Friday, September 7, 2018

Artist in Residence @ Curtin Springs - The Artist Book

Every arts residency has a goal, even if its to just 'think'.   My goal for my AIR at Curtin Springs was to complete an Artist Book.

However, as usual for me, it didn't go to plan.  I had a strong idea but was unable to resolve it whilst I was on site, so finishing my artist book was a priority when I returned to 'normal' life.

So its been a few weeks but I have finally completed the work, and I'm happy that it conveys the ideas that I developed whilst completing the residency.

Curtin Springs is a cattle station in Central Australia.  The current owners have been there since 1956 and so there's a lot of history retained on the property, particularly around the homestead.  A lot of used equipment is stored on the property for maintenance purposes, though the elements and nature have taken over and softened the rusted detritus.

To me its like a battleground, a skirmish between the man-made and nature.  Discards from the operations of the property gather red dirt and rust, with grasses pushing through the gaps.  My artist book was inspired by this disturbance, where things that don't belong gradually become part of the landscape.

My process started with rusty objects collected from around the homestead, and I used tea to stain the rust onto paper.  I also collected grasses and made collagraph plates from them, and printed them onto botanical papers made from those grasses (Curtin Springs has a wonderful paper mill).

The strips of printed papers run the length of the rusted paper concertina, wrapping around the covers.  The long format of the book reflects the view of the landscape, where the vegetation is relatively short and the view of the sky is from horizon to horizon.   The use of found objects gives a strong connection to the property's history.  Incorporating paper and prints made from local grasses recognises the value of the grasses to both the cattle operations and papermaking activities of Curtin Springs.

I'm still playing with a title for the book, but I'm leaning towards 'Colonisation'.  The rust can either be taken as a monument to life on the land or as a sign that nature is slowly claiming it back.

Grasses on the property - I love the
rich colour of the red sandy soil against the yellow grass.

Grass samples collected for making plates.
Rusty objects fighting nature
Rusting the paper

Close up of the rusting with tea bags.
The tannin in the tea makes beautiful
greys and browns, not orange.

Yummy marks!
Its tempting to move it before its dry.
Luckily its very dry air in Central Australia.

View of the Artist Book,
with handmade paper covers, rusted pages and prints
on handmade paper

There's some beautiful rusted marks on these pages.
I joined the concertina sections using a thin strip of
handmade paper.

Closed view showing the wrapped cover strip.

One of the pages showing the lovely rusted marks.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Artist in Residence @ Curtin Springs - back in the city

I'm back home from my artist residency at Curtin Springs, actually I've been home about two weeks but as you know the day-to-day 'stuff' takes over and demands your attention from the moment you step off the plane.....

I've finally had some time to reflect on my experiences at the station and in Central Australia.

It was my first time in Central Australia and what an experience it was!  I was given the rare and unique opportunity to spend time with a cattle property family who, for two and half weeks, shared their lives with me.

I experienced a range of emotions during my stay at Curtin Springs.  I've pulled together a few photos which reflect those emotions.

Being involved with working the cattle was at times confronting as
I hadn't been so close to non-domesticated cattle.
My experiences were previously limited to sedate milking cows at the
annual Exhibition!. For me, definitely character-building but very very interesting.
I now greatly appreciate the work involved in getting steak onto my plate!

The hospitality and generosity of the family
was amazing, considering I was a total stranger
AND a city girl as well.

My favourite art activity was sitting and sketching
by myself in the bush, a short distance from the homestead.
The only noise was the wind, total silence - heaven to a girl
used to continuous traffic and neighbourhood noise.

The space and the freedom - you don't get that in the city.

I loved the stories attached to places on the property.
This was the 'Halfway Tree', a old beautiful Desert Oak.

Walking the Salt Lakes was a big highlight,
particularly so because I was joined by my partner Craig.
Curtin Springs has a number of Salt Lakes, only accessible on
special tours or with the family.

The textures of the Salt Lakes were amazing.
Some crunchy underfoot, some soft.
We had privileged access to Mt Conner, another
beautiful asset on the Curtin Springs property.
We did a walk around the base so saw it up close.

Sunrise at the eastern end of Mt Conner, with
Craig in the foreground.
It was worth getting up early for.
This image is one of the most iconic from my trip.
Beats Uluru (Ayers Rock) any day.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Artist in Residence @ Curtin Springs - Part 7 - Making the most of a moment in time

Drawing a toilet wouldn't usually be my idea of a great sketching opportunity, but this one had a bit of character.

Its a drop toilet (a hole in the ground) at a basic camp under a grove of Ironwood Trees. The camp has been well used over the years, but recently is being used for campfire dinners for tourist groups.

I had a few moments before the sunset, so at Amee's suggestion, why not draw the toilet.  And it was good fun, luckily no-one needed to use it at the time!

A 5-star roilet experience,
plenty of toilet paper!

Yes here I am, drawing the toilet!

Late afternoon light on the ironwood trees
above the campfire.  Beautiful!
The finished page in my sketchbook- I even
drew the campfire - it was the warmest place
when the sun started to set!

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Artist in Residence @ Curtin Springs - Part 6- The Magpie

There's a lot of bird life around the Curtin Springs Property, some the birds also live my home town in coastal SE Queensland, some I've  never seen before.

The Australian Magpie is already one of my favourites and has featured in many of my prints already.  But this is the first time I've sketched one from my own photo.

It took a few goes to get it right, I worked in pencil first then went over it in black pen, then finished with watercolours.

Australian Magpie, searching for food

Sketching from my photograph via my laptop

Putting a bit of colour into it

In the field, sketching

I've borrowed some bird books and plant id
books so I can add botanical information
in my sketchbook.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Artist in Residence @ Curtin Springs - Part 5 - Drawing even the ugliest of things

The internet here is a bit patchy so my posts are short and sweet (and I want to spend every minute of my day as an artist!).

Today’s activity was to take a walk and sketch some cattle poo. Yes, cattle manure. I’ve seen a lot of it during my residency so far, and I had noted that the dry poo had a beautiful blue lustre in the sun. So I just had to sketch it – I also needed an excuse to use my new cobalt teal colour!

The line drawing

Adding colour.
I've got my new colours in contact eye cases.
My watercolour brush is my favourite tool.

Enjoying the peace - just me and the cow poo.

I'm sitting next to a cow pad - in other words
a cattle 'freeway'.

One of my new experiences - discovering
calf poo is different to adult cow poo.
Little dimes of poo - so cute!

Friday, August 3, 2018

Artist in Residence @ Curtin Springs - Part 4 - The Blackwood Tree @ Rim Rock

Amee took us on a sunset excursion to view the Rim Rock on the Curtin Springs property. The Rim Rock is a geological remnant of the rim of a volcano.  The other remains of the volcano includes the impressive Mt Conner.

Unfortunately a lot of cloud cover prevented the full effect of the sun lighting up the gold ochres of the Rim Rock, but instead I turned my back on the view to sketch the beautiful Blackwood Tree we were sitting under.

The tree had been partially burnt in a fire in 2012, but half of the tree is still alive.  The burnt section of the trunk has the underlayer exposed and now weathered with time. The textures and colours were too good to not photograph and sketch.


The Bloodwood Tree, on the burnt side

The non-burnt side, in the sunset light

Its good to look up too, beautiful textures

close up of the bark

My sketch, the photo doesn't do it justice,
I laid dow a watercolour waah first, then drew over the top,
leaving just the wash on the background branches & leaves.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Artist in Residence @ Curtin Springs - Part 3

After helping with the cattle for a few days, I had the opportunity to get working on my art project for my artist residency at Curtin Springs.

Doing the cattle work meant that I've seen quite a bit of the landscape and I was inspired to do some sketching of local birds and plants.  The vegetation around the homestead is a mix of exotics and non-local species (planted by Peter Severin, the original owner from 1956) so I had to go a little further afield to find some local plants - not very far, across the road to the 'home' cattle yards.

I've been spending some time there, enjoying the quiet and sounds of the landscape, recording with pen and watercolours in my sketchbook.  I plan to use the drawings to create an artist book of monoprints and drypoint. 

Sketch in progress of the Umbrella Bush.

Back in the 'Paper Room' art studio, identifying
the plants I recorded.

Interesting shapes and textures, spiky and fleshy plants that
suit the harsh environment.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Artist in Residence @ Curtin Springs -Part 2

Here are a few photos from my first couple of days at my residency at Curtin Springs.  I spent most of the time out with the family and staff working the cattle.  They were rounding up the cattle to truck them to take them off to be 'processed' as meat.

Its something I've never experienced before, so lots of 'firsts' for me,  I even got a ride in a semi-trailer - another first!

Travelling in the 4WD checkiing yards.
Mt Conner is in the distance.
The colours of the sky, soil and plants is amazing.

I got my first ride in a semi-trailer, the  tation cattle truck (woo hoo!).
This is the view in the side mirror - tons of dust but
you can see a cattle tail hanging out!

View from the truck - we were driving on sandy tracks,
not bitumen.

The huge road train, ready for loading, to take
the cattle away. 
Here I am, working the gates to help load the cattle
onto the truck.  Dusty work!

White-plumed honeyeater in the gum trees around the homestead.

Brown Goshawk

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Artist in Residence @ Curtin Springs - experiencing life on a cattle station

I’m a true city girl…. an urban dweller with a love of the outdoors….but for three weeks I’m swapping my high heels and handbag for jeans, sensible footwear and a heap of red dust in Central Australia.

My temporary abode is at Curtin Springs, a large cattle station (100km long and 40km wide) situated between the township of Alice Springs and Uluru, in the Northern Territory.  I’m the current Artist-in-Residence, part of a new program that allows artists to work, create and experience life on a remote cattle station.

For those who don’t know me, I live on the coast in a city suburb, with plenty of infrastructure including sealed roads, utilities, and shopping centres. I live in a world of convenience and choice – access at all hours to fresh food and entertainment, but with the negatives of urban noise, busy-ness and traffic.

My residency at Curtin Springs is an opportunity for a change of pace, and to gain a deeper experience of the people behind a working cattle property that also provides tourist accommodation, fuel and meals.  They also operate a papermaking facility utilising grasses and plants from the property.

I arrived last Wednesday and its been full on since then as the family has been moving cattle, sorting and loading them, ready for market.  I’ve been able to get hands-on, helping with herding and working the gates.  I've never seen so much red dust, I'm constantly covered in it!

Between excursions out onto the property, I’ve had some short spells of art – working in my sketchbook, taking photographs and identifying birds and local plant species.  I’m planning on making an artist book that looks at the history of the property (plenty of that!) as well as the natural environment.

I'll be posting about my progress with my residency in the coming weeks.  I also post almost daily on instagram, my username is sandy_p09.

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