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Mad Mari: The First Proof

16 Sep

first proof

In the last half hour or so of Andrew Baldwin’s weekend etching workshop at Trefeglwys Print Studio, I did a first proof print (on the left) of my coffee lift / spit bite aluminium etching plate, using Charbonnel black ink onto soaked Hahnemulle paper. I’m really pleased with it. It’s completely different to the faux mezzotint Mari Lwyd that I did on the first day (below). Same subject but a completely different interpretation. I like them both.

double drop 1

 

 

Spit And Splatter

15 Sep

mad mari 1

Carrying on with the coffee lift plate I worked on at Trefeglwys Print Studio last weekend, after washing the coffee off the plate, leaving the black B.I.G. etching ground masking most of the aluminium, I dipped it in copper sulphate solution for quite some time to etch the exposed areas really deep so they’ll give a good strong black when printed. Then when I was happy with the amount etched, the B.I.G. ground was cleaned off with non-toxic paint stripper.

 

mad mari 2

Then I started to etch the rest of the plate using a spit bite technique, brushing and splashing and splattering copper sulphate solution onto the aluminium. You have to keep rinsing the plate because the copper sulphate leaves a dark ‘rust’ on the plate as it etches and this will eventually build up and stop the etching process. You can see it above – the darker areas to the left of the Mari Lwyd’s face. After the very precise and tight process of the mezzotint plate I also did at the workshop, I wanted to be much freer and looser with this one.

Tomorrow …. finishing the spit bite etch and printing the plate …..

And here’s one of Andrew Baldwin’s videos demonstrating coffee lift and spit bite

 

Mad Mari

14 Sep

mad mari 1

So as well as working on a copper mezzotint plate at Andrew Baldwin’s weekend course at Trefeglwys Studios last weekend, there was also time to prepare an aluminium plate with coffee lift and spit bite. I used another of my drawings of the traditional Welsh Mari Lwyd from one of my sketchbooks. The Mari Lwyd is weird looking at the best of times but in this drawing she looks proper mad. The first stage is to degrease the aluminium plate (soy sauce and whiting powder) and then draw onto it with instant coffee. I used brushes and a large-ish nib pen and a bit of splatter. Then once the coffee was dry, I coated it with Andrew’s B.I.G. etching ground and baked it in the oven for 4 minutes to set it. Then it was washed in cold water to lift off the coffee, leaving the design showing through the black ground (above).

More teccie stuff tomorrow ……

The Mari Lwyd (Grey Mare) is an ancient Welsh tradition rooted in the celebration of the Celtic horse goddess, Epona, and appears around the New Year, always accompanied by a band of revellers who often travel from pub to pub. The tradition was almost wiped out by Christianity and just a few Maris were left in Wales by the mid-20th century, but there has been a strong revival in recent years. The Mari Lwyd is a life-sized puppet based on a real horse skull and is therefore very heavy. The Mari’s skull is usually decorated with flowers, ribbons and bells and the eye sockets are often filled as well, giving a sinister appearance. She wears a white shroud to hide the puppeteer underneath, who operates a contraption that snaps the skull’s mouth open and closed.

 

Mari 1

Mari Abertawe (the Swansea Mari Lwyd) celebrating the New Year in a local hostelry with her companions

 

Real horse skulls are quite hard to come by these days, but there are card flatpack ones available – see here.

 

 

The Final Proof

12 Sep

final proof

I worked on my Mari Lwyd mezzotint plate again, after doing the first state print on the second morning of the weekend course I did at Trefeglwys Print Studio. I needed to burnish the highlights a lot more and lighten the Mari’s feet. Then onto another proof print which turned out to be the final proof because I’m very happy with the quality of the image and I don’t think I need to do any more plate work. I used Charbonnel black etching ink onto soaked Hannemuhle paper.

 

Daisy Dawg

25 Aug

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Greetings apes. Sparta Puss here. The she-monkey that I share my house with has been cheating on me with a dog called Daisy. A DOG! They’re as smelly as apes and even more stupid.

 

 

The Laughing Squirrel

24 Aug

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Hello Bald Apes. Sparta Puss here. Those lazy trained monkeys of mine have left the pooter box alone AGAIN. They’re too busy watching the noisybox in the corner with stuff running around inside it. Sometimes there are squirrels inside the noisybox. I like that, but by the time I get around to taking a swipe at them, they’re gone. I look behind the noisybox for them, but they’re never there. I don’t know how they do it but the she-monkey said that squirrels are meant to be very intelligent. The man-ape disagrees. He got bit by a squirrel once and he hates them. She-monkey says it was his own fault. He offered a peanut to a squirrel and didn’t throw it on the floor, he kept hold of it and the stroppy squirrel bit his finger and he dropped the peanut and the squirrel grabbed the nut (it was a monkey nut coincidentally) and ran off. He said it was laughing and punching the air. I’m not sure that I believe him. He’s an idiot.

 

A Slice Of Time

14 Jun

woollies pigeons

This screenprint represents a very specific slice of time. Some years ago, there was a Woolworths store opposite the Waterstones bookshop in Swansea. I used to sit in the window of the bookshop cafe up on the first floor, with a pot of tea, and scribble the pigeons that sat on the Woolworths signage opposite. It was large and red and stood out from the wall, giving the pigeons enough space to sit and groom themselves comfortably. It was also lit up day and night, which gave them warmth.

I found the pigeons hard to draw because they constantly fidget so I had to develop a quick impressionistic style to capture them. I wrote down my thoughts and combined them with some of the drawings to create the photographic silkscreen.

 

 

May Day, Beltane And The Horse

1 May

mono 11 chine

It’s May Day, Beltane, and in some parts of Britain the Hobby Horse, or ‘Obby ‘Oss, is part of the festivities marking the beginning of Springtime fertility. There is a long tradition, predating Christianity, of celebrations involving horses, possibly linked to the ancient Celtic horse goddess, Epona. Here in Wales we have the Mari Lwyd, or Grey Mare, although this is a New Year tradition. Here’s a monotype from sketches of the Ystrad Mari I did earlier this year.

A Very Quick Dead Horse

16 Jan

mari siglo

Here’s the last drawing I did of the Ystradgynlais Mari Lwyd when it appeared at Gellionen Unitarian chapel a couple of weeks ago. I did it in a few seconds so I had to just get down the fundamental details of what I was looking at. I used mostly white conté crayon, a stub on its side, with a couple of very quick details in sanguine and black. Speedy drawings are good for getting down proportions and spacing, I find.

mari siglo 2

 

Mari Lwyd is the ancient Welsh tradition linking back to the ancient Celtic / Gaulish goddess Epona and the Welsh mythological horse goddess and Queen of the Underworld Rhiannon from the Mabinogion. The New Year is welcomed by parading a life size puppet constructed around the skull of a horse along with a group of characters who each have a role to play in the celebrations.  There are links to a similar traditions in the UK, the Laare Vane (White Mare) on the Isle of Man and the Hobby Horse in parts of England. The tradition had almost died out by the mid 20th century after decades of opposition from Christian ministers across Wales, but it is now undergoing an enthusiastic revival.

Face To Face With A Dead Horse

13 Jan

ystrad mari 1

 

Husb and I are spending a few days in The Lake District with family and I have taken a break from drawing.  It’s great scenery around here but I’m not much of a landscape person to be honest, I’d rather draw cityscapes.  I did a lot of drawings last weekend at Gellionen Chapel’s Mari Lwyd event, here’s a close up of the Mari’s head. Quite gruesome I suppose if you’re not used to the tradition,  but the Mari Lwyd is really funny in ‘person’.

ystrad mari 2

 

 

 

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