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Ripped From The Darkness

20 Apr

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Our local art gallery, The Glynn Vivian, is showing a fabulous exhibition of drawings and prints by the formidable German artist Käthe Kollwitz. I have admired her work and life for so many years, I’m beside myself to see this exhibition so close to home. I like to study artists I admire and copy from the great mistresses and masters. This is a digital study I made today from her woodcut “The Widow” from the early 1920s. She is very sparing with the cutting tool, there are surprisingly few cuts which I think increases its impact, the sense that the image has been ripped from the surrounding darkness.  I didn’t finish it, there’s another hand in the original. I can never resist a good book and I bought the exhibition book as a birthday present to myself, it’s “Portrait Of The Artist: Käthe Kollwitz” by Frances Carey and Max Egremont, published by The British Museum and IKON.

I drew this with a, now ancient, Samsung Galaxy Note 8 tablet using a free app called Markers. I laid a black ground down and drew with white lines.

Talk Turned Geeky

17 Apr

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Husb and I had a teatime visit from friends today and, as one of them is a fellow printmaker, the talk turned geeky. She noticed a number of my blockprinted portrait heads on the wall and we chatted about materials and techniques. Instead of the traditional lino or wood, or even modern vinyl, I used signwriters PVC foam sheet called Foamex. Lots of signwriters around here use it and chuck away the offcuts so it’s easy to get hold of them for free and recycle it.

flotex head

It’s not easy to cut with conventional tools, it works better if you incise the surface. I used screwdrivers, chisels, ballpoint pen and a four-inch screw which I used to incise lines against a steel rule. Then I cut around the edge with a junior hacksaw and printed it up with black litho/relief oil-based ink onto Zercoll 145gsm paper using the Colombian Press at Swansea Print Workshop.

If you want to see more of these portrait heads, which I based on drawings I made during my first visit to Pakistan, please click here.

The Same Thing Every Year!

15 Apr

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It’s the same every year on our allotment (community garden). Husb and I resolve to do the correct thing and work on it for an hour, then two, then three and so on, building up the muscles that have atrophied over the deluge that passes for the British winter. Unfortunately, the deluge keeps on happening in this little corner of Wales and so whenever there’s a rare glimmer of sunshine, we rush down to the allotment and work for as long and as hard as we can to keep on top of the couch grass and weeds that thrive in our temperate wet climate. Yesterday was one of those days. We went down in the morning to do a “couple of hours” but ended up working through nearly seven hours of hard labour. It felt great at the time but today….!!!! I’d be on my knees if I could bend down, which I can’t.

Welfare poster

This afternoon was the launch of a group exhibition that I have some work in, at The Welfare in Ystradgynlais. Here I am with “Herstory”, the collaborative piece I did for International Women’s Day with graffiti artist Unity. I think I’m making a good job of disguising the fact that every muscle in my body (so it seems) has seized up! Oh, and it poured with rain. Again.

The Difference Of Materials

14 Apr

 

The difference of materials. I was engrossed in drawing at Galerie Simpson on Swansea’s High Street a couple of days ago. I’d taken a few sheets of very different papers and lots of drawing materials and I settled down to draw a fascinating clay sculpture by Tomos Sparnon which is in the current exhibition.

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The first drawing I did in white, sanguine and black conté crayons onto a piece of smooth heavyweight cartridge paper that I had prepared with a coat of white acrylic gesso and then when it was dry I sponged it all over with my sepia home-made walnut ink. After drawing in conté crayons, I filled the area around the drawing with a square ended brush dipped in the walnut ink. I love the way the ink flows over gessoed paper and how it holds the brushstrokes. It’s a delicious ink to use, like liquid silk.

 

Then I moved my chair to take in a different angle and drew, again with the white, sanguine and black conté crayons onto a sheet of heavily textured grey Khadi paper. The result is completely different. I know I’m stating the blatantly obvious, but I was surprised at the extent of the differences. You can just see Tomos’ sculpture in the background.

 

Surrealists In The Bathroom

13 Apr

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I was doing some experimental lino cuts earlier in the week, trying to push myself out of my comfort zone, printing hacked-up vinyl blocks randomly onto ripped paper. At the end of each session I had a bit of ink left over. Well, waste not, want not, I had a sheet of translucent Mylar film knocking around so I used up the remaining ink on it. I didn’t know what to expect when I started this, I had no plans at all. I was hoping that I would get something like the Surrealists used to get from their experimental creative exercises. But it’s starting to look like the 1950’s bathroom wallpaper that my Aunty used to have. Hmmmm ……

Man Engine

12 Apr

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Back last week I was rummaging through the drawers in my plans chest and pulled out some used paper that I thought could be reused and today I got my chance. Swansea hosted Man Engine , the largest mechanical puppet ever constructed in Britain, which has been journeying up from Cornwall. It’s amazing. I was invited to take part in a live drawing event (with afternoon tea) at Galerie Simpson on Swansea’s High Street to coincide with the behemoth’s progress through the city. It’s very slow moving so I managed to sketch the giant head outside the gallery on the pavement as it rumbled by. I drew with black, white and sanguine conté crayon and some of my home-made sepia walnut ink onto a recycled cyanotype print on Bockingford paper. If you want to know how to make walnut ink, please check out my blog post here.

Art And Cake In Ystradgynlais

12 Apr

Welfare poster

Opening Sunday April 15th and running through to May 25th, the recent group show for International Women’s Day has transferred from Swansea to Ystradgynlais. The Welfare, famous for its links with the artist Josef Herman, is showing this eclectic mix of around 30 Swansea-based women artists and designers. I’m exhibiting ‘Herstory’, the large canvas piece I made in collaboration with the street artist Unity.

A Happy Accident

11 Apr

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I’ve been doing some experimental printmaking onto some donated vintage paper the past few days and when I was cleaning up after the first day, where I used yellow ink, I rolled my roller onto a large piece of paper to get the excess ink off. The next day, when I used red ink, I used the same paper to dab off some bubble wrap that had red ink on it. I liked it. So when it was time to clean the roller, I ripped a few strips of newspaper and put them onto the paper before I rolled the roller onto it. I really like it. I get my roller clean enough to wash AND I have some nice paper to work on. A happy accident.

 

Nooks And Crannies

10 Apr

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This morning I carried on with my detour into randomness, overprinting yesterday’s yellow lino cuts with red (Caligo Easy Wipe in Process Magenta mixed 70:30 with Extender).

Because I had a moment of madness and ripped the paper with my bare hands instead of using a nice steel straight edge it was a bit awkward to take the prints with a Japanese baren, especially around the rough edges, so I used a smooth marble egg to get into the nooks and crannies.

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I saw marble eggs and spheres being used for hand printing when I did a residency in Pakistan a few years back, where there is a traditional marble carving industry. It works really well for small areas. The eggs are quite expensive so I’ve gotten into the habit of buying them from charity shops and car boot sales.

 

Random Ripping

9 Apr

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So, carrying on with my experiment to loosen up and make my approach to art more random and less controlled. I have gone through a process of cutting vinyl blocks randomly, with a selection of tools, then I hacked away at the edges to get rid of the square boundaries. So the next stage is to print them up. I was lucky to have been given some vintage printmaking papers by a friend who was clearing out his late father’s studio. It isn’t watermarked so I don’t know what it is, but it’s a nice off-white, very warm colour and I estimate about 150 gsm or thereabouts.

To keep the randomness going, I gritted my teeth and ripped the paper without measuring it out and using a nice straight edge. It was a horrible experience! It felt like vandalism! I decided to go with a translucent oil-based litho / relief ink (Caligo Safewash), in Process Yellow, mixed 60:40 with Extender.

I inked up the blocks with my best roller and then took the print using a traditional Japanese bamboo baren. The ink was nice and loose because of the amount of Extender I added and the paper thin enough to pick up the ink without needing a heavy press.

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And here’s the first print. I’ll be overlaying this with more colours in the next couple of days to push the randomness as far as I can.

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