Sunday, October 28, 2012

An embarrassment of riches

Yesterday was one of those days that are usually found in novels: bright bright sunshine, clarity, and bitter cold, so that Autumn colours stand out and are precious in their final hurrah before the wind and frost disperse them.  It was obviously a day for Kew Gardens.
We love getting there as early as possible, to savour solitude amongst the trees awhile - although the place rarely feels full if away from the refreshment points.  We were keen also to see the David Nash sculptures and other work, and were lucky enough to have the Shirley Sherwood Gallery almost to ourselves.  Here there are smaller works, films, pastels, and other bits and pieces, and fascinating it all is - the lighting designers have some fittingly attractive photos.  I did not ask about taking photos in the gallery, and did not want to distract my eye from drinking in as much as possible.  And this blog has a comprehensive post on the whole David Nash exhibition.
I have come away enthused and inspired - what a week of invaluable input I have had!  And the books still to read!  No printmaking this week as it is half term, so I shall devote my extra time to reading.  Here are some of the snaps I took:

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A real treat

Yesterday my duodidactic friend and I drove up to Compton Verney to see the centenary exhibition of tapestries woven at Dovecot Studios
What a treat it was to see so many beautiful, stunning tapestries hanging on the walls.  The difference between the two dimensional small reproduction and the actual textile, its depths, textures, the hand of the maker(s), even the smell of the wool struck me forcibly.  That is why I illustrate this post with images of the process rather than the finished articles.
So many brilliant designs, exquisitely executed by artisans who are so often happy to be noted on the back or the edge of the tapestry, and to be admired through the quality of the work.  What an extra dimension the weaving, the thread, the subtle combination of colours, and the different fibres give.  It reassured and confirmed me in my choice of medium as a means of expressing myself.
I have been reading Radical Thread, the 50th anniversary publication of the 62 Group, and Lucy Brown's statement contained a sentence which struck me as so appropriate for so many textile processes - mine as well as the tapestries we saw yesterday.  'The time the work takes to make, is part of the end result.'  This is very much what satisfies me too. 
My friend has let me borrow her copy of The Art of Modern Tapestry: Dovecot Studios Since 1912.  I am very much looking forward to reading it and prolonging yesterday's real treat.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A few moments to spare on a drizzly day

I went into town today to get my hair cut, and was about ten minutes early, so I thought I'd pop into the local museum which is but a few steps away from the hairdresser.  The Willis Museum often has interesting travelling exhibitions, and today was no exception - indeed it was a delight!  There is an extensive collection of Katagami on show.  This is the collection of artist Maxine Hullock.
Unfortunately I have no pictures of the stencils from the exhibition itself, and equally unfortunately the room was very dim indeed, which made seeing the delicate shapes almost impossible.  However I have been inspired to do some Google searching, and there are many links through the images page.
I find it extraordinary that at present I have been thinking in terms of lino-cut design along these lines, and along comes another fascinating ingredient just when I wasn't expecting it!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

More new tricks ...

for this old dog!  Not only is there a new material for lino plates: the Japanese vinyl which is beautifully supple.  Today I finished the design I started in class last week.
This was traced the old fashioned way: onto tracing paper which was then reversed and gone over so that the graphite registered on the vinyl.  This has the great disadvantage of barely showing on this new material.  But all is far from lost: I was told of a miracle product called Tracedown.  So when I came to tracing a second design I chose to do so with white Tracedown. I put the Tracedown under the original drawing, and traced through.
The white shows up so well on the blue of the vinyl, and wipes off really easily after cutting, and did not smudge while I was working on it. (Purists among you might be thinking that this design is unsuitable for lino printing, but I'm going to try something experimental with the inking - the exuberance of ignorance!) 
I suspect this product is not new, however, because I remember my father on his knees, tracing rabbits onto cut old sheets for my mother to embroider for my baby brother.  Those rabbits were commercial patterns which were traced without carbon, and left a clean magenta line on the white cotton sheet.  It's just like what I used today, so maybe this old dog was only using even older tricks after all.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Pleasant deflections

The best laid plans ....  I had intended to split this term into two lots of five weeks: first working on the polyester plates, and the second pursuing my experiments with carborundum.  The first week went to plan, and then somehow I was deflected onto embarking onto a monotype exercise in the second week.
I had already prepared something in case I was not able to work on the litho press in the first week.  Having done some intaglio trials with carborundum last term I wanted to try out relief experiments.  I had had some success with stencils and monotypes with perspex plates previously (as the example below),
so thought that I would try that approach again.  I prepared a piece of perspex with mix 4.  This time I used a fine sandpaper to prepare the perspex surface so that the carborundum mix would stick better.  I also drew a body outline of which I cut several stencils - this time I used a thicker paper, almost a card to cut out the shapes, because the inked roller can destroy the paper shape in just one roll.  This thicker paper in its turn may have caused further 'interesting' effects!
Where in previous uses of an outline shape the ink has been kept away on the initial roll, this time the presence of the carborundum mix kept the stencil up also, and thus the ink did not roll on evenly as I wanted.  I could have stopped, and gone back to thinner paper, and cut out another stencil - but I just wanted to see what I could do with the materials I had to hand.  I decided to use the stencil as a guide for hand-drawn lines - and because it was to be of a figure in water, that seemed perfectly OK as an idea to me.
I used the shape as an outline for removal of ink, and for the addition of another colour with a brush where there was carborundum - the brush used as for traditional stencilling.  This was all experimental after all.  The results varied, and I am happier with some more than others, but collage is largely what I do, so everything has potential!
In this second one, I was particularly pleased with the effect of the roller offsetting the ink from the carborundum area.  I always think that if I find myself in a position where things are not working the way I initially largely expected, then I should try different things just to see how they turn out.  I keep a notebook of all of this with illustrations, so that I can return if I want to duplicate (or attempt to duplicate) an effect.
Then came the second deflection towards lino printing.  Well, I have never formally been taught, and the new teacher was keen to teach, so I thought - why not.  Especially as there is now a new material which makes the cutting so much easier.  It is Japanese vinyl and is incredibly subtle - also one can use both sides of the block to make two plates of the same size.  You will have to wait to see the results as I am still cutting, which means that I shall not be printing until next week, and not pick up the prints until the week following!  Long drawn out process this, but I am after used to that.
This all keeps me sufficiently busy to be too disappointed in not being chosen this time for Quilt National 2013.  I am delighted for those whose blogs I read who have been chosen.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Further adventures with polyester lithography

Now in the Improvers class (it is titled Improvers/Advanced, and although I don't think I shall ever describe myself as advanced, being thought of as an improver is apt), with a new tutor, I thought I would get on with more attempts using the polyester plates.  I really like these.  They are easy to handle, being thin plastic, and I find them easy to use.
I have bought a pack from a printmaking supplier in London, because they are cheaper that way rather than buying one at a time from the print studio.  I am sure that I will use the ten sheets in the pack, even if I do chop them up to make more plates.
I like the fact that I can continue to develop images digitally, and then print them out - reversed - with the laser printer (two passes, with a blank as second print, so that they are well 'cooked').  And I love the fact that it just takes water and washing up liquid to clean them after printing.
This time I used a handstanding acrobat to explore using an area of variable solidity (the body) while also trying a background which was faint and almost unclear.  It took a few tries with the press, putting in more and more packing and using cartridge paper for proofing, but soon I got a pretty good result.
It is by no means perfect, as pukka printers will notice immediately, but perfection is not what I am aiming for.  What I want out of printmaking is a means of incorporating random chance into the more or less controlled process of my image making. 
I am interested in using chine colle to introduce colour, and particularly whole backgrounds of tissue coloured with soft pastel in the case of the polyester litho prints.  I prepare the tissue beforehand, so it is coloured and sprayed with fixative and cut to size in advance.  Then when the plate is inked up I use spray mount on the tissue before laying it on the plate, and then laying the paper on top.  (I have been using BFK Rives for the litho.)  The pastel, although fixed still comes off onto the plate, but it just needs that first wipe with water to remove it before inking again.  I am learning how little pasted I need in order not to overwhelm the printed areas, and the faint background marks were useful for that purpose this time.
I scrunch the tissue paper before putting on the pastel, which can give an interesting result.
This one, using white tissue paper, scrunched, and rubbed with the dust of a few soft pastels worked well for me.  The other benefit of scrunching the tissue is that any pulling or folding can look interesting rather than wrong!  I tried one version with unscrunched plain grey tissue paper which did not please me quite so much because of the pulling.  I am the kind of person who will devise a means of incorporating 'glitches' into a design rather than seek technical perfection.  'Twas ever thus, but nowadays I say that time is too short! 
These were done two weeks ago, and last week I was playing around with some monotypes using perspex plates prepared with carborundum mix.  Tomorrow, however I'm going to start something completely different: lino printing.  So I have been come up with a couple of designs as a starting point.  I shall probably begin with this:
As we walked round Hinton Ampner gardens on Sunday a robin was singing clear and strong everywhere we went - probably warning us off his territory!  But it was delightful.  Also the weather has been wet and chilly these days, and I have been thinking of thick hand knitted jackets.  Although I have played around with lino many years ago, I have never learned the techniques in any formal way, and so I am eager to get stuck in.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Order and chaos

We are well into Autumn now, and yesterday on another odd sunny day we went to another favourite garden near us: Hinton Ampner.  It is a garden of many 'rooms', vistas, and atmospheres.