the Queen Victoria Art Gallery in Launceston CBD I viewed an exhibition of etchings and linos by Udo Sellbach.  The distorted human imagery in his work is quite confronting, but I was impressed by his artist book "And still I see it", displayed alongside a digitised version of the book I could view with a touch screen.

I've got a few artwork ideas that I'm working on based on my residency.  One of the major projects is an artist book, inspired by Udo Sellbach's book.  My artist book will use the polaroid photos that I've been taking as I've explored the gorge, looking at both natural and man-made features, for example, the rocks, the river, signage, rubbish, graffiti and people. I also plan to include text from heritage reports and newspaper articles that I've found at the library.  I've got some wonderful scans of a report on the 1929 floods, the language used in the report is quite poetic with flowery descriptions, not as formal as we would expect from documents produced by current government committees or tribunals.

I've also been creating a series of collagraph plates using ferns I've found on my walks.  I've glued the plant material to mat board, and sealed them with a few coats of shellac.  I plan to print these plates in groups, using a variety of colours.

I've got a few more days left here at the Cottage, then we head off to Hobart and Bruny Island for another week.  Of course, there'll be more time for art and exploring the local natural environment.

One of my small collagraphs

My inspiration wall is growing, you can see all the polaroid
photos there - recording my experiences of the gorge area.
These will be the basis for my artist book.

Artist Book "And still I see it" (with digitised version) at Udo Sellbach's exhibition

One of the page spreads from the digitised version of Sellbach's book,
I used the touch screen to 'turn' the pages and zoom in to read the text.

This swan family is a regular visitor to the gorge

Views over the gorge, on one of my walks

Sigh....the view from the cottage balcony

The cottage at dusk, looking up from the track

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Investigating the Gorge

Artist in Residence, Cataract Gorge, Launceston

I've been here now for 4 days and have started to settle into a routine, where I'm exploring the gorge and nearby Launceston.

Tourist boats regularly pass by the cottage on their way up the Gorge.
I've discovered I'm quite camera-shy, as everyone on board is armed
with carmeras aimed at the cottage.
I wonder what they would think if I gave them a 'queen' wave
from the balcony.....

Peacocks are one of the introduced species in the gorge around the
Basin area.  They're a big tourist drawcard - I wonder if they're
'heritage' listed due to their historical links to the gardens?

I thought the rear view was just as impressive!

I'm getting around town on my bike,
here I am at the Art Gallery.
The awesome display of birds and mammals at the Museum.
I love that the taxidermied fauna aren't locked away in a
glass cabinet.  They're displayed on multiple levels, making
a very vibrant and active display.
One of my projects during the residency is documenting the gorge
and cottage with my mini polaroid camera.  It's a different mode of working,
as there's no zoom, no digital displays, and I have to wait for my
photo to develop. The photos are awesomely moody and a bit unpredictable.

This is my 'inspiration' wall (on the old fireplace) where
I'm gathering objects, photos, postcards, artwork so far etc.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Artist in Residence @ Cataract Gorge, Tasmania

For the next two weeks, I'm Artist in Residence at Cataract Gorge in Launceston, Tasmania.

I'm staying in the historical Kings Bridge Cottage, built in 1890 for the gorge Caretaker. The cottage is situated at one end of the gorge, clinging to the side of steep cliffs, close to the busy Kings Bridge that its named after.

After the last caretaker left in 1980, the cottage was used for educational purposes but during periods of unoccupation it was neglected.  The cottage was converted for use for the Launceston City Council's Artist in Residence program in the 1990's, and has been in use as such ever since.

I did some research at the Launceston Library (LINC) today and learnt that the first Artist in Residence in 1993 was landscape and environmental artist John Wolseley.  This was a real surprise and pleased me to know that I'm following in his footsteps!

This arts residency is a mix of urban and natural environments.  Cataract Gorge is located within a few kilometres of the centre of town, and the gorge itself has been heavily modified by humans since the late 1800's.  The dramatic natural gorge elements of river, cliffs and basin have been modified with exotic plants and fauna, as well as buildings, chairlift, pool, bridges and concrete paths.

On my walks through the gorge,  I've been able to spend time examining the landscape around me, trying to discover what is 'natural' or the original vegetation and what is exotic or 'feral'. This is the basis of the artwork I'll be working on during my stay, which fits with my themes of the urbanisation of natural spaces.

My suitcase of art materials weighed just over 20kgs and includes supplies for making collagraphs, drypoint etchings and monoprints.  I flew with Virgin Airlines and pre-bought the extra luggage allowance for $70 return, worth every cent!

I'll be blogging a few times in the next couple of weeks about my AIR progress and artworks I'm working on.  I've only been here one day and I'm relaxing into a routine that takes me away from the daily grind (and heat) of my home studio.  I'm excited to see what happens with my artwork with plenty of time and space to focus on my creativity, with the added discipline of limited art materials...!

 Kings Bridge Cottage in Cataract Gorge.

The pedestrian walkway passes directly under the patio of
the cottage.  The proximity of people to where I'm working reminds me
of my AIR in the Valley Mall earlier this year, except this time
I can see people and they don't see me unless they look up!
The very un-ergonomic stairs that I had to drag my
suitcases up to the cottage.  

Walking the Zig-Zag track, lots of she-oaks.

The historical Suspension Bridge.

These are the concrete paths along the gorge edge,
built in the early 1900's when they
were less environmentally conscious than today,
but it does provide good access to the gorge for everyone.