Life in the Slow Lane

I’m currently in Sweden at Ålgården again and for once in my life I’ve had to slow down. At the end of July I successfully completed the Lakeland 100. This is a 105 mile race around some of the most beautiful parts of the lake district and I had a really good run. I spent the followng weeks on a high, imagining the future strength I’d have and planning for a Bob Graham Round attempt. Six weeks and lots of running later and I have developed a mystery knee injury and can no longer walk without hobbling. It could be reactive arthritis or it may be an injury that didn’t hurt at the time but certainly does now! I’m being tested and examined and hopefully we’ll get to the bottom of it but it is really debilitating.

However, I’d already made plans to come to Ålgården with a friend and colleague, Barbara Greene. She wanted me to show her the ropes so I thought I’d come anyway and just do whatever I could manage. Barbara and I met through Chrysalis Art‘s Connections North project and were both selected as two of the ten printmakers from North Yorkshire to take part in the Mirror Images exhibition. I will write a separate blog post about that as it is a fantastic project involving forty Finnish, Scottish, Swedish and Yorkshire printmakers. Barbara and I hope to collaborate on a future project so it was a good opportunity to talk and exchange ideas too.

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(a fellow printmaker or an accident in the DIY shop car park?)

It has been frustrating to be able to see the dense forest but not be able to get into it but I’ve made myself look for inspiration closer to home and am currently exploring the traces of nature found in the city and around the studio. I’m working on a few ongoing projects simultaneously whilst exploring ideas for a future project and I’m using the time and wonderful equipment here to try out things that I wouldn’t do at home. I tested a pot of Akua Intaglio ink which I brought from home to see what it was like to work with. It is perfect for reduction monotypes because it doesn’t dry on non-porous surfaces so you can work with it indefinitely before printing. It also cleans up with soap and water and yet the print has the same velvety qualities of an oil-based print. With some precarious balancing on a stool and on one-leg, I managed to produce an A1 monotype that I printed on the lovely big etching press. It has a bed sized 1metre x 2 metres and one day I’ll use the whole thing.

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Creating a reduction monotype on an old aluminium litho plate.

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The beautiful etching press (the big one, there are three!) with my print drying behind.

Whilst I may not be very mobile, I’m still getting about thanks to my very kind Swedish artist friends. Christina picked us up from the airport and drove us to the studio and she also invited us to her house for dinner, Lennart has lent me a walking stick (he’s 80 but says he no longer needs it!) and Torbjörn collected me and drove me to the Borås hospital to show me their amazing art collection (and I stocked up on painkillers). He is project director for the region and organises the buying and displaying of art for public spaces such as hospitals, health centres and dental practices. I was so impressed by the work on show at the hospital and the thought that had gone into its display and selection. Not just the more figurative and accessible work that you’d expect but very good quality contemporary pieces and in all kinds of media such as painting, sculpture, printmaking, textiles and glass. Tomorrow Anna is taking us both to see an arts and crafts place called Nääs so that will be a lovely trip out too.

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Today I made 12 small collagraph plates from plaster creating impressions in them from the fallen birch leaves that I’ve collected. I will print these and hope that the leaves will be very subtle. I then plan to overprint with further imagery relating to the city. I associate the birches so much with Sweden and I find their leaves everywhere, in the studio, on the pavements, in the supermarket etc. I’ve also been making monotypes of the shadows of plants growing round the studio too. All the traces of nature that creep into the city and that I seek out when confined to urban places. Really I’m just playing but that’s why I like it here, it gives me the time and headspace to do that and who knows what will develop from my experiments.

New Ground: Part 2

cdc752b7-98d3-4db6-b187-addd70c4bfc6My exhibition with ceramicist Charlotte Morrison is now up and running at Inspired By…Gallery in Danby. It is open daily 10.30am – 4.00pm until Christmas Eve and then it reopens for the 1st-4th January before becoming weekends only throughout January. The prints on show are a mix of collagraphs, intaglio photopolymer prints and a set of monotypes combined with drypoint. I had lots of ideas for images to create but, as usual, time restrictions and other commitments meant that I had to go with the ones that just couldn’t be shaken whilst postponing some of the others for another time. It would mean writing an essay for me to describe all of the images on show and to explain their origins but there are a few key pieces that I’ll mention here. Charlotte has created some beautiful collections of vases, cups and jugs based on old pathways, drovers roads etc. in the North York Moors national Park. Visit her website to see more of her work.

The first pieces to be made were based on a very foggy run that I went on with my partner and our dog. We parked at Sutton Under Whitestonecliff and ran to Gormire, up through Garbutt wood and onto Sutton Bank, along past the Glider club and down via the white horse, through the plantation to Hood Hill and back via Sutton bank and Gormire. Doing a large figure of 8. The ethereal woods and soft focus views triggered off a series of photopolymer prints developed when I was over at Algarden Printmaking Studio in Sweden. For more details, see my previous blog posts Seeing the Wood for the Trees & Photopolymer Experiments Continued….This is a small triptych that evolved:triptychI also spent months designing and cutting a collagraph plate inspired by the birch copse at the base of White Horse bank and of roe deer that I saw in the area. The birch forest was not too much of a problem as I had had previous success with creating a collagraph plate of one last year but I wanted a small group of deer and the grouping, positions and sizes (not to mention direction) took a lot of fiddling about in order to get it just right. The way that I work is that I’ll sketch out the forest and then I’ll sketch various deer in different positions and then trace them off onto pieces of paper that I can move around on the forest drawing. I’ll photograph all of the combinations so that I can compare them on my laptop and then I use photoshop to flip them to see what the plate will look like when printed (collagraphs print in reverse).

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This is just one example of many attempts. Working like this also helps me to spot flaws in my design such as wonky trees, dodgy perspective and badly drawn anatomy! I ended up completing the drawings in Sweden but then decided not to make the plate until I returned home as it is such a time-consuming process and I wanted to spend the studio time developing my photopolymer work. The final piece was proofed in March.

Passing ThroughOne of the key things about the project was that I was revisiting some of my favourite running routes and I wanted to allude to that in the imagery. Three places that I went to numerous times had quite different flora and topography and I decided that I could use this to make a series of prints. I set aside extra time on one of my visits with Paul Harris (who filmed me throughout the year) so that I could collect plant material from three of the sites. When I got back to the studio, I carefully pressed the different leaves and flowers in the pages of a phone directory and left them for a few weeks to dry. In the meantime, I studied an OS map of the areas and drew out the contours for the hills from where I’d collected the plants. Scratching into pieces of plastic, I created drypoints of the contours.

Over the course of a couple days, I printed the plant matter by rolling ink onto a piece of perspex that was the same size as the drypoints and by laying the plants onto the ink and putting them through the press. When I removed the plants, they left their impressions in the ink and I then printed that onto paper. I did this over and over again, changing the colours and tones of the ink and over printing the plant impressions until I had built up a number of images. I then inked up the drypoint plates and printed them as the last layer of each print. Whilst they were drying, I chose the best two sets of prints from the many variations. I painted blocks of MDF and pasted my chosen prints to the blocks using ph neutral bookbinding paste. The blocks were mounted within white box frames and hung as a series.

IMG_3818Gormire Lake:

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010I’m using colours that reflect the incredible heather moorland at Hawnby for the last of these three prints. Not colours that I normally use but ones that found their way into another of my prints for the exhibition.

The Winter LakeThe Winter Lake was inspired by the view from the Cleveland Way above Whitestone Cliff. I often heard and saw flocks of jackdaws coming into roost on the cliff face above the lake and during the winter months, the birch trees around the lake were leafless but the twigs created a beautiful purple shade. The lake itself is very distinctive in shape and I couldn’t finish my work without creating at least one view of it.

There are many more prints on display including collagraphs inspired by some of the birds that I observed such as wrens, yellowhammers and skylarks but the last two pieces that I’ll include here are ‘layer collagraphs’. They are created by printing four separate collagraph plates with the aim that they will reflect the details of specific places. Textures, patterns and cross sections that I hope will give an impression of Gormire and White Horse Bank during winter and summer:

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I have really enjoyed the year spent researching, visiting the places and creating new prints. I’ve also had a really interesting insight into film-making because photographer Paul Harris has been coming out on location, filming me at ArtisOn, visiting my studio and watching whilst I make some of the work and he has created a really beautiful piece of film as a profile of my work and life as a printmaker. Please do watch it if you can, I think it reflects the whole process very well and the film work is stunning: Hester Cox – Profile of a Printmaker by Paul Harris.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last Evening at Ålgården

It the final evening of my stay at Ålgården and it has been a really good three weeks. I’m just trying to work out the logistics of getting all of my prints, printing plates and associated materials into my case so that I don’t get charged excess baggage! Fortunately I was working on relatively small-scale work and the very large birch tree was just a proof so I’ve torn the margins off so that I can keep it for reference. It does make me wonder how I’ll manage when I next come because I’d like to do some large-scale pieces here some time but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it!

The final tally of works made is 7 new photopolymer prints (roughly 21x21cm each) and 2 small ones (although I’m hoping to get another made tonight) plus a large collagraph/drypoint, 3 x monotypes and a large collagrah designed and drawn up ready to cut. Pretty productive I reckon 🙂 I’ve also found time to run every day, go to Gothenburg for some exhibitions and have a couple trips out with my Swedish friends here. They have included a concert, an exhibition opening, trips to meet other artists in their studios, lunches at friends’ houses, a visit to Rydal Textile Museum and plenty of time in the woods.This weekend it was the opening of Bengt Johansson’s exhibition and he and his wife came to stay for a few days which was good fun. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed myself and feel very at home here.

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(Bengt at his preview)

I feel like I’ve managed to make headway with the work that I began in 2012 and the photopolymer prints have given me a strand to my printmaking that fulfils something I feel has been missing. For a few years I have wanted to depict some of the atmosphere of the landscape in different weather conditions and have found it exceptionally hard to do with my collagraphs. By using my monotype techniques, plus some latent painting skills, I’ve been able to begin to depict some ideas that I’ve had for ages. Here is one of a pine forest:

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I have ideas from almost ten years ago which I’ve attempted to recreate in print but that haven’t worked and now I can see a way to make them happen. I will be digging out some old sketchbooks when I get back.

It has been very damp underfoot in the forests here (and at home!) and I’ve been seeing the most wonderful reflections of trees in the puddles. The land is quite marshy in places too. My last few photopolymers were inspired by this. I started with one design and then decided to create three on the same theme. Here is a photo of the triptych of transparencies as I was creating them. The two on the wall are drying.

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On Friday evening I was just heading to bed and I checked them to see if they were dry and they were. I felt compelled to get on and develop them and so I stayed up until 1.30am and made the plates. I then noticed that some of the drying prints of the photopolymer birch forest design were buckling so I decided to resoak them…big mistake! I hadn’t realised that the inks were water soluble because I couldn’t read the Swedish on the tins. I walked off to do something and when I came back to them, the prints were a vivid mess of running orange ink! It was pretty disheartening as they were the two that I was the most pleased with but these things happen and I’ll be reproofing in the UK with my inks so it doesn’t matter too much. Here is the pile of prints that didn’t make the grade!

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Anyway, lessons learned and the good news was that the sun was shining brightly the following day and the photopolymer plates were curing nicely in the studio windows all ready for me to proof on Saturday.

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I love the rich contrast that you can get with this kind of printmaking and making the transparencies is very satisfying. I roll the ink on to the acetate and then create the image by wiping it away and it feels like painting the light back into the image. Right, I really do want to get a third indian ink transparency made and developed on a plate so that I have a North York Moors triptych for my project so I’ll sign off for tonight but, whilst I’m sorry to be leaving, I’m feeling pretty positive about my printmaking and I’ll be coming back here again soon.

 

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.

Hibernation!

It’s January, the snow is thick on the ground and the studio is rather chilly but it has been so good to have a month where I don’t have masses of commitments and can take stock a bit.

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I started to run an evening class at Number Six in Pateley Bridge but, with only four students coming to the first session, we decided (with NYCC Adult Learning Services permission) to run the remainder of the course as three fortnightly 6 hour workshops. The course looks like it will soon be full and I have my Monday nights back without the prospect of having to drive over the moors in snow and ice every week so we’re all winners there! I taught a monotype workshop to the Northallerton Art Club last weekend and that was very enjoyable with seven creative people making some beautiful prints using direct drawn,  reductive & collage methods. Now I have the rest of the month and much of February free to make some new prints for my exhibitions in March, to work on my bookmaking for Joan Newall’s course and to slowly develop some of my ideas started in Sweden.

I was lucky enough to run into Heather and David Cook, both painter/printmakers, in Malham the other day and they kindly showed me some of their latest work and David discussed his brilliant exposure unit that he has made to make his Imagon plates. I’m hoping to make something similar so that I can continue my photopolymer experiments. So there are lots of plans afoot. The only problem is that it is winter! I actually quite like this time of year especially when we have sharp frosts or snow. As a fellrunner, I like nothing more than running through virgin snow and marvelling at the purity of the landscape but the downside is that during the rest of the time, I seem to slow right down!

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I always look forward to January and February and the chance to work on some new projects and I imagine how much I’ll get achieved and how I’ll spend everyday making lots of exciting new things but the reality is that during the darkness hours, I’m sleepy and just feel like curling up with a book, some poetry or a good film. I’ve got a lovely stack of books to work through including two from Robert MacFarlane (The Old Ways & Mountains of the Mind), ‘Man with a Blue Scarf’ which is Martin Gayford’s diary of sitting for Lucien Freud, Memory Wall by Anthony Doerr, The Snow Tourist by Charlie English and I’m just part way through ‘If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things’. Added to that is regular dipping into the poetry of Kathleen Jamie and Norman MacCaig and random admiration of the prints in Carry Ackroyd’s ‘Nature Powers and Spells’ and you can see that I have plenty to keep me occupied!

Despite slowing down, I am still working on a new collagraph, taking a fox, the snow and the birch forests as inspiration, which will be for my exhibition ‘Telling Tales’ with Jane Littlefield at Rural Arts in March. I’ll be making a couple new bird prints too. I’m so used to working every hour available that it feels a bit lazy not to! I read in a fellow artist’s blog that she felt that when she made the shift to being a full-time artist, she was suddenly doing something that she had crammed into her spare time all of the time and she found it hard to know what to do with her leisure time. I feel like that. Art is what I do and I rarely switch off from it because I love it and everything around me is part of it. I am also totally self-supported so I have a strong drive to use all my available time to create the work that will keep me clothed, housed and fed!

However, I have decided to stop worrying about not burning the candle at both ends and enjoy this chance to recharge and take stock before the frenetic activity that will no doubt ensue in the coming months. I’m dividing my weeks into days for working on my prints from Sweden and researching what I need to get started with my photopolymer printing and make my exposure unit, days to make some new collagraphs for my exhibitions in March and the rest of the time to get somewhere with my bookmaking and do my admin. Joan taught us how to make lined boxes with lids in our last class and it has given me an idea for this year’s final project. The photo shows my box covered in my handmade paper. Our theme this year is ‘worn surfaces’ and I’m using ‘A Tale’ by Edward Thomas as my starting point. More on that in another post.

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January also brings the dreaded tax return! Self-assessment online makes it a bit easier but the whole process is one that I don’t relish. I try and make it slightly more interesting by totting up which galleries have sold the most prints over the year and which prints have sold the best for me. This has the added benefit of reminding me which galleries I need to keep a special eye on. The ones that sell the best obviously need to have their stocks replenished regularly and sometimes if the managers are too busy to send out requests, the onus is on me to offer to deliver more work. The ones that aren’t selling need a phone call to find out if the prints are still on display and if anything needs returning or swapped.

In 2011/12, Cambridge Contemporary Art was my top selling gallery, hotly followed by The Gallery in Masham (Josie has been selling my prints consistently for 19 years and is invariably one of my best selling galleries!), then ArtsBank at Saltburn. All three galleries have a few things in common that I think make them not only successful, but a pleasure to work with. Firstly, I always know I will be paid for the prints that I’ve sold on or around a certain date of the following month, the paperwork is always thorough and I trust the people that I am dealing with. The gallery owners have very proactive publicity campaigns and are constantly updating their websites, sending out newsletters and using social media to promote exhibitions and their artists. I also get regular emails or phone calls to let me know if customers are interested in prints that are not currently in the galleries, to order more work from me and to offer me exhibiting opportunities. In return, I try really hard to promote the galleries when they put on exhibitions of my prints, always send detailed and clear paperwork with my deliveries and try and deliver any orders as soon as I can. The relationship is like any successful partnership, it requires trust and plenty of attention on both sides.

My list of gallery sales also shows me where some of the outlets aren’t performing very well and then I can decide what to do about it. This could be for all sorts of good reasons but ultimately, every print that sits unsold is a potential sale elsewhere and at one gallery, five of the unsold prints were the last in the editions so I was pretty keen to get them back and into one of my more successful outlets. It is quite hard when you sell your work across the UK because keeping an eye on it can be tricky and when I’m busy, I’m not always very good at keeping on top of this kind of thing so now is the time for doing any chasing up that needs doing. Some of the galleries only sell a handful of prints each year but so long as there are a few sales and I have a good relationship with the owner, I am happy to have my prints there. You never know who might see them and it is better to have them on a gallery wall than sat at home in my studio.

My top selling prints for 2011/12 were The Return (only one left):

The Return

A Flight of Swallows (still available):

a flight of swallows

and in joint third, Rookery (which has sold out):

Rookery

and The Woodcat (still some available):

The Woodcat

So its a quiet time for me but a good one. I’m running most days to keep SAD at bay, keep me inspired and to enliven me for the time spent in my studio and I’m going to make the most of getting plenty of sleep and time to think before I’m back to busy times of eating on the move and midnight printing!

Monotypes

Well, I was going to talk about photopolymer tonight but I’ve just had a busy evening in the studio and I’m not sure talking about technical processes is such a good idea at 23.00. Bear with me, I will go into some detail in my next post 🙂

I forgot to mention that I now have a housemate. Ute is from Kiel in Germany and, having enjoyed her visit last year, she has come back to Ålgården for two weeks of printmaking. She has a project that she would like to complete and has already been busy making drypoints in the studio. She’s good company and we went on a little trip to Alingsås with Lennart this morning. The idea was to visit Lennart’s favourite organic food store, the red cross second hand shop and then to have pizza in what they both promised me would be the best pizzeria ever! I’ll admit that it was pretty good and it has to be the cosiest and most colourful restaurant I’ve been to in a while. The organic food store was wonderful and I came back laden with apples, a squash and some chilli chocolate (for emergencies).

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The drive was lovely too. The autumn colour is really beautiful at the moment. The forests are a patchwork of green, yellow, golds, reds and oranges. I’ll take some photos if the rain ever lets up!

Yesterday Lennart brought in one of his cast bronze sculptures to show me. He knows I’m  a big fan of crows and I love this one, it is so full of character and has a real presence when sat on the table next to you.

The rest of the day has been a good one. I had a sleepless night last night (possibly caffeine related!) and found myself mulling over what to do and where to go with my printmaking in order to make best use of the next few days. I knew I’d be making a photopolymer transparency but I couldn’t decide what to do for that either. So when I got back to the studio today I was really strict with myself and promised myself that I wouldn’t leave it until the transparency was drawn out. I made several starts before settling on a birch wood. I figure that it will be nice to have a few different kinds of prints of the birch forest to compare techniques. I’ll expand more on the process in my next post but once I’d finished the drawing, I felt in a really good mood and ready to make something else so I decided not to go running today in case I broke the spell and instead I holed up in the studio all evening. 🙂

I’m still frustrated about not being able to depict the pine forests and so I went back to basics and decided to do a reduction monotype. I figured that if I did it in two stages, I’d get around the problem of how to depict the dark trunks but still have a darkish background and the light coming through the trees. It took me about three hours to complete and I was using water soluble ink so I was a bit concerned about re-soaking the paper after the first plate was printed. The result was that when I printed the second stage on top of the first, the ink didn’t transfer so well because it was drying out and the paper was drying out. However, I am happily surprised by the result.

It still isn’t how I’d envisaged it but strangely enough, the ethereal pines against the very watery looking background captures more of the atmosphere that I experience on my rainy runs than I would ever have imagined that I could achieve!

I had printed the ‘ghost’ print (the traces left on the plate after the first printing) and ironically the paper was too wet so I got a really abstract result but when I printed the ghost trees over the top, because there was still a lot of ink left on the plate, I got an interesting second print.

I had a happy evening working tonight and Ute and I seem to work really well together. We are both quiet and keep ourselves to ourselves but when we hear the press going, we both tentatively wander over for a peek at each other’s work and it is a nice combination of having privacy to work but encouragement and an opinion if we want one.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I can get Christina or Björn to help me expose my photopolymer plate tomorrow. I will report back with my progress.

Björk

Well, I’m really pleased that I wrote about my up and down weekend. The response here and on my facebook page has shown that so many artists (and also non-artists) empathised and it has created some worthwhile discussion. Thanks for all the support too. I think it is really important to share the difficult times as well as the good. I also think that it can sometimes be the times when everything seems to be going wrong or hard that actually end up being the most useful and are often turning points.

Anyway, yesterday I stayed all day in the studio and carefully constructed a simple collagraph plate that I hoped would capture more of the atmosphere of the birch forests here.

I worked on it until lunchtime and then had a break to eat with Björn and Kristina before helping take down the Artists in Residency Exhibition from the gallery. Afterwards, Björn made carrot and apple juice for us. Apparently carrots have been unbelievably expensive all year due to the weather making it difficult to grow them. Now they are really cheap so he bought a huge bag for juicing. It was delicious and, after all the coffee that I’ve been drinking, it felt very refreshing and healthy! After he, Christina and Kristina went home I went back to the studio and worked until midnight! The studio was buzzing with activity from the women’s Monday night printmaking group but because I don’t understand any Swedish, I was in a world of my own and the chatter was like background music. I sealed the plate with shellac before I went to bed.

This morning I got up early to go for a run and I put a final coat of shellac on my plate before I went. The forest was misty and very atmospheric and I met a group of woodsmen who stopped to talk to me (in perfect English of course!). I got back to the studio and set to proofing the collagraph.

The sepia is a bit heavy for the subject and I’d always envisaged it in colour so I carefully printed a further three prints using the ‘a la poupee’ method. This print has lost a little of its subtlety in the photographing but I’m quite happy with it in ‘the flesh’.

I’ve got a lot of other ideas and I still have a plate to print that I made over the weekend so things are definitely feeling better.

Two more nice things happened today. The first was that Lennart bought me a box of organic vegetables and bread for my lunch and I was able to make us a winter stew from carrots, leeks, parsnips & swedes with potato patties on the side. The second was that Tim and Diane Wayne from The Alverton Gallery http://www.thealvertongallery.co.uk/ in Penzance called in to see me! My mum lives in Penzance and, as a result, Tim and Diane kindly agreed to stock my prints (it is so hard to get into galleries in Cornwall because there are so many Cornish artists and many galleries only stock work by local artists). I only see Tim and Diane maybe once a year but they just happened to be on holiday in Sweden and they are both printmakers themselves so they couldn’t resist a visit to Ålgården. It was lovely to see them and I was pleased to be able to show them around and introduce them to the Swedish artists here.

Oh yes, and as for the title of today’s post, it is Swedish for silver birch! I also found out that Björn is Swedish for bear. 🙂