Tag Archives: River Tawe

Birds And Bugs

28 Sep

bird 3

 

I spent yesterday drawing at Swansea Museum with a group of artists led by Edinburgh-based artist Kelly Stewart. It was arranged by Swansea Print Workshop who worked with staff from the Museum stores to select antique taxidermy specimens from their collection – a range of birds and bugs. I drew herons, a hawk, cockchafers and beetles.

 

 

I used different papers – Khadi hand-made, Winsor & Newton watercolour, Daler Rowney cartridge – and drawing materials – conté crayons, carbon and my home-made walnut ink.

 

bugs 1

 

Today our group moved to the print workshop to do a two-day screenprint session with Kelly. I took my bugs and birds and the Gelli plate monotypes I did recently and developed the drawings into designs, made them into transparencies and then onto photosensitised silkscreens ready for printing tomorrow. That’s a lot of work done and a lot more to come……..

 

I’m currently artist-in-residence at the FIRE Laboratory in Swansea University, a scientific research project examining the ecology of the River Tawe. If you want to find out more about local freshwater fauna, check this out ….

Rubbish

27 Sep

mono 2

 

I’ve just done a dozen or so monotypes using rubbish. I recently became the artist in residence with the FIRE Lab at Swansea University and I’ve been going out on field trips with the science team along the River Tawe, looking at its ecosystem, which includes noting the rubbish. We used some rubbish we found to make cyanotypes a few weeks ago and I really liked the result, so I decided to try out a different printmaking technique with rubbish and Gelli plates.

 

mono 3

 

I started by inking a Gelli plate with a thin layer of Process Yellow Safewash ink from Caligo Cranfield and stretched a net fruit bag over it. Then I put a piece of Hosho Japanese lightweight paper on top and pressed it with my hands, to lift the ink. I repeated the process with another dozen sheets, putting different pieces of rubbish onto the Gelli plates, including ripped newspaper and old bubblewrap.

 

mono 4

Then I cleaned the equipment (in hot soapy water – so easy) and inked up in Process Red, using fresh pieces of rubbish placed at random on the Gelli plate. I put the yellow-printed papers face down and rubbed so the monotypes became yellow, red and orange.

 

mono 5

 

Finally, after cleaning everything, I repeated the whole thing with Process Blue.

 

mono 6

 

I think the rubbish looks pretty good ……

 

mono 1

…… I have plans for these ……..

Scientific Stars Of Wales

19 Sep

Ser Cymru

 

I spent a day in Cardiff with colleagues from the FIRE Lab. We had a stand at the Sêr Cymru celebration, all about the scientific research projects in universities across Wales funded by the Sêr Cymru research and development programme. It was fascinating to hear about how much high level technological research is going on in this little country of ours. As the team’s artist-in-residence, I did a printmaking demo on our stall, using a vinyl block I had cut based on a drawing I did of a stream bed up in the Brecon Beacons a couple of months ago when I was on a field trip.

 

Old School OHP

16 Sep

acetates 1

 

I’ve been posting about the field trips I went on recently with colleagues from Swansea University’s FIRE Lab, walking the path of the River Tawe and making cyanotypes along the way. Mostly we made photograms – photographic prints made directly from found objects placed on the paper. But we also took some time out to draw onto Over Head Projector (OHP) acetates with various drawing materials to make transparencies to expose back at Swansea Print Workshop‘s Ultraviolet Unit. Younger readers might not know what an Overhead Projector is. It’s proper old school. These days we’d use a Powerpoint presentation, a laptop and a projector. Back in the day, we drew or printed our material onto an OHP acetate and it was projected onto a screen from an Over Head Projector.

The picture shows the transparencies on the UV Unit, ready to be exposed.

 

 

 

While I’m Away …..

11 Sep

sketch 4

 

Here’s a couple of ‘blind contour’ sketches I did recently on a field trip to Craig-y-Nos with colleagues from the FIRE Lab. I did the sketches without looking at the paper and without taking my conté crayon off the paper. Forces me to focus on what’s absolutely essential and gives the linework a lot of life and dynamism.

 

The FIRE Laboratory

I am currently artist in residence with The Fire Laboratory  at Swansea University and have been going on field trips with scientific colleagues along the course of The River Tawe.

While I’m Away….

10 Sep

sketch 3

 

Another of my quick sketches from my field trip with FIRE Lab colleagues a couple of weeks ago. I like doing these very quick sketchbook studies, they’re dynamic because I have to work so fast.

 

The FIRE Laboratory

I am currently artist in residence with The Fire Laboratory  at Swansea University and have been going on field trips with scientific colleagues along the course of The River Tawe.

Studying Shrimp

8 Sep

sketch 2

 

Alongside making cyanotypes with my colleagues on a recent field trip, I also did some drawings. Here’s one at Craig-y-Nos in conté crayons – black, white and sanguine into an A4 sketchbook made from brown parcel paper. It took about 3 minutes and I did it mostly without looking at the paper. It forced me to focus on the essentials in the drawing. Steph and Joelle are looking at shrimp in the River Tawe.

 

The FIRE Laboratory

I am currently artist in residence with The Fire Laboratory  at Swansea University and have been going on field trips with scientific colleagues along the course of The River Tawe.

A Roundup Of The Blue Field Trip

6 Sep

Out In The Field

Last week I went on a couple of FIRE Lab field trips with colleagues Steph and Joelle to walk the River Tawe Path, making cyanotypes, or blueprints, along the way. I’d prepared Bockingford paper with a solution of two chemicals, Ammonium ferric citrate and Potassium ferricyanide, in a darkroom and took them with me in a light-proof bag to prevent fogging. On the first day we exposed objects against the paper in brilliant sunshine for 10 minutes but on the overcast and rainy day 2, I upped the exposure time to 20 minutes.

 

 

Historic Process

Cyanotype was one of the earliest forms of photography, invented by Sir John Herschel the Astronomer Royal in 1842. It was quickly adopted by botanists;  Anna Atkins used it to record botanical specimens and produced the first photographic book in 1843 using cyanotype. Before long it was superseded by other more reliable forms of photography but was still used to produce blueprints for engineers. Nowadays it’s very popular in fine art printmaking and alternative photography. The exposed papers are developed simply in cold water with a dash of vinegar, keeping the water flowing for the first five minutes or so.

 

 

Using What’s There

We used plants alongside the riverbank, rubbish found along the path, and gravel from the water’s edge to construct our compositions, mostly holding the objects in place with sheets of glass or larger stones. Some of the digital photographs of the compositions in situ are as lovely as the finished prints.

 

 

SciArt

I’ve always acknowledged the close links between science, technology and art and since I’ve been artist in residence with the FIRE Lab team I’ve been able to put this into practice in a structured way. This collaboration between science, art and design in FIRE Lab is part of the growing SciArt movement that started about half a century ago, back in the 1960’s, when some engineers and artists in the USA got together and started working on interdisciplinary projects that became known as SciArt. Then it all sort of fizzled out …

Fast forward a quarter century to the UK in the mid ‘90s and SciArt resurfaced with the Wellcome Trust, which funded a decade of research projects to see what happened when medical scientists and artists work together. It was good! Since then, there have been more and more scientific research projects across British universities that include an artist as part of the team.

 

 

Seasonal Visits

As well as producing some interesting works of art, the cyanotypes are also useful for recording the rubbish we found polluting the river and the land around it in a way that is more evocative than a photograph and which might resonate with people because they’re such lovely images. We’ll be walking the Tawe every season for the next couple of years, trying out different art techniques each time. On the first field trip in May 2019 we did ‘walk and draw’ and then cyanotype at the end of August. Next season we’ll be into early Winter so we’re going to do some land art  …… watch this space ….

I Drew As Well

5 Sep

sketch 1

 

I’ve been posting pictures of the cyanotypes that I and other colleagues from Swansea University’s FIRE Lab team did during two field trips along the banks of the River Tawe recently. But I also did some drawings as well. Here’s one at Craig-y-Nos in conté crayons – black, white and sanguine into an A4 sketchbook made from brown parcel paper. It took about 5 minutes.

 

The FIRE Lab

I am currently artist in residence with The Fire Lab at Swansea University and have been going on field trips with scientific colleagues along the course of The River Tawe. This cyanotype experiment is our latest field trip.

Rubbish Into Art

4 Sep

develop 5

 

Here’s another cyanotype print done en plein air at Craig-y-Nos last week, on a field trip with colleagues from Swansea University’s FIRE Lab. My colleague, Steph, picked up a discarded fishing net from the river and arranged it on the photosensitised paper with some fallen leaves and stones picked up from the banks of the River Tawe. It was around midday but heavily overcast so I guesstimated a 20 minute exposure time, which has worked well. It’s a shame that thoughtless people dumped their rubbish into the river, but it’s been recycled into art and the fishing net was disposed of responsibly.

 

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