It’s been awhile since my last post because I’ve been so busy with commissions, teaching a pastel class and being a student in a printmaking class that there’s been little time left over for anything else.
I’ll post some of my favourite commissions after Christmas when all should be happily gifted and it’s safe to publish them without ruining the surprise.
The printmaking has been a world of discovery and I’ve become fascinated by the rich variety of prints that can be made with and without a press . I’ve particularly gravitated towards collagraphs and I think that’s probably down to my messy, imprecise and “what-if?” attitude to artmaking.
Collagraphs are made by adding or subtracting material from the plate. The plate can be strawboard, matboard, or acrylic. You can glue on plants, feathers, seeds, fabric , or cut away the top layer of the paper board to create a pattern or combine all of these!
There’s also linocut relief prints, chine colle techniques, reduction linocuts and a whole range of different ways to create prints from the very precise to the much more abstract and organic.
Once the pattern has been made the plate is sealed with shellac or varnish and then inked. Inking can be the intaglio method where it’s applied then wiped off to create tones on the raised surfaces and leave ink in the depressions or the relief method where its brayered onto the plates raised areas.
Once it’s all inked up through the press it goes and then the magic moment when the image is revealed!
I love that prints from the same plate can look so different depending on the colour of ink, the method of inking and the amount of wiping.
Of course I can’t resist adding pastel to some. This one was my first attempt at a reduction linocut and it wasn’t a great success but some pastel worked it’s magic and I was happy with the end result.
I’ve got a whole lot more experimenting to do but think I’ve found my new obsession for 2021!
During this crazy time in the world my mum was self isolating and I decided to give her a box of eco printing supplies and instructions for her birthday because she was quite interested in it. It was a big success and started me thinking about expanding on it and writing the kind of book I was looking for when I started out on my own eco printing adventure.
A few month’s of intensive work and I finally finished it! It grew from an initial 40 pages to 100 and there is still more I could have included. I wanted to make it informative, useful and easy to navigate with all the basics and some more advanced techniques. I was sure there was a whole lot of people just like me who were looking for information in one concise book.
There’s no “secret” recipes or techniques here. It’s information I found through researching, experimenting and persisting over the last three or four years and anyone can do the same but it does take a lot of time to progress this way.
Yesterday I launched it in my Etsy shop and it immediately started to sell. I guess there are people out there just like me!
If you’re interested you can follow this link to my Etsy store Leaf and Print.
It includes a whole lot of step by step projects and links to 5 videos and I was fully immersed in eco printing getting all the videos shot, and then sorting all the info, finding a good format and editing it . Here’s some of the projects.
I’ve been discovering the joys of ecoprinting on vintage woolen blankets. I’d already been working with silk and cotton but had been wanting to try some wool which is either very expensive if new or difficult to find if recycled . Vintage blankets are a good way to get a decent amount of yardage at a reasonable price for the beginner. They’re hard to come by so when I get my hands on one it’s exciting planning what to make with it.
I’ve done capes…
as well as bags and clutches…
I have two freshly washed and folded blankets sitting in my stash at the moment and I’ve been waiting impatiently to start layering them with leaves so tomorrow could be the day!
I can’t believe it’s been over 4 months since I last posted! What have I been doing with my time you might ask.
A big chunk of it was spent travelling to the US and Canada again . Some highlights were:
…. getting caught in the big Montana snowstorms which was a bit scary for someone who never drives in the snow. It was so beautiful and sureal it almost made up for the giant stress monster sitting in the pit of my stomach as I drove through the horizontal snowstorm.
There were some great moments with wildlife…
and I absolutely soaked up the autumn colours .
Then there was the coast…even the overcast days couldn’t dampen my spirit as we hiked into Shi shi Beach and watched the big waves pounding in along the coast.
I managed to get some painting in as well…my favourite time was in the misty rain at Heather Meadows. The colours seemed to really glow in the overcast conditions. It was cold but so lovely.
After we got home I was straight into an epic round of custom paintings for Christmas gifts which took me right up to a week before Christmas. I just finished my last order yesterday and for the first time in 5 months I have no commissions on my waiting list and the amount of time I have for other projects is pretty exciting!!!! Of course it won’t last so I’m planning on making the most of it. I’ve already been out foraging for leaves and doing some pre mordanting of my stash of fabrics ready for a bout of eco printing. I’ll keep you posted….
I’ve been dabbling with my eco printing again. I invested in some timber and built a small bench and shelves outside the laundry area so I can keep my soaking leaf collection and dye pots in some sort of order! It should be complete ORDER but I get too carried way with the excitement of making new discoveries and it all ends up bit of a jumble…still the new shelves do contain it somewhat.
I finally found a smoke bush tree in the neighbour’s garden and he kindly allowed me to harvest the autumn leaves so I dried then before we left on our travels and now I’m using them…I’m a bit like a miser slowly and grudgingly depleting my stockpile because they’re all I have until spring brings the new leaves…But am loving the results.
I’ve also tried some natural cochineal dye which ended up giving a lovely watecolour effect when overprinted with leaves.
…and I collected onion skins for a few weeks and dyed some silk scarves with them…sunshine in a dyepot! Photos to come at a later date.
And let’s not forget the humble gum leaf which gives such lovely results when sandwiched between 2 silk scarves and steamed for an hour.
So not a lot of posting’s been going on but my dye pots have been getting a goodly amount of attention and I’m learning as I print and dye.
It’s been awhile since I posted so thought I would share a few pages from my current travel sketchbook. I’m swanning around the Mediterranean and Adriatic coasts for a few weeks and enjoying all the sun, sea and swimming. In between I’m snatching a few minutes to do some watercolour and ink sketches to remind me of the beautiful places I’ve been visiting on those cold winter days back in Tasmania!
I’ve spent a few days doing some eco printing this week. Mostly scarves and upcycled cotton tees. It’s been a lot of fun and I’ve discovered some new ways to mordant to get different results so it’s been educational as well.
Here’s a few of my results
It was a fun week!!!
Now I have to soak some more leaves because I used them all up!
A couple of weekends ago I was a student at a Maxwell Wilks pastel workshop. I had a great time and broke out the hard pastels which was a bit of a novelty for me. Have never owned any Rembrandts before but bought a small box of half sticks and reallly enjoyed working with them. The tin of 24 Derwent hard sticks was a sensational buy – only $35Aus and I like them better than my conte sticks and MUCH better than those hard Faber Castels which just do not want to lay down any colour – well not for me anyway! Wish I’d bought the larger tin.
Also used the smooth side of Canson Mi Tientes ( not the gritty, textured paper) . I’ve used it occasionally in the past but was still surprised by how many layer of pastel it will take! I’ll be more prepared to use this paper in the future instead of always using my favouritre Colourfix textured paper. We used a lot of colour and everyone had a blast.
I’ve been trying out a few new gels and pastes lately in my acrylic paintings and having some fun. Here’s a 30 x 30 cm canvas I just finished using some clear tar gel and molding paste to help create that tangle of flowers and weeds in the foreground. Will be trying a few more ways of using the gel I’m sure.
On Saturday I realised that I was supposed to hand in a painting to the Art Society of Tasmania’s March member exhibition the VERY NEXT DAY. The theme is “From my Studio” and I’d been putting off deciding on my entry because I don’t really have much of a view from my little studio room. Both windows look out onto the side path which has a large concrete retaining wall a few feet away. I painted it with a mural years ago but it’s a bit faded now so the view is not so inspiring.I’d been wrestling with the idea of not taking the theme literally but instead thinking of it as a prompt.
“From my studio” I :
imagine dreamworlds of abstract patterns and shapes
reach into my memory and paint from images past
travel to far countries via my photo records
dip into my sketchbooks and reinvent a scene
but somehow this time I did want to represent something literally seen from my studio. It’s been niggling away at me and I just couldn’t make up my mind so on Saturday when I was tidying up my photos on my laptop I came across some great sky photos – they were taken outside my studio and I can see that sky through my window!
It wasn’t enough on it’s own even though I liked the pattern of the trees against the sky so I gave it some more thought as I sanded back an old frame I’d just bought home from the recycling centre. I decided to use the frame dimensions as the painting dimensions and to do it in pastel. So there I had the bones of an idea, the format, the medium and size worked out and now I needed to flesh it out a bit more.
The format was a bit unusual ( 2:1 ) and it presented a few challenges. First I needed to crop my sky photo to fit whilst keeping the feel that had attracted me in the first place.
I felt the foreground would need
something of real interest in it to make the painting work and that a few
diagonals would help to lead the viewer up into that wonderful sky. It must be
interesting , be able to connect the strip of grass in the foreground with the
trees in the middle and distance , fit in a narrow space and importantly , it
must thematically connect as an idea with the sky- not a lot to ask
right! One of my students had used a reference photo of mine with an old
fence post during Friday’s pastel class and I’ve used that post before so I
pulled out the photo and used it to block in a post on the bottom left which
would stop the down hill run out of the corner as the eye followed the diagonal
line of the sloping paddock ( we live on a fairly steep 5 acres).
I did a little value study to see if the shapes
would work and decided to add in a little extra grass in the foreground.
Having kept the viewer in the painting I really
wanted to reward them for staying with me! There are a lot of birds around our
place and they’re a constant joy so a bird seemed a good idea. I have a
collection of reference photos I’ve taken but none of them seemed right.
The Black Cockatoos were big enough, I had photos of them in flight but they
seemed too dark . The parrots were too small and too bright. Then I hit on the
idea of a wedge tailed eagle , wings outstretched , landing on the post. I did
a trial sketch of the eagle, thought it looked right and started on the
My first go at the eagle wasn’t a success! It
looked the right size in my sketch but when I blocked it in with charcoal I
could see it was too small. There was no real connection between the grass and
the trees..so out it came!
In my final version I removed some of the
trees behind the eagle so I could highlight it against the golds of the sky,
the tail connects to the grass, the head to the sky and the wings lead up into
the trees and onto the sky. I feel I’ve set up a good dynamic ,flow and
counterpoint using the diagonals of the post, paddock, legs, wings and
treelines. The old post stops the viewer from leaving via the bottom left
corner. Although the eagle is fairly dark against the trees there is enough
light and contrast from the white feathers and the golden glow of the back
feathers so that he is easily seen. Looking at it now I can see that perhaps
I’ve split it too neatly in half with the light and dark values but that’s a
lesson learned for next time!
And that’s how
I was able to come up with a concept to fit the brief, paint it, frame it and
deliver on time. From the initial idea to the finished framed painting took me
6 hours and I’d been procrastinating for weeks! Sometimes it happens when it