Wednesday, 21 December 2011

A Few Circles

Following on from my initial experiments with the monoprinting with the screenprints, I decided to do a small series of prints to investigate further what happens with the colours.  I ended up doing around 30 prints of circles.  Using a number of background layers and then overprinting these with a set of second colours it resulted in a whole matrix of possibilities.

Below are a few of the results.   It has been a fascinating process because it has revealed some of the potential depths of colours that can be achieved with overprinting that do not come out in the same way with a single print.  It opens up a whole new range of possibilities for working with this approach which I’m looking forward to trying in the New Year.

Second Layer

First Layers                                                                                               Results

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Party Time

Last week we had the studio Christmas party at Ochre, a chance for a print swap, a few talks, news of what is happening next year and a chance for a good natter between fellow members.  There was an excellent turn out of over 50 members and guests.  I had the opportunity to talk about the work that I have been doing during my residency and I include some of my photographs of things that catch my eye. 

I rarely work directly from these photographs but I showed them as they are of things that have caught my eye.  I have always been fascinated by patterns both natural and man-made and these observations are the sort of thing that filter through and then come out at unexpected times in my drawings.  So I personally feel that these observations have a direct influence on my work even if the connections are not directly apparent.  Looking, observing, analysing and interpretation are all part of what contributes to any artist’s work.

A handful of my photographs are below.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Layers of Colour

It may have been a while since I last posted but that is partly because so much has been happening in the work that I just want to keep working at it.  However it is time to take stock a little and review the recent activity.  So I’ll just start with one piece that reflects what has been happening and save some of the others for later.

Since the first attempts with the monoprinting with the screen I have been experimenting further and also building up layers of colour to see how they mix and deepen. So the picture below shows a first print.

This was then followed with a print similar to this.

The combined effect becomes as follows

The second coat of crimson in the lower half really enriches the turquoise in the first layer.  While the yellow mutes the purple it turns the turquoise into a glowing green.

I then finished with the same line imagery as ealier, but also using different colours within the print.

These early results have been encouraging and I am following them up and will show more later.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Howard Jeffs RE

Howard Jeffs is a painter and printmaker who lives in Bath and France and it is the landscape from these two areas that influence his work.   In a talk last week he showed us his studio in France where he works on his monotypes.  These mainly consist of two plates one with the background colour and a second with the drawn aspects usually in black.  These he creates in a free manner applying ink and then wiping away unwanted areas.

He explained how he appreciates the freedom of approach that the monotypes offer and the possibilities for experimentation.  That there is a lot of chance to it, but the key was to recognise when something was happening and then to build on it and exploit it.  He also described printmaking as being a bit like cooking, ensuring that you have all the right equipment and ingredients around you before start helps the process.  He also mentioned that he recently started mixing his on inks from pure pigment and felt that the colours were more alive than ready mixed inks.

Working with monotypes he felt had also influenced his painting in the way he applied his paints, at times sweeping or dragging the colour.  But it is also a two way process as painting influences his prints, particularly with the use of carborundum.  He felt that this offered a painterly way of creating line and form within a print.
In a similar way he also uses sugar lift with etchings.  The aspect of etching that he appreciates most is that each plate has a history in it that is then transferred to the print.  I felt that the etchings he showed us had a more intimate feel, close ups of trees bringing you in to the subject.  These contrasted with the monotypes and paintings which seemed to take in the grander sweeps of broad landscapes.

The talk gave us a fascinating insight into the working methods and ideas from an artist who was very generous in his discussion of technique and attitudes to printmaking.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Further Adventures with Monoprint

After my miniatures, I thought it was time to be more adventurous with some larger pictures.  These images are 54cm by 42cm, so not huge but quiet a step up from before and do present some more interesting technical challenges.  You have to be quite swift in applying the paint, so not to have problems with paint drying in the screen, and firm with the squeegee when printing not to miss areas, but it comes together after a few goes.  So far I have been using two drawn images in the foreground which have blends in them though on one run it ended up looking like a single colour.  These are the effects of the combining layers of paint sometimes balancing out. 

I am enjoying the monoprinting side as it is very free and interesting accidents happen along the way as the paint moves on the screen.  It is all a learning process at this stage particularly with the colours.  In particular I’m interested in seeing how the two layers of changing colour enhance or distract from the movements already present within the drawings.  See what you think.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Hughie O’Donoghue RA

Last night Hugie O’Donoghue gave us a wonderful talk about his some of his recent paintings and prints.  He is primarily known for his large figurative and abstractive paintings that explore myth and identity.  He showed some paintings that had recently been on displayed in Prague and one that will be at the RA next summer.  He explained how he felt that working with the figure it was important that the work should be life size which is why so many of the canvases become so large, one was about 16ft by 8ft.  In the photo he was standing next to it and it really emphasised the huge physical effort that must be involved in making such works.

He then moved on to some of his print works, starting with another large piece from about eight years ago, a crucifixion triptych.  This was also large scale with each section being 8ft by 2ft.  He described how he encountered working with carborundum (in a manner similar to the Gotez technique) to make these images.  Compared to direct etching he felt it offered a more painterly approach.  He also liked the way that if he made a mark and then corrected it, because the medium was drying evidence of the first mark remained, showing traces of his thoughts. He also liked the method as it allowed him to work on the plates in his own studio rather than in the printing studio.

He then showed a set of colour prints based on the lives of people from the West Coast of Ireland where his mother was born and a region he still has ties to.  These images were much smaller and a few had been lent to us to show at our Summer Exhibition.  Having seen them earlier in the year it was interesting to learn more about then as they had a great intensity of mark and colour.  While smaller, about 1 ft by 2 ft they still were life size in that they had a close up head in the image.  Hughie described how he would draw one plate, with the carborundum for printing in black, and use a second plate for the application of colour.

Finally he showed a series of monoprints that he produced during a 2 week stay in Venice with printer Simon Marsh.  During that time they were producing up to 10 images a day, adjusting and reworking plates to refine the images.  On arrival he noticed a sculpture near where he was staying of a figure carrying a drum, while carved in stone it had a metal nose, and he used this head as a starting point for many of the earlier prints.  Later also being inspired by graffiti he discovered nearby.  It was interesting to see the development of these sequences of prints as areas were wiped away or strengthened as the images progressed.

An excellent evening I feel we were privileged to encounter an artist who has evidently pursued a career producing work that is highly important to him rather than being swayed by current fashions and in doing so has created an extraordinary body of work.

Thursday, 20 October 2011


Well I have been playing again, sorry testing new ideas, but it is a form of play really.  Trying out blends and monoprinting on the screen for some backgrounds and then overlaying some drawings to see how they interact.

Both the blends and the monoprints give unanticipated results.  Though you may be aiming to achieve something, until it is actually printed through the screen you cannot be completely sure what will arrive.  The blends are more predictable, but even then surprises happen.

The monoprinting from the screen provides quite a painterly result that I would never be able to produce by directly painting.  It is achieved by lightly brushing ink onto the screen before printing with the squeegee which inevitably moves some of the ink as it passes over.  Hence some of the unpredictability.  However that is what makes it all rather exciting and unpredictable.  I’ll have to try some larger ones next.

Using mirrored versions of the same small drawing and then overlapping them also produces some fascinating results and new conversations take place between them and different images appear.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Nana Shiomi

On Saturday we were treated to a wonderful talk from artist printmaker Nana Shiomi.  Nana came to the UK in 1989 to study at the Royal College and has lived here since then.  She described how in Japan she was always fascinated by the Western Culture and arts but once here could not quite find a way to fit.  It was whilst taking lessons in Japanese Archery in London that she realised that she did not need to reject her Japanese roots but use them and incorporate them with Western ideas and in doing so has created a unique body of work.

They reflect the similarities and the differences in the two cultures and Nana has created a very personal and individual visual language.  In a similar way she uses traditional techniques of Japanese woodblock printing but has amalgamated them with her own more contemporary methods.  Her prints use both relief and intaglio wood blocks to produce the final image.  For her the philosophy of printmaking and the reversal of the image are a crucial part of her practice and many of her images incorporate mirror images.
She showed us many of her prints and had also brought along the four blocks and step prints showing how a final image was reached.  This provided a fascinating insight into her methods which she described as simple but as we all know, that only comes from years of development as practise.

An inspiring and fascinating talk, thank you Nana.

Don’t forget we also have Hughie Donaghue coming to the studio on Thursday 20th October

Friday, 30 September 2011

It’s Just a Bridge – Reflections from the Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Whilst visiting family last week I went to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park for the afternoon.  I have never been before and it is a lovely site to walk around with the added bonus of some contemporary art to view.  Some work is in a couple of galleries, but much of it out and about in the parkland.    For me it raised a lot of questions about the appropriateness of some of the work in such a setting and the old chestnut of what makes a work of art.  This became encapsulated after having walked down David Nash’s recent installation 71 Steps and then over a bridge that was part of the original 18th Century  Estate to overhear a lady saying ‘I don’t think that’s a sculpture, it’s just a bridge’.

71 Steps - David Nash

Well she was just heading towards the steps and in some way the same comment could be made, they are just steps.  How much difference does it actually make that they have been installed by an artist, carefully selecting oak wood that has been charred black and oiled and set into the lie of the land with 30 tonnes of coal set between the steps.  All to reflect the local environment as well as past industries and expected to erode back over time into the setting.  Yes they are just steps but they are also more than that as well as they could have been made without such considerations resulting in something far less fitting.  It is perhaps a fine line between the two.

The Outclosure, in the centre of the wooded enclosure

For me the most fascinating works were those by Andy Goldsworth, they really fitted their sites but also questioned them directly.  ‘Outclosure’ is a closed circular stone wall, set across a path that runs through an original enclosure on the estate that protects a small wooded glade.  It disrupts the flow of people as they walk through the wood and draws attention to the areas we have access to and what walls are used for.
Another work is ‘Hanging Tree’, following a dry stone wall that runs the length of the estate’s original ha-ha, three rectangular enclosures in the wall become apparent, however as you approach them you see trees suspended in the wall enclosure and that these are actually very deep openings.  You are rewarded in walking up to them, as it could be assumed that they are just mere fluctuations of the wall when in fact they are much more.

Part of Hanging Tree

Hanging Tree - Andy Goldsworthy

Around the estate are also a number of works by Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth, both Yorkshire born.  Such placing certainly gives them plenty of space to be viewed from all angles, rather than in some cramped gallery but I’m not sure how much they actually belong to such spaces.  Even when an artist has deliberately selected a location for a work, such as Sol LeWitt’s ‘123454321’.  LeWitt is an artist whose work I have often admired for the strategies and ideas that he employs but I’m not sure how much this work gains in its location over being somewhere else.

Sol LeWitt  123454321

There were many more works and thoughts from this trip more than can be really fitted in here.  I can only recommend you take your own visit, and if that is not possible, spend a little while looking over their website as they have some excellent photos and descriptions. 

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Miniatures Galore

Well after the summer break I have been back in the studio still working on the miniatures.  Fortunately all the practice is starting to pay off and I’m a achieving a higher return of registered prints in any run.  I have usually been printing a set of 12 of each image at a time.  This number has been chosen for no better reason than I can cut one sheet of paper into 12 pieces of a suitable size.  The miniprint competition I am entering requires an edition of at least 10, so I have been needing at least 2 runs if not 3 to get the required number of suitable prints.  However for the first time this week, I actually got 10 good images out of a run of 12.  It didn’t last long though and my next attempt netted just 5, but at least progress is being made.

I have selected my three entries and posted them off, so now it is just the wait to see if I have been lucky or not.  Below are some of the images I have been working on.  I will probably work on a few more yet as they are an enjoyable challenge to work on.



Thursday, 11 August 2011

Miniature Mayhem

The studio may be shut this month but it is a good time to review my recent work and plan for the next few months ahead.   During the year there are many drawing and print competition to try for and hope that work will be selected.  I currently have a lino cut in a travelling exhibition in the Midlands through the Leicester Print Workshop’s Smallprint competition. 

Sometimes it can feel a bit like a lottery but if choosing selectively it can also provide targets to focus on.  It is important to select exhibitions and competitions that allow you to still keep a primary focus on your own practise rather than just trying new ideas to fit someone else’s criteria.

I have recently been making work for the Printmaker’s Council Miniprint competition.  This is providing me with considerably opportunity to hone my techniques in screen printing which I have only been learning over the last few months.  They require prints that are no larger than 8cm x 10cm.  At this size registration becomes very important as there is very little margin for error.

It does have the advantage though that the screens can be small and printing is quicker, so I have been able to try out a number of ideas in a short period of time.  All print techniques have their own demands and preparation and practise are the keys to success.  So often all we see are the final finished prints that make everything look to effortless.  Oh so far from the truth, hiding the hours just working away trying to get anything to come out as you want.  

So in a spirit of honesty I thought I would show some of the many failures that have been occurring while trying to make these prints.  They are improving and with a little more work I think I will have my entries ready by mid September – watch this space.

Colours bleeding out under the screen while printing

Registration nightmare

A very uneven print on the background, flat areas can be hard to get even

What happens when you forget which way round your image is.