Saturday, July 7, 2018

Dragonflies, Beetles and Bugs - freeform printing to create Artists Books

Its amazing how much good stuff I have tucked away in drawers and boxes in my studio.

In the past in my art practice I have used solar techniques to create etching plates starting with metal plates with a photo emulsion layer.  I printed copyright free images from my computer onto overhead transparencies and then exposed them on the plate to UV light to create the etching plates.  The plates are expensive to buy and the process can be fraught with risks - a lot can go wrong - exposure timing, washout etc etc.
So recently I remembered how much work went into creating those plates, so I dug through my stash to see what I could find.  Insects!  One of my favourite themes at the moment.  It was meant to be!

I inked up the plates and did some random printing on some lovely toned Stonehenge paper, not worrying too much about accuracy and print perfection.  Even the ghost prints (printing without re-inking) looked effective, with strong prints as a contrast.

I then overprinted a coloured background using acrylic paints and my gelatine plate.  Not too strong, just wanted some colours and impressions of grasses.

The resulting prints have been turned into 2 small concertina books. The covers are made from leather look papers, I think the scaly pattern of the paper suits the insect theme.

The books were a lot of fun to create with no expectations or pre-conceived ideas.  And I'm happy with the result, so I hope you enjoy my photos below.  At the end of this post there's also a quick video I took of the dragonfly prints before I folded it into the book.

So whats in your stash that you could re-use or repurpose into another artwork????

The solar plates.  Between uses I smother them in vege oil and wrap
them in plastic so they don't dry out. 

The ' Beetles and Bugs' book

The 'Dragonflies over the Pond' Book

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Fading to Grey - Solo Exhibition

I've been super busy, hence no blog posts yet for this month!  Well, its not quite the end of June yet, so here is my June post......

A week ago, I opened my solo exhibition 'Fading to Grey' at Gympie Regional Gallery.  Its a beautiful exhibition (no bias of course) in a historic building converted to a gallery space.

‘Fading to Grey’ is an exhibition of printmaking, works on paper, installations and artist books that comments on human-initiated transformations of the landscape around us – urbanisation, agricultural monocultures, invasive species, and fragmentation of wildlife habitats.  The title of the exhibition references the change in the natural landscape when it is disturbed and developed by humans - the green softness 'fades' to monochromatic grey hard surfaces - brick, cement and bitumen.   I'm really passionate about the impacts of urbanisation on wildlife, particularly on insect pollinators and birds. 

This exhibition features a few works exhibited previously as part of a partnered solo with Barcaldine artist Jo Taylor, though most of the works have been added to or modified since then.

Having a solo exhibition is a chance to get all those crazy ideas up into a professional gallery space and make a statement about something you're passionate about.  Sharing my message is what drives my art practice.

The hero piece of my exhibition is 'Interconnection' - a wall installation of about 300 paper cutouts in the shape of hexagons, illustrating the diversity contained within natural habitats and the importance of pollinators for biodiversity.    The pattern on the wall reflects the spiral pattern of the native stingless bee hive.  The paper cutouts are made from monotypes, etchings, flight maps, book text, atlas papers and the centre piece is bees wax.  The work also features entomological pins, used for pinning insects in museum collections.  Great fun to create, sifting through ten years of discarded prints and my stash of papers.  Not so much fun to install, as I have to make sure I set up the spiral shape from the first hexagon.  :-)   Photos below.

Over the coming weeks/months, I'll feature more works from the exhibition, with some work-in-progress photos as well.

Installing 'Interconnection' - over 300 hexagon
cutouts and lots of blue-tac!

My installation 'assistants' - my Mum Jan
and my partner Craig.  Lots of help too from
gallery staff and volunteers.

Selfie view of part of the gallery space.

Opening day and I'm explaining one of the works to
a visitor.

Visitors walking through the gallery.

Here I am giving my speech. 

'Interconnection' - Image credit: Leeroy Todd Photography

'Interconnection' (view from below) - Image credit: Leeroy Todd Photography

Saturday, May 19, 2018

A Second Glance

Back in February, I blogged about printing with weeds, see my post here.

The printing of weeds was part of a larger work originally called 'Dispersal', made up of about 50 monoprints of weeds on the inside of business envelopes.

I wanted to exhibit this work in a local group exhibition 'Tightrope' that had an environmental theme, but 'Disperal' was too large.   So I reworked my ideas to present a smaller work and reworked artist statement that reflected the theme more precisely.

The new work consists of 8 prints spaced on the wall into an area 1 metre x 1 metre.  To me, having only a few prints can have less of an immediate impact (I love repetition and making multiples), but the intimacy of the smaller work does beckon the viewer to look closer at the detail in the prints.

Sometimes its a challenge to rethink my ideas about my work merely to comply with display requirements, but on reflection, perhaps those challenges are a good thing.

For those living in Brisbane or South-East Queensland, here are the exhibition details:
Location:  Pine Rivers Gallery, Strathpine
On until 4 August, Monday to Saturday 10-4
I'll be at the gallery on Wednesday 13 June running a workshop on Drypoint printing with a pollinator theme.

There's some really interesting works that caught my attention including sculptures by Mary Barron and Kym Schoenberger and a video work by Deborah Eddy.

My artist statement:
Exotics. Aliens. Weeds.  There are many ways to describe those plants that pop up in places where we don’t want them.  We continuously uproot and poison our urban landscapes to rid ourselves of these spontaneous opportunists.   But perhaps we should pause and take a closer look to appreciate the important role of weeds in revegetating contaminated city spaces and providing habitat for connected species such as pollinators. 

'A Second Glance' seeks to readdress the imbalance and elevate the image of the garden weed.  The often unnoticed elegant patterns within a business envelope provide the background to showcase the weeds' hidden beauty and grace.

The work 'A Second Glance' on display at the
Tightrope Exhibition

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Adding to my art toolkit - Part 2

In my last blog post, I talked about adding to my art techniques toolkit.  As well as the collagraph plates I discussed in my last post, I've recently been learning about Polyester Plate Lithography.

Lithography is a 19th-century printmaking technique traditionally used with stone and a lithograph press.  In recent years there has been an explosion of using different matrixes such as foil, metal, and now polyester plates.

Lithography is based on the idea that oil repels water.  Simple!

Polyester plates are relatively inexpensive and allow prints to be created using direct drawings onto the plate, drawings scanned and laser printed onto the plate, or digitally printed images onto the plate such as photographs.

Inking is via roller and oil-based inks, and printed with an etching press.

I was introduced to the method by artist Nicola Hooper last year in a short workshop and I was hooked by its simplicity and the direct connection between drawing and printing.  Since then I've undertaken workshops by artist Jenny Sanzaro-Nishimura and also Charles Cohan, Professor of Printmaking at the University of Hawaii.

This is another technique that I can combine with other printing techniques, including monoprint and cyanotype.  Nicola also tells me that she uses it to produce text for her artist books, something I must try.

The possibilities are endless with the potential for editioning - something that I miss in monotype printing!

Rolling up the ink onto the plate, with washes of Gum
Arabic and water

Heating the plate after drawing to set it
The three plates I created - left "Sparrow' is a drawing with
a litho crayon and black Sharpie pens, middle is a
plate created from a photo of Noisy Miner birds,
on the right is a plate printed from a scan of Kangaroo Grass.

The 'Sparrow' print.
I like the drawing prints the best, they
have a beautiful textural quality.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Adding to my art toolkit

In the past month, I've been adding to my art tool kit.  Not new brushes, inks or papers (I've got more than enough paper!), but adding to my printmaking skills.

Last weekend I hosted Jet James from Yeppoon for a workshop exploring creative approaches to collagraph plates.  He uses a PVC plate which gets around the problem of having to seal the plate with multiple coats of shellac as you would with book board etc.  It also allows the use of some ingenious materials and drypoint techniques.

I enjoyed the creative process of creating the plates using a combination of embossing, drypoint and collage, giving a variety of marks and textures.  The 'busy-ness' of imagery on my plate is what I really like when I'm doing my monoprinting.  I can see that I can combine my monoprinting techniques with these collagraph plates, and am looking forward to playing more with it in the coming months.

During the workshop, we also had a play with inking using more than one colour, which gave beautiful images but in a workshop situation of a group of 10 keen printmakers was very messy!

My bee print.  I've explored this bee image in drypoint and
lithograph, so its interesting to see it in a variety of

Wren print, multicoloured inking.

The Wren plate and print in blue-black ink.

The chaos of multicolour printing.......

Show and tell at the end of the workshop.
Great prints, great group of people!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Autumn Leaves and monoprinting with my Gelatine Plate

I live in a sub-tropical climate so I don't see a lot of autumn colour in the trees in my local area.  So a recent holiday in central Victoria in southern Australia gave me the opportunity to collect and print with some different leaves.

As I was traveling around for a week in a motorhome, I had to work small and light,so I packed my 5 x 7 inch Gelli Arts plate, a small roller, a few tubes of paint, some papers and my bookbinding kit. 

I did a series of prints using two different leaves, in two colours.  I then cut up and constructed the prints into a pyramid-style book [thanks to Jill for the design].

Each of the 'pages' is a square folded diagonally both ways, then with most of one of the triangles cut out to form the shape once glued.  They are all then stuck together [I used double sided tape]. 

Its been a great little portable project that I worked on over a week from my mini-studio space in the motorhome [doubles as a dining table].  I'm always happy when I have an art project to work on, even if I'm enjoying a holiday with my partner at the same time.

As they say "Happy Wife, Happy Life"........

Printing with the gelatine plate, I can feel the serenity.....

One of the prints, two colours, two types of leaves.
I think that this is a failure-proof combination.

Cutting out the book components - four squares of three different sizes,
printed on both sides

Creating in my motorhome studio [dining table], too bad
if we needed to eat!

Folding the book pages, accuracy is always a good thing for less
wonkiness in the finished book.
The finished book opened, with ties.

The underside of the book, I did the prints
double sided so the underside would be interesting as well.

The book closed.  I made some covers from thick paper and left
over prints, and some tapestry yarn from a local charity shop.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Bringing an idea to life, one vessel at a time

I've been reading a lot lately about the fragmentation of natural habitats.  The colonial occupation of Australia has irrevocably modified the character, extent, and connectivity of natural bushlands and eco-systems, creating islands of remnant wild areas in a sea of agriculture and urban development.

As a creative response to that idea, I thought of organic vessels - multiples, lots of them.  Vessels are containers that hold and restrain, isolating their contents from their surrounds.  Having a collection of individual vessels gives me that feeling of disconnection, responding to the idea of how fragmentation of habitats leads to negative impacts on biodiversity and survival of native plant species.

I've also recently started exploring the making of cloth paper - its an ideal technique with which to make 3-dimensional shapes.  The layers of paper and cloth can be formed over shapes such as bowls and mugs, using diluted wallpaper paste to 'glue' the layers together.  A sort of adult paper mache.

Using the cloth paper technique, I decided that I would try to create 75+ bowls of varying sizes.  I really want to make an impact on the viewer.  So far I've made about 40.

Before I could start to make the vessels, I had to prepare my papers and cloth.  Firstly monoprinting (of course!).  I've been monoprinting with ferns, grasses and leaves in aqua blue and black onto lightweight papers such as tissue, paper patterns, and kozo.  The idea of using plant imagery in the vessels is to capture 3-dimensional representations of their fragility and impermanence, referencing the impact of fragmentation on biodiversity.

Then I've rusted and eco-dyed cheesecloth and light cotton fabrics to get natural browns, greys and light orange tones.

The resulting series of vessels I've titled 'Containment'.  A work in progress, I'm only about halfway but still enjoying the creative process.  I hope that the completed artwork will inspire and educate others.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Finding the beauty in the odiousness of weeds

I've got an unhappy relationship with weeds in my garden.  Technically they may only be weeds by definition (just plants in the wrong place), but there's one particular 'plant in the wrong place' that really gets me angry.  Its 'Red Caustic Weed'.

So what's an artist do?   Print with it, of course......!

Since 2016 I've been working on a piece entitled 'Dispersal'.  Its a collection of monoprints on repurposed envelopes that describes the journey of weed seeds assisted by humans.

In my day job as a bookkeeper, I have been collecting envelopes of varying sizes - the business type ones have beautiful blue patterning on the inside, which forms the background of my prints.

Over time I have been collecting the weeds from my backyard and local parks.  This process changed my behaviour towards them – I treated them more kindly, nurturing them like I would my own treasured garden plants, pulling them gently from the ground to preserve their roots. 

Printing with these weeds made me realise that, in print, they were just as beautiful as many of my other garden plants that I use in my art practice.

One poignant example of this is the "Red Caustic Weed" - this weed has been my nemesis for many years.  Its a prostrate introduced plant which self seeds readily and pops up on my gravel paths and in my garden beds.  I really hate it!  But when I recently found a particularly large one, I carefully pulled it from the ground and placed it between sheets of newspaper under weights for a few days - this removes the excess moisture and flattens it nicely.

And it has produced the most wonderful prints.  The leaves and flowers are clearly discernable, the root structure is very fine and descriptive.  Its my favourite weed print for my 'Dispersal' project.

So, I guess maybe "Red Caustic Weed" is beautiful in its own way.  Next time when I'm scanning for annoying weeds in my garden, I'll try to remember that.

Red Caustic Weed

Second print off the plate with plant on it.

The very flat weed after running through the
press a couple of times.
Revenge is sweet......

Revealing the print, the best moment in a
printmaker's artistic life.

I just love these root prints - gorgeous expressive lines
Results of my latest printing session

The beautiful blue patterns on the inside of business
envelopes - this is a Telstra one.  Good for something!

"Dispersal' installation at Miles Gallery 2016 -
I've been adding to it since then.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Monoprinting over the Christmas Holidays - Part 2

I've been busy printing over the Christmas break, exploring a few different monoprint directions.

I blogged last week about a series I created of Magpie prints, using minimal colours.

My second series of works was based around some leaves I picked up whilst mountain bike riding - they were beautiful fat, dome shaped leaves which I thought would make a great background on a circular plate.  I also cut a new stencil of a Willie Wagtail bird using my soldering iron on thin plastic - makes great edges.

Below are photos of my print sessions and the resulting prints, enjoy!

A plate in progress, showing the layering of objects
that will produce the wonderful textures that I'm addicted to.

The leaves....such character!
Luckily they fit into the pockets of my bike jersey.
And yes the ride was fun though of course I fell off (again).

The objects I used in my print series....I like to work over and over
with the same objects in one printing session.  The colours
get better the more I use an object, so it doesn't make sense
to keep changing unless its seriously not working or the object
breaks apart.
A print with two plates - one square and one round.
One leaf and one stencil.

Wattlebird print.

Willie Wag Tail print - too cute!
Note the aqua colour again - its my favourite....

Using Prussian Blue for the Willie Wag Tail,
instead of black.  I think it lifts the print a bit,
or maybe I just like more colour!

Print using the reverse side of the stencil,
with all the colours picked up from the plate and leaf
in previous print runs.  Delicious!