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

Sunday, 21 December 2014

The Turn of the Year.. and yes, more Moons.

Today must be one of my very favourite days, because I know that tomorrow, albeit falteringly, it will start to get lighter. Hope, spring, warmth and sun cannot be far away.

Meanwhile my first, fascinating, full-on, MA project is drawing to a close. Not so much about finishing things this one, more about cranking up the thinking processes. And for another two weeks I will remain deeply in thrall to the lovely Moon, lost in the wonder of its science, myths, facts, fallacies, hopes and dreams.  There will be a last little sliver of a waning moon tonight before a new moon for Christmas.

I have learnt enormous amounts of stuff; about book forms, monoprinting and the moon. I have made some strange images, played with many maquettes, knitted a Clanger, read some extraordinary fiction and finally worked on a set of monoprints which, in a way, relate the story of my research. I am now just assembling them into a rather haphazard book. The learning curves have been steep but the skills will be useful.

So here,  for the winter solstice, are a few of the monoprints. Out of over 60 plus I  have to whittle it down to 29 ish.  I will post the full set when I have made those tricky final decisions and also will explain a little about how and why I got there.  

hands f_resize     man in moonf_resize mothsf_resize     panther f_resize[4] rabbit f _resize     running moon f_resize snake 1 f_resize     thingf_resize        tree f_resize      toadf _resize copy

Ten of the monoprints, some with relief printed additions: image size 4 x 6 inches

Somehow they seem appropriate for Christmas.

I will, yes really, be back to the blogs with a bit more regularity in the New Year and I might just get one more post in before Christmas but, if not, a very Happy Christmas to all my faithful blog readers…

Monday, 27 October 2014

Many Moons

I am just 3 weeks into the MA course and I am working in a great big mess of ideas, thoughts and experiments. “Process and Practice as Research” is what it’s all about this term.
Part of what I hope to achieve through following this course is the ability to actually-get-something-finished before spaghetti brain here drifts away to something more enticing.
This current project may not help with that aim directly but it does give me the chance to develop an idea by really examining ( *A.B.  “interrogating” see footnote* ) it over and over again until something emerges, which might be a long way from where I started. But what to do?
Phases of the Moon
Sometimes, luckily, ideas just present themselves. On the 7th October, one week after the start of the course I happened to go out into the garden. It was about 8.30pm and hanging in the sky, just overhead was a fabulous moon. It was big, bright and very beautiful.
 
Grafham moon 7th oct 2014 desat
7th Oct moon, Grafham back garden. hand held Nikon

I took a hand held photo with Chris’ fairly modest Nikon and was astonished by the result. With the contrast bumped up in Photoshop it shows craters, the exquisite “rays”, and the dark “seas” figuring either a rabbit or a face or whatever your belief system might suggest. And that was it really, project decision made. My first terms work would be looking at The Depiction of the Phases of the Moon.
At the time I knew absolutely nothing about the moon, now nearly three weeks on I know much, much, more. What  I know, in particular, is that it is a huge subject and presents a gigantic number of research avenues.
Here are a few I’m considering; science, myth, discovery, emotional and psychological connotations, photographs, educational and instructional images,  associated words and meanings; moon planting, science fiction and geological structure.
Each of these could be a rich source of imagery and possibility.
Where to start?
JFDI: Advice I often give my students and sometimes take myself is the very best advice for procrastinators like me and as the course is “Book arts and Illustration” and I am interested in exploring book forms, I made lots … and lots.. of small maquettes, from map folds, squash books, concertinas, crown books, round books, fans, origami folds and more.  A day of nice therapy playing with paper.

book-forms

They are scrappy little things but so full of possibilities and ideas. Each could be taken and developed in many ways.
My notebooks are full of ideas, so far I have 18 pages like this:

skb1
skb2


I am making watercolours like this:

  w-col

I have started making some unexpectedly lovely prints:

 more trials


and am thinking about 3D possibilities and the wonderfully evocative words connected with the moon; waxing, waning, gibbous, crescent etc. And there is much more going on. It’s a big messy muddle of stuff and I am that pig in muck.. :)
At some point I do have to collate all this research into a coherent project report..(Yeah.. good luck with that Val..) so may be able to present it here in a neat concise form later in the year. Meanwhile it will be just sporadic and jumbled posts like this.
By the way, big thanks to all of your who sent me such lovely supportive messages and emails, encouraging me to keep blogging this stuff! I hope you are not regretting it.
* One down side of doing an MA is the necessity to return to Art Speak.. more affectionately known as Art Bollocks. The internet, provider of all things wonderful has a neat site where the struggling fine artist can generate their very own . See: http://www.artybollocks.com/  Hmmm…might prove to be very handy. Me, I just like to stick to that plain old motto: “eschew obfuscation, espouse elucidation".

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Moths…and an M.A.

The last few weeks have been extra, extra busy.. with another excellent sun drenched trip to Amsterdam, our last Easton meeting for this year and the consequences of my decision return to study.

Study ?…Yes! I need more.
Learning stuff is, without doubt, my drug of choice. It can be almost anything and I am never happier than when deeply immersed in reading, research and visual experimentation.
Over the last few years I have been on just a maintenance dose, a bit of a drip feed of new ideas and practice. But earlier in the summer I decided to give in and go for the full shot.
So I am studying for an M.A. in Book Arts and Illustration at Anglia Ruskin University, just for the sheer delightful delight of doing it.  My art practice is going to get a good shake out and possibly a good kicking. Just two weeks in now and the brain is beginning to crank into life again.  “Go brain!”….

I will post something of my progress as things develop.

_________________________________________________________

Moths and the blogging dilemma
Printmaking will play a central role in my study and the printmaking experiments are continuing, so with the set of Fenland images in mind  I’ve been posting intermittently about some experimental Moth prints over on Beautiful Beasts.

To blog or not to blog?

Blogging about things often presents me with a dilemma. Recently I have been experimenting and reading, so the images, such as they are, are not that special and I am often reluctant to post experiments lest the casual viewer, who has not read the text, thinks that:-

a:They are finished images (unlikely) or,

b: That I love the images and am super proud of them.(even less likely)

At the moment it’s not so much the images as the experiments that I’m interested in. Some images are just marks on paper or cut shapes which don’t make for good blogging, but to get back into sharing my thoughts which I have to do over the next two years and to also plug the yawning gap in the blog, here are a few stages of the moth trials…..

_________________________________________________________

Although not part of the M.A. directly, I have been looking at Fenland moths in connection with Willow trees and started off with a few sketches of general moth shapes..an amazing variety I find! These are locally recorded moths so encompass the Great Fen area as well as our small hilly plateau.

manymoths_thumb1 

Many Moths …pencil on A4 sketchbook.

and a couple of colour note sketches….

2moths_thumb1 

Some pattern sketches

mothpatternsbg_thumb6 patterns2bg_thumb2

And more drawing development:

mothsbwbg_thumb1

mothsbw2bg_thumb1

And a couple of plates, cut and proofed once:

mothprint1_thumb1

 Plate One and proofs.

moth2ndplate2_thumb1 

Plate Two

moth2platebg_thumb1

Plate Two proof

plates2_thumb2

I cut a mask for the first plate, but unfortunately I can’t remember why…I guess it will come back to me or something else will suggest itself along the way.

The intention is to combine the plates with other images or just with each other and see what happens. “Play”, “Serendipity”  and “Chaos” are going to be my constant companions over the next couple of years… :)…It’s the endless possibilities that are so thrilling..

More exciting moth images to come.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

A Quick Woodcut:Chris the Frog

On Friday my Easton group had a great day tackling a woodblock print. Their results were excellent, some even managing two colours which is some going for just a few hours.
As a demo I had prepared a simple two colour print of a frog. Frogs are very much on my mind as they are all over the Garden at the moment.

Roughs and Colour notes: 

frog-sket-bg frog-sketches-1-bg

Some thumbnail compositional sketches

IMG_001

A decision..

frog-col-roughs

Colour roughs

The Print

I had printed up a few variations of the Frog using the same very basic materials we would be using in the class, a spoon, a baren, computer paper, tissue paper, some cheap Japanese rice paper and basic acrylic printing inks.

frog plate

The woodcut plate, cut for the first colour

frog-first-colour-bg

The first colour proofed on thin rice paper.

3-frogs-bg

Various combinations of paper and inking with the second colour added.

chris-the-frog-bg

“Chris the Frog”: Woodcut on Japanese rice paper: Image A4

The frog is called Chris because I realised I had unwittingly cut a rather nice letter C in one of the spots.. it seemed fitting..

letter-c

In the garden there are still many tiny froglets around the pond fringes Mowing is a nightmare and very very slow. I have to carefully pat the grass to alert them and help the very tiniest ones to get to safety. The long grass must seem mountainous to them.. I rather know how they feel.

froglet

Here is one on the very tip of my grubby fingers.. I am wondering how they will survive the winter.
Summer seems to be rushing by, the days are shorter, evenings and mornings darker and I am very busy..:).. Busy is always good!

Saturday, 16 August 2014

More Easton Panels

Only a few days to go before we put the show up and there seem to be lots of last minute things to do. But the panels are done:

The enjoyable things about this work, especially working from photo sections is that you don’t have to agonise about what to paint or draw. The three images below are my sections from the photo. It’s just the interpretation you have to worry about, which could have been anything from abstract to collage.

A flowery path through the Pickery.

bbird easton bg

The Towers of the main gate.

towes-and-swallows-bg

A Chestnut Tree and Birds

This tree section was perhaps the most unprepossessing. But it is a chestnut tree, so that made it easier. Some wind tossed candelabra flowers and I added some high flying red kites that I see so often soaring over the distant trees there. A rook sits on the stone wall.

tree and kites bg

Night on the River

This last one is a panel for the theme “Water and Flowers”. The small stream that runs through Easton is the fledgling River Witham. It rises a few miles away and wriggles its way through Easton and on to Lincoln and then to Boston where it is mighty and impressive with a such rich history of trade and travel.

There is a pretty bridge to walk over at the Gardens. I have drawn the river at dusk with the strange and wonderful shapes of the primeval gunnera and some bats. In the end I added a bit of wildlife to all of the panels.

night-on-the-witham 

Images A4; watercolour and pen and ink

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Blogbreak, Back to Basics and Dog Days…

My blog break has gone on a little longer than expected. So much to do, so many days spent in the garden, out walking by the water, being both on and off my bike. Being occasionally in, but mostly out of my workroom and away from the computer.

But I can never really switch off that nagging little work horse conscience and I have been going back to some basic colour work in preparation for some winter projects. My desk has looked a bit like this for the last week or two:desk

It’s excellent to do some very concentrated colour work, exploring new mixes and trying different papers.

Also up and coming is our group exhibition at Easton Walled Gardens in a couple of weeks time. We are putting together two large collaborative panels of 48 different images which will be fascinating to see when finally put together.

We have been working on themes of Easton, architecture, flowers, trees, fruit veg… etc etc. I made one preliminary sketch of one of the elegant, but to me, rather mysterious, towers in the orchard across the river. This is the Apple Store glimpsed through the Yew walk. I included Spot ( Easton’s resident spaniel) just in the frame at the bottom and three loose apples.

spot-and-apple-store-bg 

Spot and the Apple Store, ink and wash sketch A4

Easton Dog Days

Coincidentally, dogs are not usually allowed at Easton, but in August, Sundays 4-6 pm, well behaved and socialised dogs are welcome for an evening stroll.

See WHAT’S ON at Easton Walled Gardens which also includes our exhibition!!

Back to the blog more regularly very soon….when the sloth of sloth has left :)

hot-sloth

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Coot Number 2

I have returned to the coot sketches and am planning another print to be a companion to Rook. I am not sure if or when I will be able to find the right sort of wooden typeface so might just have to cut it myself. I have doubts about my ability to do this but it would be good practice.

IMG
Black and white thumbnail.

I made a rough proof and scribbled on it a bit with white chalk to  see what more I need to cut away. I made quite a few colour roughs but in the end decided it will just be black and white this time, like Rook.

 c-plate-proof
Inked up plate and first proof

After a bit more cutting away, proof number two.

proof-2-bg

Lots more experiments to come with this one :)

Friday, 13 June 2014

The Blue Hedgehog

On Saturday we went to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. It is so many years since I was last there and I had forgotten how rich and wide ranging is the scope of the museum.
I found many more wonderful beasts from all over the world, but the best of all was the small blue Egyptian hedgehog.
We do love our hedgehogs but I had no idea that the Egyptians revered them as symbols of regeneration.

In the subdued lighting of the gallery the hedgehog has a certain mystery. The museum’s record, brightly lit and with its measuring scale and all the chips so evident is not quite so magical.


Fitzwilliam Museum photo

Faience hedgehog
Tomb 655 Beni Hasan Egypt
length 6.25 cm
width 3.75 cm
Twelfth Dynasty
Middle Kingdom
Date 1976 B.C. — 1793 B.C.

After a bit of research I found quite a few other  Egyptian Hedgehogs. Most surprising is the real and long eared Middle Eastern hedgehog.

Berkah.13.Kookherd_كوخرد

This little chap is from Iran: photo Berkah.13.Kookherd from Wikipedia

A quick internet search shows that some ancient hedgehog figures do have long ears.This little faience amulet is from the Pelizaeus Museum  Hildesheim.

4885

from the Global Egyptian Museum

My initial sketch of the short eared Fitzwilliam Hedgehog more as I saw it, in the tomb like low light of the museum display.

fitz-hedgehog-bg  
Then some sketches :

h-sketches-2h-sketches-1 

And then a quick reduction print:

H-hogs-

The Blue Hedgehog

blue-h1-bg

The little blue hedgehog on a windy moonlit evening with swaying palms. Reduction Lino image 6 x4 inches