Saturday, 31 December 2016

New Year Wishes

Bidding farewell to 2016, but not totally convinced 2017 will be an improvement, my resolution this coming year is to take as much pleasure as possible in the small things.
I wish you all a peaceful, happy and creative New Year

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Once upon a time

I finally printed the block. These will be the pages of books for a swop on the theme ‘Endings and Beginnings’.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Slowly progressing

Due to panto (this year performances are spread over 3 weeks and in two different venues) and family commitments printing has taken a bit of a back seat. But the block is made.

Friday, 18 November 2016

Exhibition News

I’m really pleased to say that I have several pieces of work on show in the Winter Tales exhibition at the Chapel Gallery in Ormskirk.

On a more bizare note, it’s dress rehearsal for the panto tomorrow, followed by the tech on Monday and four performances at the end of the week so all creative stuff this past couple of weeks has been spent desperately trying to get props and scenery  finished.

Have you ever made a chicken wearing a tutu with a light bulb in its mouth?

Saturday, 29 October 2016

20:20 and a New Book

I’ve finished the prints for the 20:20 print exchange, just waiting for signing and numbering.  I have to deliver them to the press for the deadline on Monday.
At the moment I’m working on a new book for the book exchange group I work with. I enjoy having projects with parameters and deadlines that have to be kept to. I find it helps generate ideas for other things and there’s the added bonus of exiting books arriving in the post every three months or so.

We’ve had to move from the original host site at ‘artist books 3.0’ as it was shutting down so we now ‘meet’ through a new blog Collaborative Artists Books. We’re still finding our way communicating on the new platform but come over and see what we do.

The new title is ‘Endings and Beginnings’. It seemed appropriate in the circumstances but I think mine has morphed more into beginnings and endings.

I have been working on fairy story related images recently. ‘Once upon a time’ and ‘they all lived happily ever after‘ seemed a good starting point. After playing with the characters that seem to go in between I came to the conclusion that the majority of them are quite interchangeable; the baby/child, the good girl (princess or serving maid), the evil stepmother/queen. I decided to use silhouettes to emphasise the interchangeability (is that a word) of the characters.

At this point I started to explore structural and layout ideas.
The text here was awkward and the whole piece seemed a bit empty.
Better, but I didn’t like cutting into the pattern to make the silhouettes float.  More importantly I realised that this image had grown to 84cm (the same size as A1 paper – not leaving any wriggle room for printing if I want to use collagraph). If I wanted to keep the text at the sides I needed to lose some characters. I came to the conclusion (due to the lack of images I made while I was doodling) that the hero/prince and stepfather/king probably don’t interest me so they were the ones to go.
Think so far this is what I’ll work up.

Next step is to draw up my own silhouettes (you may have noticed the presence of Queen Elizabeth in the mock ups) and work out the border pattern      

Saturday, 22 October 2016

More text

I want to incorporate more text into my images so I decided to explore press n peel again as a method of transferring a resist to aluminium plate.  
I was rather please with the results
Just sepia ink...
And with chine colle...
And with a stencil relief rainbow roll...
I decided to use one of the plates for my entry for the 20/20 print exchange. I’m half way there and very fed up of tissue paper butterflies!

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Finished !

Four more prints before the block got too soggy to continue. I think they are better but for some reason they’ve decided to dry rather cockled. I’ll let the ink dry then I may have to re-soak them.

I think these are probably the last I’ll take off this block. Sometimes I think you have to recognise that it’s time to give in gracefully.

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Useful resource

I thought people might find this useful.

I came across a post on Painting Speech which said “Claire Van Vliet and Elizabeth Steiner have made their 2002 book Woven and Interlocking Book Structures freely available in a variety of formats (PDF, EPUB, Kindle, etc.) at the Internet Archive. Published in 2002 and no longer in print, this book is a self-teaching manual with directions for making basic models of 16 book structures designed for Janus, Steiner, and Gefn Press publications. You can find it here at; download options are listed as links on the right.
If you follow Claire’s recommendation to print the PDF 2-sided and bind it in a 3-ring binder as a bench top manual, it will take 76 sheets of letter-size paper.”

I’ve been trying to get a library or a reasonably priced second hand copy for ages with no success. So I’d like to say thank you to Claire and Elizabeth for their generosity in sharing.

Friday, 30 September 2016

First Prints

I decided that trying to edition a set of identical Snow White prints was one step too far so I thought I'd make a variable edition and explore different inks and colour combinations.

But this plate has been a fight right from the start and so it continued. I printed it today and only managed 4 prints before the block started to feel spongy around the queen’s eyes. I cleaned it up and I think the shellac has started to lift, not off the sellotape sections, where I would expect it, but over the mount board part of the sleeves and the masking tape trees. Both materials normally hold onto the varnish and stay stable with no problem. I’m going to let it dry and then decide whether to give it another coat or risk continuing without.

Of the four prints, the first was a bit pale, as I’d expect, but it gave me an idea of which areas need extra attention when wiping.

The second, prussian blue,
and the third, a combination of prussian blue and burnt umber,
are OK . But the fourth which I think is the best colour off all three, a combination of burnt umber and burnt sienna, has done something odd. 
The face, and only the face, has printed twice. Not smudged as though it has shifted during printing, just printed twice, slightly offset and clearly defined.
 I’ll see what happens next week when I print it again but I’m not optimistic.

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Snow White - Ready to print?

I’ve had three goes at this block!

The first block was almost finished when I managed to stick tape right across the bodice , which needs to be a flat pale colour in the print, and completely lifted the smooth top surface.

I finished the scene inside the skirt in the second attempt and then realised that I hadn’t reversed the image. There is no text but the image needs to be read left to right, ‘mirror, mirror’ followed by the poisoned apple.

Third time lucky? I’m not sure. The varnish looks uneven and I’ve a horrible feeling that it might show on the print. But I’m not sure how to try fixing it without making it worse so I’ll have a go with the ink and hope I don’t’ have to deal with it.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Homage to Patrick Hughes

I’ve been busy this week. I decided it was time to finish the Four Seasons Perspective book using the etched image.
I had thought of inking each section in a different colour to reflect the different seasons but after trying it as a mock up (altering the colours on the computer) decided that the different blocks of colour broke up the unity of the image too much. So I printed a set of 10 using a burnt umber ink. I may make another set using a Prussian blue later.
When I made the mock up I made it with rectangular covers but this spoilt the optical illusion at the ends of the book so I decided to go with a trapezium to reflect the folded shapes. This does make the image read better.
The uniformity of colour does mean that it isn’t as obvious that the same room is going through changes as the season changes though so I have re-titled it “Homage to Patrick Hughes”.

I am considering developing the image in watercolour to emphasise the four seasons narrative and make a companion book. This week  I bought a light pad so that I could work directly onto watercolour paper and not need to trace the image in graphite first. It is wonderful, thin enough to work with on my work table and bright. So much more comfortable than working with images taped to the window, and I can work at night!
I haven’t started the watercolour yet but it is making the drawing and redrawing of my next collagraph print so much easier.

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Butterflies and Cats

I finally finished the butterflies.
Having scraped and burnished the body and wings I first tried soft ground etching to give the detail but after 5 minutes in the copper sulphate it had only bitten in odd spots. I think there was too much residual grease from the ground on the plate. It did however break up the too even polished surface of the wings.
So I decided to degrease thoroughly and try with a hard ground. Much better bite.
 Then a repeat print in the same ink (a mix of Prussian blue and burnt sienna - it gives a lovely steely grey) with a rollover of white mixed with a trace of burnt sienna. They are only slightly different but the rollover has warmed the butterfly.
I’m not completely happy, I should have burnished back the antenna to make them white rather than etching them, they are rather lost against the background, but I think it’s time to try out what I’ve learned on a new image.

On a different note it’s panto time again (oh no it isn’t, etc, etc)

Trying to be organised this year I decided to try and get the publicity artwork done early. This is the painting for the 4 foot banner that will go outside the hall to (hopefully) drum up an audience.
 Not the most thrilling image but it does have to incorporate a lot of text and be readable from passing cars.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Reworking a butterfly

I only had time for a short trip to HBP this week. I've decided to rework the butterfly that I etched using gum arabic transfer as a resist.
I like the text but the butterfly is far too dark to read against the background and it lacks detail.
I started by scraping and burnishing. I wanted to clear the butterfly back to nearly white but leave some underlying texture.
 I think the next step will be to put a soft ground on the plate. I’ll draw into this to give the darks

Wednesday, 17 August 2016


It’s been a bit quiet on the work front for the past three weeks because we’ve been away staying with friends in France.
Lots of sun and wine, good food and good company. What more could anyone want.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016


When I downloaded the entry form for the West Lancs Open from the Chapel Gallery I noticed a call for entries for their Christmas exhibition from artists who work with stories – fable, myth and personal narratives.

I sent off my CV and some photos and I’ve been accepted!

Amongst the images I sent were the Taylor Brothers. I got the prints out of the drawer this week to check they were OK and I realised I’d printed them all on off white or cream paper, which I wasn’t too keen on in retrospect. So I reprinted them on smooth white this week.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Yet Another Try

I went to Hot Bed Press to print on Friday fully intending to redo the perspective book as a soft ground etching but when I looked more closely at the first plate and the test prints I decided that most of the problems were down to wiping not biting so I’m going to think about book covers and paper weight then try printing it again later.

So having nothing else prepared I decided to have another go at gum arabic transfer for resist.
 I still over cooked it in the solution but the resist took much better than last time. 
 The raggedness of the text I think was due to me jiggling the bath while the plate was biting. Not an intentional effect but one I will bear in mind for the future.

I also tried adding gum arabic transfer on top of the etching.
 And reprinting the etching plate on top of that. 
Then home and a trip to Ormskirk where the opening of the West Lancs Open Exhibition was taking place in the Chapel Gallery. I’m please to say that both Rapunzelle and Concession Pereptuelle were accepted

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Large etching finished

Well I’ve finished the etching that I wanted to use for the perspective book but I think I managed to get grease on some areas of the plate while I was working on the tones so it hasn't bitten evenly in a couple of places. Having proofed it and worked into the more obvious blots and problems I'm still not sure about it.
I have another plate so I think I'll redo the image but this time I'll try a soft ground for the line etch just to see how the two compare. If I'm still not happy I can always revert to pen, watercolour and digital.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Book in a jar

After fiddling, experimenting and several strops I finally came to the conclusion that trying to print a 6 x 84cm image wasn’t going to work as a 4 colour separation gum arabic print. I’m not really sure why I thought it could in the first place.

Having decided that digital was going to be the way forward it meant accepting that I was working with cartridge paper.
I explored various closures and ways of attaching the scroll to dowel then realised the paper height was the right size to fit in the jar I use to mix my gum arabic in. Given the subject matter it seemed to make perfect sense.  So I bound the short edges with copper to finish them off and made a belly band with the image extending over it to hold the scroll shut.
It is intended as a comment on the practice of killing for collecting, such as big game hunting, birds egg collecting etc, rather than on the serious academic study of butterflies and moths. Not at all what I thought it was going to be when I started but I’m still pleased with it.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Different Paper

I’m thinking of making this as a scroll inside a book or box so I started to experiment with the structure.
Cartridge paper is far too springy for what I had in mind and for once the internet doesn’t seem to have any helpful suggestions for paper type or weight.
I went looking through my stuff for something more malleable than cartridge, less fragile than tissue and in long enough lengths that I won’t have to piece it.
I found interfacing...
(it takes the ink much better than I thought but needs a backing paper to read clearly. Probably not what I need for this project but definitely something to come back to)
...and rice paper from a long ago experiment with Chinese calligraphy.
I thought the lack of size in the paper might be a problem with such a wet process but it seems OK. 

Next step 4 colours, and trying to print with a master and on paper that are both too long for the press bed.