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

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“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.

Hand-coloured Magnolias

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“I’ve always loved magnolia trees and their blooms—there’s something so beautiful about a magnolia blossom. It demands attention, and you can’t help but love those big, creamy petals and that fragrant smell.”~ Joanna Gaimes, The Magnolia Story

I haven’t had much success growing a magnolia tree on the farm, although I love to see the bare branches festooned with pink flowers in the early spring. They would have to be one of my favorite non-native trees. What I haven’t been able to capture here is the velvety brown undersides of the leaves and, of course, their lovely aroma!

Hand coloured Lotus pond

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“From the mud of adversity grows the lotus of joy” – Carolyn Marsden

This linocut has been hand painted with watercolors, possibly a bit too soon after it was printed because the black ink has ‘reanimated’ in some places. Curse my impatience. One thing I need to learn from my art practice is to slow down and enjoy the process. Almost all my mistakes and imperfections are caused by rushing.

I am going to do a bit more work with this design to create a repeating pattern and recarve it. Since I have practiced with better quality tools, I can get finer detail and more consistent cross hatching. You can see another version of this print a few posts back, overlaid with a ghost print. Which one do you like best and what would you change to improve the image?

Eye to the tops’l

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“Sail away from the safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~ Unknown author

This nautical image was created from one of my grandmother’s photos, taken aboard the “Herzogin Cecile”. Pamela Cristobel Bourne was my father’s mother, who met my grandfather (Sven Eriksson) when he was the ship’s captain. She was an avid photographer, author and traveler, who recorded her adventures in two books, “Out of the World” and “The Duchess”. The ship is a big part of our family history and was wrecked off the coast of Devon in 1939.

Lotus Pond x 2

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“I think in this life, it is important to be kind, be thankful and always be creative” ~ Bishop Brown

Yesterday I had a wonderful time at Portland Bay Press, which is part of the Julia Street Creative Space in Portland. They have an enormous water bath and huge press for members working in large formats, but I was very happy with the little Enjay. I inked up this plate from the beginning of the year, as I had only hand-burnished it before, pressed it and then turned the plate upside down for the ghost print. I quite like the effect and think it was my favourite print of the day.

A Shoal of Seahorses

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“Nature is infinitely creative.  It is always producing the possibility of new beginnings.” ~ Marianne Williamson

The collective noun for seahorses can be both a “herd” and a “shoal” – I went for the more watery “shoal” for these four. I used coloured inks on wet paper for the backgrounds and then printed the linocut with Prussian Blue Caligo safewash. I had a very productive day at the Portland Bay Press, where members can use any of the Enjay presses and the well-equipped studio facilities. I look forward to meeting some of the members there, who are due to hang a new exhibition soon.

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.

PCA Print Exchange 2018

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This linocut “Living Soil” is the image that I have submitted an edition of 12 prints to the Print Council of Australia 2018 Print Exchange. I had a few options that fitted the size criteria, but this is the one that my peers at SWTAFE Diploma of Art chose as the one they liked best. Perhaps an artist always sees their own mistakes more clearly than others, but self-reflection is what helps us to learn and improve.

I had attempted a hand-coloured version with watercolours, but it felt too much like “colour by numbers” and the finished result did look too much like a children’s colouring in project. The great thing about using good quality paper (300gsm Fabriano in this case) is that it can withstand some fairly serious treatments, and I was able to brush off a lot of the colour under running water, leaving quite a nice washed out effect.

A new-found passion!

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“Sometimes you’ve got to let everything go, purge yourself. If you are unhappy with anything, whatever is bringing you down, get rid of it. Because you’ll find that when you’re free, your true creativity, your true self comes out.” ~ Tina Turner

I have discovered a love for printmaking relatively late in life, enjoying the whole process from sketching my ideas, creating a plate (linocut, collagraph or monotype) to printing and mounting. I share my creations here for friends, family and visitors to enjoy.

I am currently enrolled in a Diploma of Art, which gives me time and space to explore techniques and share my ideas with others. I am very grateful to my teachers and colleagues who have supported and encouraged me.