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Make time for play

For me setting aside time for play is a key part of creativity. It’s a way to get past my inner censor. It allows me to fail. That’s important because without failure there is no measure of success.

It’s almost a month since I spent time in my studio. Initially I took a break to think, because I found myself repeating the same thing. The work looked superficially different, but the process was the same, and so less and less enjoyable. Some health issues then intervened, so my time away from the studio became even more protracted.

I’ve already blogged about making digital prints. They are where I came from as a printmaker, so an important part of my practice. Going back to them while not in the studio was still a form of play. It gave me the freedom to think about ideas of shape and form and composition without investing too much time. Or money for that matter, since decent paper is not cheap. In the end, even though I was ‘only playing’ the outcomes were very satisfying, and I ended up with two ‘suites’ of prints. One is a set of square prints which relate quite strongly to the monotypes I have been making all year. The second set are panoramic in format, but oriented vertically. I wanted to avoid any landscape references and make these wholly abstract.

Digital abstract print
Aksinto – digital abstract print

This isn’t the first time I’ve used play to generate work. Back in 2014 I made a set of what I later called Tinies. I was painting then and very bad at judging how much paint to put on my palette. Rather than waste the leftovers I took, as I realised later, what were monotypes from the palette using some heavy mixed media paper I had to hand. Later I cut these down into small squares, each about 25-30 mm on a side. My original intention was to reassemble them into a collage.

I never made any progress, although I did play around with the pieces for a while. I kept the pieces though, then later still, mounted a selection of these to fit into a 6” x 6” frame (150 mm). When I took these to an ‘art boot sale’, to my surprise they sold very well. Many were sold before I decided to number the rest into a series – Tiny 2014.

The next year I acquired a number of pieces of mount board, originally samples of different colours. I used these to make a set of collagraph plates, experimenting with materials like tile cement. Printing these allowed me to play gain, experimenting with colour combinations, trying out the effects of overprinting colours. These became Tiny 2015.

Tiny collagraph
Tiny 2019 No 12 – collagraph

Tiny 2017, was another set of ‘found images’, this time cut from failed monotypes made with oil based inks, while Tiny 2019 was a return to the small collagraph plates. So far there have been no more.

Now though, I’m itching to get back to physical printing. I find it immensely satisfying to see an image gradually emerge out of the clutter of bits of paper, stencils and general rubbish I use to make my monotype prints. How I do that will be covered in another post.

I hope though that I can still retain the freedom from the last few weeks of ‘playtime’.

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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.