Sunday, July 31, 2016

Letterpress practice

As part of my letterpress discoveries and play I have bean very well supported by a bunch of letterpress printers in New Zealand. When I renewed my subscription this year I was asked if I would like to contribute to their small booklet Vinculum.

Vinculum is a nice, small booklet which allow individual letterpress printers to print a page and have it included.

I figured it was about time I tried to do a small print run of something, so I agreed and have just printed my page.

I needed to print 100 A5 pages and chose some words of my own for the front page and printed information about my press on the back.

So on Tuesday and Wednesday I played around with type and paper, getting things ready; and on Thursday I printed the front page. Or should I say 120 front pages (I needed some spares for mistakes and to share).

It was all good fun and went really well, until page 112 I think when I tried to rescue a page from slipping and got my fingers caught in the press. It was like slow motion and I was thinking as the press came up closer that it would run out of steam like it had every other time that day, but it didn't, and it made a fair effort at crushing my fingers

The good news is that it didn't, but it definitely dented them and broke the skin. I finished the last eight pages and then headed off to do my first aid - lots of ice on and off, arnica and pain relief, followed by Barry wrapping my fingers in a comfrey (the old herb 'knit-bone') poultice overnight.

Thankfully I am all OK; bruised and battered and a bit shy of putting my fingers in there again!

On Friday I got back on the horse and printed the back page and left 120 pages to dry.   My first proof showed me that an "I" had snuck into my "1" drawer and so I had to replace it, which I did and the white page printed properly.

And then it was onto the back pages...

This isn't the piece that did the damage - but it was an earlier mistake which I rescued without damaging myself.

Next job to sort, pack and post to NZ!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Thursday Thoughts...

The problem with books is that they end. 

Caroline Kepnes

Oh isn't that the truth on occasions? Sometimes I find myself rushing to the end of a book so that I can know what happens, and let go of my worry or angst about particular characters.

Sometimes I dawdle my way there because I know the final chapter means the end of my interaction with these characters and I am not quite ready for that.

Sometimes I go along happy to finish and know that the next book in a series is lined up waiting for me without missing beat.

And then there are times I am happy just to get to the end and finish the book and tick it off whatever list it was on in my head! Book group book done. Challenging non fiction book for the betterment of my understanding done.

But generally if I have persisted with book (and nowadays I give myself permission to not persist if I am getting nothing out of it or if it annoys me) I feel a little bit sad when it ends.

Altho sometimes I can also feel triumphant if the ending is good! And of course I can sometimes feel a tad relieved because it means I can now get stuck into that new book that is waiting there and whispering to all in all, quite the mixed bag of responses to the ending of book.

Lined up to read next...

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Shades of grey

Fortunately I didn't have to work my way through fifty shades of grey; but I did spend quite a long time trying to work out how to get lovely gentle gradations of grey.

I started out with my graphite pencils and did a test swatch from 9H to 9B - quite the range from hard to soft!

Then I tested out the softest looking greys (which were in fact the hardest pencils of course) and found that I really didn't like the way they scratched into the BFK Rives printmaking paper.

I am no pencil afficiando so it really is all trial and error with me.

So I moved over to coloured pencils and tried to see if I had enough across all my sets to be able to use five to grade...

Kind of sort of would be the answer!

Clearly Cool Grey and French Grey are on completely different sides of the warm-cool spectrum and there was no way I could bring them into any sort of gradation harmony.

So then I tried a variety of other pencils including a Graphitint. Closer, just not sure of the sequence.

Nonetheless it was quite a nice time, just testing and colouring in small squares.

So then I began to colour in some letters, and this is as far as I have gotten.

I think I'll have to leave it there for a bit - suddenly a bunch of jobs have landed and I need to focus on them.  So the time just for me, playing and testing things is over for the time being, but it was grand whilst it was here.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

More words

I have managed to spend some quiet, gentle moments in the studio of late, doing things I love doing.

After slowly testing, tracing and transferring, I have been sitting very quietly and slowly, ever so slowly, cutting.

This body of work is taking on meaning for me, and is becoming important. So interesting how a small notion can eventually grow into something that has purpose and a reason for being.

My earlier post showed some practice for these words.

 A variation on the cut words.

 And another variation.

My work is often a slow and meditative process, and so it has been with this.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Thursday Thoughts...

“Mindfulness gives you time. 
 Time gives you choices. 
 Choices, skillfully made, lead to freedom. 

You don’t have to be swept away by your feeling. You can respond with wisdom and kindness rather than habit and reactivity.” 

 Bhante Gunaratana

Ahhh such wise words.  I certainly believe that we all have choices and even when it seems like everything has been taken away from us; we still have the choice to determine how we will respond or react to something.

I can't recall who taught me that (I read it somewhere a long time ago) - but they had been a prisoner of war and in a concentration camp and whilst all of their humanity was being removed bit by bit, and they had no control over virtually every aspect of their daily lives and their future; what remained to them was their ability to choose how they would respond.

I figured if you can still find a choice in those desperate circumstances, then I can probably find choices in my generally good world too.

I also like the notion that if you can give yourself time to respond, you will often respond better; or perhaps the better you will respond.

I know I can react from instinct, from fear or from hurt and I must say, not much good often comes from that!  Better when I pause and let those immediate reactions pass and then work my way through to the better responses - the wisdom and kindness ones.

Meditating on raindrops on the fly screen...

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Working with words

Teaching takes a lot of preparation and all the recent teaching episodes have meant that a lot of time in the studio has been about preparing handouts, gathering resources, sorting out timing for the workshops, building up powerpoint presentations to accompany the talk and making mock-ups of books to make sure they work! Then on return, there is the massive unpacking of everything and putting away of everything and filing of notes etc etc.

So there was a little sigh of delight as I looked about me, checked over my shoulder and realised I could spend time in the studio just making something.

I have mentioned previously that I have found making and creating hard since my mum died and I am still finding my way back; but I gave myself the simple goal of just working with words.  That's it. No major issues; no exhibitions to enter; just work with words.

So here are some of the things I played with over the weekend.

Nothing glamorous, but I wanted some letters that were 4cm high and 20cm wide. It took me AGES to get the R right - still not sure; and the S is a little bit far away from the D but c'est la vie.

I wandered back to the office and photocopied them until I had a full page of words.
I kind of love the results of photocopying - clearly there is something in that which I might just explore another time. An easy way to get multiples for sure!

Must admit I am a bit of a fan of multiples and repetition and this is clearly doing it for me.

Lots of very slow work tracing and lining up...

Then I got to play with some ideas of reduction - firstly against a light grey background.

And then against a darker grey book cloth

And then the two beside each other.

I moved onto more cutting! All a bit mad but good fun. Slowly, slowly, I think I made my way towards a resolution and a way to achieve what I want to achieve. But I'm not yet 100% sure.

 I really enjoyed the quiet time in the studio - following up this idea, planning the next steps, sitting and cutting, tracing and testing. It was good to have  goal - working with words - but no preordained outcome.  I have ideas about where it is all headed and would love to pull it off, but am not really pressuring myself about it. I think its about making and creating and exploring and helping my hands and body and mind remember I am a maker.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Artists' Book fun and discovery

I have done a fair bit of teaching in the last wee while which isn't the usual way things are; but it has all been varied and wonderful.

I taught Black Beauty for the Calligraphers of SE Queensland; I gave a letterpress demonstration as part of the Regional Marks exhibition; I spent a week in Rockhampton teaching Quietly and Gently with white on white as part of Wrapt in Rocky; and I spent a day last week with Sunshine Coast Grammar students teaching artists' books.

I have another teaching gig lined up at the University of the Sunshine Coast then I think the teaching is over for a bit.

Last week I spent the day as the artist in Residence at the Grammar School, as Year 11 students had an 'incursion". Rather than an excursion where they leave the school to go and see and learn something new; with this event they stayed on campus, I came to them and they had a full day of art (no maths, no science, no English...).

I loved so much of the wall art in the art room - I have no idea who did the work but it made the place really come alive.

I spoke a lot about materiality - making you materials part of the story; as well as about narrative and ways to tell a story that aren't obvious. Hint at things, encourage the viewer/reader to want to know what lies ahead and to enjoy discovering things for themselves. Don't be obvious. Don't tell them straight up what is going on - leave a little room for the mystery.

By and large the message got through and interesting approaches emerged.

Whilst this half open page with a cut out shows both a smile and tears; when the page is actually closed you only see the smile - and are then surprised when you see the tears once it is opened.

This fold out is perfect to discover the roots of the tree - as they reach down and down and down...

This deceptively simple yet beautiful book was a real winner I think.  From full foliaged green on the front,

To completely denuded white on the back,

The pages gradually reduce (by virtue of vertical divisions) from full green to partial green with increasing white throughout. You get the message.

Whilst not complete, when I photographed it, the torn and ripped masking tape will guide you through the story as well.

Wondering what to do and how to build a story when you have no inspiration, we started with a dry point print of a giraffe. Where do you take that? How do you take the viewer/reader through a story? Where will they end up? How will they get there? 

And this is one of the gorgeous pages - with a peep hole through to something you can't recognise (until eh final page of course). It was an interesting process to work out how to maintain visual interest with a simple story.

Some of the play with the print.

Not everybody got to stitch their book; nor did I get to photograph them all, but this one is finished. It worked with a mono print (painted onto the plate then printed) - a gestural image of a woman which was quite powerful. It pulled 'her' apart in various ways and made her whole again.

It was a really enjoyable day and I say a big thanks to the Year 11 art students for having me and for working so hard to create artists' books of interest.  I told them I expected more of them than to simply put together a scrapbook of their art; and they certainly delivered!