Little Penguins

I tried a new technique today – actually two new techniques, one to correct an error! I heard about using caustic soda to etch lino at Union Street Studio with Simone Tippett. Not having caustic soda to hand, I used oven cleaner, first masking off the areas that had been carved. Painting into the oven cleaner with a cotton bud, I was trying to create clouds. I haven’t printed the plate yet, but the oven cleaner eats into the lino and softens it, creating a more painterly effect than the graphic effect of carving.
The second technique was cutting a piece out of the plate and replacing it with a new piece, like a jigsaw. I used contact on the back of the plate to help keep the new patch in place, but it was a firm fit. Fingers crossed for printing!

‘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.

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. 

Overwintering – Latham’s Snipe

Latham’s Snipe
Latham’s Snipe – collagraph

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better” ~ Albert Einstein

After another very productive day at Portland Bay Press, in the Julia Street Creative Space, I finished my entry to the “Overwintering” project.  Congratulations to Kate Gorringe-Smith for initiating this wonderful project to raise awareness of our migratory birds.

Latham’s Snipe (Gallinago hardwickii) is a shy and cryptic bird that breeds in Japan and migrates to Victoria in the Spring and Summer. It was the existence of this bird at the Powling Street Wetland Reserve, in Port Fairy, that resulted in a VCAT ruling that a housing development be significantly scaled back to reduce habitat destruction. A committed group of local residents collected data that provided strong evidence that the site was crucial to the survival of this species. 

This winter habitat is critical to the bird’s survival, as it is here that it builds up it’s fat reserves by foraging for plants and a variety of mud-dwelling invertebrates. The creamy-yellow, energy-rich fat is what fuels it’s flight across the equator to the northern hemisphere. This fat is also what made the species a valuable food source and caused it to be hunted extensively until bans were introduced in 1970-1980. The species is listed as Near Threatened in Victoria and nominated for the Flora and Fauna Guarantee. (SWIFFT)

As a Biology teacher, what fascinates me about this bird, is it’s remarkable structural, functional and behavioral adaptations that enable it’s survival. Millions of years of evolution have resulted in individual birds that instinctively navigate their way across the globe. Seasonal cues cause constriction of the gizzard and liver and enlargement of the heart to power it’s epic journey. Extraordinary feathered camouflage make it disappear into the rushes and reeds of it’s wetland habitat. (Birdlife)


New Holland Honeyeaters

New Holland Honeyeaters
New Holland Honeyeaters – collagraph

“This simple process of focusing on things that are normally taken for granted is a powerful source of creativity.” ~ Edward de Bono

New Holland Honeyeaters are a common occurrence in our garden. They seem to love the Grevillea and Echium flowers, of which we have a few different species. This is a collagraph plate, produced from my old Botany herbarium, with the bird cut-outs pasted in. I chose one of my favourite colours, Payne’s Grey, for this print, to give it a smoky atmosphere.

Today I am working on another collagraph plate of Latham’s Snipe, for the “Overwintering” project and exhibition that may come to the Portland Bay Press gallery.  I rented a unit in Port Fairy for a short time, opposite the Powling Street Wetland Reserve, which is a known spring and summer habitat for this endangered bird. This species begin their migration in February and depart northern Australia in May. Their breeding grounds are in Japan, so they are protected under the Japan-Australia Migratory Bird Agreement (JAMBA).

White-faced heron takes flight

White-faced heron takes flight
White-faced heron takes flight

“It is impossible to explain creativity. It is like asking a bird “How do you fly?” You just do.”~ Eric Jerome Dickey

This is a 15 x 15cm linocut – my second ever reduction print. The first layer is a graduated roll with blue ink and extender, to give a transparent effect. The three subsequent layers are light grey, dark grey and black printed with the same block, with cutting in between. I lost one print due to poor registration, but I am reasonably happy with the finished product. A better result could be achieved with a printing press and higher quality inks, but the school holidays are good for practicing the technique at home.