Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Mark making and landscape

I had a very enjoyable day today mark making in Cricklade near Swindon at a one day workshop with Amanda Hislop on a seascape or landscape theme to make small sketchbooks.

We made marks freely on a range of papers and surfaces roughly A3 in size using Koh-I-Noor water-based dyes, inks, candle-wax resists, fibre pens, pastels, crayons and, to my delight, a cola pen.

The papers were then cut or torn and folded into books and additional marks were added. The folding produced a random form of cropping and selection of images which I would not have obtained from a carefully placed card window.






Some members of the group then added stitch. Indeed I have a couple of others to which I will add some trial stitching ... and they're in colour of a less gloomy kind. The Koh-I-Noor palette with its range of rich jewel-like colours inspired me!

For anyone new to the idea of cola pens, an explanation of how to make and use them is given here. I'm not sure that this link makes it entirely clear that the nib for this pen should be cut from a metal drinks can such as that which is used to make Coco Cola (hence its name) or similar. The metal needs to be thin and very pliable.

The effects that can be produced by turning the nib as it's dragged across the paper or marking using the tip are to my mind unlike anything else I've used and, combined with a dark coloured ink, make a fantastic range of different marks.


Saturday, 19 March 2016

Colour and print for a change

I've now come almost to the end of the 10 week intaglio printing course I've been taking with Sue Brown at The Yard: Artspace in Cheltenham. It has been a most interesting experience and at times quite a challenge. We've covered a lot of techniques and for a beginner at this form of printing there has been a great deal to learn in a short space of time.

Following on from the first session about which I blogged in January, we made a second drypoint plate and again added masking tape to give depth of colour. At the printing stage, I added chine collé with my own writing printed onto tissue paper.


For the next couple of weeks, we experimented with print plates on card using waterproof wood glue and tile cement into which we pressed various textures. The first of the prints shown here I inked in the three primary process colours, encouraging some blending as I cleaned the plate before printing.


On the second, a blended rub was added after the initial inking - in red which increased the depth of colour. 


Our next project was to design a new print block using whichever of the techniques we fancied. I chose to use card with tile cement and glue to add texture. Frequent visitors to this blog may recognise the shape of the design from one of my photos.


Finally, I used another technique we were shown -  viscosity inking.


The hardest things for me in all this were the routines to be learnt in the printing process and especially the need to keep clean when pulling prints. I had to restrain my tendency to be impetuous and to think before I moved ... anywhere. Remembering always to pick up inked print plates with print fingers and cleaning my hands if there was any possibility of contamination were very necessary since even the tiniest speck of ink could find its way to the wrong place, ruining the final effect and endangering other people's work.

However, I'll be back in September for another 10 week dose of classes and I have a weekend workshop with Sue in May to look forward to. Then, we'll be developing a sketchbook with mixed media techniques including gum arabic.  I've been given a sneak preview of what we'll be doing and it looks and sounds most interesting.

I will no doubt post about that in due course.


Thursday, 17 March 2016

Insight Printmakers at Wotton Gallery

I went on Tuesday to Wotton Gallery in Wotton-Under-Edge, Gloucestershire, to view prints by Insight Printmakers. The gallery is small and intimate and I enjoyed all that I saw. I took no photographs so those included here are from other sources.

I especially enjoyed the work of  Wendy Rhodes, whose blog I follow regularly, and Sue Brown who runs the printmaking classes I've been going to since Christmas. Their work was very different but equally fascinating.

Wendy Rhodes is an accomplished etcher and she was showing prints developed from her drawings of the paths and woodlands around her house. The biggest and most impressive is shown here and on her blog where it is accompanied by revealing insights into her practice.


Sue Brown was showing quirky and amusing repurposed and enameled objects (particularly spoons) for which she makes screen printed transfer motifs. Since I was not able to photograph the work shown in the gallery, I'm showing examples of similar work here. Googling Sue Brown printmaker reveals a wealth of photographs of similar work and also of her intaglio prints which she was not showing on this occasion. Interesting glimpses of her practice are shown on her blog.


This exhibition is part of the Impress 16 printmaking festival run by the Gloucestershire Printmaking Cooperative and is showing in galleries throughout the county during March. There is more locally to me in New Brewery Arts and the Corinium Museum Gallery in Cirencester. I will be going and will post when I've been. It promises to be a feast of printing pleasure.


Sunday, 13 March 2016

Metal stitches, blind stitches, thread stitches and more

In the last few days, I've been experimenting with stitch on another small series of abstract photograph croppings which were just over 5 cm (2.5 ") square and set on a paper ground. The effects are shown most clearly in these two detail photos.


I stapled with a tiny stapler (metal stitches), punched small holes with a thick darning needle or a screw punch (shown here) and left both sets of holes empty (blind stitches), and then stitched small running stitches conventionally with fine black crochet thread to echo the shapes in the photographs.


Then, there's a catch. Most of those tiny dots you can see aren't actually stitches at all but small specks of black ink applied with a Pitt pen (would-be stitches?).












And last, here's a question. Although it's a possible method of attaching something to a ground or to another element in a piece of work, since it isn't delivered with a needle, is a staple truly a stitch after all? Views are most welcome!


Thursday, 10 March 2016

Trees: singly, grouped and in rows

Enticed the other day by a lovely sunny afternoon and the chance for my husband to try out his new camera, we went out in search of things to photograph.

I chose trees in all their forms. I especially enjoy them leafless and skeletal against the horizon. Here is a half dozen or so of my favourites from the many photographs I took that afternoon.

This group was taken below Hackpen Hill on the Ridgeway near Swindon. I love these clumps of beech trees that are scattered along the tops of the Wiltshire Downs. The pillow-like shape into which they grow is especially pleasing. As I write, I'm remembering a conversation with a friend (a fellow lover of trees) who gave such groups a special name. I've now forgotten what it was and Google for once seems silent on the subject. If anyone can help, I'd be most interested to know the answer.


We parked our car on the Ridgeway car park at the top of the hill and walked a little way along the footpath to those trees. Strong and mature, from inside the wood, they were equally appealing. They framed beautifully the view north towards the Cotswolds.


The sun was low in the sky and on the floor of the wood, the shadows were spectacular.


On our way home, we stopped several times when something caught our eye. One such for me was a row of trees that I photographed through branches in the hedge close to me on the other side of the field. 


In this single tree, I enjoyed the contrast between the living and the dead branches.


Last of all, was a row of ash and sycamore trees that I've been wanting to photograph for months, but the recent weather has not been kind for photography.


So far, I haven't manipulated any of these in Photoshop, but I suspect it won't be long before I do, and this time there might just be some colour!





Sunday, 6 March 2016

Exploring edges

I experimented yesterday afternoon with line and shading to delineate edges, mainly with graphite sticks, on 10 cm squares of cream watercolour paper, each square showing the effect with a circle and a straight line.

The first  trio shows the results of edging the shapes heavily with: a 6B graphite stick, with a light touch from a Derwent blending stick over the edge of a circular mask, and with a 4B graphite stick.


In the second, the edges were delineated with: needle holes pushed through from the reverse to create tiny shadows, with an HB pencil only and, lastly, with an HB pencil and a narrow blending of 6B graphite.


In the first three images and the last, the shapes were blended out softly with a Derwent blending stick. All were drawn or blended round a small cardboard circle.



Thursday, 3 March 2016

Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2015

We had a delightful visit today to Nature in Art, Twigworth near Gloucester. There is always much going on here but today there was particular pleasure. Until March 13, this museum and gallery is playing host to the annual touring exhibition of  the Wildlife Photographer of the Year organised under the auspices of the Natural History Museum in London.

It was a feast of wonderfulness with 100 stunning photographs, representing the finalists in each of the competition categories. I'm sorry only one is included in this post, but, understandably, photography was not allowed in the gallery. The winning photos and details of the competition can be seen here and here.

All of the photographs were amazing and many will live long in the memory but I think my favourite of all was the one which won the Young Photographer of the Year award. Of male ruffs on the lek in the Norwegian Arctic, it was taken by Ondrej Pelánek, a 13 year old boy from the Czech Republic.

Photograph from here

I think this photograph appealed to me as much because of the passion of this young man for his craft and for nature as for the technical excellence and the beauty of the shot. His description of how he took this photo and details of his other amazing achievements are given on the gallery page. 

At the prospect of seeing and photographing the birds, he said 'I was so excited that I could not sleep'. With enthusiasm and skill like his, I somehow think this young man will go far ...