Seeing the Wood for the Trees

So far things have been ticking along very nicely at Ålgården. It is good to immediately feel at home this time around and I am very pleased to have been given my own key and have my membership confirmed. I’ve developed a nice routine of getting up early(ish), having breakfast and then heading into the woods for a run. This sets me up nicely for working in the studio all day and into the evening. It is an opportunity to clear my head and focus on what I want to achieve each day and also helps me feel inspired. On Thursday we had snow and so I lengthened my route a bit to get up high on the crags where it was thicker.

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I was really pleased to see a hare in the path ahead of me and was able to watch it for a while before I disturbed it and I also saw fox tracks. Today I saw a pair of roe deer bouncing across the path and into the forest, they stopped to have a look at me!

Anyway, back to printmaking! One of my main goals is to try and develop my photopolymer printmaking. On the final days of my residency in 2012, I explored making transparencies using my monotypes and left feeling excited about some of the results. I love collagraph printmaking, it is my preferred method of working, but sometimes I want to convey atmosphere in my prints that I can’t seem to do in collagraph. I want some of the mark-making and softness that I can create with monotype but I’d also like to be able to create editions and have the freedom to play with the image without it being a one-off. For my North York Moors prints, I have been really inspired by a foggy run around Gormire but how do you create the ghostly ethereal atmosphere in a printing plate?048

I’m not interested in making plates from my photographs because my printmaking is about how I interpret the world around me and my response to it and I prefer to design my images and simplify my ideas constructing a print that illustrates how I feel/think about my subject. I want people to look at a print and have an emotional response to it as opposed to a more detached aesthetic appreciation. My aim is to inspire a sense of recognition in the viewer. I find it so difficult to explain what I am trying to do with my printmaking because I often just work from my instincts and a drive to explore an idea or make something that I’ve seen fleetingly into a lasting image. I don’t tend to analyse my work which is why I find it so interesting to talk to people about their interpretation of what I do. This year it is one of my goals to give myself time to think about what I want to achieve with my work and what I’m trying to say.

I wrote all about photopolymer in a previous post (Adventures in Photopolymer) and so I won’t go into it in detail here but I’ve spent the last few days making reduction monotypes on paper in order to organise my ideas and work out the logistics of how to create a monotype transparency for making my photopolymer plate.

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(two of my monoprints)

I also did a sneaky drypoint of the birches in snow on Thursday as I was a bit overexcited about the weather 😀 I then spent all day yesterday working on a piece of acetate creating a positive for developing onto a photopolymer plate on Monday. I started by rolling up the acetate in a very fine layer of black ink and then I dabbed that all over with a ball of tissue paper to soften and lighten it. I then removed ink using cotton buds, homemade implements such as a pencil with a bit of kitchen towel wrapped and taped to it to create a pointy wiping thing for fine detail and a variety of brushes. It was a painstaking process and I had to be very careful not to drop bits on it or get fingermarks in the ink. Every mark I made will hopefully be reproduced on the plate.

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The ink is oil-based so it stayed workable all day although as midnight approached, it was become decidedly sticky! I also painted onto the plate to get darker areas in the foreground but I blotted them with my home-made ‘dolly’ to give them some texture. This is the first time in ages that I’ve done anything that has been so close to painting. It will be very interesting to see how it comes out. I’ve got to wait for the transparency to be totally dry before I develop it because I don’t want it to stick to the plate. This meant careful transportation from the studio to my room so that it would be safe from today’s life drawing class.

So, today was life drawing and I spent two hours discovering just how rusty my life drawing skills are. By the end I was just beginning to get whole drawings done during the allotted 5, 4 & 2 minute poses. It’s good discipline and really forces you to make quick decisions and to think about your drawing as a whole. Definitely something I should make the effort to do more often. Right, I’m off to the studio to do some work on a large collagraph that I brought from home. It is of a birch wood (surprise, surprise) with deer inspired by a forest that I saw near Gormire (where I also saw deer). It will be a slow process cutting and painting all the textures into the plate so I’ll have it on stand-by for when I am waiting during various stages of the photopolymer plate-making process or for when the studio is busy and I can’t concentrate very well.

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