Monday, 18 November 2013

Five go mad, chapter two.

Breakfast eaten, dishes washed we jumped in Merlyns Berlingo to head down to the beach laden with large sheets of paper, brushes and ink.
It was very windy so we looked for a spot sheltered enough to get some drawing done.

Rod Nelson looking for the right spot

We finally settled on a rocky spot with a good view through a large arch with plenty of white foaming sea action and got drawing. All of us chucking ink around on the same piece of paper, in the bracing wind, was very liberating. Especially refreshingly so for Rod who had to make a trouserless wade into the sea to recapture a floating sheet of water liberated by the wind.

Then it was back to the studio to do something creative with all this fresh air inspiration that five print makers would be happy with. No pressure then. We started by trimming the ply to size and then decided to draw out an image, but how could we all work on the same piece? Simple, divide it up and each have a bit to work on.

Merlyn by our blocks
Rod and Judith working together on the 'cliffs'
Julia working on her bit of the jigsaw

It all looks quite simple and tranquil, and it was very relaxed but wasn't simple. There was a lot of wandering from block to block, quizzing each other about various sections we were working on, what happens when this bit meets that, how much of this to cut and so on for most of the day. 

The big worry that five separate artists working on their own bits would have their own signature and when it was put together it would look like a dogs dinner. Once we had assembled the pieces there was a collective sigh of relief at the rather nice looking inked blocks. It looked pretty good.

Time to try a proof print. The first part to proof was the under block that Merlyn had been working on. This, as the name suggests, goes under all the other sections of the print and hopefully pins it all together.

We pulled a couple and then went for the assembled over blocks on top.

I think its obvious to see from the grins and excitement on the faces of all involved that we're rather relieved and quite happy at the appearance of the very first print. If it looks like this, we thought, on first proof imagine how it will look after we have obsessed and tweaked over it for another couple of days.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

The printmaking Five go mad in Devon. Chapter one.

Your not still expecting any sort of linear based time accurate listing of my adventures in print? Good so forget about my sixth birthday, I'll get to Art in Action and Geneva later, now we need to talk about Pine.

Though this does in fact refer back to AIA in July, where I met the most excellent printmakers Merlyn Chesterman, who had the stand next to mine, and Julie Manning who had come down to see Merlyn. We had a bit of a chat about meeting up to 'do' something. They'd come up to do one of my courses, I'd come down to see them, we'd work together or sommat. We got another print friend of mine interested, Laura Boswell, also at AiA and the idea of meeting up to create began to germinate.

Unfortunately for us Laura couldn't make the proposed dates, good for her though as she was off for the Masters version of a Japanese woodblock course in Japan.

Merlyn soldiered on finding recruits and 'print camp' materialised with five printmakers, Merlyn and myself, Julia Manning, Judith Westcott and Rod Nelson. The furious, fantastic and of course famous five.

AKA Pine Feroda

The who was organised, the where was set, Merlyns studio in Hartland Devon, the when decided on, early October, which meant Print camp I was on. I arrived at glass of wine time on the Thursday evening to meet up with the gang  and we spent the evening trying to decide what were we actually going to do over the weekend. Not much was decided other than we better get down the beach first thing and seek some inspiration.

Tractors to lighthouse's

It all went mad busy again so as usual I'm months behind, but as promised, a long time ago, here is a picture of a tractor with some birdies and a lighthouse.

The rooks wait patiently

The lighthouse print is of Happisburgh. One of those places in Norfolk that has pretty much lost it battle with the sea and every storm marks a new front in the seas advance. It's a slightly eerie place with gardens ending at cliff edges and the beach below littered with bits of house. I'd done the start of the print before I went to Oz, but wasn't sure what to do with the field in the foreground. A large empty area lined with tractor tyre marks. It became a transition piece, a before and after, the upper part being pre-oz and then I stuck a bit of post-oz pattern in the foreground to get me started.

Back to these shores

I moved on from this to the Waterfall print in the previous post. What? you weren't expecting chronological integrity were you?
Next, my sixth birthday party.
After that Art in Action and six people sweating over lino in a seventh floor apartment in Geneva. Oh and an annoying trip back to old school registration.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Plas Glynn Y Weddw

After the dire warnings of snow and ice, a lovely cold but bright day for a drive up to the Llyn. I had a meeting today with Mari at Plas Glynn Y Weddw, Llanbedrog about a post Australia exhibition.
I showed at the Plas years ago with my Llyn Coastal Path series but haven't really been back properly until now. Which is a shame as it's a beautiful old house set in lovely grounds with simply stunning views across Cardigan Bay.

Plas Glynn Y Weddw
The interior is all deep reds and carved woodwork, black and white beams and large ceiling bosses. It even has a huge stained glass window above the central staircase. What a perfect location to start the  exhibitions featuring my new project. This project will take the patterning inspiration from Australia and apply it to the birds and animals of Wales. It will also explore their place in Welsh folklore and mythic history and throw in a good dollop of medieval illustration for good measure. The result? A Modern Welsh Bestiary. ( Sort of)

Just magnificent. The main hall at Plas Glynn y Weddw
I very much enjoyed the birds and animals I drew in Australia and was of course hugely inspired by the  animals, and their place in indigenous life and culture, printed by the Torres Strait Islanders. Artists  Like Billy Missi, Brian Robinson and Joel Sam whom I met and worked with at the Djumbunji Press workshop.
My initial attempt to begin integrating pattern into picture began with a little sketch I had of the Ibis. In which the pattern is within the bird.

The Ibis of Ideas
In the next birdie attempt I experimented with the pattern as informative decoration and background to the birds. The patterns come from the local plants and animals: palm tree fronds, green ants and mangrove tree roots, etc. 

The three Ibis: Idea, Introspection & Doubt.

I got very involved when working on these prints and very excited to be doing something different, so when thinking about a new show it seemed straightforward to take this part of my Australian trip and apply it back home.

I am working on some outstanding prints at the moment but in the background the sketches are gathering for the Bestiary project. I'm getting a bit twitchy about starting this, which is always a very good sign.....

Next the tractor and birds I promised before, oh and a lighthouse..

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

The first post antipodean Post.

Well, finally feel that I am getting back up to speed and getting on top of things after returning from Australia. It's only taken me about three months but the fact that I am actually managing to write in the blog must mean that:
a. I can ignore no longer the gaping hole that is my 'blog-o-presence and,
b. I've finally done some stuff so I have something to stick up here.

Australia was a wonderful and very inspirational experience and I shall be posting various excerpts, pictures and ideas from the sketchbook I religiously scribbled in while there. Modestly called 'the bible' I looked after it more obsessively than I did my young family.
As well as a diary of events, and a general sketchbook of the landscape, it contains over 60 new sketches, the bible also has loads of great new ideas and ways for me to produce prints. Loads and loads of new exciting stuff that should start making it's way into my work soon...

The five prints I produced while at Djumbunji, in which I tried to gain an understanding of the patterning used by the Torres Strait islands, will be posted soon with more explanation.

I have also produced my first prints post Australia, mainly to get some new work into the galleries as they seem to have sold everything while I was away, darn them! Also to start the process of integrating the ideas from the bible into my artistic practice. Gently at first, a little pattern here, brighter colour there, warming up to a big new project.

This first picture of 2013 is a waterfall sketch I have wanted to print for a while;

First colour layer

I remember for this sketch I took my boots off, rolled my trousers up above the knee and waded into the water to get to the right spot to draw. It was very cold and I got some strange looks from hikers walking past but I love doing stuff like that.  (Standing barefoot in cold mountain streams drawing, not standing semi-clothed being stared at by strangers. ) The main focus is the movement of the water coming down the hillside towards you, surrounding you with it's noise and pattern. I want to put the viewer right into the action, into the waterfall. Get them splashed artistically speaking.

I had in mind a colour scheme of cold blue for the water contrasting with quite a bright yellow for the vegetation. The blue was is so strong though that it needed quite a strong second layer to cover and not pick up the first layers colour too much. As is the way with water based inks.

Second colour layer

Not quite the light delicate yellow I had in mind though. I would usually pick out other areas of detail with the first colour. Other than a bit of 'sky' though I wanted the only blue to be the water to really concentrate attention onto the waterfall.

third colour layer

This was where it got interesting. Keep the boulders and background hillside dark to focus attention down the waterfall, tonal shadows in the water, what to do with the surrounding plants?
I got an urge. Try something new. One of the few 'rules' I have in my printing is that if I get an urge, an idea of something new, I have to try it out. This urge, more of a compulsion actually was to start using some of the bold patterning I had been working with in Australia straight away. Always give in to an urge I say. Here the curling leaf pattern represents the plants by the waters edge but also the rising forms suggest to me the sound of the water. The splashing, burbling and gurgling lifting up like natural music from the surface of the waterfall as it rushes between the stones.

Final print

Final layer, dark but not black, to separate out some of the stones and suggest texture and pattern as well as form. It also adds more patterning to the background to suggest brash and branches tangled together as you look upstream, up the hill and deeper into the forest. This final cutting also has the first hesitant steps on developing my own Welsh form of patterning, in this instance partly based on pine cones as well as the free form decorative stuff. Sounds interesting doesn't it?

Finally, I can't resist, here is a picture of some Welsh hills. The weather here has been so good after a cold dark winter that everyone has rushed out in the sunny cold to make the most of it. Me? I went mountain biking up Tarren Hendre with my good friend Shem and my dog.

Next. A picture of some birds following a tractor....

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

D.Day 19 Green Ants and Mangrove

Friday 19th

Day before yesterday on the walk from the bus stop to Djumbunji I saw the Mangrove trees in the lake by the side of the road. Quick sketch then and I realised this morning, looking though my sketchbook, I had the next part of the Three Ibis puzzle.

Mangrove drawn and cut, water patterned, small turtle I had sketched out the night before dropped. I'm on fire, now what?

Smaller version of the mangrove pattern to represent the grass bank the Ibis are standing in. Just need something to finish it off along the bottom.

Everywhere you go outside here are large feisty Green Ants. Every time I'm drawing I'll suddenly notice them running around. So I wanted to have them in this print.

I made a linear pattern of Green ants nose to nose, or antenna to antenna, and abdomen to abdomen. Cut them running along the top of the grass.

Cutting finished, time for a proof print.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

D.Day 16. Granite Gorge.

Tuesday the 9th.

The sketching trip went so well yesterday, apart from the small matter of the bee sting. So thought I would get out to the outback today as a contrast to the tropical jungle.

Drove for an hour or so west to a place called Granite Gorge I had seen on a flyer.

Starts of cute enough, small Wallaby's coming up for food, then a couple of huge boulders over a small creek are quite interesting. Got a couple of good sketches.

Then you wander over another creek, come out of the trees and are suddenly in Star Trek land! Or to those of us a certain age and persuasion, Blakes 7. The bit in any episode when they had to go down to the 'Alien planet' and it always looked a bit like a quarry near Worksop.

Well they should have come here instead. Though with 70's TV budgets probably Worksop was more do-able.

It was an amazing landscape of huge, massive smooth slabs of granite. On top of which were piled vast boulders and pillars of stone. The scale of the water which must flow over these rocks is astounding.

I wandered down the course of the river buried under the stones with sketchbook in hand and didn't draw a thing. The scale was simply to big. Too smooth.

On the return journey the track takes you out of the gorge and into the bush.

This was more like it. The temp rose a couple of degrees into the upper thirties and the landscape became old and dry and intimidating. Huge erratic boulders lurked amongst the spindly burnt trees. Everywhere I looked I could see a picture and, thanks to both Elizabeth and Brian's obsession, a lot of the big boulders seemed to suggest human skulls.

Got a lot of photo's and a lot of sketches before the heat started getting to me. Back in the nice air conditioned car for the drive back to Cairns.

Oh did I mention the Wallaby's?