"There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion" Francis Bacon 1561-1626

Friday, 27 May 2016

“Nothing Is Arbitrary”

Thesis is done and out of the way. The research was fascinating, the writing just a chore. I wonder about the scores of these reluctantly written texts which are destined never to be read ever again. I wonder if this is the right way of assessing the understanding of essentially visual subjects.
However after a short break to beat the garden into submission I am back to work.

A few weeks ago I wrote about the excellent egg tempera course I attended. On the first day Dr Spike Bucklow of the Hamilton Kerr Institute in Cambridge gave a short introduction to tempera and  particularly its medieval  uses. His initial statement, referring to both the artists, and the paintings, was

“Remember, at this time, nothing is arbitrary”.

Everything about a painting from its pigments to its supports, its media and its content was carefully considered. He spoke about the alchemy of paint and painting, of the community surrounding and involved in the production of paintings and that community’s ability to read the significances of both paint and content, which we have largely lost. Sometimes the deeper meanings are not in the image but are within the paint itself.

This remained with me as I wrote my thesis and thought about the materiality of the Russian Artists Books I was researching. It remained with me as I learnt more about the simple ingredients, precious pigments and beautiful dyes used to make Persian Miniatures, and as I started thinking about my major project which notionally is set in the 17th Century and concerns plants and medicines and a certain amount of alchemy. There are many parallels between making paint and making medicine ( and making food). Sometimes they use the same ingredients. Sometimes that is not a good idea.

I am also reading Spike’s book “The Alchemy of Paint”, so in these early stages of the project rather than just reach for the nearest tube of paint I have started to make some of my own.

Firstly: … Beetroot and Woad. ..

woad-and-beetroot

What a very lovely combination. I could also drink it or cover myself with awesome tattoos in preparation for the Last Battle.

“Remember …nothing is arbitrary” :)…..

Monday, 11 April 2016

Stone and Bee

I am delighted to say the hairy footed flower bees are back! They have survived the winter in the strawberry pot for the 3rd year.
A lucky shot of the male with his gorgeous hairy feet. He was sleeping in the sun by the back door. The little black females are around too very noisy and very busy. Many other bees are out and about. I just spotted a Tawny mining bee very new and very russet red gorgeous. It is lovely to see them.

Anthophora plumipes  The Hairy Footed Flower Bee.

And in the last two weeks I have been on a couple of short courses. A very good lino workshop about 4 colour overprinting with Kevin Holdaway and last weekend an egg tempera workshop at Wysing Arts with Sohelia Sokhanvari.  Both were excellent. Many years ago egg tempera and pen and ink were my favourite media. Then commercial life got in the way. But going back to this again I realise how much I really love working with egg and pigments.. Hmmm .. yes .. I may well do some more.

We also experimented with making various kinds of inks. What I like so much about all this is that the materials are quite humble and simple. You can make paints and inks from many things found around the house and garden.

These are a few comparisons of the different mixtures, looking at  flow, density, wetting, granulation,etc etc

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I started the tempera study of the stone on the last afternoon of the class and finished it at home today. Just 5 pigments and one egg yolk and some water .. and a 00 brush.

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stone

Almost finished study 4 x 2.5”…  not quite there but they never are.
What you can’t see of course it the beautiful sheen that the egg binder gives and the complex surface. It is really nice stuff to work with!

Back to thesis tomorrow…

Monday, 21 March 2016

And yet more trials…

There has been little time for practical work this week except a few more trials with mostly collagraph plates and combining some scrap prints with different plates to see what happens.

blues 

Printing lightly on thin paper gives a lovely soft grainy effect and subtle overlapping colour mixes.

blue-4    blues-det   

And a combined lino, collagraph and a bit of chine-colle

vine

Some accidents can really help, especially when, what you are actually trying to do, isn’t working. (often)
It’s always worth looking at some tiny details which could be enlarged and developed into new prints.

berries-2     berries-1

It’s also quite useful to have scrap prints to use for something else, a trial book jacket perhaps..
Ah yes ! And here is one I made earlier, out of scraps…There is nothing in it yet, it’s just a sort of book in waiting and will probably remain so.. 

 book

Spring though is definitely springing here…many bees, many birds and much frogspawn, lovely! I am having a few days off to dig the garden. Back after Easter.

Friday, 11 March 2016

More print trials. Collagraphs this time..Hmmm

This week has been taken up with more print trials and thoughts about my cast of characters as well as some thesis reading.

I have only made a few proper intaglio printed collagraphs before, usually preferring to print card plates as relief prints. But there is much to love about the intaglio method especially in the hands of someone as outstanding as Katherine Jones. I attended her workshop this weekend which was a fascinating insight into her working methods.
Courses given by master printers are both inspirational and frustrating, because they make it all seem so simple.
It isn’t…it so SO isn’t!

However the trials I made will be very useful and I am beginning to understand how I can combine printing methods to created the images and effects I want. There is much to learn. These are some trials from the weekend.

dk1dk2

Fish are always a nice design-y subject to play with. These fish actually do have a special significance for the project.

fish

Two inkings of the same plate. This time a larger A3 plate.

2-prints

You can achieve some very beautiful, if accidental, effects.

detail

At the moment, every time I lift the paper away from the plate to reveal a print, it’s a complete surprise. If anything lovely happens it is purely accidental. Hopefully that will change and I will have a little more control.

I carried on playing when I returned home and tried to make some systematic comparison plates using slightly different methods and materials

Home trials with different inking

spiraltree

Trials with different plates to compare marks and inking and surface.

redtree

But it’s messy! I am not yet sure about collagraphs. They are thirsty for ink, laborious to ink up, and very very messy. Or I should say I am very messy, despite gloves. Me, my clothes, the paper, the press and the house are all covered in ink.

The Characters
Then I am also beginning to think about the characters. They include 17th century explorers, botanists, gardeners, herbalists, doctors and apothecaries. The process you choose to use can really change how you approach the imagery. I am playing with ideas, with methods, scale and imagery to find out what might suit. In arty terms its called “visual language”!…

Trialling a simple bold lino print of a face.No one in particular ..just a trial.

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2 figure sketches and accompanying linos as yet unprinted.

characs

They will hopefully appear in some guise next week….

Friday, 4 March 2016

Trial Books and One Well Registered Print.

I made up three of small trial seed prints into books as an exercise in binding, 2 case bound and one stab stitch. I made a quick cover design and the results are not bad. I will improve. Hopefully before I have to submit final work. What that will be is still a mystery to me but the more I make the clearer my ideas become.

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I was thinking about the next stage of plant growth and made a small seedling print which might be included in one of the final books. The most exciting thing was to actually get a decent registration on one print.

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Awesome registration Val…:)

Friday, 26 February 2016

I’m glad it’s Leap Year

The extra day is much needed. This week’s progress has been mixed, a frustrating letterpress session, some quite interesting research for the thesis and some trial seed drawings and prints to be made into small trial books.It is all rather small at the moment.

Playing with shapes and colours and a few concertina book ideas.

arti  seeds-concfoxglove  artc3  c4con2

Below left are the first proofs of the little linos for the seed book. It will be a very slim volume, only 10 pages, but just enough to create a book block or two, printing will be a mixture of hand printed lino, InDesign  printed text and them maybe some letterpress. My biggest triumph is getting everything set up to print a small booklet. Below right are some of the finished pages. Text printed first on my very cheap Inkjet via InDesign then the linos hand printed.

seed-linos linos

The letterpress didn’t work that well as we only use the proofing press for trials. Paper, pressure, inking etc all have such an effect and it’s hard to get good results to start with, but I am getting quicker at setting up the type. Below some big numbers, a small amount of set text and inkjet printing

 letterpress

I am managing to keep my lino printing clean now but not so the letterpress work. Everything seems to get smudged.Its mainly because I am unsure about exactly what I am doing and faff about a bit. Letterpress seems to respond best to firm and decisive actions and deft movements. It will all improve, I am sure ..:)

Friday, 19 February 2016

More Print Trials, More Plant Notes

Another week of research, print trials etc. Sometimes there is not much to show for the hours in finished picture terms but the print trials are very useful. Different papers different ink combinations etc.
These are a few small sections of the trials. I really like these little pieces, there are whole other worlds contained in them.

col3col2col1col7col5col4

And more plant sketches… again not much to look at but a very very useful bit of visual note making.

plant-4

pl1pl3Untitled-7

Colour, shape, history, etc etc Its all very interesting.

Friday, 12 February 2016

Gathering My Materials

This week has been one of research; people, plants, shapes, colours, design possibilities, words and thoughts. I regard “materials” as visual knowledge as well as factual knowledge. The sketches are the only way I can really work out what it is I want to do. Sometimes (often) I would rather go and eat cake than start this stage, but once I do get started it’s not so bad.

In this story of the Hortus I have a fascinating cast of characters and I need to get to know them, so I have one notebook for the plants and one for the people.
The first plant I am looking at is Datura stramonium, the awful Thornapple with its dangerous beauty and powerful narcotic effects. I will be having a much closer look at all of the plants as I continue the research but for now it’s just a double page spread for each one, just to get an overview.

first-sketches

And some seed/pod sketches. I am not so interested in the real thing as in their design possibilities.

.roughs

And then some pages of pencil figure sketches, in order to discover what I want my people to look like.  Slowly, I know, they will take shape. Through the drawing and redrawing my personal set of characters will emerge and I will get to know who they are.

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They certainly won’t all be good. :)