Search Results for 'monoprint'

T1-MMT-P4-p1-e1 Monoprint mark-making – exploring further

I went out for my final session for exercise 1 with a prepared list of experiments and ideas. Naturally things changed as work progressed.


Print p4-27 plan

Print plan

Print p4-26
First was an attempt at an advanced technique – viscosity monotypes. There was information on the technique on the akua website ( The idea is to roll thin colour on the plate (not thin in the thickness of the layer, but in the fluidity of the ink), and make marks in it. Then roll thick, stiff ink over. The differing viscosities cause the inks to repel each other and you get distinct colours. I’d enjoyed printing clear complementary colours in the breakdown screen printing class (17-October-2015) and would love to do similar in a monotype.

The plan is shown above – a central panel of red orange using the thin Akua liquid pigment, with a big squiggle cleared through it. Roll on the thick blue intaglio ink, which would fill the sides and the squiggle. Then make smaller squiggles in the blue to pull it all together.

print p4-26 Cleaning the roller

Print p4-26 Cleaning the roller

Problem – when putting on the blue the roller picked up the red-orange ink. To avoid muddying colours I’d do a single roll, then clean the roller on a scrap piece of cartridge paper. After a few rolls the scrap paper looked interesting, but there was little of the orange left on the plate.

I decided the scrap paper looked good enough to be its own sample.


Print p4-27

Print p4-27

Print p4-27
The plate was printed on damp Stonehenge paper – 245 gsm, 100% cotton, using the ezicut press (8 layers of wool batting).

All sorts of technical problems here. Most of the red-orange has gone. The blue is very uneven – I stopped inking very early, concerned about leaving any of the original pattern. There are probably all sorts of adjustments to the two inks that an experienced printer could attempt. Looking at it now I could have done extra rolling up the two sides and just a little less up the middle, but probably session 3 was just a little early to attempt this.

On the other hand, even if not according to the plan I think parts of the print are really rather lovely.

Print p4-27 detail

Print p4-27 detail

I can see myself layering up like this again to create complexity and depth in a work. Possible the “roll off” (see previous sample) could be done on the same picture in a different area.

Print p4-28
The plan had been to do similar technique prints on damp and dry Stonehenge paper as a comparison. Given the damp print didn’t work out I decided to explore something else on the dry Stonehenge – breaking out of that confining rectangle.

Print p4-28

Print p4-28

Print p4-28 flipped

Print p4-28 flipped

The entire plate was rolled with blue. Then a green mix was rolled onto a piece of non-slip drawer liner (previously seen in sample p1-69 and elsewhere). Next I followed up an idea from print p4-21 (25-October-2015), and used a cut piece of craft foam to lift some colour from the plate – lighter jagged edged areas lower left and top right. A chopstick was used to create a variety of lines reflecting the shapes already on the plate. Finally I used the craft foam again top right, first rolling it with green ink then gently pressing on to the surface. The print was taken using the ezicut press (8 layers of batting) onto dry Stonehenge paper.

As a composition it doesn’t work. I’m having trouble getting my mind around the reversing in printing, so tried flipping the image on the computer. I prefer it that way, but it’s still visually uncomfortable. Perhaps something as simple as a little of the green in the drawn diamonds at the bottom would help pull it together.

There are some pluses. The foam worked well both to lift and to add colour, and given it is so easy to cut that gives a lot of flexibility. I like breaking the rectangle, and the texture provided by the liner which is thin enough not to leave a huge gap of plain paper around it.

Print p4-29

Print p4-29

Print p4-29

I worked hard on the ghost print to improve balance, and I think it is better but still not right.

First I took the ghost print using a baren on cartridge paper, the liner being turned over and moved from its original spot. Both the foam and the liner were used as stamps a number of times. I really like some of the layering of texture and colour at the detail level.

Print p4-29 detail

Print p4-29 detail

Print p4-30

Print p4-30

Print p4-30

In this sample I wanted to experiment further with paper. The print was taken on coloured lace fan paper backed by a piece of rice paper (which I’m presenting as print p4-31).

Ink was rolled on unevenly in a sequence of colour blending from blue at the bottom to a yellow-green at the top. Cloth and a variety of wooden tools were used to create a landscape – ruffled lake in the foreground, bending reeds at the water edge, lesser detail of trees as the view receded to mountains behind. The ezicut press was used to take the print.

None of the detailed mark-making is visible on the fan paper. Larger marks look more like accidental unprinted blotches. It’s now a few days later and the paper has absorbed the ink well, with clear printed colour on both sides. I thought a backlit view would be of interest, but the fan shape takes over and the colour is lost. The print could be layered over other materials, stitched into, perhaps even felted into. This could be very useful.


Print p4-31

Print p4-31

Print p4-31
This is the rice paper used as a backing to the previous print. Unfortunately an extra smudge of ink was transferred onto it when I brought everything in from the garage. I need to allow more hanging time for all ink to be absorbed, and to recognise if there is excess that needs to be removed.

Quite a lot of ink came through the fan paper. The colour is softly broken and I think quite attractive. More of the original mark-making is visible, as can be seen in the detail photograph below, but it is not effective competing with the strong fan pattern. If using this technique again it would be better to focus on colour play and omit mark-making.

Print p4-31 detail

Print p4-31 detail

Print p4-32

Print p4-32

Print p4-32

I find it very satisfying to bring forward techniques from earlier in the course, and in this print I reprised the crumpled paper of assignment 1. This is 50 gsm bank layout paper, originally A3 but crumpled and spread to be roughly A4.

I used a mixed green ink on the plate and made some broad and finer marks reminiscent of grass. It was printed using the ezicut press. The ink transferred quite well but there was some build up in a few creases and this was the source of contamination on p4-31.

You may be able to make out the vertical marks that were made, but extra interest comes when the creases are gently stretched out.

Print p4-32 opened

Print p4-32 opened

Print p4-32 opened detail

Print p4-32 opened detail
Click image for larger view

Print p4-32 shaped

Print p4-32 shaped

Clicking on the photo to the left will give an even closer view. I find the broken pattern and colour very effective. The reverse side also has interest, the green still visible although subdued. Being two sided certainly makes the paper more versatile for further use. However I think you can’t go past the shaping introduced in the original crumpling exercise. I’ve tried it with an LED inside as a kind of lamp, which has potential with the right lightsource – the one I had introduced some unattractive hard shadow lines. External directional lighting worked better.

Breaking the boundary of the rectangle and now moving out into three dimensions is very satisfying. I struggled to engage with the printing initially, but layering, colour mixing and now this is beginning to create a connection.

Print p4-33

Print p4-33

Print p4-33

This is the ghost of the previous print, taken on rice paper using the ezicut press.

There are some flaws – a crease in the paper and that dratted smudge. Of interest is the visibility of the original mark-making, augmented by the patterning created by the crumpling of the original print paper. This proves to be an excellent technique for creating an overall pattern. I also find the rice paper pleasant to print on, despite needing some care in handling. This could be a good candidate for the accidental marking seen on print p4-20 (25-October-2015).

Print p4-34

Print p4-34

Print p4-34

This print is on A3 cartridge paper, and was produced in three separate pulls. The initial idea was again sourced from assignment 1, this time folding paper. Could I fold and print paper to create bands of pattern and colour, with a result that could be displayed to present different views from different directions?

Print p4-34 folded

Print p4-34 folded
Click image for larger view

A little thought and experimentation showed that three colours, or at least three pulls, would be needed to cover the paper with no overlap. Think of each folded unit as having a Z profile. The top bar presents for printing – in this photo blue (click on it for a larger view). After refolding, what started as the diagonal bar will be printed with yellow and the base bar with green.

For this test I tried to be very simple and bold with mark-making, creating a series of broad lines with a different slope on each colour. The prints were taken using a baren and possibly I could have got more complete transfer with some extra manipulation. I should have waited longer between prints as there is some contamination of colours.

Print p4-34 part unfolded

Print p4-34 part unfolded

Despite flaws the basic plan was sound. I have bands of colour which can be loosely folded to present different views. An extension of this could be any of the more complex folds which at least temporarily will sit flat. With refolding in different configurations some intriguing possibilities could be developed.


Print p4-35

Print p4-35

Print p4-35
This is the ghost of the previous print – all three layers over-printed onto cartridge paper using the baren.

I took a ghost print of virtually all prints made in this session, but haven’t presented those which were too faint or too streaky to be of interest. I like the one shown here quite a lot, at least in part because it seems like a folding of time encapsulating the process and larger space of the original print. Layering and complexity is important in my response to these prints.


Print p4-36

Print p4-36

Print p4-36
This print was an investigation of the mark-making I saw in Degas’ monotypes (22-October-2015).

Degas_ Woman Reading detailThe composition is based on the cropped detail I took, but the overall proportions are changed and the width of the shoulders has gone terribly wrong.

Tools used were cloth to wipe areas and brushes (both ends) to make marks. The print is on rice paper and was made using the baren.

I found this an absorbing exercise. I particularly like the clean wiped area of the light at the top, with the contrast to the denser colour even more effective with the broken lines around and extending from it. I also like the uneven surface of the brushed triangular area bottom left. The “solid” areas of colour are actually grainy, and I think this soft look is very effective on the light rice paper. There are some fragments of thicker ink that the brush left on the plate which I think detract from the result and the whole middle mess doesn’t work, but the combination of colours and method is pleasing.

breakT1-MMT-P4-p1-e1 Monoprint mark-making – exploring further
Part 4: Mono and collatype printing
Project 1: Monoprinting
Exercise 1: Mark-making
Exploring further

T1-MMT-P4-p1-e1 Monoprint mark-making – basics on cartridge paper

Print p4-17

Print p4-17

Print p4-17
Copying the Masters is a traditional approach to learning, and I decided to attempt to copy just a few of the marks of Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione in this print. In my research (18-October-2015) I noted that Castiglione used repeated lines and perhaps limited tools to build up his expressive forms. I selected and printed a couple of detailed areas of The Creation of Adam and tried to mimic some of the lines.

Looking back I’m surprised at how surprised I was to find it impossible. Those shards of light behind God’s head – sharp and clear, triangular, apparently all ink removed? Nowhere close. The curve of fabric over the shoulder was equally impossible. Adam’s biceps? Foolishness.

On review, there are some interesting areas in my attempts. The near horizontal lines middle right are varied but combine together to create a shape. Top right is a combination of different widths of line that could become tall grasses blowing. Bottom left is the failed shoulder drapery, successful as another example of the power of repetition in line. On the other hand, soon after my attempt I was looking at images of monotypes by Matisse, such as the line of the neck of Emma’s Face Turned to the Left I at MOMA ( – a lot can be done with one line!

In my sample, colour was a mix of violet and red with around 40% transparent base. I printed onto cartridge paper using a baren. There was a stickiness and graininess to the ink I was unable to resolve.

print p4-18

print p4-18

Print p4-18
In the previous print I used some of a set of boxwood modelling tools when looking for that perfect line. On this sample page I worked more methodically, exploring marks with each tool. Twelve tools, each with different ends, each end able to be used in different ways – I got a bit lost in the possibilities and in the similarity of line some produced.

The ink was the same as p4-17, using cartridge paper, but printed through the ezicut press (5 layers of wool quilt batting).

Print p4-19 detail

Print p4-19 detail

Print p4-19

Print p4-19

Print p4-19
The next idea was to create texture in the ink by flicking on fluids it might react to. I gently placed a piece of newsprint over the lower part of the inked plate to reserve it for other fluids, then flicked akua blender medium over the exposed ink using a toothbrush and mesh. Nothing seemed to be happening, so three drops of blender were put directly on the plate. Then I lifted the newsprint from the lower area and discovered much of the ink had transferred.

Printing was onto cartridge paper using the bamboo baren.

Given time to develop the spatter of blending medium worked. There is a milky way effect of mottling, larger and more varied than earlier unintended sticky ink mottling. The drops of medium moved the ink around in rough circles. This could be more interesting if brushed or rolled across the ink surface.

The lower area looks more like a ghost print, which effectively it was given the transfer onto newsprint. I like the variation in tone over the print as a whole, and that the spotting appears light in the top section and dark in the bottom section. The variation in size or graininess of blotches creates a lot of interest. Responding to the inconsistent contact with the newsprint, a larger scale pattern can be traced.

The image looks to me like a landscape from an airplane. Clumps of trees define higher hills, water spreads over the plain, reflecting light from the starry sky above. I don’t think this effect could be controlled, but it would be interesting to explore the technique of random touch of lightly draped paper.

Print p4-20

Print p4-20

Print p4-20
This is the newsprint which lifted ink from the plate in the previous sample. Bold in its patterning, this suggests another way of creating varied texture – rest a light paper on the inked plate, not flat and without pressure. This could provide a background for later work, or be worked on directly itself. I’d like to try this with a light rice paper.
Print p4-21

Print p4-21

Print p4-21
Continuing the earlier idea of moving ink with a fluid, I splattered the inked plate with water. A cork was used to circles of texture in the lower part of the image. A foam letter S was used as a stamp to lift ink from the surface. Finally a fine-cut stylised flower wooden stamp was used several times.

The plate was printed onto white cartridge paper using the ezicut press (7 layers of wool batting).

The water created a strong mottling effect which could be useful, especially if I could develop methods of at least partial control over the area affected. The letter stamps are strong and clear. This could be an effective way of adding text to an image assuming I can get the mirroring right. The precut letters are only at one scale. Perhaps I could cut from the craft foam I have, although this is thin and could be hard to handle. The wooden stamp was not effective. I wonder if temporarily putting some padding under the plate (etching plastic in this case) would assist.

Print p4-22

Print p4-22

Print p4-22
Red-violet was rolled across the entire plate. Ink was partially lifted from the lower area by pressing in crumpled foil by hand. Yellow ink was roughly rolled over this area. A length of plastic kitchen twine was covered in yellow ink by running ink-covered fingers down its length. The string was then laid on the plate. The loosely bundled string moved around slightly during the process, leaving random smudges of colour.

The plate was printed onto white cartridge paper using the ezicut press (8 layers of wool batting).

The colour scheme is simple but dramatic. The string goes slightly out of bounds on each side, including the lower edge where it extends into the textured, colour-layered region. This together with the white edging of the line pushes it forward and creates a dynamic image. The texture of the background red-violet varies with the movement of the yellow line, providing a subtle additional layer of interest. The layered colour at the bottom acts as a base, adding to the dimensional effect of the line.

The technique of partially lifting colour and then over-inking worked well, providing interest in texture and colour. The unprinted space around the line of the twine is an important idea. The feather in p4-10 (18-October-2015) blocked an entire area. Here a line has been created rather than a shape. The inking of the twine was also significant. It would be interesting to use feathers again, very lightly inked, possibly in different colours. This could allow something like the detail of p4-13 to be inserted and integrated into a plate.

Print p4-23

Print p4-23

Print p4-23
This is basically the ghost of the previous print. It was taken on cartridge paper using the bamboo baren. After the initial rubbing one side of the paper was lifted and the twine carefully removed. The page was then pressed again.

Capturing the previously untouched areas of ink protected by the twine produced a strong line which contrasts with the much lighter background areas of the ghost print. I think the contrast is too strong, unbalancing the image. Cropping the bottom so that the string marks fill the printed area gives a better result. There is a lot of detailed interest in this print, but it is hard to see given the dominance of the line.

Print p4-24

Print p4-24

Print p4-24 detail

Print p4-24 detail

Print p4-24
Without cleaning the plate I reinked in red-violet and yellow. A stamp of corrugated cardboard was used, being inked at different times with red-violet and with yellow. At times the stamp was used in the area of contrasting colour. At other times it was used in the matching colour area with the idea of creating a textured, embossed effect.

My notes do not include the method used to print onto white cartridge paper.

The overall image is static and fairly uninteresting. Colours are too evenly mixed, the scale of mark is too constant, there are so many lines from the cardboard going in different directions that any potential for the dynamic is lost.

At the detail level it is interesting to see the layers of colour interacting. However the result is blurred, and it’s not just camera work. A sharper effect might be obtained by printing the background plate and then overprinting with the stamp.

The effect of the uncleaned plate is visible but not strong. In this case the curved lines are too dim to create any tension with the overlaid straight grid, and instead they muddy the composition. Layering has the potential to create complexity and interest, but in this print it hasn’t worked.


Print p4-25

Print p4-25

Print p4-25
It was late in the day and I wanted to finish the last of the ink. Mixed all together it created a rich brown which is not well captured in the photograph.

Then I froze. I made some marks, disliked them, rolled over them. Multiple times. On the positive side it’s interesting to see how forgiving the monotype technique is. Major changes can be made without waste of materials. After many false starts I created pattern by lifting colour with a stamp cut years ago from polystyrene. This layout is influenced by sketchbook work I did on Louise Nevelson (Sketch 20150815, 21-August-2015).

The polystyrene has created interesting texture and I like the clear but not sharp edges. The stamp had never been used, and it shed little pieces which caused the blotches seen in the print.

The plate was printed onto newsprint using the ezicut press. In the unmarked areas I got some of the flattest colour of any of my prints. This could be the different paper, but I suspect is more related to the repeated rolling of the ink, and to a lesser extent continuing fine-tuning of padding through the improvised press.

I felt discouraged immediately after this printing session. I hadn’t got the effects I was looking for, the prints seemed very flat, and while the goal isn’t perfect prints the continued major imperfections were frustrating.

Stepping back, reflecting, looking hard for potential in the details – all have helped. I can feel energy and curiosity returning. P4-22 is the only print that excites me in itself, but all the “failures” have elements of interest and provide ideas for future exploration.

T1-MMT-P4-p1-e1 Monoprint mark-making – basics on cartridge paper
Part 4: Mono and collatype printing
Project 1: Monoprinting
Exercise 1: Mark-making
Basics on cartridge paper

Reading Candor

Reading||Making has continued. Again I visited Candor, Anne Carson’s text, looking for guidance in transformation of the monoprints (25-Feb-2020). “If you are not the free person you want to be, you must find a place to tell the truth about that… You could whisper down a well. You could write a letter and keep it in a drawer.” Jane, wife of HG Wells, made faint pencil marks on the letter of sympathy she received from her husband’s mistress. Jane – born Amy Catherine – fulfilling her husband’s domestic expectations.

A square of one print became a folded envelope. It is named – “Jane”. Bound by net, by woolen skein, by the trappings of domesticity, by the stones of the well. Inside, hidden, her name – scratched, mis-written (my oops), torn.

I like this little object very much… except that in the end it is so literal. As I worked at reading the text I found it more and more full of imagery, of the material, the specific.

Playing with printed card, finding shapes, became more abstract.

As reading the process has worked. There is familiarity, and I still find more. Slow. Attentive. Absorbing and making connections. Can I claim that in these photographs the work of reading is made visible???

Printmaking: x steps forward + y steps back

= ?
I’m not sure where that leaves me, especially given “progress” is not a helpful concept and art-making is not a two dimensional space.

page overview

While trawling the net I found a method for transferring black and white photographs onto paper – multiple steps involving glue, patience, … Then I realised I’m already printing onto my prints. Why not photographs? After sampling the printout of different manipulations (the original colour, posterized, threshold, various methods to get grey scale), I selected a photo of burnt bushland from near Mount Borrodaile (29-Aug-2013), and computer printed onto a monoprint and text related to our recent bushfires (detail shown in post 10-Feb-2020). It didn’t print properly across the whole page, but an interesting result. Detail below.

A couple of the “waste” prints from 10-Feb-2020 went through a paper shredder and were woven based on learning from a class with Alice Spittle (3-Dec-2018), although substantially modified given the different materials.
They are around 10 and 18 cm high, quite quick and fun to make, and I think very pretty. There are lots of places with potential to vary the form – something to explore further.

I’ve also finished a little vessel that has been languishing since December. I had planned to print or stamp onto woven paper yarn, but while making decided the proportions demanded a smaller woven area. The base is a box from a mobile phone, 13.5 cm wide, and it’s more delicate in person – the scrunched wires look very heavy in the photograph.

Next to new print-making – and this is where things start going backwards. Over a week or two I drew up a list of experiments, based around using my new acrylic paints with my gelatin plate (rather than my “standard” akua inks):
* Wax crayon resist (gelli arts video). I prepared some cardboard with 7 different waxy crayons and pencils. Neocolour soluble crayons were the only ones to work. More experimentation needed.

* Stamping onto a small woven paper basket, made when I first experimented with the technique. Shown here is the basket before I made a horrible painty mess of it.

* Printing onto a square of paper yarn and wire, made on a weave-it frame as a substitute for little black and white number shown further up this post.

Didn’t even attempt it. I was realising that the change to acrylics was a bigger step than anticipated. A number of ideas just got dumped – effects of vaseline on stencils (link); printing onto interfacing (link); printing on tissue paper (Carolyn Dube video).

I tried using one of the paper stencils cut in the class with Tianli Zu (16-Feb-2020). Using medium weight paper was always going to be a stretch and I didn’t help by letting the painty stencil dry while trying to ghost stamp (is that a thing?) with it. On the other hand, the bits of green paper left on the print are quite interesting – a sort of poor woman’s chine-collé perhaps.

By this time I was wheeling fast and loose. Both sides of paper, planned/improvised/random… I now understand why many people on the internet videos work through a stack of already printed paper. My Akua inks are beautiful and transparent, and I think would need careful planning to use many layers. With acrylics you can keep working on a page, layer after layer, trying for a better result. A selection of my outcomes:

All the above were on A4 110gsm cartridge paper. Can you believe they were the better ones of the bunch???

I did one print on 200 gsm watercolour paper, and got much richer colour. I wasn’t conscious of using more paint, though I can’t rule it out.

Quite a few of the prints included at least some element of “waste not” brayer and stencil cleaning. One of my more favoured results of the day was the single A3 page of cartridge paper that was entirely waste not leavings.

Some of the above may join others not shown on the overprint pile. I suspect paper weaving is in the future of others.

Separate to all this I am getting clearer ideas on how I want to use print-making as an ongoing element of my practice. My theory is that it will make me a better reader, but I have to get better at the basic technique first.

More print and text

The recent interest in print-making, text, and paint continues.

Session 1
First up was a day with Claire, who showed me a neat textural technique using layers of acrylic paint, sprayed water, and a plastic card to move all around. Some interesting effects, with lots of possibilities around number of layers, ordering (when to use light or dark), waiting time between actions etc. All was on watercolour paper – cartridge paper just disintegrated in the pooled water.

Claire had a specific future purpose, and while fun this technique didn’t fill the need. We branched out with different experiments. I focused on creating texture in acrylics using various rollers and scraping tools.

Later I came up with a new variation in my quest for text on prints.
* stylus on bamboo tablet to get a very crisp, clean piece of handwritten text into gimp – white text on a black background.
* in gimp opened an image of the orange and blue texture print shown at the top of this post.
* used the text as a layer mask of the texture image. From the snip of the gimp screen you can see that this gave an image that was transparent except for textured colour in the shape of the handwritten letters.
* Used techniques developed previously (22-Jan-2020, session 1, first text attempt) to size and position the coloured text on a fairly gently coloured sheet of watercolour paper that Claire created in our print session. A detail of the result:

Very happy to have this in my toolbox of text techniques.

Session 2
In the previous session I used some old and close to empty tubes of cheap acrylic that were loitering in a drawer. Claire had some luscious Matisse flow paints, and looking at the gorgeous colours of creamy, pigment laden paint, there was definitely some materials-envy going on. Imagine that old movie technique of a calendar flipping over, and we come to session 2, with me the happy owner of … new paints. Derivan/Matisse have a big range of colours. I decided to treat myself to two of their “sets” – Australian Colours and Primaries. This session was all about experimenting with the Australian Colours.
First the spray and layer technique to create a background, with other colour laid on with the side of a plastic card.

A couple of texture experiments provided the base for more computer text printing. I don’t have a clear vision of where I’m going with these text experiments. Somehow I want to play with legibility – by overlapping, using handwriting, breaking the text up in some way…

All the oddments of paint went onto a few pages of A3 cartridge paper. Waste not, of course, plus I suspect collage will pop up sometime.

Session 3
Short and focused, a first look at the split primary mixing set, which also includes black and white. I made a simple colour wheel of primary and secondary colours (not shown), got some tones with black, and made a spray and layer colour sampler.

Session 4
This was inspired by a video from Dan Tirels ( So far I’ve only watched Monoprinting Abstract with acrylic paint on stretched canvas, but checking now see there’s lots more. Dan spreads paint on a piece of thin plastic (like the single-use plastic shopping bags recently phased out). He puts this paint side down on his canvas or paper, using hands and various tools to transfer the paint and create various textures and marks. It reminded me of carbon paper (for those of you who remember typewriters). So naturally, I had to try it for text. Some purple Akua intaglio ink, some red and blue acrylic. Some on a hard surface, some on a padding of newspaper. The ghost can be nice, and on one I shifted the plastic part way through to break up the lines of text. This was all on plain white cartridge paper. There are a lot of incidental marks, but if this was fragments of text over (or under) other elements I think it could work very well.

I was hoping to get more inspiration, in inspiring company, in a monoprinting class. Sadly they didn’t get the numbers and it was cancelled. So the next step is TBD.

Mono printing and text

Attentive reading, complete with careful note-taking, isn’t enough. Heresy? A simple recognition of my truth – which has taken me a while.

This isn’t cramming for an exam without a care for the info drop-out in the following week. It’s not skimming around, pulling together some facts and figures, some quotes and ideas, for an assignment. I’m reading to produce knowledge in me. It takes time – new ideas need to be tried out, connections made, existing knowledge reconsidered.

Making – moving from thought to materiality with knitting, weaving, paper, … – gives space and time for a different sort thinking. Critically, I have found that making which in some way responds to my reading becomes a form of knowledge production in its own right. It’s not just a distraction or filling in the time or simply another part of life – each project has allowed me deeper understanding of what I am reading, and to discover more about how I work and what is attracting my interest. However those earlier projects were all quite time and labour intensive. I wanted to mix it up with something a bit quicker, a bit more responsive to the moment.

Project outline
Monoprinting. It’s quick, versatile, responsive. Plus it’s something I’ve done a fair amount of before (blog search results), so building on skills.

Imagery – build on reading, so glyphs, experiment with what a humanist data viz could look with, plus continue to mine my history with stamps, stencils etc from previous work.

Text – the new element. A curiosity about “poetic” has been growing (see for example the reading scarf project (7-Jan-2020) and recent threads (18-Jan-2020)). I’ve been attempting to write poetic snippets, based on a reference in Jane Hirshfield. All very cringe-worthy, but I feel attempting it myself might make it easier to see and understand what people who know what they are doing are actually doing. I’ve never been successful with getting text into a monoprint.

Session 1: cobweb removal, first text idea
* Akua liquid pigments
* gelatin plate
* glyph stencils cut in paper
* general approach based on Linda Germain video (this link goes to a page on her website, with a mini-course for the price of your contact details).
* computer printed text on monoprint

Results: Space made, tools and materials found, cobwebs disturbed.
A selection:

First text attempt: chose one of the lighter monoprints, scanned it, and opened in gimp. Used image to decide size, font, colour and placement of text. Using the text layer only, printed the result onto the original monoprint.

I’m quite happy with this result – quick and accurate. However I’m not convinced by the regularity of the font on a very informal print.

Second text attempt: Scanned in a monoprint. Hand wrote one of my snippets and scanned that in. In an attempt to integrate text and print I added a faint extra layer, an enlarged and distorted version of the text. I printed the full image – the scan of the monoprint and both layers of text. This means the original monoprint is unchanged.

The result is … alright. I don’t have strong feelings about it. Perhaps the approach could be useful in some future application.

Session 2: Introduction to monoprinting workshop with Kirtika Kain
This workshop was in the studio of Gallery Lane Cove – Kirtika’s work was on exhibit upstairs at the time (20-Jan-2020). Kirtika was very ambitious for a three hour course. To help us build concepts and ideas, we started with 20 minutes of stream of consciousness writing, then some time mind-mapping, exploring words and themes that resonated. We all made monoprints using an A5 piece of acetate as a plate, backdrawing, and printing using barren and press. Next came making and use of stencils, plus other objects as a mask. Running short of time, Kirtika demonstrated drypoint etching on the acetate, and both intaglio and relief printing, then a final burst attempting chine-collé. It was full-on, and I don’t know how the other four students, all I think quite new to print-making, coped. For me it was great as a refresher and energizer.

My “designs” were based on thoughts of humanist data viz and the distorted grid. Messy and unclear, but there’s an energy I like.
A selection:

My first backdrawing included some overall scratching with fingers, and produced a cloudy jumble. The second attempt I tried hard to keep clean, pressing only with the pencil while backdrawing. I love that line! Of course the y-axis is wrong, I need to mirror that… and so,

I needed to try mirror writing!

Session 3: mirror writing on acetate
* Akua intaglio ink
* acetate and gelatin plates
* mirror writing (mostly)

Backwriting with biro (that had run out of ink), acetate plate

Ghost print

Akua intaglio on acetate; writing into inked surface with wooden skewer (direct, not mirror writing); stamped onto gelatin plate; printed off onto paper using brayer

I made the gelatin plate over four years ago. It has been used repeatedly, and between times sat in the garage with minimal protection. The clearer white dots above are pocks on the plate, not a product of the method. I think there’s some potential here (assuming I melt and reset the plate) – especially given the freedom of being able to write directly.

Not shown: Mirror backwriting, gelatin plate. Did not work.

Acetate plate, mirror writing into ink using a wooden skewer.

Session 4: extending
* Attempt longer text
* Think about page placement
* Combine text and other effects – some in this print session, some by using pages from previous sessions
* An additional method for monoprinted text
* Using yupo paper stencils as both stencil and as pre-inked stamp
* Acetate and gelatin plates

Some results:
Mirror backwriting on acetate plate.

In the print above, the ink of the biro used in backwriting shows through the paper and the transparent yellow plate ink. It assists legibility. However the ghost below is basically unreadable. The only point of interest is that I printed on what was intended to be the back of the page. Excluding the workshop prints, all of the work in this post is on paper originally used in the life drawing workshop with David Briggs last year (16-Feb-2019). Odd here, but could be something to play with… And now I look at the ghost again, it might work to write or paint (watercolour) the text into the blanks of the yellow…

A more complete attempt. More legible. Plus improving on placement (I’m edging towards an A5 booklet idea). The text is based on childhood memories of storms at the end of hot summer days. The infinity shape is my glyph for memory, the stamping is intended to suggest storms.

Experimenting with another text method – writing in printing ink onto acetate. Stamping that onto the gelatin plate, then printing off. Squelchy. I’d need to find a better way of managing the amount of ink in the writing.

Finally some general play.

I’m pretty happy with my results overall – not the individual pages, but in the options I now have to work responsively and relatively intuitively as a support to and extension of my other creative activity.

Jane Hirshfield Ten Windows, page 41

Kirtika Kain – uppercase

On the final day of this exhibition at Gallery Lane Cove I went to a discussion between Kirtika and Judith Blackall. Earlier in the week I did an evening workshop with Kirtika, an introduction to monoprinting – more on that soon.

Kirtiki Kain
silkscreened iron filings, tar and wax on kozo paper

This exhibition was part of Kirtika’s prize as recipient of the 2017 Lloyd Rees Youth Memorial Award, and was displayed in a separated corner space within the 2019 Award show. Kirtika was born in New Delhi into the Dalits or Untouchables caste. Her father was a beneficiary of affirmative action and trained as a chef, a profession which enabled him and his young family to migrate to Australia. Kirtika is careful to point out that she herself hasn’t experienced discrimination due to her caste. Instead she seems to be an outsider – growing up as a migrant on Sydney’s northern beaches, travelling to New Delhi as a foreign visitor, impacted by caste stigma which is not lived but still inherited.

After initial training in psychology Kirtika received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in 2016, winning a scholarship to complete her Masters in 2018. In 2019 she completed residencies in New Delhi and Rome, had a solo exhibition with Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery in Sydney, was included in a few other exhibitions, then spent November working intensively in the print studio at Lane Cove to create the works for uppercase. The whirlwind continues, with Kirtika already advanced in work for her next scheduled exhibition.

Kirtika is interested in transience. She enjoys the process of making works, rather than feeling a need for them to continue existence – tricky when you get to the commercial gallery situation (she “felt a bit taxidermied”). Kirtika uses the transformation of materials to examine themes of caste stigma, ancestral memory and the language of power and reclamation. The language is a way of accessing her history. In the mid-twentieth century Dr. B.R. Ambedkar transcribed into English the social rules that over generations have been internalised by the Dalits, rules condemning them to subhuman status, denied the smallest vestige of prestige or honour. Kirtika explained she feels the impact of the words on her body as she works with them, and she selects materials responding to this – waste, or with religious and cultural references, or capturing the feeling such as with the density of tar. Materials that hold a history.

Fitting with Kirtika’s interest in the process over the result, she included in the exhibition some of the screens and plates used in creating the works.

Some of the screens were old ones found in the gallery studio space – beautiful, but bound for a cleaning and return for future use. The double meaning of “uncleaned” only occurred to me while writing the caption below.

A number of works used layering very effectively. Edges, fragility, materiality gave impact and depth.


Momentary (un)balance

It’s been a while since I posted. This is going to be a bit of a ramble. Glancing to past, present, and future. I chose a title that might give a bit of space for reflection. For exploration. To challenge. To be challenged. Who am I? What am I doing here? That sort of stuff. Well, hopefully not too much of that final stuff – too tedious for anyone, including me, and the answers will be different in a day or hour or next thought.

After all balance, or not, is a moment by moment thing.
And could one say there is more fun in un- ?

In the interregnum there was the second group session with Ruth Hadlow in Hobart. How to show the activity of my glossary and energizing objects investigations? With just a few days to go I thought of the balancing act of a house of cards, and quickly printed out material from the blog.

Un-balance House of Cards

Results were poor as a presentation device. While talking I was unable to get beyond two cards before the anticipated collapse eventuated.

For communication? Mixed response. People seemed to enjoy passing them around for a look, and it was probably easier than a laptop showing the blog. However to an extent the cards were interpreted as a work in their own right, and from that perspective there was a lot of refinement to be done.

It led to the suggestion of looking at documentation and research as forms of creative practice.

It also led to some discussion of the use of a blog. Not necessarily polished writing and presentation. Not private, unrestrained “thinking writing”. Mine is an uneasy balance – some warts showing, but not all. And I quite see that the viewer of an artwork might not want their response to be directed or narrowed by my titles, and might prefer some mystery and wonder rather than be told the balance was actually easy (15-Apr-2019).

Ready for lift-off

Then there are the actual objects. For me a weaving shuttle plus red chopsticks from a local cafe have meaning beyond the balance. For others those materials are most likely unrecognised, mute. Even more so my trusty annealed tie wire, or threads in resin, or corrugated copper foil, or …

A towering thirst

Can I add to my work in my choice of materials? One point of resistance is that these materials are already meaningful to me. How much to I want to vary my standard, selfish, focus? Plus the obvious thing is to go household/domestic, but I’m wary of being obvious. Which led me to the idea of “on the tip of the tongue”. If I choose to take this path, can I disguise the objects so people have to reach for recognition? To me that stretching, vibrating feeling of trying to pin down a reference is very close to the rapidly variation adjustments trying to keep balance. I need to learn more about material approaches.

Then there was the surprising (to me) realisation that all my samples were very literal illustrations of balance. That was set up in the briefs for each investigation, but still… Over the days of the session there was some mention of my strong literal, analytical, pedantic aspects. Something to challenge?

Growing pondering list:

  • Types or aspects of creative practice: research / documentation / sampling / polished (“worked”) work…
  • Intended audience. Myself / peer group / wider world
  • Materiality. Potential for enrichment, complexity, layers of meaning…
  • Types of writing. Narrative / authoritative / propositional / thinking / notes / poetic articulation. Audience, level of re-working…
  • The analytical etc. Something to challenge? Or aspects to reframe, reposition, harness as strengths, or at least with positive potential.

    The Essential Duchamp exhibition at AGNSW is well timed for me.

    Marcel Duchamp
    Nude descending a staircase (no 2)

    Nude descending a staircase (no 2) depicts a body in motion. From the catalogue by Matthew Affron: “a marionette-like figure decomposed into repeating linear elements that serve as an abstract, graphical record of its movement.” It mentions the lines and planes of the changing position in space, and also “small dotted lines indicate the swinging motion of the figure’s visible hip and legs”. There was inspiration from motion photography.


    An extra step for me could be to work further with my photographs, abstract from them, use them as a base for development, say brush and ink drawing or maybe monoprinting.

    On the left above, a view within the gallery. Various readymades, most of them replicas of the originals. The choice of the objects was (allegedly?) made with visual indifference, although the first, Fountain, was definitely provocative. An alternative perspective on materiality. What currently particularly interests me is on the right, effectively a display case compendium of around 69 works. Miniature replicas, print reproductions, all in a case that closes to 40.6 x 37.5 x 10.8 cm. Lots of different ways to see this, but to me one is to regard it as documentation.

    Marcel Duchamp
    The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Batchelors, Even (The Green Box)

    It becomes clearer in The Green Box, containing 94 facsimile documents – manuscript notes, drawings, photographs. An accompaniment to The Large Glass, objects in their own right, artefacts of Duchamps process, a guidebook, a literary form… and documentation.

    Tentative conclusions so far:

  • I want to keep Un-balance as a focus. Without going into complexities of a multitude of recent resonances, a simple example of how un-balance is pursuing me. One of the recently weekly lectures at AGNSW was given by Mark Ledbury, on Géricault’s Raft of the Medusa. Towards the end Mark showed us a couple of Géricault’s portraits of the insane – The Monomania of Envy and Portrait of a Man Suffering from Delusions of Military Command. The very next day a book purchase arrived, recommended by Ruth as an example of a creative practice in documentation and research – Fiona Tan’s 10 Madnesses. Focused on the same portraits by Géricault.
  • I want to learn more about research and documentation as forms of creative practice. So far it feels like a good fit for me.
  • I’m attempting to bring some of my day-job analytical skills and data visualisation techniques into play. So far that means building up some data. It will take some time to develop.
  • I’m back here blogging. Not everything. Watching what works for me, how it fits with other aspects of what I’m doing. But it’s just too valuable to give up. It’s an index; an archive; an opportunity for communication, interaction; a means of organising thoughts; a reminder to look back, maybe synthesize, not keep rushing on to the next experiment; showing research and work in progress, rarely if ever polished presentation of finished work.
  • In practice all this means I’m am reading up a storm and producing copious notes. Not much in the way of making, but I’m confident that will come.

    I’m sure there was more I was going to include. If it’s important it will come back to me. I hope 🙂

    Quickly taking stock

    A scamper over recent activity. It’s basically a continuation of the Swirling November post (18-Nov-2018)

    Scarey music twining
    More twining in 5-ply waxed hemp twine. A little bit of fun, but it turns out I need to pay more attention to the process if I’m playing with shape and colour. It doesn’t quite fit the requirement.

    The green and blue one started as a piece of plain weave, with warp and weft becoming the spokes as I twined up the walls of the shape. It worked moderately well, although badly tensioned and lumpy. The shine is from mod-podge, used to handle all the pesky ends in a thread that didn’t want to sit quietly. I’ve since used the same structure in wire, shown later in this post.

    Side and bottom views

    Continuing with some of the pieces of heat-treated copper from Swirling.

    A series of manipulations on copper sample F

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    I like the combination of copper and resin. The different textures, reflection, transparency, work well together. The wrinkles and folds of the flattened version are also interesting – good texture reminiscent of clothing, and a strong, ungainly form.

    Other samples didn’t thrill. Smaller pieces of copper wire were just fiddly and annoying, although improved when I started using the ring clamp (the wooden pivot kind). An attempt to make looping more interesting by mixing materials worked in the sense that I could keep it airy, with the wire providing structural support. But looping is so round and enclosed.

    Realising the roundness was a problem I tried plain weave in 0.5 mm brass. This was before the class with Alice Spittle (3-Dec-2018). Some of the techniques in that might have helped get a better result. I might return to this, but the particular sample was not a happy experience or result.

    There has been progress since this, but first another disappointment.

    Monoprinting with stamps
    Back in October I was planing a print-making session with stamps made using basketry techniques (1-Oct-2018). I finally got to it, more in the spirit of “let’s get this over and done” rather than “I wonder how this will work” and “what else would be interesting to try”. A self-fulfilling prophecy?

    Using the gelatin plate, lamp black ink rolled on then taken off using samples of “flat coiling” were under-whelming.

    Looping in soft string wasn’t picked up at all. Shown below is some scrap paper, used to semi-clean the stamps after printing. Some OK texture.

    Looping in soft string

    It’s hazy, but a stamp made of cardboard with tensioned wool looping around it is quite effective.

    Random looping around card using tension

    Using packaging cardboard as a stamp

    Some cardboard packaging worked quite well – it could be the base for further work.

    Altogether not a strong result. The intention was to work through a series of design exercises in a book, but somehow it’s not working for me at the moment. Time to park that, maybe return another day. Especially as a couple of more engaging things have come up.

    New scarey music making

    August joining

    I’ve been looping on and off for a few months now. Back on 4-Aug-2018 I tried it as an alternative joining method for sculpture inspired by the class with Matt Bromhead (10-Jul-2018).

    October sampling with different sizes of wire

    There was looping with Mary Hettmansperger (17-Sep-2018), then sampling blogged 1-Oct-2018 and 21-10-2018. The print-making above helped me to realise that the enclosed swirls of looping just weren’t what I’ve been looking for.

    A quick dip into The Primary Structures of Fabrics by Irene Emery, under Single Element (which also includes looping) gave me linking – in particular link-and-twist. Some quick experiments and I experienced a thrilling flash of recognition and revelation (thanks for that phrase to Henry Eliot, writing about literary classics in The Guardian).


    The sample above is 32 gauge brass. I quickly worked up some more – more 32 gauge but smaller spacing, some black 28 gauge, and then 0.5 mm brass.

    More link-and-twist

    Irene Emery clearly instructs that this is not netting, nor is it knotless netting (an expression she finds hard to justify in any context). Still, I use a netting shuttle in making it and link-and-twist is a mouthful. I’m going for the casual “netting”, generally speaking and unless formality is required.

    Noŋgirrŋa Marawili
    Lightning (detail)

    That sense of recognition was undoubtedly influenced and strengthened by my viewing of Noŋgirrŋa Marawili’s work (7-Dec-2018), one of many related experiences.

    Sample p3-44

    Another is a sample of netting dripped with resin for Mixed Media for Textiles (23-Sep-2015). In fact looking back at that, and above at the resin shard, has started me thinking again…

    Back to the “netting”. Look what happens next.

    Twisted netting

    It holds shape. It can be spread wide and light, or squeezed into shading. Line and form in space.

    A quick posing – peeking at possibilities.

    Strike a pose

    The large scale black is from the class with Marion Gaemer (26-Dec-2017), and has since haunted my sketching and pondering. I think the underlying mesh from Bunnings is actually link-and-twist. The plaster and wire channels Matt Bromhead and more from Mixed Media for Textiles (4-Aug-2018).

    The link-and-twist is ideal for scarey TV watching. Wire controlled on the netting needle, no risk of scratching self or companion. Very simple to start and stop. Mindless but productive. Here is a component that’s exciting, adaptable, links to my past, meets my need to be making…

    Definitely thrilling.

    Laborious fun
    Also in Swirling I mentioned the excitement of a lecture by Lisa Slade , including the “swirl of fragments in my mind”.

    The lecture is now available on SoundCloud – Sound isn’t enough. You can get a list of the major images from – in my case I have the handout with my scribbled notes from the night. I’ve been able to track down most of the images, now on a Pinterest board.

    It’s not easy listening. Every step of the way, including the image gathering, leads to another internet search, more exploration, reading, rabbit holes… I’m up the the sixth minute of the talk. My version of fun 🙂 .

    New opportunity
    In that swirling November post I signed off with a certain satisfaction about my current path – “Maybe one day more formal study, or a group, but not for now.” That was then. Fast forward three weeks and I’ve signed up to Ruth Hadlow’s Intensive Creative Research Program in 2019, a structured one year program involving four 3-day intensive sessions in Hobart. “The program will focus on a creative research model of practice, incorporating reading, writing, material investigations, dialogue and critical analysis. It is cross-disciplinary, and oriented towards process-based contemporary arts practice.” So not formal, as no academic bureaucracy, and not group, in that the focus is individual art practice. Terrifying and exciting.

    There was more. I’ve been reading and musing, writing up page after page in my workbook. Time for that another day. Maybe.

    5 March 2017

    Melanie Eastburn The art of Lotus Moon, a Japanese Buddhist nun in nineteenth-century Kyoto
    In the AGNSW series Site Specific: The power of place

    The lecture began “Otagaki Rengetsu was a Japanese Buddhist nun, poet, calligrapher, painter and potter who lived in Kyoto at a time of dramatic social and political change”. Only fragments about her life are known, and attribution of her work is often difficult as she both collaborated with other artists and allowed some to sign their work with her name.

    Lotus Moon is known through the “long lines of dancing letters” she left behind, on scrolls and prints, on tiny tea and sake vessels and pots. Melanie Eastburn conjured a world where hosts would give close attention to the right bowl for the right guest, a match of character, behaviour, interests…

    The day begins
    I’m busy with my crafts
    The day ends
    I pray to Buddha
    and I have nothing to worry about.

    Beyond words: calligraphic traditions of Asia AGNSW
    The following day, with a spare 20 minutes before meeting a friend, I revisited this exhibition, thinking about Lotus Moon and calligraphy not directly brush on paper.

    Yoon Kwang-cho Punch'ông ware jar circa 1990

    Yoon Kwang-cho
    Punch’ông ware jar
    circa 1990

    This Punch’ông ware jar by Yoon Kwang-cho (link) is large, modern, luminous, both rich and austere. From the gallery website: “This rich combination of contemporary individuality with a spirit of antiquity expresses the ideals of purity, honesty and humble sparseness so admired by the connoisseurs and tea masters of modern Japan.”

    Apparently the inscriptions are from a Buddhist text on nothingness. What could be contradictions – an Object showing nothingness, a modern form created using very traditional techniques – are noted then disregarded. It seems to me entirely, and most satisfyingly, itself.

    Brice Marden Etchings to Rexroth 9, from the portfolio Etchings to Rexroth 1986

    Brice Marden
    Etchings to Rexroth 9, from the portfolio Etchings to Rexroth

    (link) This photo shows one of 21 etchings by Brice Marden, displayed very simply, unframed, in three rows of seven. The plate has pressed deeply into the paper, the artist’s marks quite flat but layered. They look like ideographs, or crazing on a ceramic, dancing and pivoting on the page. The sugar lift technique allowed Marden to create marks with a stick, as with his pen and ink drawings.

    A quick brief for mark making:
    * Stick, ink, print.
    * My current marks.

    I used a twig from the rain-soaked garden, black acrylic ink, my much used, pockmarked gelatin plate. Fast copies of the warm up gestural drawings from the previous night’s drawing class. Monoprinting onto copy paper.

    I like the freshness and energy of the marks. I was working quickly, focused, but not thinking too much (unlike in class!). I like the indirect approach, the distance from the original event / subject, intent modified by separation and happenstance. It’s a good reminder that I didn’t start life drawing with the intention of making a “good” drawing as an independent result.

    Life drawing class
    There’s too much thinking going on. Placement on page, frame/focus, edit, block in but don’t fill in, suggest… I’ve liked some earlier stuff, but that makes me tentative when trying something new because I don’t want to go “backwards”.

    The quick gestural work at the beginning worked best, then I got tighter and slower and trying to force answers.

    The selection above shows OK results from quick poses, the medium length pose doesn’t quite know if it’s focusing on line or form, nor quite how to handle the light highlights (this was on brown kraft paper). Then the long pose – almost not shown as just too awful, but that seemed cowardly. A coloured ground, then charcoal, white and red. Dear me what a mess.

    Perhaps more practice and more changing things around (eg the monoprinting) – never get too comfortable???

    A quick explanation – I’ve been building up this post over the week so it doesn’t swallow Sunday. This might lead to some non sequiturs, as edits and additions are made. In this section on life drawing class, a couple more days produced:

    Back to Croquis Cafe, on grey paper, conte crayons.

    The poses were from 1 to 5 minutes. I started OK, but as soon as a second colour was introduced on the longer poses I got confused and hesitant. The one on the right above was the 5 minute one. The model was lying on the ground, her head closest, a loosened kimono covering her upper arms, her legs up on a chair. Looking at the photo after a day, it took me a while to remember and figure out what was going on. Drat!

    Pushing forward was just repeating the same mistakes. So I decided to take a backwards step, simplify and consolidate. Today’s set used cartridge paper prepared with charcoal over the whole page to create a mid tone, then creating form with knead-able rubber and some form and line with charcoal. I worked smaller – each sketch is effectively A4. An extra challenge (which I’d been trying for earlier in the week), was to focus on an area of interest and not always have the full body floating on the page.

    This felt so much better. I ran out of time on each pose, but I didn’t get lost – I always had ideas on what to do next. Hopefully I’ll get some more practice in before the next (last) class, and be better placed to take advantage of the longer poses.

    Exhibition talk
    Anne Gerard-Austin: Ford Madox Brown “Chaucer at the court of Edward III”
    One of the ReCollection series of lunchtime talks.

    My first experience of these floortalks, and I’ll definitely try to get to more.

    Ford Madox Brown Chaucer at the court of Edward III 1847-1851

    Ford Madox Brown
    Chaucer at the court of Edward III

    This enormous painting (including frame almost 4 metres high and over 3 wide) is significant in itself, it’s subject and it’s time, and also in the history of the gallery. In 1876 it was the first European painting purchased by the nascent gallery and consumed the entire year’s budget of 500 pounds. When London newspapers reported in error that it had been lost in the Garden Palace fire (25-Sep-2016), the artist wrote kindly offering to repaint it for 1,200 guineas!

    The huge canvas is crowded, full of colour, movement and vivacity. It was modern in its time. Influenced by members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, it was painted with “an innocent eye” – with a sense of truth, sunlight and shade as could exist in a single moment, individual, living and engaged faces, an intention of historical accuracy. It can be seen as in search of a national cultural identity – painted in the prosperity of mid nineteenth century England, showing the birth of the native english language, with a sense of topicality. [Encapsulating national identity seems an ongoing struggle around the world. Here we seem to keep reverting to images of heroic white men exploring or battling droughts or fighting wars. Pretty stupid idea really, that something as complex as a modern nation can be contained in a neat, walled, exclusive/excluding, little box.]

    The frame of the painting is original, designed by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (who was also model for a couple of the figures). Framing can make such a difference to how we view a work, it’s good to see what the artist wanted.

    There’s a great photo of the painting here, where you can zoom into lots of detail.

    Mark Doty Still life with oysters and lemon
    This small book is more an extended essay. It begins with falling in love – with a painting. Doty writes about the poetry of painting, about looking, light, love, loss, the beauty of the everyday and imperfect, about giving attention, about Dutch painting and still life. A warming, absorbing, inspiring, purposeful meander.

    Doty’s painting is by Jan Davidsz de Heem, around 1640. I’ve spent some time with a work by that artist, down in Melbourne (11-Jan-2014). Here in Sydney there’s a work previously thought to be by him, now attributed to Laurens Craen, dated around 1645-1650 – I did an annotation/analysis of that as part of the OCA art history course (13-Jan-2014). In another small pocket of time I revisited the painting this week.

    Laurens Craen Still life with imaginary view

    Laurens Craen
    Still life with imaginary view

    I tried to pay attention. To experience it – with fresh eyes, not like my earlier effort slicing and dicing things and trying to sound as if I knew about Art and Painting.

    How does one give time, attention, ignore the “opportunity cost” and all the distractions around? And still bring richness, a wider experience? Back in January, during the basketry class (15-Jan-2017), I joined Instagram. All sorts of convenience – capture a moment, the warmth of likes on instagram and facebook, viewable on this wordpress page. Snippets of time on the bus or at lunch can be filled with colour and creativity, scrolling through images from those I follow, liking those that catch my eye. Dismissing the rest. Useful. Treacherous.

    Work on the welded and random weave piece continues.

    mesh-wire-shaping_478x600Need something portable for next week’s Basketry NSW get together, so tried out cordmaking with strips of fibreglass insect mesh, open coiled stitching in 24 gauge wire.

    The flat disc was OK but not exciting, however it is malleable and holds form, and with a bit of backlighting there’s some promising filtering, light and shadow. A strong continuation of my materials exploration – something to take further.

    This week has also included some time thinking about my recent low period, and watching my own responses as I regroup. Some was weather and biorythms, some I need to pay attention to (that word again).
    * the absence of a plan, a future goal. I talk about process, a way of life, but I got a bit lost.
    * feeling constrained by a larger project, more than a sample (the random weave begun in welding class). I think of streams, based on Ruth Hadlow’s model, but how many and what scale can run concurrently?
    * managing energy, stress, workload, life balance… social media…
    No such thing as “The Answer”, especially as things change over time, but good to be mindful.

    Unexpected surprise and delight

    Paul Orifice


    Outside the art gallery on Wednesday evening Paul (no surname) had set up this sculpture. It’s all found and scrounged materials – bicycle frame and spokes, laptop battery, printer gears, scrap aluminium. Made using handtools and a drill press – Paul has the time and enjoys the connection with his work. A sensor recognises an audience and varies light intensity. Eccentric gears tighten and loosen a cable, causing the orifice to widen and narrow.

    Paul was pleased to chat. He makes a couple of sculptures a year, and exhibits by taking them around Sydney to delight people. How beautiful, and how wonderful to share that joy!

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