Odds and ends at the end of the year

Over the last few weeks I have been working on a range of different artworks, in a somewhat disjointed way. I have had the (totally delightful) distraction of the unexpectedly early arrival of my first grandchild, a little girl called Lumi. She was tiny, but is thriving, clearly a determined individual! And now the lead-up to Christmas provides other distractions.

On one day last week I heard that I had made two sales, very different artworks in different places. One was a painting, sold through Bluethumb, an online gallery. I have had work there for about a year and a half and had previously sold two paintings to the same buyer, but that was all, so this was a nice surprise. The other sale was one of my miniature hand-made books which was in an end of year group show, this too was quite unexpected. Neither work is new, but I had faith in them both, so it is good to know people liked them! The painting is called ‘Enigma’ and is oil on board and the book is called ‘Sleeping Beauty in Short, a book in a box’.

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Etching is a print medium I have always loved, but have done little of in recent years. It is time-consuming and heavy on equipment, so when a printmaker friend who is also a magnificent teacher said she was going to conduct two mentor workshops in using aluminium plates (as opposed to copper or zinc which I have used in the past) I seized the opportunity. We had a small group of wonderful artists, it was an enormously pleasurable experience and I was reminded of the scope within etching, and how much I enjoy it. There are a few fundamental differences with using aluminium – the acid for etching is very gentle, and easily accessible from any hardware store, and there is no need to go through the complexities of applying aquatint in order to create tones, as when areas of the aluminium are left exposed in the acid, it bites leaving a texture on the plate. The darkness of the tone can be controlled by how long the plate is left in the acid – it can be pulled out and blockout applied to the areas to be kept lighter. The downside is that it can be unpredictable, and it is more difficult to obtain the clear, fine lines that are possible on copper or zinc, but this unpredictability is what I am hoping to exploit when I make more plates next year. The first image below was comparatively controlled, the second one is the same size (10 x 15 cm) and was more experimental in the way I blocked out areas, then wiped off bits of the blockout in an almost random way.

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Drawing into my monoprints is continuing – a never-ending source of surprise and pleasure! The image below is a small part (about 20 x 20 cm) of a larger piece, with a ghost mono print underneath, worked into with coloured pencils. I am now thinking of simply taking the elements that work from these larger pieces and treating them as small finished works. I haven’t come up with a title for this one, so any suggestions welcomed!

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I am so grateful for the continuing support from the people who visit this blog, and who follow me on Instagram and Facebook. So many developments and new directions have come from the intelligent and thoughtful comments that you go to the trouble to make. I am constantly inspired by seeing the work of artists I follow too, so thank you, have a wonderful, peaceful Christmas, and looking forward to an inspired and productive New Year!

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In the air

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Liquid Pencil is a medium I keep returning to. It has an unpredictability that I like, surprises emerge that I can take further. This drawing is on Yupo paper, which has a plastic-like surface, not at all appealing for regular drawing as it is slippery and resists most media, but Liquid Pencil pools and smears in ways that I can use by drawing into with an 8B graphite pencil. I used an old, poor-quality paintbrush to apply the Liquid Pencil. Hairs were coming out and dragged behind adding to the unpredictability of the resultant forms. I twisted and flopped the brush in an uncontrolled way. The only level of control that I imposed was to have the marks diminishing as they came down the sheet. My favourite marks were those that were very light, they offer more opportunities for working into.

The resultant forms are reminiscent of animals, birds, insects, underwater creatures, but none are identifiable with anything we recognise.

Within our world are many other worlds, tiny, incomprehensible, outside our imagining. In a cloud of dust particles may be creatures and lives we cannot know. The creatures in my drawing come from these other worlds – I do not know what they are, but they have a beauty of their own, a history we can create for them but never know the truth of. The truth is what we make, and everyone who sees them will have a different truth.

The paper is 50 x 40 cm. Below are detail images – black and white images on Yupo are very difficult to photograph well, so I apologise for the uneven tonal qualities.

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Small worlds

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One of the monotypes that I made back in May has moved into its next stage of development. It started as an abstract image in cool, soft colours. Then I started to work into it with coloured pencils, developing some areas, adding form and tone, creating depth and texture. This stage was quite pleasing, but I knew it couldn’t stand alone as a framed image, so I put it aside till inspiration struck for its further development, which it did last week.

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The monotype in its original state
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After coloured pencil was added, and turned 90 degrees

One form of social media I am very fond of is Instagram, I only follow artists and find it endlessly inspiring, sometimes scrolling through images something will stop me, and an idea will come from it. One thing I saw recently was work from artists in the Middle East and a small image of a mass of circles joined in a curtain-like arrangement gave me the ‘Ah ha’ moment I needed. I knew the answer to the future of this particular image was circles. I have a small tool that can be set to cut circles of different sizes, so I set it to a diameter of 6 cm and started cutting, completely randomly, deliberately not choosing what fell within each circle. Eventually I ended up with 25 circles. One of the friends that I create art with every Friday offered me some concertina-folded paper, just to see how the circles looked on either grey or white. Serendipity again – I think they look beautiful just on these concertinas! However, there are still 15 left, and these may be joined together with jump rings to make a hanging artwork, or perhaps arranged in a panel like small portholes, or they may stay solitary – the next stage will answer that question!

I have  called them Small Worlds, as that seems to me to be what they are.

Rogues Gallery 2

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Last year I made a small book of drawings of early twentieth century criminals, (see here) using images inspired by photos from the Police and Justice Museum in Sydney, and now I’m continuing the theme, but with larger drawings. Every face tells a story – some aggressive, some cocky, some dapper, others beaten down and sad.

Photographs of some Sydney criminals were taken in an almost casual way between about 1910 and 1930, some sitting, others slouching against a wall with their hands in their pockets before more formal mug shots came into use. It seems that these photos were quite random, not all criminals were photographed, some were named and their stories can be found, others were quite anonymous, but to me every one of these has a story written on his (or her, there are women too) face.

There is a book published by Sydney Living Museums which has a lot of these photos, and this is what I have used as my inspiration. I have not tried to copy the photos too accurately, but I’ve tried to gain an essence of who these people were.

Each drawing is 15 cm square, on Arches watercolour paper, drawn using water-soluble graphite. I do a loose sketch with an HB pencil, wet it with a brush to get in some tones, then when it is dry work into it more with a 4B pencil, wet it again, and so on till I’m satisfied.

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Before and After

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This is the result of drawing into one of my monoprints – the top image is the untouched monoprint and the lower is the enhanced version. In some areas I have added a lot of detail, in others I have left the original marks almost untouched. Overall, I have tried to bring the image together, to create a unified whole that tells a story. Its the kind of thing where I could keep working in to it, maybe I will, but for now I think it is done. Using coloured pencils in a limited range of tertiary colours leaves the monoprint colours intact below. However, it may end up being divided into smaller pieces, so that the eye can focus on more contained areas.

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Detail.

The overall image is about 43 x 34 cm.

Monoprints

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An area of printmaking I never much enjoyed was monoprints, but I have been converted. There can be a lot of pleasure in starting with a sheet of acetate and a selection of printing inks and just randomly adding marks. There is a purpose behind doing these, I don’t see them as artworks as they are, but as a base for drawing into, developing the marks that appear or manipulating them into a new image.

Strictly speaking what I am doing are monotypes – a monoprint is a print made on a plate which already has an image on it, usually an etching, but it can be done on a relief plate too. Instead of inking it up and printing an edition of identical images, for a monoprint the plate is inked up in a unique way that can’t easily be repeated, hence ‘mono’. A monotype is made on an unmarked plate – in my case 1mm acetate, or it can be glass or any other impermeable smooth surface. Some artists do a regular painting, then transfer it to paper either by hand-rubbing or putting it through a press, but I am simply making random marks. Interesting results can be obtained as a ghost print, in other words, putting the plate through the press a second time when a lot of the ink has been lifted off. These can be beautiful, delicate images, perfect for drawing into.

The main image above is one that I have started working into, but not yet finished – part of the right hand side has been worked, using coloured pencils and some pen and ink, you should be able to see the difference between the two sides. Once it is finished it may remain complete, but if I find there are elements of it I like, it may well get cut up and remade into something new.

The gallery below has several prints that are just awaiting attention – they may look like a splotchy mess, but to me they are ripe with possibility! Once they are worked into I will post an update.

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Miniature sketchbook

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The sketches I made on my recent trip to Tasmania have proved a valuable resource for further artwork – I made a large drawing using some of the elements (see here) and now have made a miniature version of my sketchbook.

In creating this miniature book, I scanned and reduced the pages from the sketchbook, then re-arranged the drawings to suit a small format, going from an A4 sketchbook down to pages that are 10.5 x 9 cm. All the drawings were redone from scratch, I felt if I traced the forms I would lose the original loose quality of them, and the painting was often reinterpreted too.

Once the drawings were done and the labels added, I glued the panels onto a long strip of mulberry paper, a thin but strong Japanese paper which has small pieces of organic material embedded in it, which felt like a nice accompaniment to drawings of natural objects. The front and back covers were made of card with mulberry paper pasted on, and the decorative corners and the panel beneath the title plate were made from offcuts from my recent prints.

This little book, along with the portraits in my previous post, and a small oil painting will be submitted to the Annual Awards exhibition of the Australian Society of Miniature Art. The exhibition is not until June, but I wanted to have the work complete well in advance.