Saturday 2 August 2014

Magpie Print Edition

I was invited a few months ago to be part of a print exchange by Annie Day (Australia).  Communications had opened up between us following my participation in an international portfolio print exchange she organised to raise funds for the world wildlife foundation. (something like that).  Its funny really because in a way,  I initially only participated as a way of encouraging Natasha, my then printmaking 'protege' (so to speak).  I may possibly write about that project in a separate post, at some point.   Getting back to the theme edition of about 10 or 12 (cant find the brief right now)  It's not due in till September though.

left :  the common Green Magpie (Australia)

Once I started looking into what Magpies are all about I was amazed at how many different variations of this species there are, although some of what I looked at would probably fall into associated species. I mean have you ever heard of a 'cyanapica cooki' ??
Here is one of those by the way:

"Cyanapica Cooki" - are not its colours delightful to us people in
Scotland whose birds and beasties are mainly beige-ish grey !?
I also looked into the fables and mythology associated with Magpies in various cultures around the globe.  I particularly liked a story from China which was about a pair of forbidden lovers who were trying to escape from those who would keep them apart.  When they were at the verge of escaping onto another planet - they were helped by some friendly magpies who linked them selves  together  to enable the lovers to escape to a life unfettered.  The story went something like that.

Anyway - it came to the point where I needed to stop researching (of which I did plenty) and get on with it.

Well one of the ideas I was thinking about was doing a pair of siamese twin magpies......but I was finding it hard to work out where to put the 'joining' of the two birds.

So I made a drawing and then scanned it and out put it as a bitmap to get it on to a plate using photo polymer.  I used a small piece of thin alumin(i)um and another plate which was a kind of slightly grained white plastic.

There they are - the plastic plate at the top and a proof using Akua sepia coloured, intaglio pigment ink (water based) and below the plate which was aluminium.  When I proofed these, neither of them had been etched / dry pointed or anything else.  I seem to remember I had to do the photo etch process twice as something went wrong  on the first attempt.  

Not surprising given that I had'nt done any photo etch for ages.   I proofed the aluminium plate using the usual DARK BLUE oil based intaglio ink.

photo etch (photo polymer) on plastic - proof using Akua intaglio ink

photo polymer (photo etch) on thin aluminium plus a proof using oil based etching ink

OK so then I fiddled about with these two plates adding pastel ground to them,  dry pointing into them and so forth ....but I just wasn't happy with them .......don't think I made any photos of the subsequent proofs.  Although I had spent ages on the pencil drawing from which I had made the photo positive - it somehow just wasn't 'happening' for me.

I was thinking that I wanted a more painterly image so I 'wire-wooled' (new printmaking phrase)  and sanded a piece of clear polypropylene and then 'painted' a rough approximation of the same pencil drawing using diluted pastel ground and small thin paint brushes.  Allowing each little layer to dry as I went back and forward to it while I was still working (developing more imagery using previous scans of drawings and further photos etc )  on some more imagery on my computer.

This is a selection of a few of the things I came up with:

I might have been thinking,  photo etch for the the background with the face and the red.   The bird circle would then have to be pigment inkjet chine-colle and as they (print edition organizers)  are preferring a print with only traditional techniques - that would have ruled this idea out.  I could still make it into a print.

Poppy Flower photo:  image by Petr Kratochvil  :

Then it dawned on,  me that I don't often use red in my artwork for some reason - I suppose it's not a favorite color of mine although I do like certain reds. Particularly as seen in particular flowers, eg poppies, sweet williams and pansies.

Sweet William photo:  image by MUmland @

Pansy photo:

I've referred to this one as the Magpies Kite ( well at least that is what I was naming it in Photoshop.
The figure, I've used here,  is one I made from the time I was researching and developing imagery for the print for an exhibition in Riga.  The print I made for that in the end was called "Deep".  The theme for that exhibition was "Titanic".

Getting back to the Magpie plate I was working on,  just using painted on pastel-ground in layers.

Pastel ground on sanded polypropylene Stage 1 (apols for dreadful photo!)

Pastel ground on sanded polypropylene Stage 2

Pastel ground on sanded polypropylene Stage 3

pastel ground on sanded polypropylene Stage 4

I had to remove their tails because the print area allowance was 'postcard size' i.e., 4 x 6 inches or 10 x 15 cm (I think) and leaving them there would just have made the print too big.  

So  I decided instead to add stitches which is reminiscent of my lino-cut print of conjoined infants printed on fabric and also as an edition for an exchange portfolio with Inkteraction (Online printmakers network - now defunct), coordinated by Melanie Yazzie.  Yikes that was about 4 or 5 years ago now.   I did a small version on Washi paper for that edition with red thread stitched into the paper.  

I later went on to carve a larger plate and made two prints onto fabric which I printed onto calico and made into pillows which also had red thread in as well as an actual sewing needle that was left with the thread in the needle and 'pinned' into the pillow.

Oh dear I digress once more !!

Somewhere else along the line I made these images which I was seriously considering as possible final images.

I seem to remember that after I made these - I then got distracted with another project I was working on at the same time using collagraph and dry point.  I was also doing some tests with copper sulphate spit bite on aluminium.  Both activities being related to the same starting point i.e.,  a water colour monotype.  More on this later. 
Eventually I opted to make a couple of images in black and white which I then photo etched onto steel plates.

I wont publish these until they have been 'released' so to speak,  by the Magpie project, through Annie Day and Robin Ezra at Printmaking Sisters, in New South Wales.

Sunday 15 June 2014

what to do today - Easter Monday after (belated post)

Well the past 3 days I have been working on a monotype that should have been done with ......EXCEPT ................... that I made a slip of the hand when I was giving it a slight final touching up with a pigment permanent fine liner pen, which is an unusual strategy in itself ugh but it turned out to be such a costly mistake.

I suppose the good thing is that working with this image made me realise that I want to do a dedicated print of it,  as in I will make a circular plate with a reticulated watercolour bloom like  effect......... not sure yet whether to use collagraph with a mountboard and drypoint for the figs

or to use copper or zinc and try out some of those lovely wash effects with the Lascaux wash product or even the technique where you add washing up liquid to the plate after its been aquatinted..............

Here's is a monochrome 'mock up' version of the monotype that I was working on.

The finished colour version is about 55 x  65 cm.

Monday 7 April 2014

Print Biennial Cacak, Serbia 2012 (and this year 2014)


image above is by participating artist Vladimir Lalic  WEBSITE

I was one of the artists exhibited in the very first Print Biennial in Cacak, Serbia in 2012.  It's kind of peculiar being in the first one as there is no track record, as such,  of the event, for you as an artist, to refer to.  All you can do is go for it and hope for the best.  I wonder how many times in their life,  a visual artist say this to themselves - I wonder ?  ha ha.

Well  .......I mean artist Dragan Dobrosavljevic, who was organising it, seemed pretty nice and professional to deal with............ so it seemed like it would be a good thing to participate in.  I just hoped that the other artists works would be of a good standard.  

I remember being in a book published by Gagliardi Art Gallery in London published in 1992-93 I think it was called British Contemporary Art ,  anyway when I received the actual printed book - well the works in it, in general were my opinion......quite below par.....although there were one or two good people like Oona Grimes.  

I don't know whether she had been doing printmaking at that time but I remember subsequently seeing her prints at the London Print Fair at the Barbican.  That was in around 1998 and they were really impressive.

There may well have been other people involved in staging the exhibition - I'm sure there must have.  There are some photos of the opening on the album on their Facebook page that can be viewed HERE but it might just be the case that Dragan was the one who was good at computer/web type stuff and at speaking English.

image above by another 2012 participant Georgia Grigoriadou

The event apparently will be taking place again in 2014
and I await further information from Dragan concerning deadline for submissions and so on.  There was a catalogue printed for that first biennial by the way and it was pretty good considering it was their first.  I think really they accepted too many artists and then because they had such a high number of exhibited works - that meant there were a large number of images to squeeze into the catalogue book, and of course that meant that one ended up with e.g., 4  small images of the works per page which  didn't do the artists or the event itself any favour's.  Mind you that's just my opinion but I imagine a lot of the artists who participated would feel the same way.


My apologies  - I say this because the printmaking catalogue I had in my minds eye,  was NOT the one that Cacak produced for their first biennial.  In fact theirs was a small A5 size, soft cover book.  OK the artworks could have been better photographed but I appreciate that this costs a lot of money if you have to for example pay a photographer to come in and do it properly.

I am currently making a submission to Liege and if selected they request that the artists send them a high resolution  e.g.,  18 x 24 cm size jpg .  This means that then they have that taken care of.  Also the artist knows that there work in the book will look good. Look out for an update on the 2nd Cacak Print biennial


Web ref's


Facebook Page  ( there are 2 of these)



Wednesday 19 March 2014

Reworking a Large Collagraph Print

Among other things..........I have been working on larger prints that don't quite meet my standards although they were mostly finished up to a point at one time in their 'lives'.  One of these was a collagraph print.  I have about 5 proofs of it and it seems a shame for them to be just sitting there in the plan chest in a state of incompleteness.  Its a print  that was made during a rurally based, printmaking residency.  It came about after I had encountered a sheep that was stuck on the ground where a gate had fallen on top of it.    I tried to get someone to come and deal with it and they freed it and it was alright  - none the worse for wear, surprisingly.   Here is the print............I think I was never really happy with the 'bear' or generalized creature  (or whatever) that was in those 4 squares, on the left.  

So I was thinking about what else I could do with it.  Of course at first I was thinking new bear new I had a look around and came up with this one .......

So I worked on it a little and was even prepping it as a positive for a photo etch..........but then thought NO NO NO.  
I was thinking no I want to make THIS bear,  this new one as a unique etching, in itself.  And anyway after trying out a mock-up in Photoshop - I did'nt feel it would actually work out satisfactorily.

So I went back to the drawing board which involved thinking a little bit beyond the immediate and the obvious........well that's what I was thinking to myself .  What if I placed some kind of transparent / translucent chine colle paper onto the creature and then kind of.........well I wasn't too sure (what?) beyond that.............. but I thought I'd try it out anyway.

OK......... the photo- mock up does'nt look as good as the actual effect of placing the paper I had, on top of the critter, but I did like how it looked.  So now I am thinking what I will place on top of it.  Also I have several kinds of pale natural colored Japanese papers and I will select the one that works best.

So the next thing I was'nt happy with,  was that patch on the  top right hand side of the print  - that's a difficult one to 'patch up' so to speak.  Well I was thinking of maybe scanning in directly from the print itself.  Like directly below the area that needs working on,  that centre right area of the print.  Then if I can get it to print out in a satisfactorily matching color,  I can chine-colle that onto the print with a plate over it. 

and then the question - what to print over that area?  It needs to be light and fine lined so as not to have too much 'weight' visually.  Well I am still at the stage of working that one out, at the moment.
we shall see ...............we shall see.