Sunday, 13 December 2009

An unusual project

I’ve been given a rather interesting project by a friend of mine. She’s a creative type herself; a garden designer primarily with massage and naturopathy thrown in. She recently had some fairly extensive remodelling done on her house and found a piece of the original wallpaper still attached to the wall. The house was built in 1928 so the paper is rather elderly. My mission is to turn it into a plate of some sort, collagraph I guess, and print from it. It’s quite heavily embossed so I’m hoping that with a few coats of varnish, I can stop it from flattening as it goes through the press. I shall try printing it both intaglio and relief to see what I get.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Card cuts at Red Hot Press

I spent a very pleasant day last Friday teaching a card cut workshop at Red Hot Press. My three students, all of whom are practising artists and printmakers, were delightful company and created some interesting images.

We spent the morning looking at the different effects that can be produced with card cuts; line, tone and texture, and the variables such as types of card and varnish. My students then made some plates and varnished them. We had a relaxing lunch whilst waiting for the varnish to dry, then spent the afternoon printing and experimenting with intaglio and relief techniques.

Something that struck me was how difficult it can be for experienced artists to learn new techniques sometimes. I think to avoid discouragement, it’s important to stop oneself from becoming too bound up in the image. One should try to concentrate on the technique itself; mark-making and experimenting with all the variables a particular medium offers. Maybe look at the final image in detail, picking out what works and what doesn’t, rather than viewing the image a whole.

Image by Ruth Barrett-Danes

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Back in the studio

It’s been some time since my last blog entry – too long. That’s a clear indication that I’ve not been doing an awful lot creatively recently. Sometimes life just gets in the way.

Having said that, I had a good day at Red Hot Press yesterday, printing for an open studio event and preparing for a workshop I’m teaching in a couple of weeks.

I also started on a new plate; always an exciting thing. I want to concentrate on improving my aquatinting skills with a series of portraits (self and of those near to me) so the narrative skein of my work is on hold at the moment. I felt really inspired by the quality of the paintings selected for the BP Portrait Awards this year; wonderful technically, compositionally and atmospherically too – almost makes me want to paint! Human faces are an endless source of interest and inspiration so hopefully that will keep me busy for a while.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

All kinds of dust

Day four of building mayhem (oh the dust…!) and I’m actually getting a lot more done in the studio than I thought I would, experimenting further with pine resin as an aquatint. My first efforts, in I which I used it with sugar lift, were interesting - if you want the subjects of yr portraits to look as though they’re recovering from a hideous accident - but weren’t really what I was after (see the example below – and that was AFTER cosmetic surgery…). I’m not entirely sure what was happening here; it may have been that the water to melt the sugar was too hot, or that the liquid hard ground just didn’t agree with the pine resin. The ground lifted off in unsubtle blobs which was too uneven for what I’m trying to achieve.

Having abandoned the sugar lift, I am now just stopping out areas with the liquid hard ground – with much better results (see above and below). It’s easy to get in a tangle here because it means painting out the white areas with a dark liquid, but then, printmakers are used to doing things backwards anyway!

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Exhibition update

The summer exhibition frenzy is almost at an end now. Oxmarket has been and gone; sold three prints, all of them dark, so I may have to rethink my supposition that people don’t like gloomy images on their walls! Hampshire Open Studios finished at the weekend. The Wayzgoose was well attended and Southampton Ukulele Jam tore the place up with tunes such as Rawhide and Come Up and See Me. Some lucky person won a copy of the Made in Southampton limited edition box set; fifteen original prints by members of Red Hot Press presented in a hand-made folio, complete with a specially commissioned forward by Philip Hoare, winner of the 2009 Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-fiction. Print Zero Print Exchange 6 exhibition opened in Seattle on Saturday and I’ve just got to get my selected work to the workshop for it to be taken to Bristol for IMPACT 6, then that’s it for this year I think. Time to concentrate on producing some new work.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

The Albion

I got to have a go on an Albion press this afternoon – get me! I spent a very pleasant afternoon at the home of wood engraver and fellow Red Hot Press member Jutta Manser who is the proud owner of a small Albion press. And what a thing of beauty it is. Jutta showed me how it worked and I printed a couple of my own wood engraving blocks on it; wonderful.

Made in 1884, it’s a magnificent piece of engineering. And ornate with its gold paintwork on black. One has to keep reminding oneself that these were actually working machines used in the printing trade, not merely decorative ornaments. Even the feel of it, winding the plate in and out and pulling across the handle with a satisfying clunk, is most gratifying. I can’t help but wonder about its history; where it’s been for the last 120 odd years… and how nice it is to be a little part of that history, if only a speck.

And congratulations to Jutta for having two prints selected for the Society of Wood Engravers annual show at Bankside Gallery, London in September. Richly deserved.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009


Creative activity seems to be off the agenda for the next few weeks or so while home becomes a building site. Much preparation to do before the builders start; stuff to sort out and get rid of, furniture to move, prints to take off the walls… we are in chaos. So, all I can do at the moment is think about my work, which is no bad thing as I feel I’ve come to a bit of a sticking point anyway.

It’s becoming increasingly difficult for me to find a niche for my work. Galleries aren’t keen on it because it’s too illustrative and although I have had good selling years, private collectors seem to find it too dark for their walls, once they get the references. I’d like to get into book illustration but again, where do I fit? Too dark for children’s books and there just aren’t many illustrated books for adults (not nearly enough) – apart from graphic novels which isn’t the way I see my work going. Other than writing my own books to illustrate, and then trying to get them published (yeah right), I don’t know which way to go. Then I get caught up in my own little dilemma about whether it’s right to put my images in people’s heads when they should be forming their own from the text… but that’s another post for another day.

So, I’m hoping these next few weeks will give me time and head space to at least think about where my work is going, even if I can’t actually make any.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

The wonders of pine resin

Here’s my first experiment using pine resin as an aquatint. It’s too dark at the moment but I was quite pleased with it for a first attempt. I ground the powder from quite large lumps using a somewhat crude mortar and pestle, if you can call it that. Can’t remember what beach the stone came from but it was most probably Welsh.

The texture of the aquatinted area is uneven and rather crazed in places which may be because I’ve not put enough resin on or because the powder isn’t fine enough. This is something I’ll be able to experiment with to get different textures and tones. I’m not a huge fan of even tone in my own work; I quite like a bit of chaotic texture and foul biting going on, so I think this rather basic method of grinding my own powder and dusting it on using an old pair of tights is going to suit me rather well.

Now, where’s my burnisher…

Thursday, 16 July 2009

The Undertaker's Sisters-in-Law

And here they are in their final state, out in the world.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Bitterne Sugar Lift

The sisters are just about finished – I think – so image will be posted when the ink is dry. IMPACT 6 submission was delivered today; two weeks to wait to see if I’ve been selected. Work ready to go to Oxmarket Galleries in Chichester next week for exhibition at the end of this month/ beginning of August. Work framed and ready for Hampshire Open Studios in August. It’s all coming together.

Further images for The Undertaker’s Nuptials are just not doing at the moment so I’m experimenting with sugar lift. At the moment, I’m leaving the areas where the ground lifted off the plate open (see above) but although the results are interesting, they’re not giving me the contrasts I want. So on the advice of Arizona Jim, eminent printmaker and all-round good egg, I’ve ordered me some pine resin to use as an aquatint. It arrived today - in big lumps - so pestle and mortar needed first. Or some such. This is going to be fun.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Sugar lift

I’ve just started experimenting with sugar lift (Camp Coffee and liquid hard ground) – some interesting results. I like the brushiness of it. Tricky knowing how long to etch for though; I over-etched the shadows on the sisters’ faces as you can see (scary), but some selective burnishing should sort that out. I hope.

Sunday, 28 June 2009


I was thinking yesterday how incredible it seems that it was less than three months ago that the studio first began to take shape – and here it is, up and running and fully equipped, with the first etching entirely made there nearing completion. Yesterday was a day for retrospection; it was a year ago that my dad died. I think he’d be pretty pleased that his workshop is still in use for creative purposes, continuing the family tradition.

The sisters are almost done now; just the final tweaking of lights and darks and a bit of detail here and there. The text of the shop sign was a dilemma. I wanted Lycoris and Adrasteia to be inside the shop. However, if they were, the writing on the shop window would have been backwards, which may have caused people to think I’d messed up when making the plate. So, oddly, the sisters are standing outside their shop. But then, they’re an odd pair and it’s an odd story…

Monday, 22 June 2009

A delightfully printmaking-filled weekend

… is what I’ve just had. On Saturday I went on a wood engraving course at Red Hot Press, the print workshop I’m a member of, and jolly good it was too. Jutta gave us an excellent exercise to start us off and get us to use different tools to make a variety of marks. We had to divide the block in half and using a leaf as our basic form, engrave one half of the block black on white and the other half white on black. Not as easy as it sounds!

I was working on a block about 3cm by 1.5cm, the smallest I’ve ever done so that was a challenge in itself. Not particularly taken with the result but it was a really useful and fun day.

Yesterday I spent most of the day in my own studio working on the sisters-in-law. They’re barely a week old but showing signs of aging already…

Thursday, 18 June 2009

The sisters-in-law are born

Lycoris and Adrasteia are the first characters to be drawn, etched and printed at Project Atelier – and here they are in their first state. There’s a long way to go with this image yet and I’m not sure what the next step will be.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

An etching press of my own

15 June 2009 was a great day for me – my etching press arrived! I still can’t quite believe it. It was delivered in the most enormous crate and I wondered if I had been sent the wrong thing; or I’d got my calculations wrong. But thankfully no, it was just exceptionally well packed for its journey from York. What a thing of beauty…

With the help of a couple of friends (thank you Gareth and Georgia) it was lifted onto the bench and, after trimming the blankets and putting in the bed, I was printing! Works like a dream; I pulled a perfect cardcut and an etching first go.

This morning I mixed up my first batch of copper sulphate solution and etched a plate – another first for Project Atelier. Put the plate through the press and the Undertaker’s sisters-in-law were born. I have my own etching press. I am very happy.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

The Undertaker's Wife

The Undertaker’s wife could be found on occasion in the parlour of her husband’s premises, ‘minding the shop’.

A spinner by occupation, she would sit at her wheel, treadling rhythmically, left, right, left, right, left right. So smooth and regular were her movements and so gentle the sound of the flyer as it coiled the thread around the bobbin, that her customers would find themselves falling into a reverie as they waited to be shown into the Chapel of Rest. No one minded.

She worked with quiet concentration, holding the fibre in her right hand and letting it play through the fingers of her left as it fed through the hooks of the flyer. When it was a little too thick, she would tug at it lightly to even out the thread. Sometimes, she would bend her head towards the wheel with slight nodding movements which every now and then became so violent that her long, loose hair swung forward and barely missed becoming tangled in the workings of the wheel.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Lycoris and Adrasteia

The Undertaker’s sisters-in-law are taking shape. They’re a funny looking pair; I like the way that my characters sort of form themselves… they come out how they come out and are quite often a surprise to me.

The photograph shows the plate as it’ll be etched in its first state – just the basic outline of the pair. I’ll build up light and dark, tone and texture with successive etchings.

Now to the Undertaker’s wife…

Tuesday, 2 June 2009


It’s funny what a difference putting a print away for a few days or weeks can do for ones perceptions of it. I often dislike work when I finish it and then put it away to flatten. I come back to it later with fresh eyes and it usually (but not always!) looks a lot better. I guess I get sick of the image when I’ve spent a long time working on it and am unable to view it objectively. Such was the case with my cockle wood engraving.

I said goodbye to a friend today. I’ve not known her long but have developed a fondness for her and a great respect for her wisdom, compassion and ethics; I’ll miss her. Sad when we have to say goodbye to the really good people.

I wanted to give her something to say thank you and the cockle seemed the most appropriate, the sea being a recurring theme in our conversations. I was pleased when I got it out of its tissue. I hope she likes it and it will be a positive reminder of a good ending.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Project Atelier update

Work continues to go on in and to the studio; the workspace is evolving as I settle into it and find the best ways of using it. Having spent several hours on Saturday dismantling an eight-foot long, floor to ceiling built-in wardrobe and shelving unit, I’ve happily found a use for some of the bits that I haven’t taken to the dump. One of the wardrobe doors has provided me with a larger work surface and the small cupboard doors will make excellent print flatteners. It’s functional rather than aesthetically pleasing, but that was always the Bennett Price way, so I’m content to continue the tradition. Just three doors, two end pieces and half a tonne of three by three to get rid of now…

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

The Undertaker's sisters in law

The undertaker’s wife was a robust woman. In comparison both her sisters were slight. Lycoris Moir, the taller of the two, was tousled and bespectacled. She measured her customers for their mourning clothes with a faded linen tape measure, checking, double checking and checking again in the most meticulous fashion that she had the correct figures jotted in her notebook. The notebook was so full and tattered and ink-smudged that it looked as though it recorded the personal dimensions of all the bereaved of a millennium.

‘We are data-rich, my dears, data-rich,’ she would tell her sisters.

Adrasteia was shorter, smaller; petite. Raven-haired and sleek, she had a disconcerting habit of studying her clients intensely, then tilting her head to one side as though she had made some silent, immutable judgement. She would raise her rusty tailoring scissors and snip snip the air in front of their faces, her black eyes glittering.

‘But husband-poor, my dear, husband-poor.’

Tuesday, 19 May 2009


No takers for my cardcut course this weekend sadly so no teaching for me. This means I can spend the weekend packing up books so that the builders can get to where they need to get. Lucky me.

The cockle wood engraving is finished. What can I say? I don’t like it. It’s flat and uninteresting. Good practice though. Hope the etched version turns out better on Friday.

An image of the Undertaker’s sisters-in-law is forming…

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

The Undertaker's Nuptials

Started putting some words down for my next series of prints. Having spent so long illustrating other people’s words, it was really satisfying to illustrate my own in creating the Red Scar series. That happened by accident really; the story (never finished) was written to amuse a friend and I hadn’t intended to use it as a starting point for a series of etchings… but that’s how it turned out. The image of the three characters in the coach was so vivid in my mind, I had to make a drawing of it.

I don’t like my drawings. As a rule, they’re fairly dead on the page until I turn them into a print. I suppose it’s the combination of textures and quality of line and tone which is impossible to create in any other medium other than printmaking.

This time, I’m going one step further; writing the story – The Undertaker’s Nuptials - specifically to generate images. We’ll see how it goes.

Saturday, 9 May 2009


I realise this is off-topic but I had an interesting visitor this week; an archivist from the West Sussex Record Office. A few weeks ago, whilst clearing Dad’s workshop in Phase One of Project Atelier, I found some boxes of film from the 1920s and 30s. These were shot by my Great Uncle Harry Guermonprez, co-founder of the Bognor Regis Film Society.

I feel strongly about local history and preserving our heritage, possibly because the city I live in was mutilated first by bombing in the second world war and then by poor town planning. What was once a thriving, modern port, rich in historic buildings, is now a featureless 21st century city, much like any other, with docks that are really beginning to feel the squeeze of the economic downturn.

I’ve never been able to experience the old Southampton, except for the odd building or ruin which is all that’s left of the medieval city. I can appreciate the old photographs and films however, so I emailed Screen Archive South East which already has a few of the films made by the BRFS (see clips of them here: BRFS at Screen Archive South East). I was then contacted by Alan at the West Sussex Record Office who was quite excited by my news as he’s a bit of a fan of Uncle Harry’s apparently. He and a couple of colleagues have written a book about cinema in the region and had included a fairly comprehensive chapter on the BRFS (he brought me a copy – very interesting).

During his researches eighteen odd years ago, Alan had managed to track down what he thought was all that was left of the BRFS’s films to an ex-member of the society in Southport. Hearing that there were more (about eighty reels when I counted), he was quite keen to have them for the archives. I was also able to give him a couple of BRFS event programmes, one of Uncle Harry’s film projectors and one of his old cameras; the sort that has a sort of folding-out, concertina-type thing and takes photographs on glass plates. Please excuse my very untechnical description...

Alan and the team at Brighton University will digitise the films so that they are available for people to view as important records of social history. They may also make a short film about how the two collections came to light. Bonus.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Project Atelier update

Phase One continues.

More found objects: an old 1950s movie projector and film splicing thing. A feather eiderdown. And a wok. A snooker cue, a sail maker's palm, two cans of spray adhesive, fishing weights. A china doll, a Benares brass top table legs, a big bag of flox. A case full of early twentieth and late nineteenth century sheet music. A coat stand, an album of photographs of my mother from 1947, cards congratulating my parents on their engagement.

In the loft: An old box brownie, an early 35mm camera, two bowler hats. Another movie projector, a slide projector, model planes, a five foot tall wooden standard lamp carved in the shape of a lion. A wedding dress, corsets, pictures, a silver tankard, a tea service, old books...

Photos: exterior shots of Project Atelier

Saturday, 2 May 2009

An unusual bookbinding press

Had a good few hours in the studio today – back on the cockle wood engraving. I arrived at the stage of being able to take the first proof which is always exciting. Still a lot of work to do on it but it’s good to be able to see where it’s going. However, I find that I tend to change style part the way through the engraving which isn’t very helpful; and it’s really noticeable on this one. Hmm, not quite sure how to fix it at this point…

I tried printing the block on my bookbinding press for the first time. Really didn’t think it would work but it’s great. A bit fiddly to get the block, paper and vinyl (used like an etching press blanket) under the platen as it only just fits but it actually produces a better print than I was pulling by burnishing. Bonus.

I’m including a picture of my bookbinding press in this post because it’s an unusual design. Bought it from good old ebay but the chap who sold it to me didn’t know anything about bookbinding or printing or this press. All the ones I’ve seen have either a T-shaped arrangement for screwing down the platen; this one has the screw underneath the arm bits (technical term there) and a lever for increasing the pressure once the platen’s been screwed down. I’d be interested to know if anyone else has seen one similar.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Project Atelier update

The studio is looking more like a studio as the days go on – having posted some photos of the inking and hotplate area, here’s the general work area on the other side of the studio. Things will change around again in June when my etching press arrives (ordered it this week - how exciting is that!). The glass inking slab will move to the general work area and the press will go on the bench where the glass is now. This is a much heftier bench so should take the weight of the press. I hope.

It’s wonderful in the studio; so peaceful and relaxing. I’m back to wood engraving now – very satisfying.

Also spent some time sorting out some of Dad’s tools to donate to a new project being set up in the area – bike recycling. The intention is to stop local youths nicking bikes by working with them to refurbish old ones. Sounds like a good scheme.

More found objects: a shoe last, many weights, a Salter's pocket balance, two transformers (the electrical kind, not the 'robots in disguise', a fire extinguisher, an oscillating fan, two model gliders, a rocking horse, a wind break, a gazebo, golf clubs, an elephant's headdress, a barometer, two thermometers and a thing for measuring humidity. It's quite dry in there - idea for storing one's paper

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Cardcut workshop

How nice it is to be able to just get up and walk away from one’s work and not have to pack everything up. The luxury of a studio.

Think I’ve done as much on the cockle as I can for the moment – need to etch and proof before I can do any more so that will have to wait until I can get down to the workshop; not for another three weeks unfortunately. Need to buy my own press!

Will be teaching a cardcut workshop soon (subject to enrolments) so I need to do some prep for that. This will be a two-day course, Saturday and Sunday, which I’ve not done before. In the past, it’s been offered as consecutive Saturdays, giving plenty of time for students to finish plates and varnish to dry, so will see how this goes. Teaching is exhausting but I do enjoy it. It’s great to see what the students produce having learnt a new technique. And I’m always up for a bit of printmaking evangelism!

Top:Jo Price

Ginger Nut

Bartleby Series

Cardcut and drypoint

Edition: 15

Bottom:Jo Price

Mr Boythorn's Canary
Bleak House Series
Cardcut and drypoint
Edition: 15

All images copyright Jo Price

The tide's out on my creativity

Feeling at a low ebb today. It’s been a tough week what with one thing and another. Since Mum came out of hospital three months ago just about, it’s been a constant round of appointments, cooking, cleaning, shopping, paperwork and other carer’s duties, never mind the day job; leaves so little time and energy for creativity.

And now we have to have major building repairs done on the house which means completely clearing two bedrooms for the wall to be partially rebuilt. Urgh. Perhaps I’ll end up living in the studio with the spiders…

I wanted to say what all this does to my creativity, but can’t find the words.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

From the Atelier

How wonderful it is, after a long day of number crunching and caring responsibilities, to be able to retire to the studio for an hour or two. It’s so peaceful in there; one can almost forget the city goes about its business just outside. The birdsong seems to be louder and clearer, smothering the drone of the traffic.

In the last few months, I’ve really come to cherish silence. Well, not silence exactly, but quiet. The absence of human voices. Odd really, considering it’s been a number of years since I’ve been able to go to sleep without the radio on. Plays, books, poetry; I think it may relate to the love of being read to I developed as a child.

Anyway, several major life changes over the last year or so seem to have triggered changes in me. Inevitable I suppose.

But back to the art, which is what this blog is supposed to be about. I’m revisiting the cockle but as an etching instead of a wood engraving. ‘Wimp!’ I hear you cry…

My wordless studio companion Lilly.