Music box -prints to objects

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Four imaginary musical instruments are now complete. It has been a journey of discovery, several ‘aha!’ moments, and as many ‘oops’ moments. On my desk are a number of shapes cut from my prints which haven’t gone together in the way I intended, and they are now waiting for a new approach. There still may be a little more tweaking to all of these, and some gluing and strengthening to make sure they will travel safely to their destination.

The prints used in these are all drypoint, some on copper, some on acetate and some on drypoint card, a lovely surface to work on. I have used a lino block too, which appears on some of the circles in Whirlygig. They are printed on 250 gsm Corona by Magnani except for the one at the front on the curved base which is on 300 gsm Voyager watercolour paper. The inks are all water-based and are a mix of Akua and Schminke.

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The two above images are of ‘Whirlygig’, in its completed state and in progress.

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This one is called ‘Up and Down’. You can see the print that I used, cut into 3 strips, two strips cut and folded to create pop-ups and the third makes the base. You can see some of the image that is on the back (which I forgot to photograph). These formed themselves into a stepped construction, a bit Aztec in its form. Maybe there are new directions to come!

Transforming prints

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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.

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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.

Connections – a concertina book

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Time to reflect, absorb, think – this is a key ingredient in developing ideas. The drawings that I have been working on over the last few months based on blots made from Liquid Pencil are moving into the next stage of development. From the beginning I had an instinct that they wouldn’t feel finished as framed artworks. I have framed one and realise that it is something that should be examined closely, if looked at from across a room it says nothing at all, the delicacy of marks are lost.

The artwork demands an intimacy that largeness of scale cannot provide, so I decided to take elements of the drawings to concentrate on. First I started with the drawing I called ‘Blot Series No 4’, see here for details. I made a 10 x 10 cm mask to choose elements from the drawing that had an integrity of their own. I found 5 pieces, cut them out and, once I had chosen the arrangement and rotation of them, glued them lightly to a length of heavy watercolour paper which I had folded into a concertina. The next step was extrapolating some of the marks at the edges of each piece, extending and developing them across the support to link the individual pieces. I may extend this piece with more panels.

The concertina is 14 cm high and 70 cm long, each panel being 14 x 14 cm.

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Print assemblage

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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.

Miniatures with a Japanese flavour

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The next miniature exhibition is approaching, so I have been gathering the works I intend to submit. I can put in two framed works and two three-dimensional works – one of the 3D works is in the miniature awards exhibition at the moment, but can be exhibited again as the two galleries are not close together.

The exhibition is called ‘A Brush with Japan’ so all the works will be inspired by Japan or Japanese gardens and will be held at the Gosford Regional Gallery. The gallery has a long cultural connection to Japan, and is surrounded by the Edogawa Garden which is laid out in the Japanese horticultural style.

My works are not Japanese in any literal sense, more representing my feelings and impressions of Japan. These ideas have suffused most of the work I have done this year. Above is my favourite piece, more of the piano keys. I have now painted eight or nine of these, and I have selected the three above to work together in one frame. The title for these is ‘Three Obi’, and I am very grateful to my blogging friend Julie Podstolski for suggesting it. Julie has a long and deep interest in all things Japanese – see her amazing drawings here.

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The second framed work I made when I was experimenting with encaustic earlier this year. The support is Ampersand Gessobord, and there are layers of oil paint, Neocolors 2 – which are water-soluble oil pastels – and wax. The layers are built up and scraped back to reveal colours hidden below, a process of discovery and surprise. To me it suggested windswept snowfields, so that became the title.

This three dimensional work has been shown on this blog before, but a little more work has been done to it, just general tidying up and refining. I have another wonderful blogging friend, Poppytump, to thank for the title of this one, ‘The Hidden Secrets of the Geisha’. She came up with it when I last showed this, and to me it sums it up perfectly. There are little objects hidden within each part, and these are all stored away in the shelves. For some of Poppytump’s wonderful photos, sketches and poetic words, see here.

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The last piece is ‘Architecture in Japan’ which I wrote about in my last blog, made from interlocking pieces of prints.

The works will be submitted at the end of this month, then I will be off on a long camping trip. I will be taking my sketchbook and my camera, so will do blog posts as and when I can. So please come along for the ride!

Miniature art awards exhibition

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Last Friday was the opening night of the Australian Society of Miniature Art annual awards exhibition. The society is based in New South Wales, but we have members from all over Australia. There are generally two exhibitions a year, one for members only which is held in a different gallery each time, and the awards exhibition which is open to non-members.

This year there were 151 works in seven different categories – drawing, watercolour/gouache, printmaking, oil, acrylic, mixed media and 3D and handmade books. The judge, who changes every year, was Cherry Hood, an Australian artist who is well-known for her large scale portraits in watercolour. Judging is a big job – each section plus ‘Most Innovative Work’, ‘Best Traditional Work’, a special award that has a different focus each year, this time was for a work depicting the human form, ‘Most Imaginative Drawing’, and of course ‘Best in Show’.

I submitted four works, all of which were accepted. Two in drawing, one 3D and one – the piano key I have shown before – in oil. To my delight I was awarded a Highly Commended for the piano key. The judge’s comment was ‘An extraordinary concept – oil paint on a piano key. Very enticing and exquisite.’

At the top is one of my drawing entries, which I called Convict No 4. It is done on scratchbord, which is a board covered with black paint over a white chalky surface, so I create the image by scratching into the surface, revealing the white. Thinking in reverse is tricky at first, but becomes second nature after a while. I started this one a long time ago, and kept coming back to it, getting a bit braver all the time, taking off more of the surface. He is part of a series of Victorian convicts in miniature – you can see more here that were done in pencil.  He is 6 x 8.5 cm.

The second drawing is called ‘The Invisible Man’. It is a commentary on how tattoos sometimes seem to take over the entire person, and become more anonymous over time. It is 9 x 8 cm, drawn with liquid pencil, graphite and coloured pencil. I drew the silhouette of the body builder, then placed it randomly over the previously prepared background to create the man’s body.

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My 3D work is intended to also go into the Japanese-themed miniature exhibition in August, so I am hoping it doesn’t sell in this exhibition! It is a miniature version of a larger work I did earlier this year, but using different original prints, cut up and assembled into a structure of interlocking panels that suggested Japanese architecture to me, so I have called it Architecture in Japan. It is 14 cm tall.

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Miniature bookshelf

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In August I will be participating in an exhibition of miniature works at the Gosford Regional Gallery with the Australian Society of Miniature Art. As there is a Japanese Garden attached to the gallery, the theme of the exhibition is anything related to Japan or Japanese gardens.

The prints I have been doing recently have had a Japanese feel to them, quite unintentionally, so I decided to make use of this and create a collection of small books out of some of the prints.

I decided to make the ‘books’ first, and keep them to around about the same size, then decide on a container of some sort later. Eventually the idea of a slatted bookshelf came to me.

I have made every element of this small sculpture – on the top shelf is a slip case filled with five small books. Inside each are pages made from tissue, with abstract images printed on them, three in an ochre colour, two a dull red. At a later stage I may add words to the pages, I am not sure yet. They are tied with paper string that can be fanned out a little. On the next shelf is a double concertina book, which is a concertina in which I have cut slits in the valleys between the pages and inserted another smaller concertina. This is pushed in tightly and so creates a spine as well as small pages within the book. This was then tied at top and bottom edges to hold it together. At the bottom is a folded box, and inside that are two small tissue concertinas attached to a base that can fold in half to be put in the box, or be opened out to make fan shapes.

The bookshelf was made from flat wooden strips, each about 20 cm long, 6 mm wide and 1 mm thick. They were brightly coloured so I painted them all black, then cut them to the lengths I needed, glued them to make the shelves and sides, then glued them together to make the whole object.

There is nothing really Japanese about any of this, it is just an impression or feeling, so I hope it will be accepted! I have done a miniature painting, and hopefully will have more artworks before the exhibition.

Below are pictures of the individual elements. The box is 15 cm high, 6 cm deep and 6 cm wide.

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