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).

001

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.