Thursday, 29 November 2012

The chickens have landed

A whole month has gone by without any etching... a few drawings of hands for a project I may be involved in (more about that if it comes off) and some wrapping of prints for Printer Wonderland this Friday and that's about it on the art front.  Mostly I've been busily preparing and now thoroughly enjoying our newest residents, three twenty four-week-old warren hens. They truly are the most fun EVER. It's hard to imagine how such small creatures can produce so much poo though - and do so much damage to the garden... It's worth it for their entertainment value however, and fresh eggs of course.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Dull post alert

Never did post pictures of the bench post-restoration...

Sunday, 28 October 2012

I am doing some artwork, honest!


This is a little aside I've been working on before wading into the next Captain PB image. It's based on a Korean roof tile in the form of a dragon. These are used to frighten off evil spirits and are often placed over water pipes.

A restoration project

In the general garden tidy up this summer, I decided our rather elderly garden bench was in need of some TLC. Belonging to my father's grandmother, it must be at least eighty years old and was showing its age somewhat. It used to get regular paintings but has been neglected over the last few years, so a good sand down and new coat of paint was much needed to preserve the dear old thing. I doubt it'll last another eighty years but it should give us a few years yet. Unless our new arrivals have other ideas... More on that next time.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Summer in the garden

Dear me, it’s been a long old time since I last posted. I’ve not been idle though, just channelling my creativity in other directions, mostly the garden. It’s a mature garden that quietly gets on with it by itself but it does need some encouragement to keep itself tidy and I’m afraid it’s rather been left to its own devices the last couple of years with minimal input from me. Many hours were needed this year to get the weeds under control, which like everything else in the garden, had exploded due to all the rain and mild temperatures we’ve had this year. I don’t actually mind weeding… I find it quite relaxing. Needless to say, it’s all done by hand; no chemicals in my garden thanks.

So, borders weeded and tidied, plants moved, new plants planted, some fruit and veg put in and our old garden seat sanded down and repainted. And I’m already planning for spring; 195 bulbs planted this week. I do love to watch things grow!

Sunday, 27 May 2012

then strange ground now

PB3 is finished all ready to accompany PBs 1 and 2 in the Summer show.  He was surprisingly quick to do; at least, he took a fair old time but maybe I was just more focused. Deadlines'll do that I guess.

Now for my next project...

Friday, 18 May 2012

Lucian Freud: Portraits

Finally managed to get to The National Portrait Gallery in London yesterday to see the Lucian Freud exhibition (had booked to go in April but had to cancel due to inspection - grrrrr...).  And what a splendid exhibition it is; well worth the wait. 

The show spans his whole career, from teenage sketches to the painting he was working on when he died at the grand old age of 88 last year.  Poignant.  I don't think there's really any point in me saying anything about the work as it has been much talked about and surely everything there is to say has been said already.  All I can say is that I enjoyed the opportunity to contemplate such a range of his work, some of which I'd seen in his retrospective in 1987.  To view those paintings again was great and to see later work just as much of a treat. 

It wasn't as crowded as I'd thought it would be; had a slight twinge of gallery rage at one point but think that was about it, and we didn't have to queue.  Much.  It's on until the 27 May; still time to get there if you haven't seen it yet.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

then strange ground now - work in progress

The boring bits

Four days into my time off work and I’m making good progress with preparations for the Summer open studios.  In between working on PB3, I’m printing, labeling and packing prints for sale.  Can’t say I particularly enjoying this part of the process; it’s time-consuming and not very exciting, but necessary and quite satisfying when done.

Saturday, 12 May 2012


It’s been an odd Spring so far; apart from the persistent rain, which I don’t really mind at all, I lost virtually all of April and the beginning of May to several weeks of inspection hell at work.  Stressful and time consuming which left little opportunity or energy for creativity.  Having a week off now so hopefully I can get the creativity going again.

The summer exhibition is fast approaching at RHP and I’d like to get PB3 finished in time for that.  PB1 and 2 and done (collected frames from the framer this week) so it would be good to be able to submit the trio.  Then I think I’ll have a break from PB and do something different for a while; don’t know what as yet…

Sunday, 22 April 2012

The Undertaker's Nuptial revisited

I’ve been wanting to revisit The Undertaker’s Nuptials for a while.  This is a series of etchings based on a story I was working on a couple years ago, but sort of stalled after one and a half images.  Captain PB could run for a while so I think I need another project on the go at the same time so he doesn’t get stale.
I started writing snippets of story to generate images; the text was never meant to be read really, but having made some interesting concertina books, I think The Undertaker’s Nuptials might work quite well in that format.  Text and images.  I started experimenting this week… but need to write more of the story and make more images.  I also want to play around with the layout of the text more – would be great to do the whole thing in letterpress with etched images but I think that may be a little too ambitious at this stage.  So digital it is - for the moment at least.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Captain PB the Third

height over flat water, high suspended nothing, then strange ground now, looming, towers tight close-huddling, colour-losing grey damp, dull heartsick ache...

The layout for the third image in my PB series is nearly done; just need to arrange the text (which is proving problematic at the moment) then I can start work on the plate. Ideas for image four already beginning to germinate...

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Nearly ready to go

Here’s my edition for Green Door International Print Exchange 2012, all trimmed, numbered, titled, signed and dated. There’s nothing so satisfying as a pile of prints… a whole edition, fresh and neat. Just need to cut the tissue for wrapping and they’re all ready to go.

Friday, 30 March 2012

The creative process

We had the second meeting of our artists’ group this week; another interesting and inspiring session. I took along the first two Captain PB images, the second still in progress. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to talk coherently about the work (my ideas are still free-floating to some extent) but actually, in putting my ideas out there, it really helped me to consolidate what I’d been thinking about.

I think this series really began last summer when I was sitting in the military cemetery looking at a pile of pine cones I’d collected. What an interesting juxtaposition; all these seeds lying on the surface of the ground, ripe for new beginnings, whilst underneath them, all the bodies of those dead soldiers rest. Lives extinguished. Life and death; beginnings and endings. I started thinking about newness, new beginnings, starting again, blank canvases, clean slates (to coin a phrase or two...). When a person is born (or something is created), there’s all this potential; everything about them is fresh and clean and unaffected by the detritus of life. What would it be like if that were able to continue… if he or she were free to experience life in that fresh, unadulterated way? Inconceivable really; or impossible at least, but an interesting idea to play with maybe. And then Captain PB strolled onto the plate, a little glowing ember of spirited free-will and expectation. Who knows how he will develop and where he will travel.

Really, he’s a metaphor for the creative process; the birth of an idea with all its potential. Quite often, as an image develops and is influenced by other factors, new elements are added and it changes course to become something quite different from that originally imagined. And that’s the most exciting thing about the whole process.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Bookbinding weekend

What a splendid weekend I’ve just had learning how to make books at Red Hot Press. Over the course of the two days, we learnt how to make three and five-hole pamphlet books, double signature pamphlet books and a variety of concertina books. The really groovy one pictured below is actually much easier to make than it looks.

We also made Japanese stab bound books which are simple enough to build but complicated to stitch together (well, I found them so anyway; my hemp leaf stitch went somewhat awry). This technique can be used to make simple photo albums for example – at some point I would like to compile a book of small prints using this method.

Today we made hard cover books; a five-holed pamphlet book with a hard cover and a 64-page A6 book where the four signatures were sown together with unsupported link stitch – real bookbinding. We even glued the spine with mull and everything. Mine were less than perfect, but oh how satisfying to make. And how much nicer to sketch and write in a book you’ve made yourself. You’ll have to excuse me now as I’m off to drool over bookbinding supplies as Shepherd’s

Sunday, 18 March 2012

vires, virtus, maiestas

The image for my Green Door IPE 2012 submission is now finished, well ahead of schedule (get me) – now the business of printing the edition. It’s been awhile since I printed a whole edition but this is a mini one (just ten) and on a dinky little plate(10 x 7.5cm) so should be a joy to do (hopefully!). There’s great satisfaction to be had from tearing down the paper, pulling the prints, trimming them and cutting the tissue for wrapping; one ends up with a neat little bundle to parcel up lovingly and despatch north.

I particularly like this print exchange because it’s so well organised and the standard of work is high. The parcels of prints we receive back are so well put together and give details of those who took part and those whose prints one receives. I take my hat off to you Green Door; job well done.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

IPE 2012 submission progresses

Last week was studio-rich. Two good Saturday / Sunday sessions punctuated with a mid-week day off work devoted entirely to etching, culminating in a spring weekend; working on a plate whilst sitting in the sunshine. Studio doors thrown wide, birds singing in the trees, I continued developing my Green Door submission whilst topping up my vitamin D. Does it get better than that?

This image is surprisingly challenging; the plate is only 10 by 7cm and I’m not used to working this small. Inking and wiping is superfast though so it should make printing the edition fairly simple. More work to be done on it before I get to that stage though.

I heard last week that Green Door will be showing the last three years’ worth of International Print Exchange submissions at Derby Arboretum’s Orangery in May, so the Datamonger (submitted for the 2010 exchange) will get an airing; how satisfying. Maybe I’ll pay him a visit.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Spit bite with copper sulphate

Still feeling inspired by the first meeting of our new artists’ group last week, I managed to spend a sizeable chunk of time in the studio over the weekend - and made good progress with the Captain. I tried some spit bite which wasn’t so successful. Using the copper sulphate solution straight from the bath etched a little, as you can see from the above scan; I kept adding more of the etch every five minutes or so, which produced the sort of effect I wanted. However, the bite was so shallow and delicate that I managed to remove it completely when I degreased the plate for the next aquatint. Back to the drawing board.

On googling ‘spit bite with copper sulphate’, I found this rather interesting site which recommends mixing a solution of 800g copper sulphate crystals to 1 litre of water; a much stronger solution than in the bath (which is also partially spent). The images of test strips on the site look promising so my goal for this week is to try it out.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Emerging from the cave

This week has been Red Hot Press week for me, having spent two very pleasant and inspiring evenings at the workshop. On Tuesday, we held the first meeting of our new artists’ group, the aims of which are for us to give each other much-needed feedback on our work, troubleshoot problems with particular images, bounce ideas around and generally support each other in our practice.

The idea for this came out of a conversation I had with one of the studio directors before Christmas when I was having a rather fallow period with my own work. I’d asked her if she knew of any mentoring schemes; thought this might give me the necessary kick up the backside to get going again. Turns out there’s nothing locally that really fitted with what I wanted. When I half-jokingly suggested it might be something the workshop could think about setting up as a side-line, she asked me how I’d feel about running a crit group. How could I say no?

And it seems I’m not the only one who’s fed up with sitting alone in her cave daubing on the walls; nine of us gathered on Tuesday evening, five bringing work to look at and discuss. We’re not limiting it to printmaking so we had installation work, painting, drawing and digital images as well as prints to consider and feel inspired by. There was a good mix of finished images and work in progress and discussion was free-flowing. I came away feeling really fired up about my own work and anxious to get back into the studio; I think others did too. All in all, a good start to the new group.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Teetering toiling, wheeling stumbling...

The initial design and text is etched on the plate; Captain PB is striding forth and gathering momentum. Not quite sure how to manage the background at the moment… some scribbling on copies of the print needed I think.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012


The second image in my Captain PB series is well under way; the plate is all ready for its first etching. It feels good that this work is gaining momentum… which I think is the title of this piece. I have no idea where I'm going with this once the initial design is etched but I suspect the Captain knows.