Archive | July, 2019

Reinventing An Icon: Part 1

31 Jul

A couple of weeks ago, local flagmaker Charles Ashburner sent me an email asking if I’d like to get involved in the creation of a new flag. We had met last year when I was working on a commission for the SkyArts TV channel, creating a new artwork – a new flag for Britain that I called “Here Be Dragons“.

Gwenllian ferch Gruffydd

He asked me to develop an image of the historical Welsh heroine, Gwenllian ferch Gruffydd, for the AUOB Cymru (All Under One Banner Wales) march in Caernarfon on July 27th. That wasn’t a lot of time and I nearly said no. But it’s a cause I support so I took a deep breath and said yes and started to research our Welsh warrior princess.

graphite small
Gwenllian in graphite, one of my original sketches

Zena Warrior Princess

So where to start? I found a very interesting little book by Laurel Rockerfeller which gave me the outline of her life but thinking about how to portray her visually was challenging as there are no contemporary drawings and I didn’t want to go down the “Zena Warrior Princess” route (although I love Zena).

Hugh Williams

And although I liked the painting by Hugh Williams from 1909 that’s associated with her, I didn’t want to reproduce that because it has a very Edwardian sensibility and style. I realised that I had to bring her out of the middle ages and rescue her from early 20th century Art Nouveau and bring her bang up to date into the 21st century.

Gwenllian 1
Gwenllian by Hugh Williams 1909

I wondered what she would be like if I could pop into the Tardis with Doctor Who and travel back in time to meet her …… with my pencil and sketchbook …..

….to be continued ….

Scribbling Yes Cymru

30 Jul

Husb and I endured eleven hours on a coach with the smelliest toilets in the universe on Saturday to get to and from the YES Cymru march in Caernarfon. It was amazing! Over 8,000 people crammed into the tiny cobbled streets and little market square, enjoying the party atmosphere and listening to inspiring speakers. It was a great crowd and of course, I had to have a scribble! Our coach from Swansea picked up the Llanelli / Carmarthen posse that included a bunch of lads who rocked the Welsh costume – here’s one of them in a rather fetching mini-skirted version.

Caernarfon 3

And a few faces in the crowd…..
Caernarfon 2

….including Lloyd-George modelling an ANNIBYNIAETH banner!

Caernarfon 1

And I did a quick sketch of Scottish speaker and supporter Hardeep Singh Kohli as he sat and waited for his turn behind the ever-moving flags and legs. He was hilarious and such a fervent supporter of Scottish … and Welsh … independence.

Caernarfon 4

 

I’m still recovering from the travel sickness. But it was worth it.

 

The Rainbow Roll

28 Jul

 

rainbow 5

Colour

It’s been years since I did a rainbow roll to put colour into the background of a block print. I’ve been trying out proof prints for my “Streambed” vinyl block and that’s how I ended up doing a rainbow roll. I put out three lumps of Caligo Safewash litho/relief ink – Process Blue on the right, Extender in the middle and Process Blue with Process Yellow on the left and then I rolled them very carefully in one direction until they were blended, with a dark blue merging through an almost-white to green. The colours are very strong and I remembered that I should have used far more Extender and less pigment.

 

 

Masking

I needed to mask out the edge of the coloured area so I ripped a hole in a sheet of newspaper to form a stencil and put it over the rainbow roll.

 

 

Strength

Then I put a piece of Japanese Hosho paper on top of it and rubbed with a baren. The result is reasonable, but I think the pigment is too strong, I need to add far more extender to the colours to make them paler and more translucent. Finally, I overprinted with my “Streambed” block in a black oil-based litho/relief ink from Intaglio Printmaker in London. I like it, it’s different.

 

The FIRE Lab

I based this block on an original sketch I did with colleagues from the FIRELab project at the Zoology Department at Swansea University. Here’s one of the FIRE Lab’s blogs, talking about uses for the saliva of The Tench (it’s a fish).

 

Doubling Up

27 Jul

streambed double

Carrying on experimenting with my vinyl block based on a drawing of a streambed, I printed it up twice in black litho/relief ink onto Hosho paper. I like the negative spaces between the two shapes. This merits some development, I think. I have been developing this work in response to field trips with colleagues from Swansea University’s FIRE Lab.

 

 

A Tryout In Colour

26 Jul

chine colle 1

After I had done the first proof of my vinyl block in black ink, I decided to try out some colour. My first experiment was with some simple chine collé using silk fabric papers, using colours I had seen in the stream bed and landscape. Unfortunately we’re in the middle of a heatwave and my stick of UHU glue had gone really gummy and made it difficult to stick the silk paper to the Hosho satisfactorily, so I just did the one proof.

 

chine colle 2

 

My block is based on an original sketch that I made on a field trip with colleagues from the Swansea University FIRE Lab, up in the Brecon Beacons back in May.

Proofing The Stream Bed

25 Jul

 

First proof 1c

A few weeks ago I went on a field trip up into the Brecon Beacons with colleagues from Swansea University’s FIRE Lab and while they studied the environment in culverts, I sketched. I really liked the abstraction of this drawing of a stream bed so I cut it into a block of vinyl and today finally started doing some proof prints down at Swansea Print Workshop.

culvert 4

I used Intaglio Printmakers’ black litho/relief ink and Japanese Hosho paper. It’s very lightweight because I wanted to take the prints by hand, using a Japanese baren rather than the Victorian Columbian press, lovely though it is.

 

I’m pleased with it, I love the level of abstraction, which is really out of my comfort zone. Next I’m going to try to incorporate some colour with chine collé, but that will be for tomorrow.

My Geographic Palette #4 – Graphite

24 Jul

graphite 4

The next one out of my geographic palette is graphite, a slightly greasy, slightly soluble solid black pigment and mineral found in The Lake District near Keswick, which is where I bought some nice chunky sticks of it and a whole load of top-quality graphite pencils. Not far from Keswick, at Seathwaite, is an old graphite mine which has been around since the late 16th century until it was abandoned in the late 19th century because cheaper graphite, although of inferior quality, could be imported, mainly from China.

tracing 5

Historically, this very pure graphite was used to mark sheep, still an important local industry. But it was used mostly for moulds to cast coins and cannonballs; it is said that it made such good cannonballs that it gave the British the edge over the French. When warfare moved on, someone had the bright idea of stuffing a thin wooden tube of wood with graphite and this kickstarted the famous pencil industry in Keswick which still has the Derwent factory and Pencil Museum. It’s a fabulous little gem of a museum, so informative and a great place for graphite geeks to hang out. Graphite pencils are a relatively late invention; back in the day, artists drew with charcoal, red lead, silverpoint and chalk.

 

Using a 6B block of graphite, I drew into my A5 spiral bound Bockingford sketchbook, using both the flat side and pointed tip of the graphite to get different textures. Then I took a watercolour brush dipped in water and rubbed areas of the graphite to create soft washes directly onto the paper. Then, while the paper was still wet, I drew into the damp areas which gave me more lines and textures.

This is based on a sketch I did en plein air on a field trip with colleagues from The FIRE Lab, near the source of the River Tawe. It’s a culvert – I’m falling in love with culverts, who’d have thought it? Please check out the FIRE Lab blog here – it’s a good read.

 

 

My Geographic Palette #3 – Walnut Ink

23 Jul

 

culvert 1a

About 3 or 4 years now some friends gave me a bag of fresh walnuts – that’s walnut fruit – the nut is in the centre of an apple sized green fruit. I made my own walnut ink from them, please click here if you want to see the technique I used.

 

 

Anyway, I used it to work up a painting using ink washes of different intensity based on one of my original sketches of culverts way up in the Brecon Beacons. I was on a field trip with colleagues from The FIRE Lab a few weeks ago and I’m using those sketches to develop a new body of artwork.

The ink looks lovely when it dries out – it rehydrates as well so it doesn’t go to waste.

walnut ink dry

The FIRE Lab has some great blog posts, check out this one about the technology of the Tawe Path walk.

 

 

 

 

My Geographic Palette #2 – Bideford Black

22 Jul

 

Bideford 4

So, day 2 of drawing from my geographic palette. This is Bideford Black, an unique oily carbon-based pigment from North Devon, where is sits in the ground next to anthracite coal. It was mined for about 200 years up until the late 1960s but lost out to cheaper competitors and the mines closed. I was sent some by artists based near the geological seams a while back, in exchange for some of my homemade walnut ink. It’s quite greasy to draw with and a bit crumbly, and when used dry it looks a bit like a dense charcoal on paper.

 

 

I put some bits into a pestle and mortar and crushed it – surprisingly tough – into a fine powder and mixed it with water to experiment into an A5 300gsm Waterford sketchbook. I like the result. It’s a dense black – I watered it down quite a bit – and it flows easily. I based the little drawing on a sketch I’d done a few weeks back while I was out on a field trip near the source of the River Tawe with colleagues from the FIRE Lab team from Swansea University. FIRE Lab has a cool website with some great blogs – here’s one on walking the River Tawe path.

 

 

 

My Geographic Palette #1 – Charcoal

21 Jul

charcoal 2

 

This is my first tryout with my geographic palette, a drawing based on a sketch I did en plein air on a field trip with colleagues from Swansea University’s FIRE Lab a couple of months ago when we went off exploring culverts up in the Brecon Beacons.

 

The charcoal I bought a few years back when I visited John Ruskin’s house, Brantwood, at Coniston Water in the Lake District. At the time they made charcoal from willow grown on the estate, using traditional methods. It’s quite crumbly and benefits from being used with a heavyweight textured paper. I’m using a 300gsm Bockingford here and I’m pleased with the results, lots of tonal variation depending on the pressure I’ve used. It’s only a small drawing, I’m using an A5 size sketchbook, spiral bound from Pink Pig in Barnsley, and I’m abstracting away from the original which is starting to excite me.

 

 

 

 

%d bloggers like this: