Lichen letters – hand-made book

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Printmaking has always been an important part of my artistic life, and after a break of a couple of years, I am printing again. I started without a particular plan in mind, except that I probably wouldn’t be aiming for making editions that would be framed and hung on a wall, but something more three-dimensional and one-off.

The initial plate was a drypoint, which is made by scratching marks on an acrylic sheet, then inked up and printed on a press. It is not easy to control the marks, so my intention was for fairly random, irregular marks. The inspiration came from a black and white printout of a photo I took of lichen on rocks.

The plate was overprinted twice on both sides of a sheet of heavy printmaking paper, using earthy colours, turning the plate around each time to intensify and layer the marks. I prepared another plate with an image inspired by a seed head from a flax plant, used that for overprinting, and incorporated more small images from etching plates I had made some time ago. In the end I had several sheets of printed paper, so the next stage was to work out how to use them.

After trimming down the first piece, I cut it in half horizontally then joined it with an off cut to make a long narrow strip. Once the glue was dry, I folded it to an 8 page concertina, and started cutting. There were numerous possible approaches I had in mind for the next step, but was open to taking unexpected paths that came to me as I worked. Strips were cut and wrapped around a pencil to form a curl, more windows were cut and filled with other print images, attached in a range of different ways. I decided I didn’t want to glue anything as it was too final, so all the loose pieces were held in place by strips inserted into slots or notches, decisions forced by the way that each piece fell. I tried to vary and echo imagery within the resultant windows. The small pieces tucked in the windows reminded me of letters, so I decided to call the book ‘Lichen Letters’.

Below are more views of the completed piece.

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Each page is 9 x 12 cm, so the book when flattened out is 72 x 12 cm

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Encaustic orchid

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More experimenting with encaustic – this painting has been in the works for a while, and has been subjected to other experimentation.

It is on board, and after preparing the board with gesso I did a loose drawing on it inspired by an enlarged photo I took of tiny Western Australian native orchids, in their natural habitat. Next, I took to the board with my Dremel (an electric tool that has small interchangeable heads for engraving, drilling and making other marks). I carved out some of the pencil lines and some texture, such as in the centre of the flower. As the board is quite hard, it was not easy to control the resultant marks so they became fairly random and not particularly smooth. The next step was applying some oil paint, before adding encaustic wax, then more scraping back, scratching and layering paint and wax.

I’m still not sure if it is finished – it has quite a rough quality to it and I think it will take time for me to decide how I feel about it. It belongs with the other paintings in the 30 x 30 cm series (see here, here, here and here).

Oil and encaustic on mdf board, 30 x 30 cm

Beach sketching

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There was not a lot of time for sketching during our recent trip to South Australia, except for a couple of crab claws that were found on Beachport Beach – richly coloured and fairly fresh. The remainder of the shells were found at Corrimal, a beautiful beach just south of Sydney, easy to access for a weekend away. I have decided I have drawn enough perfect shells, so now am looking for broken ones – the inside structure is very beautiful and the shadows suggest other forms. Ideas that can be converted to larger drawings later.

These were drawn in my Stillman and Birn sketchbook, using pen and ink and watercolour.

A REALLY tiny book

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This little book was created in response to calls for entries for an exhibition of works that were to be 3 x 3 x 3 cm or smaller. In my collection of ‘things that I will use one day’ was a pack of paper that was made for using somehow in rolling your own cigarettes (a friend had given me several packs of cigarette papers for me to draw on and this was amongst them). This was like a book, with 50 sheets measuring 5 x 1.5 cm. So, I trimmed it down to make it 3 cm long, and set to work.

Each page has a little drawing on, no particular theme, I got inspiration from looking around the objects on my desk – leaves, seeds, feathers, pens, boxes, a little wooden mannequin. I chose pages at random, and using fine-nibbed Rotring pens, one filled with red ink, one with black and a third with a mix of red and black I simply entertained myself. Holding the book still to do fiddly bits was a bit tricky, but it was fun! Once it was finished I made a cover for it, using offcuts from the drawing I did for the box which houses Sleeping Beauty in Short.

I have called this book Fleeting Thoughts, because that is what it is. 3 cm x 1.5 cm and 1 cm thick.

Below are just some of the pages.