Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Walk like a duck..

After the lovely inspiring work of Tamsin, back to the final thoughts on where I'm going over the next couple of months or six: 

13. Waterfalls - All the Japanese woodblock artists I enjoy have all done an impressive collection of waterfall prints, sometimes with another focus, trees weathering the storm in front of the torrent, birds nesting by the splashing waters. Usually with an underlying meaning of fortitude, strength and steadfastness. 

Waterfalls combine all of my favourite elements in a subject. They have the movement and natural drama that rushing crashing water gives a picture. Like my coastal work, while their location in the hills and mountains supplies the exciting intersecting angles and dramatic lighting of the best of the mountain compositions. There is also something a bit mystical and uplifting about waterfalls even by the proxy of a two dimensional image. So come the heavy rains of spring I will be out waterfall hunting.  

Having done a couple of waterfalls already, this is one of my favourites, and indeed I must say one of my favourite prints. Really happy with the composition, the colour and the sense of chiaroscuro opening out from the dark shadowed background to the river rushing towards the viewer in the light. 

14. Nocturne - Try doing a small series of Nocturnes to look at limited colour, different light levels. lack of clarity and focus - Experiment with suggesting half seen scenes rather than all explicit black outlined clarity under a midday sun I currently end up with. Will combine this with the 'mist' prints which have a similar underlying idea.

15. Kacho - Ga - Prints of birds and nature. I always stick a little bird or two in my prints, to me they suggest movement in an otherwise static picture, the life hidden within any landscape and the passing of time captured in the moment the drawing is completed. The next step would obviously be to concentrate on the bird/animal as the main focus of the print. I have done a couple of birdy prints, the main one being my 'Swan and Cygnets preen' from the Montgomery canal series.

Swan and Cygnets preen

I have though lots of little doodles done as asides while sitting by rivers or lakes drawing the 'big picture'. A couple of ducks usually wander up to see what I am up to and, more importantly do I have any bread. They usually get a little thumbnail or two instead of any wheat based delicacy and I wanted to see what more I could make of these little sketches without worrying about a finished print. More of a study to just muck about a bit really. These two are a scribble from the shore of Llyn Gwynant, and as such there is not even enough information to be ornithologically accurate. Although they did have black heads and black and white on their sides. Any more knowledgeable twitchers feel free to ID my duckies. I was more concerned with loose play on pattern and texture than any attempt to show any particular breed.

Wildfowl study I

Particular bird targets are the heron, the red kite and the raven. All indigenous and almost all viewable from my garden in mid wales. The heron, especially, I see crashing out of the drainage ditches and flapping in their particularly prehistoric way into its favourite tree, whenever I walk my dog down to the Dyfi river. To get a closer look at the others I am going to need to get my boots dirty though and in the case of the raven, gain a bit of altitude. Oh dear a day on the hills, I may have to tramp up to the ridge of Cadair Idris, or even Aran Fawddwy to watch ravens tumbling and dancing with each other in the clear cold air. Poor old me!

The Owl and the Hare by Tamsin Abbott

The beginning of this week I had the pleasure of a two day one to one workshop with a very talented stained glass painter called Tamsin Abbot. You may know stained glass, and you may know glass painting but Tamsin's work combines the two into a very attractive individual artform.

you can see Tamsin's glasswork here.

DAY 1 - Tamsin has always had an interest in various forms of printmaking and aspects of her composition, subject matter and the way she draws on the glass have a marked affinity with the look of a lino print. When she sent me a link to her website my first thought was; "oo they're nice", and the second; "They'd work very well as a lino cut"

( My third thought was, " I wonder if I should get her to do the window for my sauna " but that's another story. )

It is nice being right occasionally, even if it is through someone else's hard work. On the first day Tamsin worked intently on a black and white print of one of her signature images, the barn owl. She was a natural with the lino!

 One of Tamsin's main concerns was the use and layering of colour. Though Tamsin selects each piece of glass in relation to her overall composition she doesn't get a chance to create the colours. These comes from the beautiful hand blown glass she sorts through and chooses for each picture. Layering complimentary colours and the do's and don'ts of colour use within reduction printing are a whole different story.

We decided, therefore, to start by adding a single colour layer, but use a graduation to increase the colour range within the single layer. As is self evident from Tamsin's glasswork, the planning and cutting of a lino fitted perfectly with her personal visual language. In a relatively short time Tamsin was using the tools confidently and varying her mark making to suite the different areas of the subjects plumage.  Her hard work and affinity for the medium show clearly in her first print. This quite exquisite barn owl:

'Owl' by Tamsin Abbot

DAY 2 - After Tamsin had fortified herself for the task ahead with a hearty breakfast at the Wynnstay Arms, we discussed Tamsin's second print. We ( I ) decided, after the unqualified success of the owl on day 1 that we could push on to doing a full three colour reduction print. Quite a lot of work for only your second print and even harder to complete in a single day... ( Not that I told Tamsin that! )
Tamsin had done some homework and redrawn a scraperboard picture of a hare fleeing a gathering storm which we discussed how to turn into a colour print. We settled on using a similar graduation to the Owl print, but darkening down the tone for each succeeding layer. We could then think about the tonal variation between layers without worrying about any colour change. Tamsin and I decided this would fit in with her usual imagery.
 Over the course of the day we played around with these layers, darkening each one through the edition to see how they worked in contrast to the following layer. There was also a lot of discussion on the best way to realise the hare standing out against the dark hillside. After a last minute mutiny on whether to print the hillside black, which had been the plan all along, then an injury time distraction from my two young children invading the studio, ( Which Tamsin dealt with admirably) we had 'Storm Hare' (my title). Another lovely print and a very impressive amount of work in a day:

'Storm Hare' by Tamsin Abbot
The 'Storm hare ' is a very effective honest print in it's own right that also fits in completely with Tamsins existing body of work. The cutting of the hair of the hare using both the colours and marks of the cutting are particularly effective and very well realised.
It is always fascinating to see what an accomplished artists can create with their first bit of lino and a helping hand and, if I'm honest, it also recharges my own visual batteries. Seeing new ways of working the lino can make you look at your own practice in a different way and rekindle a bit of enthusiasm. The use of black in Tamsin's work is particularly effective, strong and very dramatic without being too heavy or deadening.

I've already told Tamsin I shall be following her example, so expect to see a darker piece from me in the near future. ( In fact that A3 print of the swan with reflection I was going to cut out on a white background should work quite well on black, mmmmm......)