The tortoise and the penguin


These two linocuts are my first prints of 2020 and framed up, off to a new home in Port Fairy. The lovely lady who wanted a pair of images for her newly renovated home, had visited the Galápagos Islands and we had wonderful chat about her trip. The nice thing about doing markets is meeting people who stop and appreciate my work. Sometimes a parent explains to their child how to do linocut as they remember doing it at school, sometimes it might be a nature lover who recognizes one of the species in my prints.

I learn something from every print. The Little Penguins incorporated caustic soda etching (in the sky) which I needed to be more patient with. The moon and moonbeams are dodgy, so I might just cut off everything above the sea. The tortoise needs more shadows underneath, to differentiate animal from the rocky ground. I might cut another plate from this one to do some multi-plate printing with colour.

After an early start, setting up the stall and chatting with people most of the day, I need a big rest in the afternoon!

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!




I quite like the way these prints turned out – the contrast of ink on paper and sharp edges of linocut suit the subject matter. A few small errors, but overall a successful result. Which frame do you prefer?

Heart of the Southern Ocean


It has been a really busy few weeks since my last post, with Christmas and New Year’s festivities, two markets at Port Fairy and two birthdays in the family. So lovely busy, not exhausting busy. Today I had the opportunity to travel to Portland Bay Press with my printmaking and market buddy, Denise Regan. We had lots of visitors pop in to the Julia Street Creative Space and the printmaking studio. We often get comments that people remember linocut from secondary school and I try to guess whether it was a positive or negative experience for them.

So this, my first linocut for 2019, is a sequel to “Upwelling”, featuring the Southern Right Whale and calf.  This species of whale is a regular visitor to Warrnambool during winter, when sheltered beaches along the Southern coast become whale nurseries. I wonder if you can see the anatomical heart in the image?

Bandicoots on Linen and Canvas

I love the effect of linoprint on different textures, so I have been trialling some alternative fabrics and papers with these little bandicoots. Top left is white paper on a 30cm x 30cm canvas and top right is eco-dyed paper on unbleached, organic linen. Bottom left is the eco-dyed paper with several coats of shellac and mounted with wooden strips and leather hanger. Lastly, a 100% unbleached, organic linen tea-towel with the print. Which do you like best?

You might have heard of the Coastcare project that uses Italian sheepdogs to protect the Little Penguins on Middle Island in Warrnambool. In 2016, the Environment Minister announced funding to support a Guardian Dog trial that uses Maremmas as “Bandicoot Bodyguards”, so these little marsupials could be protected from foxes and feral cats outside their fenced enclosures.

Read more here: Victorians go wild for bandicoots and How a pack of Maremma dogs and a flock of sheep are helping save native bandicoots.

Eastern Barred Bandicoots

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.


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. 

Portland’s Upwelling Festival


“In coastal waters rich in runoff, plankton can swarm densely, a million in a drop of water. They color the sea brown and green where deltas form from big rivers, or cities dump their sewage. Tiny yet hugely important, plankton govern how well the sea harvests the sun’s bounty, and so are the foundation of the ocean’s food chain.” ~Gregory Benford

On Saturday 29th October, Portland will be buzzing with the excitement of the annual “Bonney Upwelling” Festival. The Bonney Upwelling is the largest and most predictable upwelling in the Great South Australian Upwelling System.  The Blessing of the Fleet, market stalls, a street parade, Whale boat races and live entertainment will celebrate the natural bounty that comes with a confluence of climatic, seasonal and geographical conditions. The work above shows a blue whale, the largest mammal in the world, feeding upon the smallest plankton.