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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

SONY DSC

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.

Surrealists In The Bathroom

13 Apr

mylar

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 ……

A Happy Accident

11 Apr

accidental

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

yellow 3

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.

The Tyranny Of The Border

7 Apr

borderless

Carrying on with pushing myself out of my comfort zone, I took hold of the squares of vinyl I have been carving at random and started hacking away at the edges. I suppose like so many people I’ve been conditioned to think of two-dimensional art as something sitting neatly within a clearly defined square or rectangular border. I think this is particularly pronounced in printmaking, where metal plates and wood, lino, vinyl blocks come ready cut with nice straight edges. The tyranny of the border. So I took a hefty pair of scissors to them. It was a very uncomfortable feeling, it seemed unnatural to destroy those neat borders and also to do it at random, letting the cuts be guided by the way the scissors pulled against the vinyl, rather than directing the cuts according to some predetermined design, in the spirit of the 20th century Surrealist artists who deliberately tried to generate imagery through accident.

More Cuts

5 Apr

lino 6

I carried on cutting small blocks of vinyl at random, playing around with different tools (Flexcut). I’ve been having a bit of a creative block so I’ve taken a leaf out of The Surrealists book and set an exercise for myself to get a bit more random. The Surrealists had a number of strategies to get their artistic juices flowing.

 

I really messed around with the way I used the cutting tools, getting away from trying to do neat, precise lines and seeing what happens when I twist and turn the tools while I’m moving them across the vinyl. I’m not going to print them just yet, because I’ve thought of another way I can make them even more random …….

Just Cut

4 Apr

lino 1

I’ve hit a creative block and it’s been hard to get the motivation or ideas for new artwork. So today I decided to just grab a handful of printmaker’s vinyl, my lino cutting tools and cut at random. No design or preconceptions, just stab away at the vinyl and see how it goes.

lino 2

The first two or three were quite controlled, I couldn’t free myself up as much as I wanted with the smaller tools so I switched to a big, flat cutter that I rarely use and hacked away. That did the trick, it was quite satisfying feeling the tool slicing through the surface of the vinyl, a physical rather than a cerebral sensation.

Recycle, Reuse

1 Apr

cyanotype

I have some very big drawers for storing art and materials and I was rummaging through them earlier and found a load of papers that had been shoved to the back because I wasn’t happy with the work I’d done on them. So I pulled them out to have a think about how I can reuse them. This was a cyanotype experiment that hadn’t worked out and I already tried to recycle it by doing a life drawing on top, but I didn’t like that either. So now I’m going to try again – third time lucky? I don’t know what I’ll do yet, maybe I’ll have a digital play with it before deciding. It’s looming out at me quite darkly ………..

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