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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Ground: Part 1

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This is the first of a few blog posts detailing the main project that I’ve been working on this year.

Just over a year ago I was approached by Sally Smith at Inspired By…Gallery to see if I would be interested in having an exhibition in Gallery 2 this autumn. Coincidentally I had already been thinking about approaching her with a proposal so this was a great opportunity for me. The space is a lovely clean white room with lots of light and there were plinths available for 3D work so I suggested that I invite another artist to exhibit with me and was fortunate that ceramicist Charlotte Morrison was keen to do it. She had already developed a range of work that explored ancient pathways in the Yorkshire Dales and wanted to push that work further by exploring the old drove roads, monks’ trods and other pathways within the North York Moors National Park.

I am a keen fellrunner and first became familiar with some of the beautiful paths and trails within the North York Moors National Park when I started competing in the Esk Valley Fell Club fell race series. Inspired by the natural history and landscape, I started to explore the area further and soon developed my own favourite running routes.

A large proportion of the prints on display were created during 2014 in response to a calender year spent repeatedly revisiting some of my favourite routes in the Hambleton area. In this way, I was able to observe the seasonal changes that took place and experience the landscape in all weathers. Making notes, taking photos and doing occasional sketches on site, I returned to mystudio to further develop the ideas that came  to me whilst I was running or walking. I was fortunate to observe some of the birds and animals that also visited the area such as hares in the fields near Cleaves Wood, roe deer at Gormire Rigg, the jackdaws that roost in Whitestonecliff, the housemartens that nest at Rouston Scar, a yellowhammer on the edge of the gallops above Gormire and many more.

Gormire Lake has become a favourite place both for running and quiet contemplation. A site that is unique, characterful and full of atmosphere, at times sunny and serene whilst in fog or at night it can seem ethereal and haunting.

PicMonkey Collage1The lake is deep and one of the few natural lakes in Yorkshire. The first time I visited it I disturbed a roe deer that skidaddled into the woods and there were buzzards crying above the tree canopy. I also found a roe deer skeleton amongst the leaf litter near the ‘elephant tree’. It is often muddy underfoot and the smell of the earth and leaf litter is strong.

PicMonkey CollageIn early summer the woodland is carpeted with bluebells. I particularly love the circular route from Sutton Under Whitestonecliff which takes you to Gormire lake, up onto Sutton Bank, along the top trail by the glider club and down beneath the White horse, through the birch woods to the pine plantation and up to Hood Hill. From there I like to take one of a few routes back to Gormire but all mean going up the steep bank again and descending back to the lake so its great fell training.

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Throughout the year I worked with photographer Paul Harris who has made a film about my working process and the first edit can be viewed at the exhibition. When the final version is available, I will post it to my blog for you to see.

In my next post I will talk a bit more about how I created the work on show and the journey from ideas in the studio to framed pieces in the gallery.

 

 

 

All Change!

The last time I wrote I was in Sweden which now seems like years ago! My main reason for not writing is that I’ve had a hugely busy year which was largely disrupted (in a good way!) by moving house and studio. After a few years of a travelling between Settle and Masham each weekend, my partner and I took the plunge and bought a house together in Horton-in-Ribblesdale. He moved in at Easter and I spent a month making the transition from my little rented cottage in Masham to our equally lovely new place. As a fellrunner this move is exciting (Horton is the starting point for the Yorkshire Three Peaks race and is surrounded by gorgeous fells) but as an artist, the fact that the house has a studio at the bottom of the garden and I can finally ‘go out to work’, it is even more so! I’m very attached to Masham, the place, the community and my friends there but I’ll be maintaining strong links with the Masham Gallery, who have championed my printmaking for 18 years, and ArtisOn Ltd who have been employing me to deliver printmaking workshops for the last three years. We’re already working on next year’s programme!

The move was pretty stressful and labour intensive mainly because I had various exhibition commitments that required me to be able to work right up to the last minute but looking back on it, it went surprisingly smoothly and I’m now settled in to my new studio and making lots of work. I’ve also got Harry the collie as a companion in the daytime!

Here are a few pictures that tell the story:

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My Masham studio before I packed up…

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and looking rather forlorn after I’d packed and been around with the filler and paint!

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My lovely new workplace down the end of the garden

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Before I turned it into a print studio…

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and afterwards. I’ve since put up some prints and it gets cosier and more ‘arty’ every week. I’ve been talking to an electrician about getting a proper mains electricity supply to it (it is just on extension cables at the moment) and soon I’ll be able to plug things in and flick a switch for my daylight strip to come on so that I can work throughout winter. I’ll be making some heat shields so that I can use the stove and also putting in a small heater that will work on a thermostat so that it never goes below freezing (we’re quite high up here and snow is a regular occurrence in the winter).

I really enjoy working in there and am finding ways to make efficient use of the space. In my old house I used to stretch my prints on the back of the kitchen and pantry doors but now I have a selection of boards that I store in my plan chest for that purpose. I’m also adapting the paper soaking system that I used in Sweden as I am no longer able to soak my paper in the bath tub and transport it safely to the studio. I’ve found that I can spray the paper outside (or in the greenhouse in bad weather) and then stack it in polythene to keep it damp so that I have a supply on hand that just needs blotting when I’m ready to print.

After years of living on my own I’ve realised that I’m a bit of a workaholic but also a great procrastinator so I ended up making jobs last longer than I needed to, never really switching off unless I was out of the house and I regularly worked into the small hours. Now I am making far better use of my time and am limiting my evening and weekend work so that I at least have an hour or so to relax most days (although, artists never switch off, I’m always mulling over ideas!).

We live down a little lane that leads to fields and the Ribble so I can swim in the river and run in the hills straight from my house. The countryside is really wonderful and there are so many different species of bird. It is a constant source of inspiration. I love having a studio that is separate from the house and when I head down to it, it feels like I really mean business. I’m also enjoying the cups of tea that get brought out to me in the evening and have learned to ignore Harry barking at the logpile for me to throw sticks. He’s learning to get used to me disappearing out there and I’m getting used to rescuing his ball from the drain or pond so that he can carry on playing by himself until it is time for us to go out together. He still drops the occasional ball at my feet when I’m printing though 🙂

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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.

Impressed by the press!

Today I spent the second of my three days as ‘artist in residence’ at Alverton Gallery in Penzance. I was invited to come and print in the gallery by Diana and Tim Wayne, the artist owners. The idea was that a team of printmakers would come and work in the gallery using their fabulous press during the exhibition of printmaking at Penlee House Gallery and Museum. The exhibition is called ‘Edward Bouverie Hoyton (1900 – 1988): Master Etcher’ and focuses on the work of this ‘unsung hero of printmaking’ who was principle of Penzance School of Art from 1941 – 1965.

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Hoyton was born in Lewisham in 1900 and studied printmaking at Goldsmiths College of Art. His contemporaries included Graham Sutherland, Paul Drury, Eric Frazer, Robin Tanner and William Larkins. Collectively known as ‘The Goldsmiths Group’, these artists helped to revive the art of the master etcher, the craft of original hand-made prints that had been largely overtaken by mechanical, mass-production printing methods. Their inspiration was the Nineteenth Century artist Samuel Palmer (1805 – 1881), whose etchings had created a sensation when they were exhibited at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1926.

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In 1926 Edward was awarded the Prix de Rome. He went on to become a lecturer at Leeds College (1934) before taking up his post as Principal of the Penzance School of Art.

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The Alverton Gallery press used to belong to Edward Bouverie Hoyton and is an absolute beauty. I am one of a series of printmakers that will put the press into action from 18th January until 22nd March 2014. Other printmakers include Claire Benson, Carolle Blackwell, Judy Collins, Delia Delderfield, June Hicks, Ian Laurie, Roy Perry, Morna Rhys, Lee Stevenson, Diana Wayne & Peter Wray.

Today I’ve been printing up some of my mini-prints including ‘Ermine’:

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I’ve also used the opportunity to do some viscosity printing. A method pioneered by Joseph Hayter and also known as ‘The Hayter Method’. The process uses the principle of viscosity to print more than one colour onto a single plate as opposed to using multiple plates and colour separations. Three to four inks are mixed to different viscosities by adding uncooked linseed oil (to oil based inks). Collagraphs can really lend themselves to this method because of the sculptural nature of the plate making but it can be done on etching and aquatint plates too. The printmaker also uses different densities of roller to aid the process. Here are a few examples, I call it ‘bling’ printing 🙂

viscosity printApart from having some lovely company from Tim & Diana and the various visitors to the gallery, I also had a bit of interest from Coco and Fly, the gallery whippets. It’s been raining a lot here in Cornwall and so they were quite happy curled up under the desk all day!

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I’ll be back in the gallery tomorrow and will do some more viscosity printing and also print up some of my other collagraphs. Come in and see me if you are in the area!

 

Time for Some Reflection

The start of a new year invariably signals a time to look back and reflect on what has been before making plans for the year ahead. 2013 was a really good year for me on many levels but I ended it feeling frazzled and burnt out. Working at such an intensity is not good for the soul and it certainly wasn’t good for this blog 🙂 Three months have passed since I wrote anything here. I was swept along on a wave of printing for exhibition deadlines and orders and time to think was severely lacking. It became a standing joke that my boyfriend would text me to say goodnight just as I was about to start printing another collagraph and I now know Sailing By by heart and could probably list all the places covered in the shipping forecast. Where would I be without Radio 4?!

I’ve had a great year though. I took part in 20 exhibitions and events and lost count of the workshops that I taught. I completed my second year of Joan Newall’s bookmaking course and have started my third. I also went on Alice Fox’s rusting workshop and Jane Littlefield’s stained glass workshop. I attended lots of exhibitions and previews and helped to set up a printmakers’ networking group. My prints have sold well and I’ve met some lovely people that have bought them. To my astonishment, one collagraph print proved to really strike a chord with people. I designed ‘The Way Through the Woods’ in April and it was an edition of 50. By October it had totally sold out! I would love to be able to repeat that with another print but you never know what is going to capture people’s imagination and so I’ll just continue to make things from the heart and hope that what makes me tick, will inspire other people too.

The Way Through the Woods

In the months leading up to Christmas I realised that if I want to feel happy and fulfilled in the longterm, I need to rethink how I work. It really isn’t easy to turn down opportunities when you are a full-time artist and even though I only have myself to support, the pressure is on to ensure that I make enough to cover my bills and pay my rent. I also strongly believe that you just don’t know where some of those exhibitions, events etc. might lead and, anyway, I do actually thrive on being busy but perhaps not quite as busy as last year!

2013-08-18 10.26.45(This is from Art in the Pens in Skipton, I hope to be doing it again this year and also one in Carlisle!)

So I’m starting 2014 with a different goal. I’m going to pare down my calender somewhat and give myself plenty of time and headspace for developing ideas. Without that, it is hard to make meaningful work. I’ve organised a lovely programme of workshops with ArtisOn Ltd. and will start that in mid-March and I have a few exhibitions pencilled in my diary that should punctuate the year nicely but mainly I will be working on a body of new work for my exhibition at Inspired By…Gallery in Danby. This takes place in November and continues into 2015. I was invited to show there by Sally Ann Smith of the North York Moors Park Authority and it was a lovely coincidence because I was on the verge of approaching her to apply to exhibit. I’ve asked ceramicist Charlotte Morrison to share the space and together we will be creating work inspired by the national park. We’re calling our show ‘New Ground’ and I’ll be blogging about it from now until the opening as I go out into the field and gather ideas for new work.

041(the tangled birch woods near Gormire)

I’m also returning to Ålgården in Sweden in February. That will really help get the year off to a good start. I invariably find January and February quite hard. My fellrunning prevents me getting such bad SAD symptoms nowadays but motivation can be at a low. I’m being kind to myself this year and have lined up enough workshops to pay my bills and am allowing myself the rest of the time to do whatever comes easily. I’m really enjoying doing a bit of reading and research about printmaking and I’ve had some great networking days already. In fact, I actually feel raring to go!

My next blog post will be about my trip to Cornwall next week when I will be ‘artist in residence’ at Alverton Gallery in Penzance. I’ll spend three days printing in the gallery to coincide with an exhibition of etchings by Edward Bouverie Hoyton at Penlee House and Gallery.

Bookmaking: Part 2

Oh dear, I’m not awfully good at blogging. My main problem has been having to prioritise and the time I would have taken to write a post has been used for printing or urgent admin. It has been a really, really busy summer and I’ve been working pretty much every day and night apart from when I took two weeks off to go on holiday with Brian. We just jumped in the car and headed north to Scotland complete with Harry the wonderdog and our tentipi. With no plan but some good ideas, we visited Glencoe, the Isles of Skye, Harris and Lewis, Loch Ness and Fort William (for a quick scoot up Ben Nevis). We ran everyday, swam in the sea and visited artist friends in the Outer Hebrides. It was brilliant.

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I came back with lots of ideas for prints and feeling refreshed. I then had  time off with Mum on her recent visit. Both of those ‘time outs’ were just what I needed and I feel almost sane again 🙂

The upside of being so busy is that I am also selling lots of my prints and my work is reaching a wider audience which has led to some exciting invitations for exhibitions and some new galleries selling my work…more on that in a future post.

I promised that I’d show some of the other books that I’ve made as a result of Joan Newall’s excellent bookmaking course and as I am about to begin year 3, here they are.

This is a star book and is called ‘The Rookery Book’. It has a photopolymer print cover and the inside is cartridge paper with photopolymer and relief printing.

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This book is a concertina book and is called ‘Seven for a Secret’. It is collagraphs printed on hahnmuhle paper with a monotyped cover and blind embossed text.

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And finally, here is my favourite book of the trio, ‘As the Crow Flies’. It is a gallery book and has a monotyped cover with block prints on hand dyed paper inside plus the text is of haiku that I wrote about members of the crow family (jackdaws, rooks, crows etc) over the course of a year.

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Well, I hope you liked the books. This year’s theme for our course is ‘inside’ and we are going to explore dying papers, bleaching, rusting and wax as well as pushing some of the book forms we’ve already learnt in new directions. I’m really looking forward to it.

Extreme Printmaking!

It’s been a busy few weeks. Last week was an exciting mix of workshops and meetings and culminated in the Connections North Seminar at Harrogate Studio Theatre. This concentrated on the artists residency opportunities available to artists in North Yorkshire . Arts Connections had invited me to speak about my experience of doing my printmaking residency at Ålgården in Sweden. Others giving presentations were representatives from the Finnish, Scottish and Swedish centres as well as Sarah Smith, a fellow artist who did a stone carving residency in Sweden, and a representative from the Arts Council of England. It was an exciting and inspiring day and I was especially pleased to see Christina Lindberg and Anna Mattsson again.

This week I have been mainly outdoors!

A few months ago Paul Mosley, Hackfall Officer for the Woodland Trust, asked me if I would be interested in running an Inset day for teachers at Hackfall Woods with the emphasis on printmaking outdoors. Always up for a challenge and with Hackfall  being a favourite place of mine, I agreed. 27th March seemed a long way away and I was sure that on the day I would be leading a group of teachers happily making prints in the sunshine as the birds sang. Suffice to say that, as the snow fell and then fell again, I have been worrying about the workshop for some weeks!

I’m a bit of a perfectionist and tend to be meticulous in my lesson planning so I knew that the only way to ensure success was to do a dry run of the workshop the day before it took place. That way I could ensure that everything would work in the current weather conditions. So I can actually say that I spent two days printmaking in the snow 🙂

Using ArtisOn as a base, Paul and I met our 12 teachers along with Hackfall volunteer Sue Cockcroft, who was invaluable as a printmaking assistant. We then set off to Hackfall in the minibus. Paul had explained the idea of story sticks and a couple of the teachers decided to have a go. Story sticks are a way to engage a child’s attention right from the start of the visit by getting them to look for found objects to attach to their stick using rubber bands throughout their walk. This provides a visual record of their journey through the woods. Apparently it stems from an aboriginal practise.

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I then discussed the Geoartcache project that I was commissioned to do by Chrysalis Arts for North Yorkshire Open Studios last year. I’ve created a trail in the woods that combines printmaking, book art, wildlife and folklore. Further details are on the Geoartcache website. Originally the trail consisted of 10 caches and the book cache but it has been adapted to allow for the caches that have gone AWOL due to flooding, storms and skulduggery! There are now six stamp caches and the book cache so do go and have a look if you are in the area.

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Slipping about a bit, we headed down the hill for a spot of bark rubbing and the chance to ‘meet a tree’ before heading to the ‘beach’ to do sun printing (ha!). I love sunprinting and it has so much scope as an educational tool. It is based on the principles of cyanotype which was discovered in the nineteenth century and became popular with engineers as a low cost way of reproducing their designs as ‘blue prints’. Anna Atkins used it to record her extensive plant and seaweed collection and these were collected together in what is generally considered to be the first book published with photographic illustrations. She is also considered by some to be the first female photographer although that is open to speculation with Constance Talbot (Henry Fox Talbot’s wife) often being cited as the first (amongst others). Anyway, the process is great for combining science and art and I soon had my teachers creating photograms by looking for interesting found objects such as leaves, twigs, feathers and sand to create images with. They then laid the objects on the light sensitive paper and placed a piece of perspex over the top to hold them in place whilst we waited for the weak sun to do its work.

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Fortunately, you can sunprint even when its cloudy so within ten minutes the exposed parts of the blue paper had turned a very pale bluey white and the paper was ready to be developed in my little tub of river water,

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The chemical in the parts of the paper that have not been exposed to UV light are water soluble and wash away leaving the paper white whereas the UV exposed parts turn a dark blue. The blue deepens as the paper dries to become a beautiful cyan blue (a clue is in the name).

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I layered all the developed prints carefully in small sheets of blotting paper to dry and we headed along the muddiest path in Hackfall to check out one of my geoartcaches, ‘Waterdog’. I retold the story of St.Cuthbert and the otters and demonstrated the stamp and then we headed to my favourite folly, Fisher’s Hall, for a spot of monoprinting. I love this folly. Its a magical and meditative spot where you can sit and watch the river whilst listening to the birds. Here it is earlier in the year.Image

I had to use oil-based water soluble relief printing ink from Lawrence Art Supplies as my speedball inks didn’t perform very well the day before because of the cold.

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Everyone managed to make some lovely monotypes despite cold fingers but we decided that plasticine printmaking at the pond might just tip some of the less hardier members of the group into hypothermia so, instead, we headed up to the banqueting house to admire the view across the valley and in the other direction, to Mowbray Castle.

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Chris was waiting with his minibus at the car park to take us back to ArtisOn for lunch. Sue Palin spoilt us with three delicious soups and bread followed by scones and two kinds of cake 🙂 Full up and a bit rosy cheeked from the snow, I then set about showing the teachers how to make prints and stamps from funfoam, how to explore textures of found objects by printing from plasticine and the amazing things you can do with relief collagraph techniques. None of which need a press or any expensive materials. Here’s one of my collagraph sample boards:

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The teachers getting stuck in to making stamps.

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All in all it was an excellent day and proved that the weather should be no obstacle to having a good time! In fact I distinctly recall the first workshop that I ever did for the Woodland Trust which involved me leading a group of printmakers around Hackfall in the pouring rain to gather inspiration for two days of collagraph printmaking. The results were amazing and reflected the weather.

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So, if anybody is now keen to come printmaking in the woods, Paul is running a Family Day at Hackfall on the 10th April, 11am – 4pm. There will be pond dipping and I will be based in the Rustic Temple doing printmaking. Adults and children are welcome to come and have a go. For more information visit the Hackfall website. Booking not required. Hope to see some of you there and perhaps we will have some sunshine! 🙂

 

Telling Tails

I’ve just had a little flurry of activity with regards to exhibitions and I now have my prints on display at Feathered Friends, Cambridge Contemporary Art & Bird’s Eye View, Leeds Craft Centre and Design Gallery.

On Wednesday last week, glass artist Jane Littlefield, gallery manager, Alison Holt, and I hung the Telling Tails exhibition at Rural Arts in Thirsk. In the beginning it was quite a conundrum to work out how to display Jane’s beautiful three dimensional glass pieces and my prints together but with the use of plinths for Jane’s work, the walls for mine and the rearrangement of all the lovely ceramics, textiles and jewellery in the gallery, I think we came up with a very pleasing exhibition.

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Jane has developed a really interesting way of working with her pieces consisting of multi-layered painted glass images that create a three-dimensional collage. The glass is hand painted using traditional stained glass paints and translucent enamels that are fired in the kiln. The work refers to Jane’s experience of the Peak District in which she lives and works. 

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Both of us are inspired by nature and stories and we often depict the same birds and animals such as crows, hares and owls. I am very fortunate to live in a rural place and I see lots of wild animals and interesting birds but it is the ones that appear throughout history in poetry, folklore and myth that tend to grab my attention most and are likely to make it into my collagraph prints.

We held the preview for the exhibition on Friday night and I’m pleased to say that plenty of people came and we now have a couple red spots! 🙂

This little roe deer collagraph was the first print of mine to sell:

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By coincidence, this year’s North Yorkshire Open Studios meeting (to distribute promotional materials and discuss the event) was held at Rural Arts on Friday and I have collected my brochures ready to send out to anyone that would like to visit me in my studio. I love taking part in North Yorkshire Open Studios because it is a chance to meet people that like my work and also to show how the prints are made. I will write about that in more detail nearer the time (it is over two weekends in June) but in the meantime you can visit NYOS’13 at their website and facebook page and if you would like me to send you a catalogue, you can send me a message with your postal address via the contact page of my website and I will happily send one out to you.

I am now off to continue making a very detailed collagraph plate of a fox in a birch forest. It is inspired by the beautiful forests that I saw in Sweden. If it goes well, I’ll write about it soon!