Orchid dance

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This was a drawing I started a long time ago, but keep coming back to and tweaking a bit here and there. The inspiration was the tiny native orchids found in Western Australia – the flowers are only about 2 or 3 cm across, but intricate and unusual.

For this drawing I have taken the basic shapes and enlarged and exaggerated the forms, taking them into that other world of living things that cross the borders between plants and animals, becoming fleshy and heavy. Now they are like sea creatures, maybe a kind of starfish, or even related to the jellyfish that I have been drawing recently. To me they have a hungry, carnivorous look, but are merrily dancing along a shoreline.

They were originally drawn just in graphite, but then I rubbed most of that away and worked into them, first with pastel pencils, then coloured pencils, a mix of Lyras and Pablos. The paper is 420 mm x 297mm (A3), Arches hot press 300 gsm.

Herbarium stilt book

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Printmaking has yielded another book-like object, and it seems to me this has a Japanese feel, like the two previous ones, quite unintentionally.

This one started as a concertina pocket book, made from two sheets of paper, printed on both sides, using the same plates and colour choices, joined, then the bottom third folded up to create a pocket, and the resultant piece folded again to make an 8-page concertina.

Cuts were made across the folds so that the paper could be pushed against the fold at intervals to make a piano hinge. I inserted narrow bamboo sticks through the folds and hung on them the small labels that were printed at the same time as the main images. The purpose of the stilts was to allow the labels to dangle below the edge of the book, so they could be seen from either side.

The labels had been scattered randomly across the inked-up plates before the print paper was laid across the plate, so there are label-shaped areas interrupting the image, as well as embossing from the shape of the labels and their strings. The labels were turned over and printed again when the next plate was printed. (This is not so complicated as it sounds!)

Once the book had come to this stage, I had to decide what went in the pockets – I had intended the labels to be tucked in them, but they disappeared as the imagery was the same as on the paper, so I had to rethink. Eventually it came to me that it should be some kind of natural material, grasses or leaves. On my morning walk I found fronds from a pine tree that the cockatoos had stripped off, then a small twig with gum nuts and a few leaves. I already had some dried bay leaves, so they were included too. I am really happy with the way this looks, but it may not be the end. I am thinking of printing some contrasting larger labels that will fit in the pockets as the leaves are not really durable. Maybe the labels will have natural imagery on them …

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Printed on Fabriano, each panel 90 x 100 cm, total length 72 cm, bamboo poles 20 cm

Collaboration book 4 – No fear of flying

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This is the fourth book in the series – today this one will head down to Melbourne, another will come back to me from Canberra this week, one came from Melbourne and will go to Canberra today. The fourth one is still in the US, having gone from Minnesota to Colorado. A new development is already underway with four of us – two from Australia, two from the US – each making a book which will then be passed from one to another to work a pair of pages.

From a small idea a wonderful and enriching joint project has developed. The mystery of what each artist will do enhances each step – I am loving the experience more than I can say. As soon as the first one is completed, I will do a post about it.

The idea for the imagery in this one came from when I was making my really tiny book (see here). I was doing little drawings inspired by the objects on my desk and around me, and one came from the small wooden mannequin which stands in front of me, and made me want to use it further. I often play with it, putting it into different poses, seeing how far I can manipulate it before it falls over. When I had done the initial drawing I could see it was flying, in a relaxed and uncontrolled way, so gave it clouds to add to its enjoyment of its journey, and brought in the legs of a companion. It has no fear of flying … memories of the 1970s book Fear of Flying by Erica Jong maybe were lurking around too.

Below are the bits of drawing I have placed on the first and last pages. Karen and Kylie, my collaborators will add to these.

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To see other parts of the collaborations see my posts here, here and here, and Karen’s (Occasional Artist) here, Kylie Fogarty here and Cathe (Amaryllis Log) here. Such inspiring people to work with!

Paper tower

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I was expecting to be making a more conventional book with these pieces of print, but when I came to put them together I realised that the detail was lost folded into a book, so started to work out ways of using the panels that I had cut and folded in a different way. It took some time of just playing with the pieces, arranging them, piling them up, turning them upside down, inserting one inside another before the idea of an interlocking stack evolved.

Where this began was with two large multi-plate prints, in complementary but contrasting colours, one in tones of gold and brown, the other in orangey reds and dark brown. For all the recent printing (including last week’s Lichen letters) I have been using just three colours of ink: sepia, yellow and red, and creating the final colours by mixing and overprinting. The imagery was some of the same drypoint plates I used before with marks inspired by lichen and flax seed heads, plus some small etchings of mushrooms that I made some years ago.

As I had planned to make a small book, I divided both prints up into six long panels (roughly 20 x 9 cm) and folded each in half. To make the pieces lock together, I cut a small slit in the centre of each half along the long edges of the panels, then slotted one into another. The way they are shown here may not be the final construction – they could be interlocked in a more horizontal way, or more randomly. I am not sure if the amount of white showing is a good thing or not – I could place two panels back to back and lock them so that there is no white showing. Something I do like in an artwork is a degree of interactivity, so that another person could come along and re-arrange the pieces in a way that they find satisfying.

Below are more views of the tower, and a gallery of the 12 pieces from the two prints.

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