Wednesday, April 1, 2020

The Artist is in Residence - Playing with new Lithography Inks

Week one of my 'stay at home' Artist in Residence - I've been playing with lithography.

About a year or so ago I was introduced to Polyester Plate Lithography - this is lithographic printing using a special plastic plate.   Lithography is a printmaking technique based on the concept that oil repels water.

This week I have been printing a plate I've made using a drawing of a Stone Curlew - look them up HERE - one of my favourite local urban birds.  I did the drawing on cartridge paper using black marker pens (0.3 to 0.8), then photocopied the drawing onto the plate using a laser printer.  The heat of the printer fixes the toner to the plate, and its ready to print.  Easy!

I wet down the plate with a mix of water and Gum Arabic.  I then rolled the lithographic ink over the plate, taking turns of wetting and wiping with a sponge then rolling etc etc.  The plate must be wet so that only the image accepts the ink.

I then printed the plate using my Xcut machine on damp paper.

All good fun, I plan to do some more printing tomorrow.  Right now its time to get out into the garden and get some fresh air!  I just wish there was a real Stone Curlew out there.....

My printing area in my studio, you can see my Xcut printer
in the bottom right corner. 
My 'inspiration' pin board is behind my work bench,
looks kind of cluttered but totally OK in my mind!

My new inks, expensive at $40 tube but I'm
hoping will perform better than my etching inks.

My polyester plate on the left and print on the right.
Like two curlews checking each other out!

Wiping the plate with water between inking rolls.

Detail of the sponge in action.
Gloves are great for printmaking as well as for
virus protection....

Rolling the ink, back and forth, side to side.
Then wipe down with water again.

Disappointingly and not surprisingly,
the plate was a bit dirty and left marks on the print.
Perhaps an opportunity to monoprint onto
the background to disguise it? 

A finished print.
I did four, this was the best one.

Gum Arabic - the key to this lithographic technique.

Monday, March 30, 2020

The Artist is in Residence....

I'm thinking of fluffy bunnies and laughing llamas, whilst binge-watching 'The Sound of Music' and dreaming of sun-showers and warm beach sand between my toes....

Welcome to my new happy place as we float along on plant Earth in this weird temporary world, staying home and quietly feeling grateful for all those people trying to make things right again.

With so much time at home, I've decided I'm going to have my own arts residency (AIR).  I've done a few AIRs in Australia, in some beautiful natural locations, so what better than to have one in my own studio, looking out over my own garden?

I've always wanted a clear calendar, now that my wish has been granted, its time to make a bucket list of projects to do my downtime justice.

1. The fun stuff - play with new inks, experiment with new monotype techniques....etc.

2. The not so fun stuff, but very important - clean out the top shelf of my storage shelving - there's some pretty scary stuff up there that I really need to clear out and make room for what I really need to be stashing.

3. The self-improvement/professional development stuff - learn how to write poetry and learn how to use words more creatively.  Challenging but I really need it. 

4. The other important stuff - keeping connected with my family, friends and the arts community. So I'm making lots of phone calls rather than SMS and I'm aiming to blog once a week about my AIR.

So this week's virtual AIR is - I'm going to imagine I'm in a secluded art studio in the mountains, surrounded by cool lush drippy rainforest, and I'm going to play with my new lithography inks and make some new plates.  So convenient I don't need to pack a thing to travel there....!

Good luck on your journey too whatever you choose to do, and remember, we're all in this together!

My happy place...memories of eating homemade raspberry ice-cream.
This photo was taken in early March in Tasmania. 
Seems like a lifetime ago now!
What's your happy place memory?

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!