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!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Monoprinting over the Christmas Holidays - Part 1

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

Firstly, for an upcoming hospital exhibition, I needed to print very large - my plate was 68cm x 46cm - the largest monoprints I ever done.  The large size provided a few interesting compositional challenges, and I also had to make use of my large studio etching press (which is always a pleasure to work with!).

I also wanted to try a new style of just one major colour, highlighted with a black image.  That's quite a challenge for me, given I tend towards 4+ colours and tons of mark making.  Holding back and keeping it minimal isn't easy!

Because I was working big, I did some smaller test prints just to see how my theory would work.  It turned out to be a great idea and gave me plenty of confidence when I had to tackle the bigger prints.

Three of the six successful prints will be exhibited for six months in a local private hospital, alongside some scrub turkey and leaf prints.  I have titled this Magpie series 'The Sentinel' referencing the territorial behaviour of magpies. 

This was my paper soaking 'tray' - a garbage bag as I didn't have a tray or
tub large enough!  Not perfect but worked OK.

In progress - leaves and Magpie stencil

Of course I printed with my favourite colour - Aqua....!
I just love it on these gorgeous gum leaves.

One of the finish prnts.  I couldn't help myself and snuck a
bit of green in there to add a bit of 'pop'!

This print is just aqua with the black caroling Magpie.
Simple and as minimalist as I can get!

I'll blog next week about the second series of monoprints that I did over the holidays.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Experimenting with Cyanotypes

Together with my printmaking friends at Migaloo Press Collective, we've been playing with cyanotypes.

Cyanotypes are created using a photographic printing process where two chemicals painted onto paper (or fabric etc) and allowed to dry in a dark room.  Objects are then arranged on the paper, and it is exposed to the sun to develop.  The exposed paper around the objects develops a cyan-blue colour, leaving silhouettes and shapes of your objects.

Great fun!

Migaloo Press did a play-day, lead by Jen who has experience in cyanotypes.  I had done some years ago but was keen to update my skills and to use cyanotype chemicals I had stored in my art room (on the 'must do' list).

I've captured some of my experiments in the photos below, but I plan to do some more exploring and developing alternative colours using tea and vinegar.  I think this is my Christmas holidays project!

Exposing the paper, with leaves and stones.
Its behind glass to ensure good contact and so that
the leaves don't blow away.

The resulting print from the exposure in the previous photo.
It was a cloudy day so this is a pale print even after 20minutes exposure time.

Another exposure, with a bee image (cut from paper), sedge,
string, talc, and a hexagon stencil.
I'm not a minimalist as you can see!
This exposure only took 5 minutes as it was
 a bright sunny day.
Cyanotype print using Shepherds' Purse weed, talc, and a paper stencil.

The same cyanotype print with a lithograph printed
on top afterwards.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Collagraphs with Plants and Friends

This week my art friends and I did some playing with simple collagraphs.  We made printing plates where we stuck leaves and other found objects to thin card (mat board) and then sealed the plates with shellac.

We spent a fun day printing the plates intaglio style using my Akua inks and my Xcut machine.

We did some printing with 2 colours, but when dry, the prints can also be handcoloured.

Some of Wendy's plates, ready to print with.
Ngaire printing using the Xcut.
We had to keep adjusting the pressure for the different
thicknesses of the plates, depending on how
much material had been glued to the plate.

Ngaire's plate, revealing her print.

Ngaire's print on eco-dyed paper.
The subtle background colour looked beautiful with the blue ink.
2 of the leaves were glued to the plate vein side up
so their vein patterns were captured in the printing process.
Karin's print using a finely woven doily
glued to cardboard and sealed.
It was tricky for her to get the ink even,
but produced an interesting print.

Wendy's banksia collagraph on rusted text paper.

Wendy's 2 colour banksia print.
She inked up the background in blue,
then inked the leaf in black,
carefully wiping back without mixing the
colours too much.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Magpies in my garden.....and in my monoprints

Its always a good thing to challenge oneself.

So, keeping that in mind, last week I decided to create a monochromatic print using multiple plates, keeping the composition simple and minimalistic.  My usual technique is lots of colour on one plate with tons of mark making.   So how did I go?

My theme was one of my favourite - magpies. This time I wanted to tell the story of a magpie hunting for grubs on my back lawn.

The print that I completed consisted of 4 plates - 3 monoprint and 1 drypoint.  I ended up with a series of 2 successful prints and 6 failed prints.  I had many failures due to issues with accurate registration, which detracted from the pleasure of the process but a great learning opportunity as well. The plates moved as I lowered the paper on top, particularly the feather as it wasn't flat.

My plates were:
- Drypoint of a grub
- Monoprinted Magpie stencil
- Ghost monoprint of string (to represent the Magpie's song OR it could be the path of the grub under the ground)
- Monoprint of a feather

Would I do it again?  Hmmmmmm.....   maybe I'll try it where the plates are odd sizes and don't have to line up.   :-)

Making the drypoint plate using acrylic sheet and etching tool

Printing the 4 plates.  The registration sheet is below
the plastic liner on the bed press.

Revealing the print.

Revealing another print.
One of the final prints "Magpie in My Garden".
Can you see the story?

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Scrub Turkey printing video

Hi all, my apologies that the video I included in yesterdays' post 'The Scrub Turkeys Return' didn't work.

However, I have addressed the issue and it should now work.  Here is the link to my blogpost:



Saturday, October 21, 2017

The Scrub Turkeys return

Its been a few years since I printed a Scrub Turkey series.  Its one of my favourite birds (after wrens!).  I recently sold the remaining Turkey prints from my last series, so I thought...why not?  Lets print some more!  Each series is different, and shows the advances in my technique and colour choices.

I've named this series of 13 prints "Bird vs Backyard" highlighting how the Scrub Turkeys' cross the boundaries between urban and natural areas.  Locals have a 'love/hate' relationship with them and keen gardeners are frustrated by the turkeys' instincts to collect mulch to create their nest mounds.  Its quite a backyard battle!

And a first for me, I took a short video as a printed - its at the bottom of this post.  I must admit it was a low-tech video using my phone and a selfie stick but I hope you enjoy it!
I always like to plan my compositions before I start printing -
laying out my stencils and objects to see how they work together.

I was gifted some awesome mesh which I used in my wren
prints last week.  Here are the marks left by the mesh on the plate
from a previous print, ready to print off onto the next print.

A happy accident - I was inking up a stencil on scrap paper
and it ''printed itself'....nice!  I'll find a use for it - right now it reminds me
of the magic of monoprinting and the serendipity of the process.

One that didn't quite work.  I changed my colours after this one.
I'll still use it for something, maybe cut it up.

The best print in the series (in my opinion).  Blue and brown are my
favourite colours, so I keep coming back to them.

I reverted back to my old technique a few times, overprinting
on ghost prints which provided more interesting marks and textures.

White space is always a good compositional tool,
but its tricky to get the balance right like I did here.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Monoprinting as Therapy

There's nothing like immersing yourself in a week of printing, even if interrupted by daily distractions....

After spending a week at Geelong teaching monoprinting, I was determined to not pack away my inks but set up my print studio and have some fun with my little Xcut Xpress machine.

I dug out my favourite wren stencils and got to work....

Inked plate and objects ready to print on the
bed of my Xcut machine.

Revealing the print after printing.
I used tinted Stonehenge, dampened and torn to size to
print as bleed prints.

My ink stations - printing on my own means
I need to chose my colours carefully as I only put
out three colours.  Less to clean up at the end of the day.

A feather print in progress, just for something different!

One of the successful prints, but not every print works.
I used my favourite Kangaroo Grass in this series,
I love its feathering appearance.

Another of my favourite wrens.  The pattern at the
bottom was from some mesh that was
gifted to me - a real treasure!

I had to trace around the outline of this wren
after the print was dry to make him
stand out a bit more.