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Artist book ‘Grafia Callada/Hushed Writing’

This isn’t the post I intended for today, which I’m still writing. Instead, here is a YouTube video about a wonderful artist book I came across only this week. It is by Pepe Gimeno and is described as “a book about writing without a single word.” Watch the video, and you will see how apt that description is.

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Using your gel prints as a resource for digital printmaking

I haven’t finished cutting the stencils from the previous post, so I’ve been playing with combining the files digitally. The results were quite interesting in themselves, but also triggered some ideas about combining these stencils with dry points also made from digitally cut plates. I will be parking those for now, but it is definitely something I want to explore at a later date. In this post, I want to concentrate on using these separation files in digital printmaking.

As I said in my previous post, Paint Shop Pro (PSP) can create colour separation files, but these are too ‘busy’ to use directly for cutting. Once cleaned up and simplified, the new files can be recombined in the same fashion as the originals. This is the start point for this post. I’m using images made by gel printing, but you can of course use any digital image, including photographs.

This is “Waterloo Sunrise”. Like those in my previous post, it is a monotype made with acrylic on paper. You can buy it here.

Grey scale images

These are the grey scale images from the Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and blacK channels.

It is worth noting here that PSP can also make RGB separations, i.e. Red, Green, Blue, which can be cleaned up and simplified in the same way. This is what you get from those separations.

Creating combinations

These greyscale separation files can be used in various ways to extend your digital printmaking and allow you to try out ‘digital proofs’ before you start on the physical print. I’ve provided numerous examples below.

Here for example is the image made using the simplified CMYK files.

Version of original image made using simplified CMYK files
Image made from simplified CMYK files

Here is the image made from the simplified RGB files

Version of original image made using simplified RGB files
Image made using simplified RGB files

Mixing things up

But what happens when you swap the Cyan file out for the Green?

Version of original image using Green in place of Cyan in CMYK files
Image from Green, Magenta, Yellow and Black

Or replace the Magenta with Red?

Version of original image made using Red in place of Cyan in CMYK
Image from Cyan, Red, Yellow and Black

Or indeed Blue with Magenta

Version of original image made using Magenta instead of Blue in RGB
Image made using Red, Green, Magenta

You don’t have to use the simplified files. The original separations can be recombined in this way too. It is off-topic for this post, but try doing this with photographs. The effect ranges from slightly ‘off’ to wildly surreal.

Other effects are possible if the colours are juggled around as say YCKM or KCMY.

Version of original image shuffling CMYK files as YCKM
Image made as YCKM
Version of original image shuffling CMYK files as KCMY
Image made from KCMY

You can of course combine the different separations and juggle them.

Version of original image shuffling CMYK and RGB files as MCGR
Image made as MCGR

It is possible to use the same file more than once

Version of original image made using Cyan twice, second copy replacing Yellow as CMCK.
Image made using cyan twice as CMCK

The duplicated file can also be rotated (if square) or flipped/mirrored otherwise. In this one, Cyan is mirrored horizontally, with this version replacing Yellow. You can see that the green bar – a mixture of cyan and yellow on screen, is now shown as the two separate colours with a tiny slice of green where they overlap.

Version of original image made using Cyan twice, the second copy mirrored as CMCK
Image made using cyan twice but second copy mirrored.

Taking it further

By now, it should be obvious that the original content is irrelevant. We are using these files simply as abstract shapes. With the seven possible files from the original image, you have over 800 possible combination if you treat them as CMYK. (That’s 7x6x5x combinations.) It would be many more if you allow the same file to be used more than once. Throw in a second image and the number of permutations mushrooms to over 24000! (14x13x12x11)

There are obviously a lot of choices available, although as you try them out you will start to get a feel for what is likely to work best for you. While It is almost miraculous how colours appear as if from nowhere, the prosaic explanation is simply that whatever file is used in, for example the ‘C’ location, the computer thinks it represents Cyan and treats it accordingly when the file is displayed.

‘Real World’ parallels

There are ‘real world’ parallels. In the later years of their lives, both Bert Irvin and Wilhelmina Barns-Graham made large numbers of screen prints. Independently they both seemed to create a ‘library’ of screens from painted marks which were then combined in various ways to produce their prints.

Even if you never print any of these digital recombinations, the process I’ve described can be used as a kind of digital proofing, to get a sense of how shapes work together before you ever apply ink or paint to paper or canvas. If you want to try digital printmaking, this approach gives you a useful entry point. Give it a try. I would love to see what you come up with. If I get enough responses, I’ll put them together in a post.

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Making stencils for gel printing with a digital cutter – part 1

This is the first of a planned series of posts about making stencils for gel printing using a digital cutter. In my case it is a Cricut Maker, but the principles are general.

These stencils came out of some thoughts I had about making silk screen versions of my gel prints. I was hoping to use colour separations. This is the process by which original full-colour digital files are separated into individual colour components for four-colour process printing. Every element in the file is printed in a combination of four colours: cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. This is known as CMYK in the world of commercial printing and in silk screen printing. This isn’t an original idea, of course. Anyone familiar with Matisse will almost certainly be aware of his stunning cutouts, but may not be aware that they were also published in silk screen versions.

I began with a scan from one of my prints. I created the CMYK colour separations with Paint Shop Pro (from now on PSP). Unfortunately, I no longer have access to screen beds, so this is currently not an option. In practice, I don’t think I’m fit enough any more, to spend several hours pulling ink through the screens. However, having already used scans of pen drawings to make stencils, I decided to experiment with these separations. The print I’m using here is called ‘Area 52’, available from my shop.

The image below is an example of one of the colour separations. This is from the magenta colour channel. In this form, it clearly can’t be used directly to make a stencil suitable for gel printing.

Magenta colour separation from original image file. Not suitable for making stencils in this form.
Magenta colour separation from original image file

Simplifying the file

To create a version that can be cut as a stencil, it needs to be much simplified. I did this using various tools in PSP, which led to this. (More details of the process by which I did this, will be in later posts. If you can’t wait though, get in touch and I’ll try to help.)

Simplified magenta file suitable for making stencils
Simplified Magenta channel

PSP allows me to digitally recombine these simplified images, which led in turn to this image. This is closer to what you would get with screen printing, but is useful to visualise the outcome.

Digitally image from recombination of simplified image. Simulation of effect of using stencils made by digital cutter.
Digital image created from recombined and simplified channels

Be flexible

However, just because a file is called magenta, doesn’t mean that it has to be used that way. PSP allows me to digitally recombine the image files in any order. With four files to combine, there are 24 possible combinations, so this one below is just one. It helps to make a point though. When the stencils are cut and used to make gel prints, you have complete freedom in the colour you use.

Digital image created by shuffling colour separation files when recombining. Simulation of effect of using stencils made by digital cutter.
Image created by recombining channels in different order.

In the real, as opposed to the digital world, there are other variables. Varying the opacity of the paint used, and varying the order in which you use the stencil, will also give different results.

Finally, just as an experiment, here is a combination image using CYMK files from two different images. I’ve included it just to make the point that once you have the stencil you have complete freedom in their use.

Digital image created by incorporating data from more than one image. Simulation of effect of using stencils made by digital cutter.
Experiment in combining channels from separate image files.

In many ways, this last image is analogous to making a collagraph print from multiple plates. I have experimented with this many times in the past.

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New developments

I’m slowly starting to add items to the shop. I’m doing this slowly to make sure I have everything set up correctly. I’m aiming to make it possible to browse by medium, price, subject and size. I’ve added the last because I know sometimes thought how a little corner of a room would benefit from just the right piece of art and I can’t be alone.

I’m also working on setting up Virtual Exhibitions from time to time. My next real time show is not until May 2021 and who knows what will happen between now and then? For the moment this will just be a custom selection on the Shop Page but I’ve seen some wonderful examples since lock down using Virtual Reality so I’m looking into that too.

The featured image is called The Moon Goddess and the Sun. It is a collage made several years ago with prepared papers over a colour wash on watercolour paper. I had it framed for myself, but it will soon be added to the shop. The frame is very heavy solid wood so it will probably be added to the shop minus the frame.

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Life in Lockdown continued…

Since my last post, I’ve continued to work on monotypes. The count has now reached over 40 prints and I’m actively looking for a venue to show them, although framing costs would be a bit daunting! I’ve learned a lot from making them which I think will be useful in my other print work.

I’m going to add lower resolution versions to my Portfolio page but I’ve also added one to this post. Almost all of them are 30cm (12 in) on a side. I’m waiting for a new plate which will allow much larger prints, up to 20″ x 16″. It’s US made hence the measurements in inches – 76 x 41 cm approximately or just under A2.

Forbert - monotype acrylic on paper in reds blue and yellow green
Forbert Monotype Acrylic on paper 30cm x 30cm

A set of my smaller prints, in the ‘Cross’ series, are going to be used locally in a Stations of the Cross installation. This wasn’t a sale as such. One of my neighbours is the Church Warden and although I’m in no way a religious person, I was happy to make the donation. The church is a significant part of the view from my windows. I would be willing to take on a similar commission, so if anyone out there is interested, please get in touch.

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Life in Lockdown

On the portfolio pages I’ve added some more larger gel prints to an album I have renamed as ‘Life In Lockdown’. At some point I aim to get these into mounts and bagged for sale. If in the meantime you are interested in any of them, please get in touch. They are available ‘as is’ with no mount or frame for £85.00 plus postage.

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Some recent work

I’ve added another page to my Portfolio Pages here with examples of some Gel Prints. I’ve also been using the prints made this way as elements for collage. I’ve always liked collage, ever since I came across the work of Max Ernst and Kurt Schwitters in my teens, too many years ago.

Here’s a couple of slightly larger collage pieces (about 12″ x 9″ or 300 x 225 mm)

Finally here’s another one from some time ago, using prepared papers again, but this time by monoprinting on paper smaller than the plate, so taking the colour to the edges. I originally intended this to be overprinted with a drypoint, but I haven’t taken the plunge yet…

blue geometry

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A new print series

I’ve been unable to do any printing for quite a while because I have been plagued with problems with my foot, putting me on crutches since mid-November. I used my down time looking at a lot of pictures, but also thinking about subjects and themes. I’ve been interested in neolithic rock art for some time now and living near Avebury and Stonehenge it’s impossible to avoid standing stones. Scattered also across the landscape of Wessex are hundreds, if not thousands of barrows and burial mounds and of course the White Horses like Pewsey, Cherhill, Westbury etc in Wiltshire or Uffington in Oxfordshire. In addition we have the famous Cerne Abbas Giant, the Long Man of Wilmington and assorted other hill figures, many now lost completely.

It isn’t just Britain with these features. The stone alignments of Carnac in Brittany are well known, but there are a multitude of standing stone circles, alignments and dolmens across France and Ireland and much further afield.

gpcivray

Megalith in Ireland on old photo

Putting all this together made me wonder about the sort of landscape we might have seen in that era – and now if more had survived. Out of that has evolved the print series I’m putting together, which will take landscapes, more or less stylised and incorporate into them other figures, drawn from Celtic and Saxon myths or from cave paintings as well as the sort of abstract shapes found in rock art.

Technically these prints will incorporate collagraph and dry point plus perhaps solar etching and ultimately hand embellishments. I expect also to use monoprinting or hand painting as the ground on which the prints will be made. I’m also going to try and incorporate some of the techniques used by Australian artist, Kim Westcott (see http://www.kimwestcott.com although the site did not load properly for me) who resuses old plates in combination with new, mixing in shadow prints and rotation of the plates to create her drypoints.

I have no prints as yet, but here are some rough sketches and photos of some plates in preparation.

With luck I’ll have more over the next few weeks.

***

I’m not the only one finding inspiration in these themes. See the web pages for Irish artist Tommy Barr.

http://tbarrart.homestead.com/index.html

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Ocean Park series by Richard Diebenkorn

I’ve been looking at the Ocean Park series of paintings and prints by Richard Diebenkorn (via this book.) There is something about them that keeps drawing me back. They are deceptively simple with subdued colours, apparently just variations on geometric subdivisions of a rectangle. This makes them seem akin to Mondrian, but they have much more depth to them. They clearly owe much to Klee, but also to de Kooning, at least in terms of colour values. In the end though they are themselves and stand on their own merits.

When I was at school, studying maths we were always told to ‘show your workings’. In many ways that’s what is going on with the Ocean Park paintings. Variations, second thoughts have been painted over, but their ghosts remain.

Diebenkorn_Ocean Park 79_0

I think this is part of their appeal to me. I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of palimpsest, even before I became an artist. Both the urban and rural landscapes of Britain can be viewed as archaeological palimpsests. Take the time to look around any British town or city, and you will find signs of previous activities. The street pattern in many Northern industrial towns can often be mapped against ancient field boundaries. Alignments going back into pre-history may still be seen.

Beneath the streets archaeological investigations and civil engineering projects alike reveal layer after layer of activity. (for example Crossrail). The same applies in the wider landscape. Anyone familiar with Britain, will read into these paintings the pattern of fields, woods and lakes which almost define the English landscape. That landscape is almost entirely man made, even in the supposed wild areas like Dartmoor or the Scottish Highlands. It is not ‘natural’ but has developed out of complex and cumulative processes of human intervention.

So just as imperfections and variations disturb the surface of the modern world, revealing its past to those who look, so the Ocean Park paintings reflect the process of their creation, revealing the changes made, and to my mind, humanising their geometrical abstraction.

I’ll come back to this another time with images from prints inspired to a degree by Klee and Diebenkorn. I’m also planning some new work which will attempt to marry the geometry of this work to another interest of mine, the rock carvings and standing stones of the Neolithic era. Here are some tasters with a couple of trial proofs.

klee lattice_0002
20160922_114534
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New print series

I recently realised that purely by chance I have in 2014 and 2015 made two series of tiny prints. In both cases they came about as a way to get back into making some work after illness. Looking back at the work produced it seems though, that they also have some merit in their own right, not just as occupational therapy. I’ve decided therefore to make a 2016 series.

tiny 2014 #3
Tiny 2014 #3

The mainly ochre & blue print above is from 2014. It came about by chance. I used to clean up my palette after painting in acrylics by pressing a sheet of paper across it. I liked the effects so started using watercolour paper. Some years later, turning up these sheets I decided to cut them up into smaller squares with the idea of rearranging them squares into a mosaic collage. However my cutting up wasn’t very precise so that didn’t work and I was left with lots of poorly cut squares. About then I was taking a stand at an Art Boot Sale and wanted to boost my stock with some affordable items and decided to use these pieces. I ordered some 6″ x 6″ mounts with a square aperture about 2″ x 2″ (from Cotswold Mounts – highly recommended) and quickly created about 30 tiny prints. These proved very successful on the day and I sold almost half of those I had taken with me.

As an aside, when writing this post, I realised that another influence had been sitting in front of me for a few years. This is a tiny painting I acquired from artist Leslie Avon Miller back in 2009.

leslie ann miller
Meme by Leslie Avon Miller

Moving on to 2015, I acquired a set of samples of mountboard, which I had no use for, since it is very rare that I use a mount colour other than an off-white. Taking inspiration from the images below, I used these small squares of card to create collagraph plates.

The prints above were an experiment in capturing some of the feel of the painter’s brush stroke in a print. I only made four, (I really should get back to them sometime) but with them in mind about 30 small square plates. I made some monochrome proofs on a single sheet, then set about printing. I used the plates singly and in combination, although I soon found that more than two plates usually created a mess.

mono proofs tiny 2015
Monochrome proofs

tiny 2015 #8
Tiny 2015 #8

tiny 2015 #6
Tiny 2015 #6

You can see all the prints in the two series currently in my Etsy shop here:

Tiny 2014 series

Tiny 2015 series

At the time of writing, there are still more to add in both series.

So, what about 2016? I haven’t finally decided yet, but have two options I’m considering. Option one (provisional title Geometries) is a set of small plates I’ve made (about A7 in size) to be printed on Khadi paper.  Option two (provisional title Serendipity) will take a different approach and will involve printing on business card size sheets, also from khadi, but using plates larger than the paper so printing right to the edge. I’m leaning to the latter since I am thinking of these series of tiny prints as a way to experiment rather than just to produce inexpensive pieces.