Saturday, February 7, 2015

Letterpress Learnings

A few weeks ago I took a mini course on letterpress at the city TAFE. Letterpress involves using type made out of metal or wood and depending on the project, will also use different kinds of presses -- either a cylinder, platen or rotary press. I don't know if I had too many expectations but most assumed that it would be a breeze. What we learned was that letterpress is a fiddly process.

We had access to a limited number of typefaces for our projects--and for good reason. You could spend a lot of time (at least I could) figuring out which one to use. As it turned out, I didn't get to produce very much. It may have been easier if I took one concept and did a few things with instead of trying to do too many ideas. If I decide to do it again at least I know for next time.

bits and bobs at the workstation 
That metal frame is called a chase and all the bits around the type furniture. The most time consuming part I found was adding the right pieces to put enough pressure on the type to keep it in place when taking it over to the press for printing. For all that Tetris playing the result was simple:

Part of a quote from Baha'u'llah's Hidden Words

The next day I worked on a different passage excerpted from Dante's Inferno. 
The time was the beginning of the morning;
the sun was rising now in fellowship
with the same stars that had escorted it
when Divine Love first moved those things of beauty
I was able to get an initial print from it earlier in the afternoon but that's where it ended. I just needed to fix a few backwards letters and change the spacing a bit but after making those edits I wasn't able to get everything to stay as it did before. Unfortunately, by the time I flagged down the instructor there wasn't enough time to remedy the situation.

Me and another lady who finished last stayed to help clean up, including scrubbing off the inks we used to print with vegetable oil. When I pulled off the scrap paper I had laying around for the rollers to sit on, an interesting print was underneath. I didn't keep it but thought I'd at least take a picture of it as evidence of producing *something* even if not intentional.

Sunday, December 14, 2014


I'm thankful to have been able to take advantage of a free printmaking workshop sponsored by the Tea Tree Gully Council and taught by none other than Simone. 8 of us got together and learned the basics of collagraphing using recycled materials. Collagraphs are basically a type of collage that you can ink up and make some interesting prints with anything from onion bags to paper doilies.

I spent most of the time chatting to others while I waited to use the press. Even if people specialise in different mediums I like to hear what people are up to and what influences they use for their work. I tend not to make friends that easily but conversation seems to flow a lot smoother when it comes to creativity.

When my turn came around, I learned I had some issues with the design placement. I wanted to layer everything in one go but you can't really pile things on top of each other and make it work. The plate also didn't really want to stay in place at first and neither did the objects placed on top. I think the image below was made by printing the inky plate after removing all of the objects.

For the second one I just used the bits of plastic I removed, then ran it through the press again to get kind of a 'ghosting' effect. I wasn't really sure what to do and there wasn't a lot of time to be indecisive. Not quite what I imagined (with printmaking it usually isn't) but hey - it was free, got to meet some cool people and managed to score some free rollers!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Adventures in Drypoint

This Saturday I returned to Union Street Printmakers with Chad for a casual Saturday class. Simone, the instructor, thought drypoint would be a good entry point for us to get into intaglio printmaking. Intaglio techniques are just ones where you etch your image onto a surface, ink it up and then print. Drypoint uses a needle or sharp instrument and in this case, was etched onto a plastic surface. The act of scratching into it makes a sound that personally makes me cringe but I managed to block out some of it and just go with it! 

The technique and the effect is similar to drawing, which is probably why I found it a bit easier to get my head around in the first go than with lino cutting where you have to carve away surfaces. I still have to get used to the image printing from back to front which sometimes makes a slightly more abstract image, like with the orchid below. I chose the initial print to add a little watercolour to when I got home. The second print I decided to leave alone, but it has a cleaner look because I took off more ink before putting it through the press.

I drew the second image more quickly. It wouldn't pass as a scientific illustration but it's sufficient for the experience.

At least I'm keeping up momentum a little. There's a few classes in my line of sight in the near future, and I'm in the process of hunting around for some projects to fiddle around with at home ... so stay tuned.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Yes, I'm Still Alive

Well, well, well ... look at what the cat dragged in. Is it really me? I haven't updated in over a year. Needless to say the creative energy hasn't quite been there. Sometimes there would be a spark and then nothing. Or sometimes there was a something but no motivation to post it online.

The other day, however, I did an intensive at Union Street Printmakers on lino cutting. It was me, the teacher, another participant and a couple of others who were using the studio space for other projects. It was a good atmosphere, and the garden outside was peaceful to hang around in during the break. You wouldn't know a little oasis existed in the industrial side of town.

The first part of the class we practiced basic cutting and stamping. Much easier to begin carving this way. It's like a potato print. You could even use old flip flops or erasers if you wanted to. But even if the material is simple to deal with, as with anything, learning to work with new tools takes time. You start to learn which tool does what and how. Alongside this you also have to train yourself to think about how image making works in relief printing. Cut away what you don't want to show and the rest stays.

Design 1

Design 2

After lunch, we did some actual lino cutting. Lino is a little harder to deal but the process can be made smoother if you have sharp tools and warm linoleum. At least if I start doing some at home I'll have another use for the electric stove! I found my carving to be pretty jagged, not really what I was dreaming up in my head but what can I expect for a first time? Well, when you're a bit of a perfectionist, probably a lot. But it was all in good fun. You also learn some basics in printing and what prints can look like with different techniques and papers. Take a two-toned effect on a thicker more absorbent paper:

and then you compare it to a print on lighter, textured paper and you get another type of effect. Line integrity aside, in this case I preferred this type of print. It has a bit of a redeeming quality to it...

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Afternoon at the museum

Eros - Alfred Gilbert

This afternoon I went to the Art Gallery of SA to attend a lunchtime talk that's part of the OzAsia festival. It was a 30-minute session from the curator of the 'Paradise on Earth' gallery regarding the use of flowers in Islamic Art. The floral imagery largely represents the notion of Paradise as being a beautiful garden, which naturally would imply the role of flowers in conveying that idea.

I hadn't been to the Art Gallery before today so it was nice to experience something a bit new around town. I didn't take any photos from this particular gallery nor did I think I'd end up drawing anything until I convinced myself to give it a go before I left. I managed to come away with the sketch above. For awhile, a mother and her two young daughters watched me while I drew. I get nervous doing these types of things in public because it can draw (ha ha) attention, particularly if I'm not convinced that it will turn out in the end. The two girls thanked me for letting them watch me - at the mother's prompting but they still were genuinely impressed. Either way, it was good that I forced myself to sit down and do something, regardless of how it turned out.

my sketching perspective

Monday, August 5, 2013

White on Brown

I've been hiding away somewhere in the midst of activity and emerge briefly in the form of white flowers. Hopefully more to come.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Art of Science

Today's Google Doodle pays homage to Maria Sibylla Merian on her 366th birthday. She was a German naturalist and scientific illustrator. I thought it fitting since this afternoon I visited the South Australian Museum's special exhibition The Art of Science. The scientific illustrations on display were borrowed from Museum Victoria. There were some fascinating depictions from household names like John Audubon and John Gould, as well as some Australian artists.

I appreciate detail in artistic works, be it the precision of scientific illustrations or the patterns in an abstract geometric piece but I don't think I have the patience to do them. Perhaps one day I'll discover the satisfaction of completing something like that. In the meantime, I can admire those who have already fulfilled their vision.

Trogon reinwardtii (Reinwardt's Trogon)
Reinwardt's Trogon by John Gould

Eastern Wirra by Arthur Bartholomew

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Victor Harbor

Scenic view from Willunga Hill

View from Granite Island

From the causeway to Granite Island
This weekend, Chad and I headed to Victor Harbor. It was a bonus trip of sorts, which we tacked onto the end of a rather mundane task that required a long commute. If you drive about an hour and a half south from our residence you'll find yourself in Aldinga, a little town with not much to its name but a good view and at least one all purpose diner with with more choice than the fancy bistro down the street. The mundane task? Watering the lawn. There's no tenants in a property my in-laws own so someone needed to keep the grass from going all dead and straw like. It seemed natural that on one of those trips we'd go the rest of the way to Victor Harbor.

Victor Harbor is the main tourist destination in the Fleurieu Peninsula. Despite the dryness of the summer, there is a lot of greenery. The Peninsula is known for its agricultural flare, particularly when it comes to wine production, not to mention a number of other things like almonds, olives, and cheeses. We stayed the night with some family friends and then went into the hub of Victor Harbor to explore the next day.

Granite Island was the only place we managed to visit while we were there. A causeway connects the town with the island where you can either walk across or go on the horse drawn tram. Aside from the novelty, it didn't seem necessary to take the tram but we regretted that we didn't do so on the way back. The sun in Australia can be pretty strong, and sometimes the heat feels much closer than it should be. Nonetheless, there was a bit of a reprieve on occasion when a breeze came off Encounter Bay. By the time we made a full loop around the island, we were more than ready to head back to the car and grab a late lunch.

For the past few weeks I haven't been able to find my camera charger for the life of me so I wasn't able to take photos. At least I could go back to basics and do a few sketches. There's still more to see. Victor Harbor, I'm coming back for you one day.

Monday, January 28, 2013

An Afternoon in the City

Today many people were off and businesses closed because of the observance of Australia Day. The actual date was this past Saturday, but of course when something falls on a weekend it would be a shame to deprive yourself of a day off. Although I'm not working yet, I was momentarily relieved of my volunteer duties at Lyell McEwin. Chad and I went into the city to visit the Botanic Gardens and grab some lunch. 

Initially it seemed that we didn't pick the best day to go out as it was windy and rainy when we arrived in town. As a compromise, instead of going straight to the Gardens we headed to Piatto for lunch in lieu of Kishi Sushi, which seemed to be waiting for a later time to open. I'm never inspired to order much more than pizza at an Italian restaurant so we shared a Little Italy pizza. Since we had to wait quite awhile for our order (due to mishap with someone not putting it in the system), I had time to sketch, something which I haven't been doing recently. 

Diners at Piatto

The sun came out by the time we were finished. The Botanic Gardens were nice. I brought my colored pencils with me as well but there wasn't a color that represented the pink of these lotus flowers, the first and favorite of the species displayed. There were quite a few dusky moorhens in the area as well taking advantage of the marshy conditions. 

With this blog I try to post things that I've drawn on location but this past Saturday I also had the chance to march in the Australia Day parade they had in the city. I took some less than quality photos with my phone but they may do with some artistic rendering, if so I'll post them here. 

I hope all is well with everyone's 2013 so far. One month is practically gone! 

Monday, December 31, 2012

Hyacinths of Knowledge

I dug this one up from the archives. Not that it's particularly old, but its been out of sight for awhile. I sent this watercolor home in a document box when I said my goodbyes to Israel for the first time. I had it hanging in my cubicle there, and it would receive compliments from time to time when people stopped by to ask questions or have a chat. To me it was never quite right visually, the greens particularly, but still people liked it. My interest was more in the quote "... Sow the seeds of divine wisdom in the pure soil of the heart, and water them with the waters of certitude, that the hyacinths of knowledge and wisdom may spring up fresh and green from the holy city of the heart." I like the imagery of the heart being composed of pure soil from which things such as wisdom can grow like beautiful flowers. However, it takes a certain attitude to cultivate it.

I think we can all do with a little tending. May our hearts spring up with good things in 2013 (and forever and beyond).