Printmaking explorations


Now that the pieces for my imaginary orchestra are complete, I have been able to spend time experimenting and exploring in printmaking. In some ways, the imagery is peripheral – I am not looking to make one beautiful plate that stands alone, but create unexpected results from layering and masking, using different colours and methods. The plate used has an image inspired by the workings inside a piano.


Luggage tags are nice small shapes to use as masks to interrupt – or disrupt – the base image. I especially like the patterns made by the tag strings. In the top image the tags simply masked the main image, but small residue marks can be seen as I used the tags on another print and some of that image was offset onto the tags. On the second one, I ran the print through the press with the tags in place, then lifted the tags off, turned them over, moved some around, but replaced them within the tag marks and ran it through the press again to offset the images back into the shapes. It sounds complicated but in fact is very simple!

The bottom photo is of some of the tags, which are now printed on both sides. Even the strings have picked up imagery. These are probably asking to be turned into a 3D object of some kind.

The prints are 27 x 39 cm, printed on Magnani Corona paper and the tags are 5 x 3.5 cm.

Transforming prints


Printmaking is an art form that somehow gets inside you – once you start it is hard to leave it behind. I would have described myself simply as a printmaker 20 years ago, but over the years other media became important to me, and printmaking became less of a focus, but was always in the back of my mind. Now it is front of mind, I have an allocated day for it once a week, and of course preparations for that day occupy a lot of the rest of the time. There is so much pleasure in creating prints, that moment of the reveal as paper is peeled back from the plate – did you get what you expected, or something entirely different. The weather affects the print, high humidity makes the ink run more smoothly, and dampens the paper, low humidity makes the ink harder to work. Cold and heat too have sometimes unexpected effects. All this adds to the nature of printmaking, the constant surprises that emerge.

I am not looking for perfect editions, in fact the reverse is what interests me, the moment of serendipity, the reaction of layering another plate over the previous image, how the inks respond to one another. Even results which could be interpreted as a disaster can be turned to advantage. Inspiration comes all the time – an image may be offset back onto the second plate, and a new ghost print can be taken from this. Printing on the back of the paper gives new possibilities and this is what I have been using in then developing three dimensional forms from the prints.

Coming up is a print exhibition with the title of ‘Music Box’, and I will submit some of my 3D works. So far, two are complete, the one shown above, which was inspired by the workings of one of those tiny hand-wound music boxes that play a tinny version of Happy Birthday, and the one below. This one I see as an imaginary musical instrument, perhaps something from a civilisation we know nothing of, so no-one knows how it should be played.


More prints have been made, so the next step is turn transform them into more musical objects.

Both of these are approximately 26 cm wide.

Print assemblage


As so often happens with my work, this was started some time ago and then set aside for the ideas for completion to gel. In my earlier post about this (see here, also for a gallery of the individual panels) I felt that the panels needed to be sturdier, and it was suggested that I add wood to the backs, and make them darker. So I bought some sheets of balsa wood and painted them with shellac, to give a warm, transparent and slightly shiny colour. Also, I have re-stacked the panels – originally there were only two in each level, which made a tall, narrow tower, but it was not stable. Here there are three panels to each layer, so the structure is more squat and grounded. I continued to wonder if more need to be added, maybe even threads to link the pieces together, but now I think it is a satisfying form as it is. The panels are simply pushed in place, not glued, so it can still be taken apart and re-stacked. Choosing a title has been difficult, but at this stage it is called ‘Growing Up’, a reference to the plant forms on it, and the fact it is not a flat object, but that could change.

The prints are multiple layers of etchings, drypoint and monotype and the structure in this configuration is about 28 x 28 x 28 cm.

The blot series 4 and 5


The so-called blot series continues … as I do more, the character is changing, and so are the names I am choosing. ‘Galaxies’ still seems a good overall title, with individual titles for each. This one is more colourful, and has a few whimsical parts which I am not sure work … such as the dangling spheres on the lower right. When I look at small details I feel like expanding on some of these, enlarging them and redrawing them with more detail. Maybe that is the next development.

Details of No 4


This one, number 5, is back to the limited palette, more understated with more graceful forms. I have called this ‘Filaments’, and it is now framed and ready to go into an exhibition.


Detail of Filaments.


The first three in the series. All are worked on a base of Liquid Pencil random blots, worked into with graphite pencil and coloured pencils. The paper is Magnani Corona, and each drawing is 25 x 35 cm or 10 x 14 in. Filaments has been cropped for framing to 18 x 27 cm (7 x 11 in).


The blot series – no 3, Galaxies


The third drawing in the blot series is complete. I have decided to give the series the title of ‘Galaxies’ – ‘blots’ doesn’t really cover where these drawings have progressed to, even though that is where they began. The word Galaxies can cover more than just other physical worlds, it can be the worlds of our imagination. Something I am really enjoying about these is the input I get from viewers as to what they see in them. Some are quite literal, faces or insects, others much more ephemeral, to do with stories and ideas, brain activity and portals into distant worlds. All are equally valid. To me they are floating, drifting shapes, changing form and character, coming in and out of focus, each element has a story of its own, and these stories change from one day to another.

Above are details of this drawing.

Above are the first two drawings in this series.

All are made using Liquid Pencil and Caran d’Ache coloured pencils, graphite pencils on Magnani Corona paper, 35 x 25 cm.

The blot series – no.2


The second in the series of eight drawings based on blots is completed (I think – there is always room for a bit more work …). This one has much more colour than the first (see here) in the series, and that one had more than the large piece that I called Evolution (see here). I’m not sure why this is, maybe there was more colour suggested in the original blots, or maybe I am getting more confident in applying colour. I am finding that I can get more intense darks with coloured pencil than graphite, but for precision there is nothing to compete with a very sharp clutch pencil lead.

This one has more substance to it, less of the fragile, insubstantial marks. The imagery is more like folded fabrics, although there is still the sense of floating and drifting.


This is what I began with, the Liquid Pencil blots on the paper. I remove some of the heavier encrustations of the paste as I can’t draw through it, but otherwise I simply work with what has appeared on the paper.

These are details from the complete work. In some ways I like the intensity of the details best, but I will wait till I have completed the set before deciding if I am going to cut them up and possibly make them into 3D objects.

I used Liquid Pencil for the blots and Caran d’Ache Luminance and Pablo pencils for the colour, and a 2mm 2B clutch pencil for the graphite, on Magnani Corona paper, 25 x 35 cm.

Exploring more blots


Time for a new take on the blot-inspired imagery. I decided, instead of one large piece of work, this time I wanted to do a series, with the intention of linking them into a larger piece. So, eight pieces of paper have been prepared with random blots, once again using Liquid Pencil. The above is the first one completed. I worked to the edges of the paper so that there can be continuity with the next piece, and in a further development from Evolution (see here) I have brought in more colour, which has been suggested by the faint colour that comes with the different toned Liquid Pencil.

To me in this imagery there is a sense of floating, of objects that are sometimes only seen in the air when the sun catches them in a particular way, like the spiders’ webs that can be seen in the early morning or by torchlight at night. They feel impermanent, insubstantial, ephemeral.

All the drawing is done with pencils, the graphite is 2B in a clutch pencil with a 2mm lead which can be sharpened to a needle-point and the colour is Pablo and Luminance pencils made by Caran d’Ache. Very expensive pencils, but with the richest and most permanent colour. The paper is Magnani Corona 300 gsm 25 x 35 cm.

Below are details from the drawing.