Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Looking and Seeing

Sometimes you see things sometimes you don't. This past week I had a day or two where I just saw  a bunch of lovely looking things - marks and shadows and gatherings.

First up at breakfast to celebrate B's birthday, the lights from inside threw these gorgeous shadows on the outside.

I was later ordering as a result!

On return home we gardened a bit and tidied up some timber. We came across where the little marsupial rat (an anticinus) had been storing the macadamia nuts they stole from our box of nuts - a little house of sorts, but they had clearly been well fed.

And the next day somebody returned some timber to us; a sign that I had written on years ago and which had been left to simply weather and disappear. The tracelines of lettering are still evident if you look closely.

Sunday, January 29, 2017


I'm not sure if others get themselves into a mess in the studio as often or as easily as I do - but around this time I find the studio seems to have simply accumulated all the stuff of the year before and there is hardly a surface to be found anywhere.

This is how bad it looked before I began the clean up.

I had brought these trays with type home after Christmas and they had simply had to be put on the floor. You can see some chases resting on the table legs; and a box of musical scores someone had recently  given me asking if I could use the paper.

These prints and plates were all over the table; but really they were all over a proofing press Barry had cleaned up and fixed for me because it had landed on the table with no other known home.

The chairs were even piled high with bags of stuff from workshops; and books that had been returned.

The proposed home for the new proofing press was stuck under these deliveries of letterpress paper because there was no room in the paper drawers for them. And some random thread I had been using for stitching.

The studio was still home to artworks I had collected from the show at Pine Rivers, yet to be returned to their owners.

And I have no idea why so many things had accumulated on the table here. But they  had.

Some people had also dropped off a couple cabinets they thought we could use - and they just got dumped in the studio till we could work out where they would live more permanently. And we had a new air conditioner delivered as well which took up space.

I started to 'dis' some of the type; but you can see four artworks that had just been completed still trying to find a comfortable space to rest. They have since been wrapped and packed and posted.

And then we moved things and draped things ready for the air conditioner folk to do their job.

And that's the before shots. Hopefully soon I can show you some afters which look much better.

I find this time of year is good for sorting and tidying and learning and clearing and culling, so I may have been subconsciously just letting things pile up so I could sort them (or then again, maybe things were just a bit out of control as they year closed...)!!!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Thursday Thoughts...

“My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness. Our prime purpose in this life is to help others…There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness. 

Whether one believes in a religion or not, and whether one believes in rebirth or not, there isn’t anyone who doesn’t appreciate kindness and compassion. We can live without religion and meditation, but we cannot survive without human affection.” 

 The Dalai Lama

In amongst the many, many things I find troubling at the moment, I am trying find the balance. I was touched and inspired by so many women marching across the world on the weekend and so many of the signs made me smile because they were clever or funny or poignant or pointed; I wasn't that interested in the crude or destructive ones, but there were plenty of the others to lift me up.

What I am hoping for most this year, and working towards most in small ways, is kindness.

Kindness, Care and Hope are my touchstones for the year; to reach out and be kind; to care for others and to continue to work and act with hope in my heart for a better and more beautiful world.

Parts of me could dissolve into puddles of despair at times, but I am stoking myself with hope and kindness and care.

The Dalai Lama obviously gets it; his religion is kindness, the philosophy is kindness. We don't need  structures or rule books or guidelines or lists, all of us have within us the capacity to be kind and I feel we will all need a bit of kindness to each other this year...

On of my favourite posters from around the time of the marches...courtesy of kristinjoiner.com

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Monotype experiments

I  had been thinking about how Caran D'Ache Neo Colour II Water soluble crayons would go printmaking. I have used them happily with calligraphy and pattern making, but wondered how well they would transfer an image.

I went about it by making a thick blend of the crayons on a piece of Perspex, blending colours and laying them on fairly thickly.

I then used a skewer to pull away some of the crayon; planning for white space to be printed.

I turned it over to see if it would print OK as an image. When I am in the groove and diving in like I was here; I sometimes (?often) forget that the image will be reversed, so I really did need to check if I could live with the way it would be. It was fine.

I love how the light above the phone reflects and makes it appear as if there is a big half moon in the sky as well.

Then I wet some really heavy 600gsm watercolour paper and ran it through the press.  The moisture in the paper definitely pulled the crayons over and transferred pretty well.  Had I done it on lighter paper I am sure it would have looked quite different; although I liked the rough and ready nature of the print.

What was left on the plate after making the print.

I think there is something in these crayons and will try to do some more work with them. They will probably always be a bit naive I think, and often rough and ready; but they might make great backgrounds for some letterpress words.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Letterpress Commission

For the last little while I have been working on a beautiful letterpress commission - a poem in association with a new Poetry Prize.

The Poetry Prize is in honour of young Maleny poet Sophia Nugent-Siegal, who died in 2014 aged 22.

The work I have done is to select one of Sophie's many poems, and produce it in an edition of 22. The poem is presented on a thick 300gsm Gmund Cotton Linen paper, contained within a presentation folder.

Sophie had liked the spareness of my work and her mother entrusted me with the artistic license to create work that I felt was in keeping with Sophie's work and ethos.  I had previously rendered some poetry for her mother in calligraphy; and felt I wanted to include some in the final work; but was not sure that I could do it effectively 22 times.

So I turned to a photopolymer plate. I wrote out the poem title, vectorised it, sent it to Melbourne where they prepared the plate. I then found a local cabinet maker to cut some timber into a small block, type high and I was able to include it in the block for printing.

The presentation folder is made from Mohawk Superfine 270gsm and I used another photopolymer plate image on the cover - the poem references a blue sky smashed into novas.

The cover indicates the poem title, the poet's name and that it is part of deckled edge press editions (in fact the first).

I mixed the ink to a soft blue - the poem suggests Sophie's bluest of blue eyes - and the main text was printed in a soft grey - I couldn't do black. It meant I had to do two print runs on each page - the blue one and the grey one, so registration became a bit of a focus.

Cover detail.

Attribution detail on poem insert.

Poem within the folder.

The poem.

It has been an enormous honour to produce this work; as well as a great challenge to improve my craft  and to produce something of worth and value the will last through the ages.

More of the story can be found here, on the website and blog for Sophia.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Thursday Thoughts...

“Life has an inside as well as an outside. Consumer culture directs all resources and attention to life on the outside. What happens to the inner life? Art is never a luxury because it stimulates and responds to the inner life. We are badly out of balance. I don’t think of art / creativity as a substitute for anything else. I see it as a powerful expression of our humanity - and on the side of humanity under threat. If we say art is a luxury, we might as well say that being human is a luxury.” 

Jeanette Winterson

I have been re-listening to Jeanette Winterson on the ABC Conversations with Richard Fidler, and oh my, what a woman.  I really like listening to her voice, as well as being a huge fan of what she has written and how she writes.  My copies Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit and Written On The Body are both foxed, and dog-eared and it is interesting given all the culls of books I have had over the decades, that these two still travel with me - along with the subject of this interview Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

Anyhow, of more recent times, she has also written several essays and articles on how important art is; after her own little moment of discovery.  And of course, because she is Jeanette Winterson she writes about art and beauty in a beautiful, insightful, heartfelt and accessible way.

I agree with her thoughts in this quote - that art nurtures and supports the interior life; that art is not a luxury that it is in fact what makes us human and makes life and living worthwhile. We need the arts - they shock us, they nurture us, they make us weep, they make us feel, they make us look again, they help us understand, the let us know experiences or emotions are shared...how scary a place we would face if we didn't have art in the world to help us make sense of it, and to make our way within it.

A detail from Jennifer Coyne Qudeen's Sketchbook Project book which we visited in Brooklyn Art Library in December 2013. An inside and an outside....

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

A few teaching gigs

The beginning of the year is such an interesting time to stop and look at the shape of the year ahead.  I love having a sense of the year's shape - the outline, the sketched in bits that tell me a bit about where I'll be and what I'll be doing.  I'm not quite sure why that matters to me, given that the year usually takes me on a roller coast of a ride that I could never have planned for!

Still, I am looking at the year 2017 and there are commissions due, conferences to run and attend, exhibitions to view, an open studio to have, teaching gigs here and there and the Celebration of Books to help coordinate. Looks interesting!

A quick shot from my website page 'Workshops' where you can find most of the details.

I have three workshops booked in already - the first is next month in Toowoomba.  I will be teaching a new workshop "Building Narrative in Artists' Books".

Here's the blurb:

When we make a book ourselves we are often thrilled that we have made the container – and pay less attention to what is contained. This workshop will focus on building narrative in your book-making, encouraging you to find ways to use the book form to tell a story – short and sweet, simple or complex, political or fairytale. 

We will explore techniques to offer readers an interesting experience. The book will use a simple binding, and focus more on the content and sequence, using techniques to encourage enquiry and interest in the reading. We will make a small book with a cover. 

I think it is important for us to stop and think about what we are trying to say with a book; and to pay attention to Structure, Content, Materials and Sequence. I am looking forward to sharing my thinking with an enthusiastic group and to see what they do!

My second workshop of the year, is in June, with a return to Wrapt in Rocky, for a 3-Day Wrapt Retreat.

I will once again be teaching "Quietly and Gently" but modified from 5 days to 3 days.

The blurb goes:

Sometimes we just need to be quiet, to slow down and be peaceful. 

 This workshop will explore the beauty and elegance of working white on white. The limited palette provides both challenges and opportunities, with serene outcomes. Working on paper, you will have the opportunity to explore a myriad of ways to create texture and meaning on paper, using different materials and techniques. Embossing, printing, cutting, lettering and stitching will all form part of the week, and bookmaking will bring it all together. 

Participants will create a sample book of techniques as well as a light slipcase to protect the book. Suitable for all levels.

Feel free to contact Wrapt in Rocky here if you are interested in attending.

The third workshop of the year is booked in, but is a mystery workshop!  We haven't decided just what I will teach; but I am booked in with the Calligraphers of South East Queensland in October.

You can find updates and details on the 'Workshops' page here on my blog and on my website.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Collagraph printing

During the week a friend helped me print some collagraph plates.  I had made the plates as part of a two day workshop - day 1 make the plates, day 2 print the plates - but we had headed off to Japan before day 2 so I never got to learn how to print them.

Altho I love printmaking I am a real novice and certainly don't know any tricks of the trade like I do with say book-making, so it was special to be able to spend time with a person who knows how to think about printmaking. Even tho she is an intaglio expert, she could guide me thru this relief printing process as well.

I dived in and over-inked straightaway! Laugh. If I had paid attention I would only have inked lightly and left more of those lovely empty spaces.

We tried a viscosity ink approach and I thinned ink, and used hard and soft rollers. I'm not sure I really got it, but I could see a few of the things that happened and understand why.

Inked and ready to go. I loved seeing these centre lines drawn on the plastic over the bed of the press - clearly to help with registration! 

How it looked after printing.  As ever, some interesting bits and pieces and so much analysis needed to understood why some parts work better than others. The plate, the amount of ink, the thickness of the ink, where I applied the ink, the sequence of colours, and so on and so forth.

I do love some corners, with the their empty spaces and sense of embossing.

A few notes and a nice still life.

And so I tried NOT to over ink the second plate, which worked well for the first layer of ink. Tick. Except afterwards, I wished I had inked the lower half as well. You live and learn don't you?

This ink really needed to be thinned far more than I did, which was a shame - it overpowered things by the end.

As evidenced!

Yet once again, I loved a few of the parts and the lovely texture and patterns they provided.

So much more to learn and practice, but I have a much better starting place than I did before this week. I learnt about barrier cream,  some registration tricks, how to let the blankets fall from the drum, what tape to use to mask off and so many more things. Spending time with artists in their studios you always learn so many extra bits that just add to your knowledge and make things easier and better. Thank you my friend!