Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Amongst the Mangroves

As an artist I get obsessed about things.  My latest obsession (and distraction) are the seeds of the Red Mangroves.  These can be found bobbing around our local mangrove creeks and in tidal flows.

My obsession really started during a recent kayaking trip to North Stradbroke Island.  The waters there are clear with lots of marine animals, invertebrates and plants - a wealth of inspiration and interest to an artist like me.

The selfie stick comes in handy when kayaking !
I'm hoping that I don't drop my phone in the water
as I take the photo....

Paddling up a beautiful little creek off Amity Point.
Can you feel the serenity and peacefulness from the photo?

I love the prop roots of the Red Mangrove.
So architectural!
Perhaps my next obsession.....?

Just passing by a mangrove tree at high tide and spotted
these little guys, difficult to photograph because
they kept moving around the other side of the tree from me.

I jumped out of the kayak at a sandbank to photograph the beautiful
mangrove seeds that have dropped from the trees.
This one still has its 'cap' on.

Here is a bit of information about the Red Mangrove Seed -

Flowering occurs in winter, with the production of a single-seeded, brown, oval-shaped fleshy fruit during summer.

Seeds germinate on the tree (vivipary), which results in the appearance of a long, green, rounded propagule (seedling) about 30 cm long. The propagule protrudes through the wall of the fruit to hang vertically beneath it. This buoyant germinated seed is the first stage of the root system.

- Qld Govt, Department of Agriculture & Fisheries 

Tidal detritus on the sandbank - a goldmine
of inspiration and musing....

Back in the studio, playing with drawings of the seeds.
I like the idea of oversized mangrove seeds on
a full sheet of watercolour paper.

More play, this time with monoprint and watercolour.
Didn't quite work but still lots of opportunities to work into it further.
Playing is tough, persistence and keeping an open mind is key.
Not everything works, but it helps to sort things out in my head.

More monotypes, now playing around with the idea of drawing.
I've been obsessed with circles and mandalas lately, so
these are popping up in my latest work as well.

Using drawings from my sketchbook as a reference, I'm
working into my monotype print with a detailed pencil drawing.
I'm using my magnifier to get into the detail. Very handy tool!

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Feather : Leaf : Print - photos from opening night

Just a few quick snapshots from my 'Feather : Leaf : Print' exhibition opening night.  The exhibition was very nicely hung by the Tiny Tree Cafe staff, and the opening well attended.   Thanks to all who came along to support me and fellow artist Robert (ecodyeing on paper artworks in the adjoining gallery space).

I'm grateful for the opportunity to exhibit my prints in such a lovely little art space in the suburbs, thanks again to Heinz and staff who made sure everyone enjoyed their drinks and nibblies whilst us artists chatted to everybody.   🙏

The exhibition continues until the end of February.

Tiny Tree Cafe
420 Cavendish Road
Coorparoo, Brisbane

Open to 2pm daily, closed Sunday and Monday.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Feather : Leaf : Print

Since the Christmas break, I've been busy preparing for my next exhibition, titled 'Feather : Leaf : Print'.  Its being held at Tiny Tree Cafe at Coorparoo which has a beautiful little gallery space at the back.  White walls, so perfect for displaying my work.  I love these small suburban places where art is more approachable and relaxed.

However, every exhibition creates a mountain of work for an artist.  Not only the creation of the artwork itself, but also documentation, framing, labels, bio, artist statement, promotion, delivery, installation, opening night etc etc.  And with the installation deadline looming, I must admit I've been spending more time on the fun stuff (making the artwork) in the past few weeks.   I know that I've already have a lot of artwork ready to go, but I love the excitement of creating new works and exploring new ideas.

So yes, I've been creatively busy (I can't help myself).  Over the break, I dug out my indigo dyeing kit that I bought after doing a workshop FIVE years ago and have got it going (finally).  My little black bucket is now a blue-heavenly witches indigo brew which I don't have to share with anyone and I can just step outside my studio and start dipping my papers.   Now I know that it's very naughty that it took me five years to do it, but I'm so loving doing it that I'm contemplating buying ANOTHER kit, but I know that it will probably take another few years to use that one, so I'll stay strong and resist that urge and just enjoy this one while it lasts.

I've also been playing around with cyanotypes, including wet cyanotypes, which of course seems to have brought on the rainy weather. My garden is thanking me, though the chickens aren't so keen on being damp.

Anyway.... having an indigo dye bath, cyanotypes and my printer 'Thumper' on the go, its been a golden opportunity to mix the three up a little.  An example is a wet cyanotype that didn't quite go to plan, so I dipped it into the indigo a few times, dripped water on it (which then obscured the feather cyanotype) so then I needed to monoprint the feathers on.  Fun, scary fun.    Now just waiting for the sun to come out to play more with the cyanotypes and to warm up the indigo bath and off we go again......

My exhibition at Tiny Tree Cafe (420 Cavendish Rd Coorparoo) opens on Tuesday 28 January at 5.30pm, please join me if you're in the area.  The exhibition continues until 22 February.  I hear they have some wickedly amazing European handmade cakes............!   The bonus is that two other artists are also exhibiting work, including Robert Astill with his eco-dyeing.  Sounds like it'll be worth the big slice of cake to see it all......

Indigo Dye Pot = Black Bucket

Indigo dyeing on paper,
dipping mindfulness exercise!

Close up ... with some water splashes
to make it interesting
This is a failed cyanotype of feathers,
which I have dipped in the indigo...
lovely effects.  I think I also
left it out in the rain overnight accidentally!
A detail of the failed cyanotype, with
feathers monoprinted on top.
I've called this one 'Fresco'
because it reminds me of a wall mural.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Bio Blitz Exhibition - Completing the Circle

Earlier this year, I was one of the artists involved in an arts/science BioBlitz at Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve.  Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve comprises 55 hectares of subtropical rainforest overlooking the Glass House Mountains in the Sunshine Coast hinterland.

Whilst I was doing my Artist in Residence at Tweed Regional Gallery last month, I worked on a series of prints for an exhibition of artworks and science outcomes from the BioBlitz.

The works that I created during my residency explored the idea of mandalas as metaphors for the connectivity of the natural world.  The Wikipedia definition of mandalas is:

"A mandala is a spiritual and/or ritual geometric configuration of symbols or a map......In modern, typically American use, "mandala" has become a generic term for any diagram, chart or geometric pattern that represents the cosmos metaphysically or symbolically; a time-microcosm of the universe, though it originally meant to represent wholeness and a model for the organizational structure of life itself—a cosmic diagram that shows us our relation to the infinite, the world that extends beyond and within our minds and bodies."

I have interpreted and drawn my mandala to represent the cycles of life within the rainforest ecosystem, with a sun icon at the top of the mandala as a representation of the importance of light within the rainforest.  All of the plants in a rainforest grow in accordance with their ability to access sunlight; the size of their leaves, the way they grow and use other plants to help them penetrate the canopy.

Incorporated into my mandalas are some of the insects from the rainforest, with monotypes of rainforest leaves in the background.  The layering of imagery in my prints tells the story of the interconnection of rainforest ecology.

These prints and others are currently being exhibited as part of the BioBlitz Exhibition at the Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve until 12 January.  All of the artists that participated in the BioBlitz have work on display based on their experiences at the BioBlitz.  There is also very interesting information on the results of the scientific studies and a fantastic video documentary filmed during the BioBlitz.  Free entry! 9am to 4pm.  I will be onsite some of the time, running a fun drop-in activity for adults and children. 

Part of the exhibition

My work, part one.

My work, part two!

Jono (one of the artists) and I with the amazing trophy  "2019 Banksia Sustainability Award - Government'
won by Sunshine Coast Council for the BioBlitz

The Rainforest Mandala print - Longicorn Beetle

Rainforest Mandala - Dung Beetle

Friday, November 29, 2019

From Paddock to Mountain - Artist in Residence - Part 5

For two weeks I'm artist in residence at the Nancy Fairfax AIR Studio at the Tweed Regional Gallery in Northern New South Wales (Australia).

In my last post I was monoprinting mandalas with leaves then overprinting with a portrait of a scrub turkey using a polyester lithographic plate.

Over the past couple of days, I've been repeating the same sequences, but this time using a plate featuring my drawing of a magpie carolling (singing).

When magpies sing, they tilt their heads back to warble a beautiful melodious song, a long stream of musical notes like a flute, flowing up and down and around.  Check out this link to some audio recordings HERE.

I wanted to capture the joy of a singing magpie in my prints, so I used a pen drawing photocopied onto a pronto polyester plate.  I've used magpie imagery in my work before, but only as monoprint stencils.  Using a drawing on a litho plate gives me the opportunity to inject more personality and life into my image.

The downside is that I'm not a fan of editioning - printing the same print over and over is not very exciting.  I sometimes use too much ink or not enough ink.  And there is a high risk of ruining a successful monoprint when I print my litho plate over the top of it.

But I love my printing, and its always my happy place even if I only get one or two successful prints after a hard day's work.   All those 'not so good' prints make the successful ones even more satisfying and valuable.

Printing the litho plate over top of the monoprint.
The plate is transparent so its easy registration,
I'm using scraps of paper to keep the original paper clean.

This one has too much ink,so the Magpie has lost the detail
around his eye etc.
I'll wait until it dries and try a white Posca pen on it,

Not enough ink on the Magpie.
I can draw into the image with a black marker when it dries,
an easy fix,

This one is perfect, just the right amount of ink,

This is a monoprint that went badly wrong.  I put the magpie
mask/stencil on the wrong side.
That 'reversing of the image' printmaking rule caught me out
this time.  Arggghhh......

And this is where I fixed it.
Plan B - I printed the magpie litho onto a blank
piece of paper, then used that print to print onto'
my monoprint.
The magpie may need a little touch up with a marker pen when
its dry, but overall its a good outcome.
Never give up!  There's always a workaround.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

From Paddock to Mountain - Artist In Residence - Part 4

For two weeks I'm artist in residence at the Nancy Fairfax AIR Studio at the Tweed Regional Gallery in Northern New South Wales (Australia).

During my artist in residency, I've been pleasantly surprised to see a lot of scrub turkeys in the area, on the side of the roads and in parks near the beach.   And its one of my favourite urban birds that have successfully and opportunistically been able to live alongside humans.  So naturally they had to feature in my AIR work.

This week I've also been working with mandalas.  In Sanskrit, mandala means 'circle', a spiritual or ritual geometric configuration of symbols or a map. The basic form of most mandalas is a square with four gates containing a circle with a centre point.

My version of a mandala is based on a circle. To me, circle shapes represent cycles in the natural world, so its a fitting metaphor for my leaf monoprints.

I've cut a circle plate (a dinner plate came in handy as a template), and using rainforest leaves have made basic monoprints using Paynes Grey - a lovely dark bluey grey.

Incorporated into the circle, or perhaps interrupting it, is a scrub turkey portrait.  I've made a drawing of the turkey, head and shoulders only, and transferred it via a laser printer to my polyester lithography plate.  When printing the circle monotypes, I've used paper stencils to reserve 'white space' for the spot where the lithograph will go on the print.  This white space around the turkey image helps to accentuate the turkey portrait and bring him into focus against the busy background.

Its been a few days of solid work in the AIR studio, but I've been able to create 7 prints.  I'm pretty happy with them, but of course I always reserve judgement for a week or two, before I decide which ones are worthy of exhibiting. Being monoprints, every print is different, some light, some dark, and the lithographs print slightly different each time as well.  That's what I love about monoprinting, the printing process is never boring...sometimes challenging....but always satisfying.

A monoprint plate is a beautiful object in itself.

Printing the circular plate with a turkey head stencil
to reserve a spot for the lithograph.
One of the completed prints.
I like how the leaves swirl around the turkey as
if he is building his nesting mound.

This print is interrupted by the fern image, lots of white space gives
a different feel to the print.

Next Post - the magpie prints!

Monday, November 25, 2019

From Paddock to Mountain - Artist In Residence - Part 3

For two weeks I'm artist in residence at the Nancy Fairfax AIR Studio at the Tweed Regional Gallery in Northern New South Wales (Australia).

Over the past few days, I've been progressing on my prints, spending from 9am to 4pm every day in the studio, with only a few excursions to get groceries and visit the gallery.  The location of the studio on the fringe of grassy paddocks is quite different - lots of open space with very few trees so the visiting bird species are limited to wood ducks, masked plovers, willy wagtails, sacred ibis, magpies and cattle egrets.  But they are great to watch and photograph from the verandah. 

I'm enjoying the change of scenery and being away from urban living, the everyday domestics and my usual routines, where I usually find many excuses not to focus on my art practice.

I have a few goals in mind with an upcoming exhibition and artist book projects, but its nice to also be able to pursue some loose ideas and experiment with techniques that I've had on my to-do list for some time.

My intention is to maintain my creative momentum when I return home, to change how I spend my time so I can work on my art more.

Enjoying the library at the gallery,so
many books, so little time!

Work in Progress

In the studio, my happy place!

And of course I took my bike, a great way
to explore the local area and
get some fresh air after a day in the studio

The view from my studio - sunset over Wollumbin (Mt Warning).
Its a shame the National Parks are closed due to the fire hazard,
but its important to protect natural areas (or are the closures
to protect the humans?).

The same scene, a few days earlier, during a bad
day of thick bushfire smoke.  Made for beautiful sunsets but
sad as well.

This young cow was giving me 'the look' as I
ate breakfast on the deck

A juvenile magpie attacking detritus in the paddock,
nope nothing to eat there!

A flock of Masked Lapwings (Plovers) hanging around the paddocks,
making lots of noise.

Next post - some of my prints, both good and bad!

Saturday, November 23, 2019

From Paddock to Mountain - Artist In Residence - Part 2

For two weeks I'm artist in residence at the Nancy Fairfax AIR Studio at the Tweed Regional Gallery in Northern New South Wales (Australia).

My goal for this residency was to work on a rainforest theme.  Earlier this year, I was one of the artists involved in an arts/science BioBlitz at Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve (see this post).  Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve comprises 55 hectares of subtropical rainforest overlooking the Glass House Mountains in the Sunshine Coast hinterland.

Rainforest areas extend through several ranges and National Parks from Queensland down to northern New South Wales.  Many insect and bird species found in Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve are also native to the rainforests close to Murwillumbah where my AIR Studio is located.

And so my plan was to walk through some national parks, observe the rainforest ecology, and stay cool.   Well, that hasn't quite worked out.   Currently, all national parks in northern NSW (and therefore natural rainforest areas) are closed due to the horrendous bushfires being experienced in NSW and Qld.  And due to the hot weather, they will be closed for a while.....so onto Plan B.

I found some small pockets of rainforest along the road verges, which enabled me to collect some leaves.  And I had very kindly (and fortuitously as it turns out) been given some rainforest leaves from the Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve parkland.  So onwards and upwards, I got printing.

Printing with 'Thumper' - yay!  My happy place.

Inking up a litho plate.  The studio space is great,
with plenty of room for me to spread out.
Wish I had this set up at home!

A leaf mandala in progress, using rainforest leaves.
I've been looking at mandala iconology as a way
of expressing the connectivity of the natural world.

My next post will look closer at some of my works-in-progress and ideas as they develop.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

From Paddock to Mountain - Artist In Residence - Part 1

For two weeks I'm artist in residence at the Nancy Fairfax AIR Studio at the Tweed Regional Gallery in Northern New South Wales (Australia).

Its a 2 hour drive from home, past the Gold Coast and over the state border.  The Studio sits next to the gallery, overlooking cow paddocks and looking towards the impressive Wollumbin (Mt Warning).

Throughout her professional life Margaret Olley supported many artists through mentorship and financial assistance. The Nancy Fairfax Artist in Residence (AIR) studio continues this legacy as an extension of the recreation of Margaret Olley’s home studio at Tweed Regional Gallery.

The Studio has a self-contained accommodation unit, with a large adjoining studio space. Perfect for a retreat to concentrate on my art practice.

The Nancy Fairfax Artist in Residence Studio

I've set up my printmaking studio with my portable etching press 'Thumper'. I'll be working on monotypes, polyester plate lithographs, as well as making notes and drawings.

The gallery is just a few steps away, so no doubt I'll be lurking around there quite often, particularly in the Margaret Olley Art Centre which also has an excellent library of art books.

I'll be posting several times during my residency so you can share in my creative experiences in this wonderful space.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Crossing another one off the list

I'm often revisiting old prints and cutting them up, to remake the prints into artist books etc.  I find many forgotten treasures in my stash, each an opportunity to breathe new life into prints that sadly have been rejected as they're just not good enough for framing.

Last month, I was lucky enough to spend some time gallery sitting in Sydney.  I needed to take something to work on, but I didn't want to take my kit for printing.  I was thinking 'don't take too much stuff'....well, I still took too much stuff but I did achieve a goal of reworking prints into an artist book.

The prints were part of a series of monoprints that I did a couple of years ago for a hospital commission.  There was nothing wrong with the unused prints, they just weren't the best ones.

I had seen an artist book on Pinterest and had been contemplating it for a while.  I couldn't quite figure it out so I called on a fellow book artist to help me and she whipped up a sample pretty quickly (to my embarrassment!). Anyway..... that gave me the final motivation to make a book using the format.

Its a concertina book, displayed like a carousel book.  It has a folded cutout in the valley folds, revealing an 'inner circle'.  My prints were one-sided so I coloured the part that would show on the inside through the popout with loose gelatine prints, thus countering the hardness of the white paper and giving the viewer something interesting to look at as they peer through the cutouts.

After attaching covers and a tie using found string, the book is fully resolved.  I'm pretty pleased with it.  I'll probably use it as a sample to create another one using a different set of prints, next time I want the imagery of the prints to link to the format of the book.

Tick, cross that one off the list!  Onto the next project....

The basic fold and cut to create the pop outs. 
The concertina structure is made
up of multiple sections, each having this fold & cut
in the valley fold.

The concertina book showing the pop outs on the prints

The reverse side after the gelatine printing

Clipping the book together before glueing to
check it all works (generally a good idea!)
The completed book with covers tied together,
so it becomes a carousel type structure.

The book closed, revealing the triangular structure.  Nice!

A sexy viewpoint...i love those seductive folds!

A different view, with the book open lying on its covers.
Playing around with display the finished book gives me
more ideas how I could use this structure again.