Saturday, 24 October 2020

Christmas Printing

I've had a busy month printing some Christmas products for my Etsy shop. I have been wanting to put some Christmas designs together for some time. I must admit that once we are out of the Christmas season I don't give it much thought until the next Christmas, by which time the selling season has passed and there's no way I would be able to get anything completed in time. This year I was determined to sit down and get on with it. I would really love to include the amazing wildlife I keep seeing around us, but for the moment I have been satisfying myself with a few basic Christmas 'themes' for example the striking Nordic theme and the Christmas Robin. 

Cutting the designs in Lino

The red print on these tags has been so pleasing to produce that I have started think about a card design ready for next Christmas. It certainly has been a strange experience thinking about Christmas through out the summer months. I have had to question myself drawing out Robins in blazing sunshine.

My challenge for this coming year will be to go out with my sketch book and start drawing what is around me.....but I'm getting ahead of myself...…back to this Christmas!!

Gift Tags strung and photographed

Nordic Gift Tags detail

My squirrel lino is slightly more in keeping with my art work. Originally he was intended for a range of nature cards. Now I'm thinking more in the way of a Christmas card but I feel he needs some kind of festive background or decorative design to make him a bit more fun! Its an idea I will have to tinker with as I'm not sure I will sort it out in time for the Christmas shopping season. He may also appear on some oversized Christmas Tags...or notebooks......oh my goodness, the ideas are endless!

Squirrel linocut printed in black ink to check the cut

In the end I had to make a decision about what I was to focus on so the classic Christmas Robin won the day. I did  a series of test prints on different card stock with different layouts but in the end I went for a central design with two colours, again the classic red and green. 

Robin Linocut with some design edition

So here we are, finally I have completed a Christmas Card fit for selling! I made up a jig to line up the two colour printing and away I went. I did try out a version with silver stars but decided it was a little too fussy. I am quite pleased with myself as its been endless months of trying out ideas, but finally I have something satisfactory in my hands.
I am busting to get back to my painting but hopefully over the next six months there will be a few more Christmassy designs that come to life now that I've started the ball rolling.

Test print for this years Christmas Card in my Etsy shop

Monday, 13 July 2020

A Busy Etsy Update

What a busy month! I have finally updated my Etsy Shop, which has been on my jobs list for probably over a year, and launched my hand made notebooks while trying to be patient over my new studio roof.
It's been very exciting learning the book binding process. It is something I have wanted to try for some time and was so pleased with my first attempts that I have launch a few straight into my Etsy shop. With still no proper studio set up its also been ideal to make in the house as I can bind a few in the evenings without making too much mess!
Folding and cutting the book blocks
Sewing each block by hand
Using my own textile prints for book cloths has meant that each notebook is totally my own design.
I still have some way to go before I can develop my textiles into fabric based designs but they are serving very well as book covers. Of course now that I have started working with the materials I am thinking of a range of designs that I can try out. There's always some idea ticking away in the background!
Using my textile prints as book cloths
Colours have become incredibly important when putting each book together. I have suddenly realised you cannot just fling odd bits at one another and it will look OK. This may sound like the most basic idea in design but I suddenly found myself rummaging through boxes looking for the exact coordinating colours to match book cloth, book blocks, end papers and ribbon. Slightly the wrong shade of yellow or wrong pattern can look disastrous with very little effort so as I have been thinking about new designs I have also been taking on board how colours and patterns and images are all going to work as one. 
Orange and Red Tulip small notebook

Yellow Tulip Journal

Blue Cornish Mackerel Blank Greetings Card
 As I was testing out my new ideas I thought I'd have a quick trial with my Cornish Mackerel Linocut to see how it would print on to blank greetings cards and was so pleased with these that as soon as they were dry they were photographed and in my shop. Its been great to see this linocut being used across a variety of mediums. Again it was a simple idea that just seems to keep giving. I am mulling over the idea of having the design made up into a screen print to expand my textiles but then again I'm very keen to work on a design based on different fish. Soooo many ideas soooo little time to get them done!
White Cornish Mackerel Blank Greetings Card
 And finally my last idea that has worked really well! I had an idea of making an aperture in the book cover in order to insert one of my prints just to give my notebooks that arty edge, so I took my wood engraving of a Green Finch that I did a couple of years ago and hey presto! It makes the book unique and it's great to see another of my own designs applied to another format. 
Aperture Journal with Green Finch Insert
I now have a busy few weeks ahead stocking my Etsy Shop up with new designs while I wait for a new roof to be put on my studio. I simply can't wait to move it and get set up again. I have canvases that are just busting to have some paint on them and with the amazing Cornish landscape around me there is plenty of inspiration.

Thursday, 30 April 2020

My Arty Lockdown

With the world in various stages of lockdown all my plans have had to be shelved. My leaky studio roof will have to be patched rather than re-built, the restoration project on our house can go no further as we can neither buy materials or dispose of them and as non-essential travel has been stopped galleries, exhibitions, art shops and inspirational places to visit is also off.
I have managed to continue with some small still life ideas and some printmaking on to fabric but this has been slightly limited by space and availability of materials. So for this months work I have produced a number of development pieces which I will hopefully be able to take forward to exhibitions and launch in my Etsy shop.

Book Blocks ready to be covered

Hand printed cotton 
I recovered these blocks from my studio that I made before we moved and managed to successfully cover my first book with my handprinted fabrics made into bookcloth.
Thrilled with my little handmade book (see my Instagram post!) I have been experimenting with printing onto different fabrics with different printing inks and different colours. As ever I have looked to nature to inspire me, noting colours and forms in the landscape to drive my designs.

My cotton prints have been most successful as other fabrics have not held the ink as well and while textile inks have been worth trying it has been the old faithful Caligo inks that have come out on top. These will now be sewn into coin pouches, wool baskets and zipper pouches as well as used on handmade journals. It will be great to get sewing again and develop some of my ideas.

Printing press assembled and oiled

Christmas tag designs

As well as textiles I have been makimg some progress on developing some Christmas stock for my Etsy shop. With my printing press finally unwrapped after a year of sitting in bubble wrap I am feeling a little further on in getting myself set up but in all honesty the studio still doesn't function and I am stuck in the house with limited resources. With so many people currently out of work the only way forward is to patch the roof and hope that with the temporary fix I can start making work again.

Still life set up
I have been continuing my work on Still Life's. This time I have taken on a slightly larger composition to work on a variety of shapes and textures. Having a properly lit set up has been a major benefit, and learning to organise my palette has also helped with accuracy. Learning to be patient has been a major factor as I have to let each layer dry, so to compensate my time restrictions I am now looking at setting up a series of small compositions that can be rotated with out too much disruption. I am hoping that this will increase my production ready for future exhibitions.

Underpainting going down
Starting to develop layers and depth

Thursday, 27 February 2020

The Art of Still Life

As I am limited to what I can produce without a studio I have been challenging myself with learning the discipline of painting Still Life's.
Discipline is certainly what is required. As I have spent many years taking absolutely no notice of technical aspects in painting it has been an eye-opener to have to consider and think through problems before I have even put pencil to paper or brush to canvas.
While the process of painting has been relatively straight forward, thinking about space, composition, colour and most importantly the control of light has certainly not. Each aspect of surface has to be considered in relation to another and changing light throughout the day and light direction have caused numerous problems. I think I'm set up and ready to go then realise what I organised at ten in the morning looks very different at one in the afternoon. So here is an update of my attempts and pitfalls that I have fallen firmly into so far. 
Plums and Silver Vase, Oil on Board

My first attempt was to paint a vase with plums. I tried to keep it simple by keeping neutral and plain backgrounds, I chose the plums because they were nice spherical shapes that I felt I could control and a silvery vase because I had read somewhere that shiny objects were always good in Still Life. Lesson number one; think about the space you are working with. I had to add in a branch as I hadn't thought about the shape of board I was painting onto and the composition looked unbalanced. I think the overall painting was not too bad for a first attempt, if but a little under-developed.

Jug, Grapes and Books, Oil on Canvas
Excited about the possibilities I moved swiftly onto attempt number two. This was a slightly more complex ensemble of books, a jug and grapes with a grey cloth in the background. I liked the set up with the mixture of textures and colour tones, but as the light moved in the room the jug kept changing. One time it had grey/blue shadows then it was very white, then the shadows moved and if I had the lights on it reflected yellow back at me. Urrgh!!
Lesson number 2; create a set up that has one defined light source and control the way it falls on the surface by using a box or boards. Natural light on this occasion is not helpful.

Sliced Melon, Oil on Board
Onto the third painting. As I was still overwhelmed by the possibilities of different set ups I decided to try one with a dark background to see if I could enhance a more dramatic composition. This time I used a bright orange slice of melon against a dark background with a shiny surface of a wooden box to give some reflection. But I didn't have much time, only managing to get the underpainting sorted out before I had to dash off to work so here is lesson number three; choose a subject that will not deteriorate and go mouldy! This painting had to be put in the reject pile before it even got going and again as I hadn't set up a single light source I'm not sure it would have been terribly successful anyway.
So now I am waiting for an angled floor lamp to be delivered. I have a box to set my objects in and boards to work onto rather than canvas because its easier to apply paint accurately and get a smooth finish than on canvas (lesson number 4). It has left me thinking about numerous compositions and colour options that can be explored. In order to try and get a grip on where to take it I have started taking photos of ideas in the hope that once I am set up I will be more productive than lurching from one composition to another!

Experimental photos of set up

Sunday, 2 February 2020

New Year, New Project

Last week small canvases and paints were retrieved from my leaky studio and work has started on a little project I've been mulling over for some time. Ever since a visit to Southampton City Art Gallery and seeing a small still life of a pear I have been thinking about challenging myself with learning to paint contemporary still life, so now seemed the perfect opportunity to weave that into a busy schedule.
So far so good. The size is perfect for in the house, and working in the evening with constant lighting has also paid off.
So here I am working out formal spaces, thinking about colour, form and texture and what I actually want to convey through the style of the work. As ever I have been drawn to American artists, in particular William Bailey, Todd M. Casey and William M. Harnett who's work I saw a few years ago in New York.

William Bailey's paired down vision

Todd M. Casey, 'Entomologist'

William M. Harnett

I love the paired down look by William Bailey because the space lets everything breathe and the rhythmical shapes and colour combinations have calming aesthetics. Todd M. Casey's work has a sense of narrative to it. It makes me think he's just raided someones ruck sack or kitchen and makes me ask who owns this stuff! And William M. Harnett for his amazing skill and use of paint.
Luckily I have plenty of objects to paint so I haven't had to scratch around in the back of any cupboards. It has been important that my objects are personal to me, after all there has to be a reason to paint them in the first place. 

First try at an underpainting on board

The more I look the more combinations open up to explore, but most importantly they have to be beautiful so I suspect that, while I suffer with a leaky roof, I will be producing many small (and possibly large) still life paintings for you to see.

Monday, 20 January 2020

Cornish Re-location

It's been a year of hard decisions, long conversations and a huge amount of work but at last I have been able to re-locate my studio to beautiful Cornwall. Inspired by the wild and rugged landscape I was hoping to be settled by the Summer and working towards exhibitions and Open Studio events. Unfortunately my new studio has a leaky roof and since we've had non stop rain for several months I have had to de-camp to the house.
Moving Day

A chaotic studio with no electricity and a leaky roof
As the canvases and printing press are all tucked away in bubble wrap for the moment I have been focusing on my sketchbook and planning new prints for my Etsy shop. I have no choice but to focus on getting money together before I do anything else, but in a funny way it's making time for smaller paintings, in particular some still life paintings and using linocut prints to stock my Etsy shop which has been nothing but neglected with moving house.
Looking to stock up my Etsy shop over the next few months
I'm sure by the time I can get back into my studio I will have done all my prep for all the big canvases that are just sitting there waiting.

Thursday, 31 January 2019

Mid-Winter Hiatus

It's the coldest day of the year so far and I have been busy re-assessing where I am with my work. I ended up taking a very unplanned hiatus from work while I cleared out and reorganised my life. After drowning in paper and half finished ideas I can finally see the wood for the trees and my studio is back in a functioning state.

A Working Studio

Sometimes it pays to take a step back and work out what I should be doing, so with a new action plan in place I am looking forward to achieving goals for the summer.
I have neglected my Etsy Shop so this will be my main focus over the next few months. I am hoping to launch new prints and develop designs for cards, calendars and textiles. 

I have decided to take a break from the Emsworth Arts Trail this year, but for those that want to visit other artists and find out dates here is the link for the web site.

Of course that doesn't mean there's no painting happening. I have a few paintings rumbling along in the background and when I'm ready I will be re-opening my studio to the public.

Studies of Natural Objects