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.