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My Geographic Palette #5 – Australian Ochre

17 Aug

ochre 9

This Australian Ochre is the fifth pigment I’m trying out from my geographic palette – plants and minerals from different places that I’m converting into paint and/or ink. I’m using them to develop work that I’m doing with Swansea University’s FIRE Lab project, which brings together science and the arts to do research and engagement along Swansea’s River Tawe. The ochre is in the little bag at the bottom of the picture.
equipment

 

I was very moved to be gifted this Australian ochre which was collected by Aunty Anna Duncan, a Gomeroi/Kamilaroi artist. She gave the ochre to researcher Emily O’Gorman to bring to Swansea and collected it from a dry river bed near Terri Hei Hei (part of her Country) in north-western New South Wales, a special area that includes very old grinding grooves near a long-dry creek, a birthing tree, some grave sites, and a colonial-Aboriginal mission. Aunty Anna collected the ochre in the traditional way to ensure that it is spiritually safe. I am honoured to receive it and excited to use it.

 

I put a couple of the smaller fragments into a small pestle and mortar (bought in Pakistan and marble I think) and crushed them – they are much harder than I was expecting and there was a lot of grit in the powder at the end which I think was the marble not the ochre!!!

 

 

I looked up some tips for how to turn it into paint – traditionally it is ground up and mixed with spittle or blood, but I decided to adapt a recipe for printing ink from Shannon Yost and added some gin and water to the powder, mixing it well. Then I mixed in a dob of Japanese Nori paste, which is made from seaweed. Finally, I put some of the rather stiff mixture into a small pot and added more water to make it thin enough to use with a brush.

 

ochre 7

I did a quick brushwork sketch based on some sketchbook drawings inspired by culverts I had visited in the Brecon Beacons a few weeks ago with colleagues in the FIRE Lab team. It worked beautifully – the pigment is thin enough to flow but thick enough to hold the brushstrokes and give a wide variation of density and colour. Well chuffed. I used a Langdon watercolour paper, 300 gsm and quite heavily textured.

 

Here’s a link to one of the FIRE Lab blogs – this is about a regular Twitter game about Dams.

 

Squirting Blobs

13 Aug

 

paintbox crop

I recently made myself a tiny watercolour paintbox, using an old tin that originally had a dried up stamping ink pad in it. I filled one side with DAS airdry clay and pushed 6 semi-circular depressions into it with the round end of a menthol inhaler. And let it dry – it took about a week. Then I gave it a couple of coats of white acrylic paint to seal it. Once it was dry, I squirted a blob of good quality liquid watercolour from tubes into the little holes – Lemon Yellow, Vermilion, Crimson, Pthalo Blue, Purple and Green. Then I let them dry out before taking it out into the field.

Maggie's Garden

It works pretty well. The paints get wet, dry out, get wet again with no impact upon their quality. Here’s one I did earlier in the summer using ballpoint pen with the watercolours.

 

 

 

In The Graft Garden

12 Aug

Graft 2

Here’s another quick sketch in ballpoint pen and watercolour from the summer supper event at Swansea’s Graft garden yesterday evening. It’s been developed in the grounds of the National Waterfront Museum, started by artist Owen Griffiths as part of last year’s “Nawr Yr Arwr” art festival. Pop in and have a look. The museum is great anyway and the Graft garden has loads of food plants, wild flowers, bees and a cob oven … and other stuff too.

 

The Beekeepers

11 Aug

graft 1

Husb and I spend a good evening at the Graft garden at Swansea’s National Waterfront Museum. It was Graft’s summer supper event, with food grown in the garden and cooked in the new cob oven. There was a very interesting honey extraction demo from local beekeepers Alyson and Chelsea. And a little boy put on a bee suit to help out – I scribbled him …

graft 1

 

 

 

The Last Heads

8 Aug

 

folk club 6

And here are the last two heads that I drew at the Riverside Folk Club in Loughor last week. It’s right by, well, the river side.

Gigs are a good opportunity for drawing as people are usually engrossed in what’s going on and keep reasonably still. Unless it’s a heavy metal gig. I’m usually too busy headbanging to draw then.

 

folk club 4

 

 

A Nice Bit Of Perspective

7 Aug

folk club 5.jpg

Scribbling away at Loughor folk club the other evening, I saw this interesting arrangement of a hand in the foreground and a head in the back ground. Nice bit of perspective, I thought. So I scribbled it…..

Faces At The Folk Club

6 Aug

folk club 3

Some more scribbles from the Loughor Folk Club the other evening. Loughor is an interesting little fishing village on the estuary of the River Loughor / Afan Llwchwr.

Folk club 2

 

 

The Labyrinth

4 Aug

labyrinth

Today, Husb and I went to help with the annual maintenance at the labyrinth in Rosehill Quarry, installed back in 1987 by Bob Shaw and Dewi Bowen. It’s based on an ancient Cretan design and is cut into the grass, the incised path filled with crushed cockle shells that are a by-product of the local seafood industry. It’s an important place for Husb and me because this is where we met back in the 1980’s. Britain was in the middle of a recession, there was mass unemployment, especially affecting young people and graduates. Husb and I were both out of work and ended up involved in a job creation programme that paid unemployed people to work part-time on community projects.

Local residents had started a group to reclaim this amazing inner-city wild space and turn it into one of the first urban wildlife refuges in the country. The Cretan labyrinth is a lasting legacy of their vision and foresight and a subsequent generation of residents have been active in keeping Rosehill Quarry maintained and open for all to enjoy.
labyrinth 1

Here I am a while back sketching the labyrinth in chalk, charcoal and soft pastels.

 

 

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.

 

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.

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