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Still here…

At the edge of the known universe - gel print
At the edge of the known universe – gel print

Health issues again have prevented me from doing much work. Nothing life threatening, but chronic nagging issues really drain your enthusiasm! In particular I haven’t been able to stand at the press very much. As an experiment I’ve been trying gel printing.

If you are not sure what that is have a look on YouTube where there are lots of ‘how to’ videos. If you want to avoid 45 minutes of umms and ahhs, look for videos by Ruth Alice Kosnik, Jane Davies and Gerda Lipski. There are also many examples from the main manufacturers of these plates, Gel Press and Gelli Arts. He doesn’t have many up yet, but this video from Canadian artist Bob Pennycook is also worth a look for his ingenious jig to enable precise registration.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jNQgxzHF6mU?rel=0&w=560&h=315]
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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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Wiltshire Print Creatives

Last year I joined with a group of other artist printmakers who share the same workshop space to form Wiltshire Print Creatives, an informal collective. We had our first group show in November at 44AD Artspace in Bath. We were very pleased with the reception we got and sold quite well, so we are now firming things up to create a more coherent presence with a web site and social media. You can already find us on Twitter and get an informal peak behind the scenes but we intend to ramp this up over the next few months and probably add other social media platforms like Instagram.

We also have a couple of further shows lined up – more later – but are still looking for new opportunities and venues, especially where we might be able to establish a more permanent presence.

Collagraph after Kurt Schwitters by Ian Bertram
Collagraph after Kurt Schwitters by Ian Bertram

Untitled - drypoint with chine colle by Ian Bertram
Untitled – drypoint with chine colle by Ian Bertram

 

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Some Mixed Media and Collage pieces

Avebury Neolithic circle

Because I couldn’t stand at the press for quite a while (see the previous post for why), I also made some small collage pieces. These have no particular theme, they are just playing with the medium.

All are available in my Etsy shop here (£25.00 each, matted to fit a 10″ x 8″ frame – see the listing for full details):
https://preview.tinyurl.com/y7dt9j9y

This link to an Etsy search on ‘mixed media collage’ also brings up some other items including a number from my ‘Made to Music‘ series (£15 for unmatted, £30 matted – see the listing for full details – and making me realise that I’ve worked this way on several occasions.

I have another series called ‘Around Avebury’, which has yet to be added to the Etsy shop. These are all in handmade oak frames. You can find these on my Portfolio Pages.

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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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Group Show

A bit late in the day for a promo, but I’m taking part in a group show at 44AD Gallery in Bath as a part of Wiltshire Print Creatives. We are an informal collective of printmakers, united only by the use of the same workshop space at Wiltshire College in Trowbridge.

We hung the show on Monday morning. Coming back for the evening Preview and seeing the show as a whole for the first time it was obvious that sharing the same workspace has allowed for some sort of artistic osmosis. Everywhere I looked I could see commonalities in vision and expression across all the work. I was very proud to see what we had achieved. Despite the fact that this is the work of friends I can genuinely say that the work on show is to a high standard both technically and creatively and well worth a visit if you can. My thanks to the other 11 for their support over the years and for their work in putting this together and making it happen.

The Wiltshire Print Creatives are…

  • Tonia Gunstone
  • Caroline Morriss
  • Kerrie McNeil
  • Martin Covington
  • Bella Bee
  • Judy Brett
  • Ian Bertram
  • Hayley Cove
  • Flora Jayne Camacho
  • Alex Nash
  • Claire Camacho
  • Jane Temperley

Setting up the showThe final hangVisitors to the Preview

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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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    Work in Progress

    I haven’t been very good at posting here have I? That’s partly down to my lack of anything to show, but mostly just inertia…

    These two are however work in progress. Strange Fruit (on left) is inspired by the song of that name, sung here by the incomparable Billie Holiday.

    Southern trees bear a strange fruit
    Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
    Black bodies swingin’ in the Southern breeze
    Strange fruit hangin’ from the poplar trees

    https://youtu.be/h4ZyuULy9zs

    This is the best pull so far, but I’m not satisfied. Because it is a drypoint on acrylic, I won’t get many more, so the edition when I make it will be no more than 5-10.

    The second image, as yet untitled, is pretty close to my visualisation of it. The greys are a bit dark, and some unsightly blotches of white have appeared at the bottom, but otherwise close enough to be considered as the AP (Artist’s Proof). The brown tone at the top, outside the image is just a colour cast in the phone photo, The paper for both of these is Fabriano and is white.

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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.