Eastern Barred Bandicoots

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Eastern Barred Bandicoots – collagraph background in sepia (kangaroo grass) with linocut bandicoots

This piece is a commission for a conservation ranger who works to maintain 100 acres of remnant bushland in SW Victoria, one of only three places in the world where Eastern Barred Bandicoots survive in their natural habitat. This species is classified as extinct in the wild, with only about 1,500 surviving in zoos and captive breeding programs.

The background is intaglio printed from a collagraph plate with pressed kangaroo grass, while the bandicoots are printed from a shape-cut linoprint. It was quite challenging getting the tone balanced across both processes and each of the eight prints are very different. I will have six prints available for sale at the next Port Fairy Community Market on 22nd December. The mounted print only is $80 and framed prints are $120.

 

First Market Stall!

This Saturday we had our first stall at the Port Fairy Community Market in Railway Place. It was lovely to speak to people who seemed genuinely interested in the different printmaking processes, some of whom remembered linoprinting from high school days. I was very pleased to sell several of my collagraphs and two more “Upwelling” prints. There are only five of twenty left in the edition. I was delighted to sell one of the prints to a newly married couple for their new home, so I hope they get many years of enjoyment by having this work on their wall. I will need to get busy for the next market in a fortnight’s time, so I have more prints available.

 

Marine Debris Mandala at the Small Things Festival, Warrnambool

On the 20th October, the “Small Things Festival” was held on the Civic Green, outside the Warrnambool Art Gallery. It coincided with the launch and opening of the Paul Jennings exhibition, “Unreal”, so there were lots of children and families about.

Encouraged by the enthusiastic Colleen Hughson, Denise Regan and I brought our collections of marine plastics to create a mandala from debris washed up at local beaches. With the assistance of many of the children who attended, we formed a colourful pattern about 4m across over four hours or so.

During that time we talked to families about the issue – sources, alternatives and solutions to the huge problem of  ocean pollution. The kids had the most creative ideas, suggesting alternatives to balloons as decorations, such as coloured flags, paper chains and lanterns, piñatas, bubbles and paper confetti.

We were able to collect signatures of over 80 people pledging not to use plastic cotton buds. We hope to present this to manufacturers and local suppliers, so alternatives can be made available in Warrnambool.

It was a great experience, with stalls promoting environmentally friendly products and workshops demonstrating sustainable practices.

Hard ground Etching

These two images were created using a copper plate, rolled with hard ground (a bitumen-like medium) and etched with a sharp implement. Submerged in ferric acid for about 20 minutes, the exposed lines are further etched. White areas are then painted with bitumen and the plate sprayed with acrylic (in lieu of the aquatint process) and submerged for another five or so minutes. Turpentine is used to remove the hard ground and bitumen prior to printing. This site, Non-toxic Printmaking, has several alternatives to the traditional methods.

Before the plates are printed, the edges are filed at an angle of 45 degrees to prevent cutting the wool mats. The plates are warmed before inking, to reduce the amount of ink used and to make the ink more fluid and movable. After gentle wiping with tarlatan, the plates are polished with paper and put through the printing press.

Chiaroscuro technique

Shoulder to the Capstan
“Shoulder to the Capstan” is a two-plate linocut in black and blue.

Chiaroscuro in art is the use of strong contrasts between light and dark, usually bold contrasts affecting a whole composition. It is also a technical term used by artists and art historians for the use of contrasts of light to achieve a sense of volume in modelling three-dimensional objects and figures. Similar effects in cinema and photography also are called chiaroscuro.

Further specialized uses of the term include chiaroscuro woodcut for coloured woodcuts printed with different blocks, each using a different coloured ink; and chiaroscuro drawing for drawings on coloured paper in a dark medium with white highlighting. Chiaroscuro is a mainstay of black and white photography.

I was very fortunate to spend a week in Hall’s Gap at “Grampian’s Brushes”. I attended two workshops, one two-day event with Lawrence Finn (Exploring Chiaroscuro Prints) and four days with Marion Manifold practicing hard and soft ground etching on copper plates.

The image above was created in the following process:

Step 1. On a piece of thick paper (the same size as the linoblocks you are working with) create a ‘cartoon’ or quick sketch of the image using pencil and then over painting with ink. Decide the direction of light and add highlights in umber gouache. 

Step 2. Leave a border around the edge to hold the ink roller away from large areas of white. Transfer the image onto the lino (remembering to reverse the image if required) and paint over using waterproof black ink. Once the ink has dried you can use a fine scraper to remove any errors or create interest.

Step 3. Once you are happy with the image, start cutting the lino, remembering to use a variety of tools and diverse marks. 

Step 4. Test print and make any adjustments.

Step 5. To create the second plate, print the first block (the key block) onto acetate and then onto the second piece of lino. Talcum powder can be used sparingly to dry the ink quickly. 

Step 6. Using this second block, cut out the areas you want white on the final print, leaving areas that you want printed in the second colour. For example, all the coloured highlights that you painted in gouache should remain raised on the second block. 

Step 7. Using masking tape on the print bed (or another registration method) print the second block made in colour and overprint with the first block in black. 

Upwelling Framed

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“If the world could remain within a frame like a painting on the wall, I think we’d see the beauty then and stand staring in awe.” ~ Conor Oberst

Don’t images look so much better in a frame? A mount creates quiet space around the image, allowing the eyes to focus on the artwork. In a very active print such as “Upwelling”, a mount and frame is vital for balancing busy and quiet areas. This image was created for the Portland Upwelling Festival in November and I made an edition of 20. Unframed prints (image size: 30 x 40cm) are available for $80.

‘Overwintering’ exhibition

Latham’s Snipe
Latham’s Snipe – Framed collagraph. Image size 28 x 28cm

 “Migration isn’t a one-directional process – it’s a colossal process that has been happening in all directions for thousands of years.” ~ Mohsid Hamid

Tonight was the opening night of the “Overwintering” exhibition at Portland Bay Press. This is the first time my work has been in a show, so I was a little disappointed not to be able to attend. However, I will make sure to be there for the opening night of the “Upwelling” Festival in November. It is great to be part of a print-making community, where each of the members have different talents and interests and diverse printing styles. One of the members collects her own rocks and soils to create pigments and another is an expert in multi-plate copper etching. I hope to be able to learn from each of the members to improve my practice.

Wood Engraving with David Frazer

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“With most of his life dedicated to the miniature and highly detailed art of wood-engraving, and the slightly larger but equally disciplined format of the linocut, his last decades saw a joyous transition to the freedom and flourish of gestural lines executed in black gouache brushmarks on vast expanses of Arches and other imported artists’ papers…….His later work, on a grand scale, is the very antithesis of the art of wood-engraving. The surety of touch and control of the medium in the late gestural works is heavily indebted to the discipline engendered by the precision necessary for meaningful wood-engraving.” ~ Jenny Zimmer, in an article about printmaker, Tate Adams.

A few weeks ago I had the great pleasure of participating in a wood engraving workshop with David Frazer at his studio in Castlemaine. This traditional craft predates linoleum, but is also a relief printing method, often used historically to illustrate pages that included letter-type. The blocks, made of box or lemonwood, are the same height as letterpress type and very durable, because the end grain is used, rather than the lateral grain of the wood. First developed at the end of the 18th century, the artisan uses much finer tools (such as an engraver’s barin) and is capable of achieving a much more detailed image compared to woodcut or linocut techniques.

David Frazer is a master with this method, producing small, intimate pieces such as “Lost”, which features a caravan surrounded by domestic animals, which he calls an “Australian Nativity scene”. He also creates much larger scale works in linocut, engraving and lithography, which are filled with the same amount of detail, creating truly impressive images.

Latham’s Snipe ‘a la poupee’

Latham's Snipe a la poupee
This coloured collagraph image is my entry to the Overwintering exhibition, to raise awareness for migratory birds.

This collagraph image is my first using the “a la poupee” technique, which is a method of applying two or more different colours of pigment (usually oil based intaglio inks). It is a French term, which means “with a doll”, referring to the ball-shaped wad of fabric used to apply the ink. However, brushes, rolls of felt or a finger inside a sock can all be used to apply the pigment and wipe away with painterly effects.

One of the difficulties of this technique is gauging how much ink is required and how much remains on the plate. The artist needs to compare previous images and add and remove ink to obtain different effects. Julianne describes the “a la poupee” technique well on her blog. 

Little Blue wrens

Blue Wrens and Wiry Buttons
Blue Wrens and Wiry Buttons – hand coloured collagraph

“I like to work in watercolor, with as little under-drawing as I can get away with. I like the unpredictability of a medium which is affected as much by humidity, gravity, the way that heavier particles in the wash settle into the undulations of the paper surface, as by whatever I wish to do with it. In other mediums you have more control, you are responsible for every mark on the page — but with watercolor you are in a dialogue with the paint, it responds to you and you respond to it in turn. Printmaking is also like this, it has an unpredictable element. This encourages an intuitive response, a spontaneity which allows magic to happen on the page.” ~ Alan Lee

I do enjoy the dynamic nature of watercolors; the way the color moves and changes as the paper dries and the lovely transparency they give to an image. I also like the variety of effects that can be achieved using different techniques – wet-on-wet, wet-on-dry, blotting, sprinkling salt etc. I still have a lot to learn to be able to create the images as I envisage them, but I’m having a lot of fun in the meantime.

Some watercolour artists I admire are Stefan Gevers,  Natalie Martin and Guy Troughton. Stefan Gevers paints nature and landscapes without any human impact, often in a very minimalist style. Martin paints Australian flora also in a minimalist, contemporary style and Troughton has a wonderful series of photo-realistic native birds. Linda Blackburn is a local artist who paints flora and nature in a beautiful delicate and impressionist style.