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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.

 

OOOH….

16 Aug

equipment

What am I going to do with this little lot then? Something to do with my geographic palette …….

 

 

 

Heavy Metal

15 Aug

metal

I spent a happy afternoon at Swansea Print Workshop, starting to prepare for a new series of printmaking for my artist residency at The FIRE Lab. I’m planning a mixed bag of techniques based on my drawings en plein air of Victorian culverts. I rummaged around in the drawers of my plans chest to find some metal plates and came up with three copper (one partially used) and an aluminium. So my next stage is to prepare them for use. I’ll use Andrew Baldwin’s Sandpaper Aquatint technique for the copper and then a coffee resist combined with spit-bite for the aluminium.

Here’s a short video of Andrew demonstrating how to do Spit Bite.

And here’s one about the Sandpaper Aquatint

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.

 

 

 

 

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