Archive for the 'Painting' Category

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.

Components, sampling

It’s a freeing thing, working with components. No expectations of outcome – it’s just creating options for future making. Experimenting with a new skill is fine – wobbly technique in one small part of a whole won’t be obvious, and “flaws” may hold exciting potential to take advantage of later. Follow a chain of thought and making, see where it takes you, respond to what’s in front of you.

Why do we need permission to play?

Mary Hettmansperger
Work has continued on items begun in Mary’s workshops (17-Sep-2018). I’ve also ordered a couple of her books, here soon I hope.

The looping on a 3D leaf shape is complete.

The twining sample has grown.

On the aviary wire form, the knotting has been following by twining, including some colour mix experiments with brass wire combined with the waxed linen.

I’ve also had a session working through techniques with metal which Mary demonstrated. In the class I took lots of notes, but wanted to do the experimenting at home with my own setup and materials. Lots more to be done here.

Coiling, painting, van Gogh
An image of a painted basket on instagram combined in my head with a painting by van Gogh in the John Russell: Australia’s French impressionist exhibition currently on in the Art Gallery of NSW.

Vincent van Gogh
Bank of the Seine

Yay! to the van Gogh museum for providing great photos plus easily available, generous and understandable copyright policy.

Boo! to me, not able to trace the instagram photo that inspired me. Those baskets were painted with abstract blocks of colour, with white painted interiors.

I made a coiled basket. The core was spaghetti yarn from Lincraft, a curled in length of stretchy, fine knitted fabric, 90% cotton, 10% polyester. Stitching was with Sullivan’s paper twine, 50g/32m. Quick and easy work – I love great long lengths of materials with no preparation required! The firm twine pressed into the spongy knit fabric, creating a lovely bobbly texture.

The thing was painted inside and out with gesso. At this point the structure was quite flexible and sagged when damp with the gesso. Reshaping was attempted a couple of times, with limited success. After drying overnight the basket felt firm and strong, no longer flexible.

Originally I planned to paint the watery colours on the outside, then continue inside with colours lifted from the bank in the painting. As it happened I got impatient and tried to complete the outside in one sitting. Colours mixed more than I wanted. If I did this again I would try a layer of underpainting, establishing the base colour areas, wait for it to dry, then do stippling with the wider range of colours.

It’s the way the textured surface of the basket catches little dots of colour that has me excited.

The basket form doesn’t suggest “component” in my mind, so experiments in creating a flat form using coiling followed.

Using the same materials, I found some ways to manage the turn-around at the edges which looked OK. However, the form itself … there’s a fair amount of torque there.

I was thinking of flat panels, building materials. Was the twist a function of the materials used, the knit fabric, the plied twine, or inherent in the technique, that lovely diagonal of stitching, with forces that balance out in the standard circular form?

The next attempt used a very stable braided cord from the hardware store, still stitched with the paper twine. The torque is still there, much reduced. Possibly it could be forced flat when damp, but the price is the loss of that beautiful bobbled texture. Onto the stamping / printing experimentation pile for both of them.

(Not) printmaking
Speaking of which, it looks like I’ve run out of time this long weekend for a print making session. Preparations have continued, but instead of cutting stamps I’ve focused on more basketry techniques.

There are a couple of panels of looping in a chunky, soft, loosely plied cotton yarn from the hardware store. I’m hoping this fabric will print more clearly than the previous looped version in paper covered wire.

At this point I haven’t mounted the pieces onto a backing to form a stamp. Perhaps some interesting partial and folded forms could be made by dropping the pieces onto the print surface.

print p4-15

I’m thinking back to an earlier accident experimenting with printmaking in OCA days (18-Oct-2015).

A final stamping experiment is more looping, this time around a piece of card, simplifying any mounting considerations and taking advantage of the nature of the technique. This is a thick wool yarn, the looping based on a demonstration from Mary Hettmansperger, deliberately making angles and variation, changing up the traditional technique. I should probably seal it before attempting to stamp.

Looping components
Turning from stamps and print-making back to components for future projects, what are some other shapes that could act as a base for looping? Mary has done a lot with a leaf shape, which could be modified to a boat – neither of which fit with the more abstract, geometric vibe of this theoretical future sculpture.

It turns out doodle-ing shapes flat, in gimp or on paper, is hard! After a while I turned to paper covered wire, which was a bit too flimsy, then a heavier wire.

I wanted to create the frame with a single length of wire, no doubling up – like Mary’s leaf. A cube frame just did my head in. The thought chain leading to that started with The Modern Art Notes podcast, It’s been going for ages, but a recent find for me, looking for something to listen to while working on slow twining and looping. Turns out when I listen and make at the same time I do both badly. Anyway, Giacometti sometimes used rectangular frames, and in the podcast discussion (No. 353) I think there’s also mention of Francis Bacon. Quite how that enclosing / framing structure became a small component…

Whatever. Moving to triangular forms generated a lot more possibilities – all needing refinement. However the brain has grasshopper-ed away from that to thoughts of looping around a geometric form, which (stroke of genius?) could then be used as a joining element in the sculpture. Think of something like the foam florists use (the dry type for artificial or dried flowers, not the stuff that soaks up water). Cut to shape, paint to colour scheme, cover with looping, then stab wire through when building. I wonder if that stuff is stable over time?

Not having any to hand when the idea hit, instead I looped around a wooden block. There’s still joining component potential, drilling holes as required.

The prototype used 28 gauge black wire. The wooden block was painted orange/red, which keeps it in the colour scheme of the painted yarn created in Mary Hettmansperger’s class, and I think is light enough to show up the dark wire. This photo is a fudge, because I haven’t actually finished the final side of the looping.

The empty looped cube is pretty nice on its own. Possibly not sturdy enough for frequent handling, also less practical as a joining device. But good-looking.

Another experiment using a thicker brass wire (0.5 mm) around a larger rectangular block is in progress. I’ll probably complete that, but I should also play with covering just parts of painted blocks.

All of these things are going on in a huge muddle on my worktable. Picking up one thing, going back to another, brain fizzing with ideas. It feels good to be playing making.

Workshop with Mignon Parker

mignon_parker01A few weeks ago I went to a weekend workshop with tutor Mignon Parker, organised by ATASDA. The class was primarily experimenting with rusting techniques and on the left is one of Mignon’s samples.
mignon_parker02Mignon added an interesting painting technique plus some gilding, and the second photo shows some of the other samples she brought.
mignon_parker03Here you can see my initial experiments – at the top on calico, and the lower samples handmade paper (from the ATASDA day at Primrose Park a couple of years ago). On the left of the fabric I used a sealer, on the lefthand paper sample a turquoise acrylic paint as a base. Iron filings were mixed with black acrylic paint, then painted on both sealed and unsealed fabric and papers. The final step of the process is to paint a weak acid solution over the dried paint. The iron reacts with the acid to form rust and possibly also water – the acid solution was thickened, but one of the interesting effects was from a rusty water that spread across fabric and paper.
mignon_parker08I experimented a little with other fabrics. On the left is a silver lamé which has some interesting contrasts with the still shiny areas, black discolouration and the actual rusty sections. I applied the paint using a fibrous, holey paper as a stencil and the pockmarked effect has potential. However the rust is quite brittle and seems likely to flake off if one handled it a lot or tried to stitch through it, plus Mignon warned us of potential damage to washing machines which made us worry about danger for our sewing machines. I decided to focus on paper.
mignon_parker04mignon_parker05A couple of flocked papers gave good results when the iron-laden paint was put just on the flocked sections. I tried two versions. The first actually had a light silvered card as a base, and once again the contrast of silver and rust was quite attractive. As you can see in the closeup of the second photo, the flocking gave additional height and emphasis to the crusty rusting effect. One consideration in the technique is that even if you try to keep the rust effect to a small area, it does tend to spread with the water (or whatever it is) produced. Also the acid solution we used had a blue colour – it may have been a safety feature – and this had an impact on the colour of the base.
mignon_parker06It was difficult to apply the iron/paint mix accurately with a brush – and quite hard on the brush hairs too. I found it more effective when stencilling – better control of patterning, plus the stencil brushes had hardier bristles. This sample used a small paper doiley which I tore in half as stencils. I like the patterning on the paper, and the doily itself looks good – rusted colour but not too crusty or brittle in this instance. It could provide a good way to suggest rusted hinges etc on a mixed media wall piece, without any weight. Using a sealant on the rusted paper would help durability.

mignon_parker07A light-but-strong japanese paper made an effective stencil (see the insert lower left of the photo), but given my previous interests it’s no surprise that it’s the light and shadow possibilities that caught my eye. I haven’t got a particular application in mind as yet, but surely the right opportunity will come up sometime to use this.
mignon_parker09On the second day Mignon showed us a way to mix and apply paint using a credit card (or similar) cut to various widths. It gave some interesting colour effects, but I’m not going to show either of my two samples in their entirety. I need a lot more practice and control, and while Mignon had a system which allowed her to produce a very attractive little italian cityscape on the spot, my determination to make my own visual statement(s) did not go so well overall! I also remain unconvinced that rusting and gilding effects should ever be used in the same piece. To me they are so different in appearance and in what they represent (the decay of rust, the luxury of gold) – even going for some kind of contrast or statement would take just the right situation and a lot of finesse to pull off.
mignon_parker10This is my second attempt with the credit card painting idea, on one of those cheap ready-stretched canvases. I didn’t use rust on it, but did try some areas of gilding. They looked rather trashy, so I used some of the acid to knock back the shine. Looking at it now I might even try (one day) taking it off the frame and machine stitching into it, just to see what happens.

I can’t say I’m really drawn to any of the techniques we tried – probably more than anything because the rust (what interested me the most initially) seems to have some limitations and drawbacks for general use on fabrics. Still, it was a very nice group of women, a pleasant way to spend a weekend, and maybe one day one of these ideas will turn out to be just what I need.

Drawing workshop with Gria Shead

Today I attended a one day workshop with Gria Shead at the Art Gallery of NSW. The class description: “In this workshop you will focus on drawing fabric as a starting point for exploring the heart of an interior. You will be focusing on tone and line, the bare minimum, in order to create a tactile aesthetic, representing form while understanding what it feels like. This workshop is suitable for all levels of experience.” Learning to draw while focusing on fabric and suitable for beginners – yes please!

On the right is a photo of recent work by Gria, which spent the day on an easel at one end of the room. It’s one of a series she has done of interiors of Vaucluse House. My phone camera comes nowhere close to doing it justice! Apart from other considerations, you could see the sofas were covered in velvet, that the curtains were sheer, that the floor was covered by carpet not linoleum. The texture is lovely. Look at those little highlights on the seats and top edges of the sofas!

This is a display of our work at the end of the day. Gria’s work is at the far left. Mine is as far away as possible on the far right 🙂

The workspace is in full public view on the main entry floor of the art gallery. You might be able to see a display case at the entrance of the Upper Asian Gallery at the back on the left, and the escalators leading to lower levels through the glass behind the easels. You might also be able to pick up the stunning view reflected in that glass – beautiful Sydney in full spring splendor!

We started with  a visit to the 19th century Australian painting gallery, to look at some of the painted fabric on show. Hugh Ramsey is a favourite of mine (see here and here).

Then we came back to the studio to draw – handkerchiefs. First one handkerchief, in willow charcoal on cartridge paper. You can see in the workroom photo above a handkerchief artfully arranged on the floor (not my hanky though). The instruction was to focus on getting the shape and size right – basically life size. I found this hard.

Then we graduated to two handkerchiefs. As the day progressed I wished I had arranged my hankies in a more simple way, or stuck to one. I tried to concentrate on drawing the negative space and not what I thought I was seeing. I found this hard too, but I was enjoying trying in a somewhat frustrated sort of way.

Next step was some better quality paper, still trying to understand that shape. Gria had given us soft brushes to remove some of the charcoal when lines went astray. You might be able to see just how often I had to use mine! At least this time I was getting the concept of focusing on the outline, not thinking about the inside of the shape too much. I didn’t get the shape right, but I was more certain about where I was wrong.

This is what I ended up with. It works best if you stand well back and squint. I’m sorry now that I didn’t take a photo of my handkerchiefs – I didn’t get it right, but it’s not all wrong. But what I want to record and remember is the process, not my results on the first try.

After all our preliminary work becoming familiar with our shapes, Gria gave us a sheet of craft paper that had been roughly painted with gesso. On this we drew our outline in charcoal one more time. The early sketchwork made this so much easier, plus any problem lines were easily brushed from the gesso.

Next we painted the entire shape in grey acrylic paint. Just a single big blob of grey. That would become the darkest areas of our fabric. The process was then to add light and highlights – first by sponging off areas of the still damp paint, then with white paint (gouache and acrylic), and white pastels, and some people went a bit further with some more willow charcoal and some touches of colour.

Starting dark and bringing in light is such a great system. Doing the preliminary work meant that while painting I got closer to what I wanted, but also that I knew what I was painting so much better and was much faster at figuring out where a problem was. One big issue was the light direction changing as the day wore on, making painting shadows tricky – but as Gria pointed out to me, that always happens so you have to learn to deal with it.

Looking at a small piece of fabric with such intensity over hours and working so hard to really see it was … so many words – exhausting, satisfying, frustrating, enlightening, absorbing… I absolutely must make sure I follow up this with lots of repeats in my regular sketchbook work.

Ways of Abstracting – Peter Griffen Workshop

Last weekend I took a workshop with Peter Griffen. I’ve met Peter in the past at an ATASDA function – he’s married to Denise Lithgow who does fabulous textile work in felt, silk painting, art-u-wear, machine-stitched mixed-media pieces…

On Friday we met Peter at the Art Gallery (the workshop was organised by the Art Gallery Society), for a general chat about what we’d be doing and a wander through the Picasso exhibition (in its last weeks, so get moving if you haven’t seen it yet).

Saturday and Sunday were in Peter’s studio, which is also his home with Denise. It’s an amazing, exciting, inspiring, overwhelming place. Formerly a factory, Peter and Denise gutted the building and it’s basically one huge room with a mezzanine and some closed areas at each end (bathrooms, storage, their bedroom). This photo was taken from the back mezzanine. The kitchen area is down to the right, left you can just see a corner of the lounge area, but not the dining table which is closer on the left. Middle right is a display area for Denise’s work and the front mezzanine is her studio – but the main space is Peter’s studio and workshop area.

This is the view I had most of the weekend – a table full of objects to draw, fighting for attention with all the artwork and interesting collected objects on the walls and around the room. That’s Peter in the middle of the photo – he gave a number of demonstrations but spent most of his time moving around the group. I’m of course pretty much a total beginner (which is very freeing in itself), and I really appreciate the serious attention and consideration Peter gave to my work. He was encouraging and he gave suggestions and commented on weaknesses – but it didn’t feel like teaching, it was serious art-making business (not deadly-type serious, I mean not even the slightest hint of patronising or condescending or dumbing down – although I’m sure he scaled things to my level of understanding).

Peter’s work was everywhere, finished and in progress, and in a conversation he’d suddenly jump around and pull out a canvas to illustrate a point or show some possibilities. This canvas is one of three that may or may not be hung together (unfortunately my photo of the three together is blurred). I love, love, love this one. A lot of his colour is pretty full on, but he doesn’t limit himself and there are other works – well, I don’t want to say less colour, because they have incredible rich colour from all the glazes and layers, but not such strong colours.

Actually you can just the top of the set of three canvases in this photo, below a row of work done by some of the other students. There were 10 of us, some very experienced and some beautiful work. We worked in acrylic paints on cartridge paper (some people had brought canvases), drawing from the table of objects in black paint, thinking about lines and shapes, adding colour. There was quite a bit of collage work, and some people moved into charcoal and pastels. Peter had litre bottles of acrylic paints and drawers full of various types of brushes for us to use.

I won’t show all of mine here – the full set is on my sketchbook page, starting here.

This bird is based on a carved tree stump (on the right) – basically a head, but with birds at the top. I drew the curved top line, eye and crest first and really liked it and was pleased with the level of abstraction, but it didn’t feel enough so kept going. I’m already returning and reworking this – at the workshop over a head that wasn’t working (still not right), and in later sketchbook work (here).

I didn’t actually produce anything I’d call finished. I don’t expect to in workshops anyway – it’s a learning place, and there’s not generally time for considered work. In any case, I didn’t go to learn to make abstract acrylic paintings. I did want to increase confidence and technique in using acrylics, since I’ve only tried a couple of times, rather tentatively, in my OCA course work. More importantly I wanted to loosen up, get expansive, extend my ability to see and abstract and to use colour – all with the final objective of input to and development of textile works. I even got to bring in some textile expertise in my collage work, weaving together two paintings which weren’t working, then integrating with glazes. It’s not there, but it’s a line I want to explore more.

As I’ve said, more photos on the sketchbook page (click on the head to get there).

This was a great, exciting, exhausting weekend, and I definitely recommend it. It’s a complete experience, including the gallery visit, all the materials you need down to details like aprons and tape to put works on the wall for contemplation, plus really yummy cakes for morning tea and gourmet lunches all made by Denise (she even picks and preserves the olives herself). (The final photo is of some of Denise’s textile work.)


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June 2022

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