Two Flights of Swallows

So, now to the final hangings…

Having started the printing for the project in January in a world of snow and ice in Sweden, I had got hooked on the idea of doing a flock of crow silhouettes in flight. This is something I often see in the fields around where I live and would have fitted in with my original idea which included more work on the actual wall lines and the geography of the land. However, it didn’t seem very fitting when combined with the meadow imagery and was far too wintery. I briefly considered creating prints of various birds associated with meadows but was wary of it becoming an ‘I spy’ and looking a bit naff. It is quite easy to get hung up on the educational side of things and neglect the aesthetic and I definitely didn’t want to do that. So I decided upon two flights of swallows. This seemed pretty apt considering that I see them feeding over the meadows every day and they are associated with the arrival of summer in the same way that a field of meadow flowers can signal that summer days are here. IMG_1921 (1)

I have to say that these were the easiest hangings to print which was something of a relief (excuse the printmaker’s pun) after putting so much time and effort into the other ones. I started by ordering A3 sheets of 4mm EVA, 2mm perspex and a roll of double-sided adhesive paper. I then spent a day researching the flight patterns of swallows and drawing as many different shapes as I could come up with before tracing them all off and moving them about on long (to scale) strips of paper. When I’d got the designs how I wanted them, I glued each swallow in place and numbered it before scaling up each drawing to fit on an A4 sheet of paper. I then traced each one onto a piece of foam and cut it carefully out with a scalpel before cutting a piece of perspex as a mount and sticking it on to that with the sticky paper. Two days work as opposed to two weeks! 40E2268A-CE48-49C2-AEAF-DB520DD915FBI’d already hired the local village hall (very local, its down the lane that I live on) and I went in on Friday lunchtime armed with all the hangings, screen printing ink for fabrics, foam rollers, and lots of clean newsprint. I got three long tables out, covered them with clean paper, put radio 4 on and got to work. By the time The Archers came on, I’d printed the first hanging. I made sure to stay scrupulously clean, wash off each block after printing, so I didn’t have a massive load to do at the end, and print slowly and methodically to avoid silly mistakes. I used my long scale drawings as a map and I’d numbered each block so I knew which went where.

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After that all I needed to do was to iron all the hangings and roll them up. The next instalment will be the installation…

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:

007Hood Hill:

008Hawnby Hill:

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:

summer Winter

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

March Hares and Feathered Friends

As usual, blog posts from me tend to be a bit few and far between but I can report that I’ve been steadily getting back up to speed after my slow January and I’ve delivered work for two exhibitions that have just started. Both are bird themed shows. The first is at The Craft Centre and Design Gallery in Leeds and features my prints along with those of Janis Goodman, Pam Grimmond and Mike Smith. It is on until the 29th June 2013 so there is plenty of time to visit.

The second exhibition is at Cambridge Contemporary Art and is a group show with prints from Janis and Pam again and also Carry Ackroyd, Jane Ormes, Simon Griffiths and Fiona Watson to name but a few. ‘Feathered Friends’ continues until 1st April 2013 but both galleries have my work permanently in the browsers for anyone that misses these shows. I’m now finishing the preparations for my exhibition ‘Telling Tails’ with glass artist Jane Littlefield at Rural Arts in Thirsk. We both share a love of the natural landscape and  the stories and folklore that surround the wildlife that inhabit it. Jane creates beautiful three dimensional glass pieces such as this hare:

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The exhibition runs until the 31st May 2013. Incidentally, if anyone would like to attend the preview it is from 7-9pm at The Old Courthouse, Rural Arts in Thirsk, RSVP by email to hannah@ruralarts.org. I will have some brand new prints on display as well as a selection of recent collagraphs.

This is my new barn owl, ‘The Silent Sentinel’:

The Silent Sentinel

The exhibitions and events that I’m doing are mounting up for 2013 and will include North Yorkshire Open Studios, group shows at The Found Gallery in Dunbar and The Blue Tree Gallery in York, Art in the Pen at Skipton, The Harrogate Art Show and The Simplicity of Colour at The Gallery in Masham. I’ll post details as each show comes up.

My workshops are now coming up thick and fast. I’ve just finished my collagraph course at Number Six in Pateley Bridge (we’re already planning more for the autumn) and have started the beginners collagraph course at ArtisOn in Masham where I am also teaching ‘Printing without a Press’ next week on the 8th March and ‘Natural Forms in Linocut Printmaking’ on the 23rd March. Phew…that will do for now!

On an entirely different note, I’ve been doing some more hare watching when I’ve been out fell running. We’ve had plenty of snow and this is a lovely brown hare that I managed to find by following its footprints.

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The most exciting was my first ever sighting of mountain hares in their winter coats! I’ve just this weekend successfully completed the High Peak Marathon with my team mates ‘The High Peak Scuttlers’ and we ran a fabulous route from Edale which traverses the Derwent watershed. I’d been told that there were mountain hares living in the area and sure enough, I got my first glimpse of them at Bleak Low on a recce run a couple weeks ago.

winter hare

Amazingly, we actually saw lots of them and on the race itself, we were crossing Bleak Low again as the sun came up and we got a fleeting glimpse of a couple. In the space of just a couple weeks the hares are beginning to lose their white coats and are looking browner.

For all those intrigued by what I get up to when not in the studio, here is a photo that my boyfriend and fellow team member at The High Peak Marathon took. It was taken just after we had safely navigated the frozen bogs in moonlight and picked up the Pennine Way to the Snake Road crossing. It was as cold as it looked but the hot tea at the checkpoint soon revived us.

I’m off to continue work on my altered book for The Library of Lost Books now. More on that another day!

Busy busy busy!!

I can’t believe that it has been a month since I wrote a new post here. My residency in Sweden seems like ages ago and I’m feeling slightly overwhelmed by the amount of workshops that I’ve been teaching and exhibitions that I’ve been preparing for but there is light at the end of the tunnel and I am keeping my fingers crossed that by the time December comes, I’ll be able to start working on the ideas that I started at Ålgården.

In the meantime, as an update, my seven week collagraph evening course at Number Six Studio in Pateley Bridge is now three weeks in. I have seven returning students who have become ‘old regulars’ and one brand new student who has not done any printmaking before but has really thrown himself into the process and not been put off by the fact that he is also the only man on the course. I’m looking forward to seeing his collagraphs develop.

I’m also four weeks in to my Introduction to Printmaking Techniques course at ArtisOn Ltd. This is on a Tuesday afternoon and so far I’ve covered monotype, making a basic relief stamp, linocut and drypoint! My ten students seem to be enjoying themselves and we will be making collagraphs this week.

Rural Arts in Thirsk has been running taster workshops and I’ve done some three hour collagraph sessions and am about to run a two-day collagraph workshop on consecutive Fridays (16th & 23rd November). I also did a monotype class for the Leven Art Society and a linocut workshop at ArtisOn. After my linocut Christmas card workshop at ArtisOn in December it quietens down a bit and I’ll have more headspace for my own work. I enjoy teaching and it really keeps me on my toes and pushes my professional practise but it also takes up a lot of time and energy so it is important that I get the balance right and give myself enough time to work on my printmaking.

Winter exhibitions include group shows at Cambridge Contemporary Art, The Waterstreet Gallery in Todmorden, The Lime Gallery in Settle, Will’s Art Warehouse in Putney and I’ll be taking part in a two week show at RHS Garden Harlow Carr from 27th November to 9th December. Phew!

I was very pleased to be one of the fourteen printmakers selected for the West Yorkshire Printmakers ‘Flourish Printmaker of the Year’ award and had two of my prints on show at the exhibition in Mirfield. Sara Clarke won the award and there were three commended artists: Moira McTague, June Russell and Dan Booth. It was good to attend the preview and ceremony and meet up with other printmakers. This is one of my selected prints which was created during my Extending Practise Award last year. Chrysalis Arts funded me to be mentored by Jane Sellars, Curator of the Mercer Gallery in Harrogate, whilst I created prints inspired by the Vale of York Viking Treasure Horde. These went on display at the Mercer Gallery alongside the treasure.

It’s always interesting to see what sells and so far I have had quite a lot of success with my most recent print ‘The Raspberry Thief’.

This was inspired by watching a whole family of blackbirds feeding in my back garden. The male and two fledglings were stealing raspberries whilst the female wrestled with a large slug!

My most recent print was created last week and is of a mountain hare. I have been asked by The Lime Gallery in Settle to make a couple new hare prints for their winter exhibition. They are such wonderful creatures and steeped in folklore and mythology. I often watch them in the fields near where I live and have taken many photos. I’ve always wanted to see a mountain hare in its winter coat but haven’t yet. Maybe one day! Instead I have made do with making a little collagraph of a snowy hare.

I’m now working on another hare print and will photograph the different stages for my next post.

I’m already planning various exhibitions for next year and have been invited to take part in a show called ‘Flight’ at the Craft Centre and Design Gallery in Leeds. It will start in March 2013 and will feature four of my prints and four each from Janis Goodman, Pam Grimmond and Mike Smith. I’m also taking part in a group exhibition called ‘Our Feathered Friends’ at Cambridge Contemporary Arts which is also in the spring.

On a final note, I’m delighted to be having an exhibition with glass artist, Jane Littlefield at Rural Arts in Thirsk. This will take place from 16th March to 31st May 2013 and we have chosen the title ‘Telling Tails’. We met last week to discuss the show and discovered that we are inspired by the same things: wildlife, the countryside and the myths and stories that are connected to both. We plan to show glass and prints featuring birds and animals with an illustrative twist. We will both be running workshops to coincide with the exhibition.

Right, I’d better get on with the paperwork I need to finish before continuing with my new hare collagraph. More on that next time.

Turning Corners!

It’s been a few days since I wrote my blog. This has mainly been because I’ve been really busy and every evening I think I’ll sit down and write a post but by the time I’ve cleared up in the studio, it is usually almost midnight and I’ve been too tired. Anyway, enough of the excuses! Last weekend was Open Studios in Borås and Ålgården hosted an exhibition in the gallery with one piece of work from every artist taking part. The preparations for this took the best part of three days running up to the weekend and the studios were a hive of activity. The event opened with a ‘vernissage’ (or preview as we call them in England) with lots of artists and art lovers gathered together round flaming braziers for a bit of hobnobbing whilst inside the gallery a rather avant garde band called The Soil Collectors played.

One of the artists from Ålgården had decided to hold his open studio in the intaglio studio so it became out of bounds for the best part of three days. What with that and the fact that the place was buzzing all weekend, work was out of the question and I decided that I would take myself off to Gothenburg for the day. Easier said than done as it took me an hour of walking in the torrential rain to find the train station. I then bought my ticket from a machine and waited on an empty platform until five minutes before departure when I got suspicious about the lack of other travellers. I asked a man (who was going through some bins!) where the train was. He pointed to the bus station and it turned out I’d bought a bus ticket. Luckily I found the bus and managed to get on it just before it departed! Arrival in Gothenburg was a big relief because for a start…it was not raining! I spent a lovely day wandering around the Art Museum and Hasselblad Centre where my favourite things were a really interesting photographic exhibition about racism by Sasha Huber http://www.sashahuber.com/ and a great ceramic show by Klara Kristalova http://www.kristalova.se/ I did a quick tour through the various periods of Scandinavian art (nice to see some of Carl Larsson’s in the flesh) and had a longer look at the contemporary paintings and sculpture. I also visited Grafik i Väst http://ramverk.se/giv/ which is a gallery and organisation of 259 printmakers. I managed to catch the opening of the Palle Nielsen exhibition and picked up a few of their annual catalogues. It has been really interesting to see the work of so many Scandinavian printmakers over the last few weeks.

After another exhibition opening of an Ålgården member, Maurits Ylitalo, I spent the rest of the afternoon wandering round the very interesting and hip Haga district.

I finished my day with an hour sat on the harbour wall soaking up the sun (I’d almost forgotten what it looks like!) and watching the ferries come and go.

Sunday was spent visiting Sirgitta’s studio, running and generally keeping busy until I could get back to work. I’ve decided to continue to spend at least some time in the forest every day whatever the weather. I want to really get the atmosphere under my skin and build up a vast archive of photographic images (and some drawings) so that I have lots to work from when I get back home. I’ve had some really wet and fun runs in almost darkness with owls hooting and only the reflected dying light in puddles to guide my way!

In the studio, for the last couple days I’ve mainly been wrestling with carborundum! I’m happy that I’ve made a good start on depicting the birch forests and I am confident that I can explore that further when I get home but the pine forests have been eluding me! They are so dark and atmospheric that I thought carborundum grit would be a good medium to use. I’ve had some success with it in the past and it is possible to get an almost mezzotint-like feel to the prints. Unfortunately, I haven’t had access to my usual materials and so have been experimenting with new kinds of card base plates, different kinds of glue and there has been no foam roller to apply the glue evenly. It’s all part of the spirit of the residency. I’m here to experiment and try new things but it has meant that results have been rather frustrating. After having spent the last two days making plates, proofing, remaking plates, reproofing, still the results are awful and I’m calling time on it for now. I will go back to it when I am back in the UK. There is no point trying to reinvent the wheel when I know I can get the results I want using the materials I have at home. Hey ho!

I did manage to get a reasonable print from a collagraph plate that I made last week. It is intended to give something of the feeling that I get when I stop and listen to the birds in the forest. I’ve realised that if I stand really still, the birds start flitting about around me and soon there can be over twenty tiny chattering blue, great and willow tits as well as finches and often a couple of gold crests. It really is quite magical. The print is just a proof and I will work on the idea further when I get back but I think it has potential.

I will end this post here and come back tomorrow with an update on some possible developments with photopolymer. It is a material that I use already but I have taught myself the basics from a book and have never known how to use it to its full potential. This could be a bit of a break through for me and I’m really excited!