Collagraphs from slide transparency

One of the aspects of my practice over the last few months has been printmaking experimenting with etching and aquatint which has been challenging. I haven't felt at ease with the process. Now I have discovered collagraphs and I love the process!

I am using one of my family slide transparencies as a starting point. 


I created a collagraph plate using mounting card as the base to create the image. I printed first in relief and then intaglio on somerset paper (below)

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onto acid free tissue

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then tracing paper

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and finally onion skin paper - I really loved the onion skin as it has a slight sheen and is semi transparent giving it an aged look - but impossible to photograph or scan! The prints on somerset paper will be framed and entered for an exhibition at the Limekiln Gallery in Calstock next February.

My practice is concerned with the fragility of memory and the passing of time so my images are sometimes blurred, sometimes out of focus, sometimes with an unreal clarity - they are memories that have a uncertain relationship with reality. The materials I use are also fragile or translucent - decay, disintegration and discoloration also play an important part as does failure!

Last week we had a group crit - I took 20 slide transparencies and showed them on an old slide projector along with the collagraphs - the feedback was positive - particularly the clicking of the projector which evokes certain memories depending on your age of course! Those endless hours of watching friend and family holiday slides!


New blog

I have set up a new blog on Artists Newsletter which is specifically for students in the final year of their degree - or in my case 2 years as I am part time!
I haven't found out how to link it to this blog yet but am working on it you can find me here if you would like to follow my degree year journey!


I will continue to blog here on wider issues! Like the Anselm Kiefer exhibition at the Baltic in Newcastle - if you are in the North of the country then I recommend a visit - here is a taster image

Anselm Kiefer. Man under a Pyramid ,1996
© Tate, London 2010
Emulsion, acrylic, shellac and ash on burlap
2810 x 5020 x 50 mm
Tate and National Galleries of Scotland. Acquired jointly through The d'Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008

I do hope you will visit my other blog and leave me your thoughts, comments


Back to Uni

After a year of traveling and settling myself down in Devon I am back on my part time Fine Art degree course - I have transferred from Leeds College of Art and Design to Plymouth University and today was the first induction day and welcome! I am impressed with the library and resources available to students - it's huge compared to where I was before and will take a while to find my way around! I can't wait to start the course next week although the thesis is a bit daunting and will certainly be challenging! I have 2 years more to complete the degree equivalent to the 3rd and final year of a full time course.

Last year before taking a year off I was working with a family archive of transparences and using projection - I am keen to see if I can deepen this process - work with them in a different way - these are a couple of the images which were projected in a pair (side by side). The transparences were quite damaged but this was exactly what made them so exciting for me - memories of deceased family (this is my mother who died 30 years ago) are often fragmented and faded!

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I'll be using this blog now as a way of exploring my practice over the next couple of years - using it as a kind of sketchbook/journal of the work I am doing for my degree although I will also be using a tactile sketchbook too!


Drawn to the valley - artist's open studios

The last few days I have been visiting artists studios - 'Drawn to the valley' is an artist led collective of around 100 members who all live and work in the Tamar Valley, designated 'an area of outstanding natural beauty' - it's a great way to meet other artists and also get to know the area I've recently moved to better! I love visiting artist's homes and studios too! The river Tamar runs through the valley and divides Devon and Cornwall, from Launceston in the north down to the sea at Plymouth - so the artists are working in border lands - on the edge of 2 very different counties!

I started off on Friday evening by going along to a Private View at the Tamar Valley Centre in Gunnislake - the 4 artists exhibiting belong to the printmaking studio I have been attending during the last few months and Mary Gillett, the tutor was one of the exhibitors. It was so lovely to know people and to chat over a glass of wine- something I have missed being new to the area!! It was a great space and all the work was of high quality.

On Saturday I visited 4 artists based in Millbrook on the Rame Peninsula - I particularly liked the ceramics of Jill Holland and the work of Helen Round a painter and printmaker.

it was a beautiful sunny day and I took the Cremyl ferry and walked a circular route of around 8 miles stopping for a coffee at my favorite cafe The Honey Room at Widdicombe's In Millbrook and then lunch on this hilltop - overlooking the twin villages of Cawsand and Kingsand


what a view!

I love visiting this area - it's not far, as the crow flys, from where I am at the moment but it requires a ferry ride or a longish drive around the estuary - Millbrook is where I would like to live when I get around to buying a property next year. I am renting at the moment to give me a chance to find the ' ideal spot' - then of course I need the ideal house at the ideal price to appear! this is where I need to TRUST! so watch this space and see if I find my dream home!

I returned to Plymouth on the Cawsand ferry and finally a bus arriving home tired, inspired and happy and ready for my supper!


Weaving webs.....

Last week after several days rain I was rambling up on Dartmoor with my camera and found hundreds of webs strung across the gorse bushes - glistening with dew jewels!


Some were as large as 18 inches wide and how far the nest penetrated into the gorse I could only guess - the spider just disappeared down the tunnel at high speed when the camera came out!


I was fascinated both by the beauty and the strength of the structures - some of these dewdrops were quite large!




I am still getting to know my new camera (Canon G11) so these were taken on auto - once I get to grip with where all the manual controls are I will be experimenting - meantime I am very happy with the image quality!


'we are all acorns'

I want to say a big thank you to Cathy Cullis - I won her print giveaway 'we are all acorns' - my name was pulled out of the hat and this is the lovely surprise I received in the post a few days ago.
I am going to get it framed and it will hang in my studio with the collage I won last year in Leslie Avon Miller's (aka Textures, shapes, colour) giveaway - aren't I lucky!



A beautiful film about the importance of authenticity and never giving up on your passion



Time flies, days wing past
moments wet, sodden, closed
swing, change, pass by
white clouds sail, green breeze, sunlight


Mono printing FUN!

I was intrigued by the mono printing process which I previously remember as finger and hand printing as a child - oh to be a child again! And why not I thought and Cathy Cullis whose work I admire just gave me the excuse (why do I need an excuse?) the other day when I read her wonderful post on how she creates her mono prints - Cathy really has found her inner child - thank you Cathy - here are some of my first attempts - I had much too much ink on the plate of course and it turned out quite a spotchy mess - yes there was meant to be an image!then I had to put the plate away for a few days while more grown up things took over my time - I came back to an almost dry but still tacky plate which had lost the ink in places - even the prints from the cling film were quite interesting! I had a lovely time rubbing it in the ink free spots and getting mucky - so that's why baby wipes were invented!!

Then I drew a couple of trees, the left hand one with a large needle and the right hand one with a fine tipped pen which was much easier as I could see what I was drawing - but it felt more predictable and I like the abstract quality of the one on the left much more.... I am using a water soluble oil paint but am going to get some printing ink to see the difference..... meantime I seem to still be obsessing about trees and rocks!
Last week I rolled some ink over my reduction lino cut of the gorse which I showed in a previous post and printed it under the press - there was not much lino left but this is the result which I think I will use as the basis of a drawing.....

Do go and have a look at Cathy's work if you don't know her already! She is a very prolific artist.
Now I have my new camera I hope to get back to posting more often - I have the next 10 days free of any commitments so I hope to get some time to catch up with all my blogging friends too!


I LOVE my new camera!!

I finally made my choice of camera and bought a CANON G11 in Bristol on my way to a visit to friends in Brynamman, South Wales - one of our trips was to the National Botanic Garden of Wales where I took these images - this is what the camera does on auto so I can't wait to explore the manual functions! The weather was unpredictable with rain showers but we managed to stay dry! The gardens really needed the rain after the dry spell we have had over the last couple of months and the positive side was that everywhere looked so lush and green!

there was even dancing in the cafe area and we stopped for tea while the Morris dancers kept us entertained - even the rain stopped for a while!

so these are just a small selection of what I took - if you are in South Wales then I recommend a visit - it's a beautiful place


As promised the final lino print

I had this ready to post 3 weeks ago and guess what - my 5 year old Sony digital camera and trusty friend got very sick - I have been told it is not worth mending but I am loath it throw it away - how I hate this throw away society! But I think I have to accept that it has now died and that I need a new one! I am looking at replacing it with a Canon G11 - has anyone got one and can recommend it? I want a compact camera that can do what an SLR can do - I know this is impossible but I keep looking!!

Anyway I finally printed this image in an edition of 10 - of which this one is the best! 'Dartmoor gorse in May'
As I said in my last post it was a reduction linocut - and this is what remained of the lino itself- not much as you can see - a few stalks at the bottom. I really liked the process and will do another one even if it does take forever!


Linocut workshop

I am keen to try different printing processes so I enrolled for a reduction lino workshop last weekend with Mary Gillett. I am also doing a weekly etching course with Mary and enjoy working in her large studio out in the country near Tavistock in Devon. There was only 3 of us so we got lots of individual attention and a printing press each! The weather was glorious and we were able to keep our lino very warm and supple under the sun as well as enjoy lunch outside!!

The lino reduction method was invented by Picasso, who had a great love of printmaking apparently. This method of lino cutting involves progressively cutting the same linoblock for each new colour, making it impossible to take any further prints from the original plates, and there’s not much left of them anyway!

Mary suggested we made 10 prints– that number would allow for mistakes and hopefully we would get a few good ones - so it is quite time consuming, printing each colour 10 times.  The registration for printing is really important and we spent a lot of time getting it right so that each print would line up exactly on the press – even so I managed to get some of mine slightly out which of course shifts everything – sometimes this works sometimes it doesn’t – such is the excitement of printing – you never know what you are going to get!!

I worked from a coloured drawing prepared earlier (yes of course I watched Blue Peter!) I wanted to capture the gorse on the moor near my house and took my sketchbook on my walks last week – this was the drawing that I worked from


I then made a tracing of the drawing, reversed it and traced it through carbon paper onto the lino. I was then ready to make the first  cuts and remove  the areas that I wanted white. The vivid yellow of the gorse was the most important colour to keep pure so that was the first colour I printed 


I then cut away the areas I wanted yellow. It was quite strange at first cutting away the area of the wanted colour, a reversal of the usual practice of taking away what you don’t want! The next colour was blue – I loved rolling out the colours on to plate glass before applying it to the linocut.


this is the stage when you know whether the registration is correct. I had forgotten one of the instructions, to always run the print through the press in the same direction and as a result some of my prints were a fraction out! All good learning - but it pays to listen!!


It is usual practice to work from light to dark but other considerations are important as you are overlaying colours on top of each other and they are still wet unless you take a week and do one colour a day!

I then cut away the blue area, the sky,

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and printed in a light grey/brown – I had now  printed 30 times and was half way through the second day – I realised I was not going to finish in a weekend !



So at the end of the weekend I was nearly there but still have a couple more colours to apply– another brown and finally black – unless I change my mind and choose other colours after living with them for a couple of weeks – I can’t get back to the studio again until 9 June to complete the prints – I’ll post the finished  result then but meantime this is as far as I got…….. x 10!



sketchbook reflexions

Last Sunday I took my granddaughter to the beach at Wembury – I left my camera at home and only took a sketchbook  – there  was an east wind blowing but a little sunshine now and then …. I drew in my sketchbook



My granddaughter had heard quite alot about volcanic dust  because her parents were now having a break in St Ives instead of Prague! So she made a volcanic city!


I record something entirely different without a camera!



I'm still working on the first plate but I have started a second one with a simple etching - quite small 7cms x 19.5 cms from the tree series - this is the coolibah tree - the trunk of the tree is dark and gradually the branches become paler and can be quite white at the top of the tree! From the dark earth to the light in the sky - the tree is very symbolic!Next I applied the first aquatint which was not the depth I wanted........... and I really wanted to lose that horizon!
the plate was subsequently treated to both a further hard ground and a soft ground and another aquatint ........... this is near to what I wanted!
all trial and error - meantime I'm learning lots! Please click on the images to enlarge them - I really must get a scanner as it is difficult to get a good reproduction with the camera!


Reflections on white

I’ve been reflecting on the significance of my focus on white yesterday. White has so many meanings – there is of course the religious or spiritual meaning, the pure, clean and simple meaning, and for the artist the meaning of blank or empty as in the empty blank white sheet of paper or canvas that confronts us –


I love a clean new white sketchbook but it can also create a sense of panic too! Where to start, what to do, suppose I make the wrong mark – and so it goes on until a creative block stifles any further work! I have been wanting to get back to some drawing and have been avoiding it – it is much easier for me to take photographs but I look and see differently when I draw……


so today I found a simple white sketchbook that I’d made a few months ago – just 8 folded pages bound with a simple bookbinding technique – these are quick and easy to make – I have resolved to fill it this week with working drawings of trees  from the printmaking class




The drawings are not finished – I will continue working into these first two. On my walk to day I left my camera behind and took a small notebook with me – I did a few tree rubbings and may use these in my drawing tomorrow. I’d love to hear any thoughts on creative blocks, blank white pages and drawing!

I hope you are all having a creative week!