Thursday, 31 July 2014

valuable days .....

Some days are just spent in a very valuable way and yesterday was one.  Fiona and I began our eighth collaborative artists' books and each time we seem to be confronted with a new set of struggles.  I guess that is really what this collaboration has been about .... pushing ourselves in directions we would otherwise not wander, certainly not alone.  Not that we encounter dark alleys but we do meander off course, through woods and out into the sunshine at various points along the walk.

Fiona posted very thoroughly on the process this collaboration is taking, using the cards designed by Julie Chen and Barbara Tetenbaum so there is no need for me to elaborate further.  Just visit Fiona's blog .....

So, our books will be abstract ones with multiple openings, asymmetrical with multiple muted colours.  They will have no text yet be high tech.  Simultaneously they must be photographic, simple and miniature.  After discussions on all these words and concepts, Fiona and I decided that miniature could also mean macro, detailed.  And as if this is not enough the books must be issue based and yet personal.  Phew.  It think it has taken us the last couple of months just to assimilate and juggle all those ideas and now we are moving forward with our books.

I already know that we will squirm and wriggle about with the ideas and perceived difficulties of using these prescribed parameters, and yet I am sure that we will end up being glad we swallowed and followed the guidelines. Already we are exploring new techniques which will give us the way forward with our thoughts.

borer markings 

some gorgeous wood marks, badly inked ..... I am learning not to leave lines right through the middle

texture marks

a cut slab end piece from one of the huge trees which came down in the cyclone last year

Burning off the beautifully smooth timber brings back all the lovely interesting marks.
The slab was full of chain saw marks and uneven cut marks and my friend Wade who works with wood, worked his magic on both sides of the slab so that I have almost glassy smooth wood from which to print.

A coat of shellac provides the necessary layer between the wood and the ink.
Sublime marks, the second pull is deliciously transparent on fine Japanese paper.

mmmmm - learning to blend ink on wood

I often prefer the subtlety of the back of work done on fine papers.

Now I need to work out how to use these marks and make the work 'mine'.

All these ideas and the last two postings on playing with wood, are leading towards the making of this book marking the memory of trees.

Friday, 18 July 2014

second play with wood .....

I had no idea that there could be so much fun to be had with wood prints.  Until recently I had no interest whatsoever in making woodblock prints until I saw what Ann Symes was doing with Japanese woodblocks  - bringing her own unique interpretation of technique and design to her work.

I hesitate to send you scurrying over to her website, as once you look at her prints in the portfolio you will realise how elementary my marks are - but everyone has to start somewhere.  I only have black, white and paynes grey water based printing inks and as yet have not tried doing any work with the watercolours and gouache which will enable me to work with very soft and subdued colours.

Like everything we do it is important to learn the techniques and then find a way of using them with some authenticity - I have yet to do either but think that after another experimental morning, I now know what I will be looking for in the way of wood texture before I head down onto the block with Steve and the chainsaw!  I am also thinking I will be more confident now to work in situ when I see gorgeous marks on logs that are way too large to bring up hear the house. I am really looking forward to trying to lift some of the calligraphic marks made by scribbly gum borers around the yard.  Will have to go for an explore and make a mud map of all the logs and marks I want to 'lift'.

A slab of wood that I have had lying around the studio which I have used for displaying some of my books.

Not all that easy to ink the wood as it is curved and does not take happily to the roller.  I love the colour of the wood showing through the soft greys.

Starting to work out what makes for interesting texture, and to go in harder and work some areas into darker shades.

This photo is too dark really - I was braver here rubbing part of the print then turning the paper around and lifting off areas on other parts of the block.  I like the overlays.  

The next couple of photos show up the wood texture much more effectively and accurately.

I cut up strips of the work that came out of my first play earlier in the week.  I can see how effective multiple techniques will be.  I like my images all to appear on one surface though, not collaging them, so I will need to find ways to print my etched marks, wood marks and rubbing all on one piece of paper. I don't think that will be too difficult - or I hope not.

Just having fun with overlapping pieces of very light weight papers.

Camera bogun - there is no blue here really! But I quite like it .....

Lots of bits with which to play.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

first play with wood .....

Tuesday morning of this week I was able to have some time with my friend Steph in her gorgeous bush hidden studio to have a play with wood prints.  Both of us are working on projects to do with our land in various ways and have been keen to use marks from trees that have been felled on our properties over the years.  I am keen to use these marking as overlays for etchings I am in the process of compiling to do with 'My Place' - Steve's and my acreage.  I am working toward doing about seven metres of printing with overlays which will then wrap around a corner of our living area.  This is all still in my head though much of the work I have been working on in the last little while has been a preparation for the kinds of marks I am wanting to make and use in this body of work.  I anticipate this project taking the best part of a year to complete so am in no rush.

This piece of fence post had been prepared by Steph by the time I got there.

I brought along a piece of laminated pine which I thought would be fun to play with.

The two photographed together and looking the best they did all day!

So after sanding with an orbital sander and then using a 1200 fine piece of sandpaper by hand, the wood was then burnt and then shellacked.  Being pine the wood burnt quickly and it was evident that this was going to print very graphically.
Which it did - image on the left, and so I did a few more overlay prints to try and make it more interesting.
 Which it wasn't!

This was my first pull from Steph's block and you can see my bad rubbing techniques (novice that I am).

Some over printing which looked way more interesting.  What I actually really love is the very delicate marks of the timber which reveal as fine white line.

I really like the cracks and lines in the timber.  In this exercise though I used an embossing needle to draw some of my own marks (the curly wiggly ones in the white space of the right) and have worked out that that is something I can do to 'own' the technique but make it feel more like me.

I like the softness of this edge - and you can see a few of my marks on that bottom edge.

Because we were working with water soluble ink, and given that I did not like the graphic pine prints at all, I decided to spray some water on the print and mess it up a little.

Much better!  I have worked out that if I do actually use some timbers where I get a really graphic ring pattern, I could actually then use a brush and bleed areas and soften then intentionally and work towards something wonderful.

I see much potential here for experimentation.

And then because I had sprayed water to effect on those former prints, I decided to spray the front of this print (the view is actually from the backside) which was quite a heavy print and held no charm for me.  The right side still looked uninteresting to me but when I turned it over, these gorgeous soft images emerged, with lovely soft bleeding edges and more evident markings which I had made.  None of this is finished work by any means but the morning's experimentation gave me plenty of food for thought and I can hardly wait to experiment some more.

I like this result and will work on making whole images like this.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

back to business .....

I had all the time in the world this last week to work and instead didn't put a mark on paper.  I did manage to have a huge clean up in the studio (should have taken 'before' photos), located buried projects like this ALAW project.  I realised when I came to post on the last letters of my alphabet, that I had erased all the photos I took of them prior to sticking them on the embossed book pages I had prepared.  I hope I don't regret 'erasing all images' from my cameras before heading off on the trip - I thought all were downloaded to the computer but as these ones of my letters were missing, I wonder how many others were deleted from my camera at the same time.

Before my holiday I designed the book in which to house my new alphabet.  Irregular pages which once the cover is opened will reveal three of the letters A, G and Z I think.  The rest are all hidden in various numbers amidst the other pages.  I embossed slightly larger squares on the pages and have stuck my letters inside these embossings.  Although they look quite effective, I still want to do some other work on the pages.  As yet I have no idea what, so they sit patiently waiting.

I was wiping some dusty 'stuff' on this page, which turned into a small smear.  Retrieved a rubber and proceeded to make that small smear into a number of large ones which I cannot now remove!  This will mean I need to carefully take the letters off this page, cut and tear another piece of Moulin de Gue paper, emboss it and stick again.  What a nuisance.  Stupidity really.

I spent days clearing out the studio, all the drawers, rearranging tables and making heaps more space. Creative avoidance is a great motivator for all those other jobs you have been procrastinating.  I now have a beautifully organised studio (and office space) and like to think that I could put my hands on anything for which I was searching.  May indeed resort to labelling drawers and stacks so I know what is in each but have not yet done that - nor decided upon that.  I used to be wonderful at the 'memory game' as a child, but doubt that I will be able to retain the knowledge of drawer contents in my mind's eye for much longer.  Think I may just have decided on labels!

Yesterday morning I looked down towards our orchard and saw a visitor warming itself in a patch of sunlight - chewing on the grass (for which I was happy) and then reaching up to tug at fig leaves (which I was not happy about and should it become a regular visitor, will have to cure it of that habit once fruit returns to the tree).  I am aware that grammatically, that sentence should be erased but you will know what I meant I am sure.

In the years I have lived here I have only seen wallabies four or five times so it was quite a thrill.

I found that it is quite easy to spend a week doing lots and yet achieving very little at all.  Feel quite rested in fact - and hope that this week I will start something more productive in the studio.  Only three months till my Open Days and I would like to have lots more work to show and tell.