Wednesday 25 November 2020

lino printing - the start of a new series

I started the Signal Arts Centre studio residency at the end of September and I blogged about starting it  here. My plans for the studio this year included a daily self-portrait (which I blogged about here), making silk fibre paper for printing on (which I blogged about here) and printmaking. My initial plan was to create a series of monoprints and print them on the silk fibre paper. However, after trials (here), I found that the monoprints, though I liked the results on the paper I made, would actually be too vibrant for my Memory Is My Homeland series and even working small, would be too big for the silk fibre paper, which I wanted to be as memorable as the printed image. I have worked on very tiny lino blocks before and decided that this format would be better suited to the planned series. I had five images in mind and wanted to start work on them immediately.

After transferring all the images to the tiny blocks, I started the basic outline cutting.

Then I worked on each block individually. 

This is ostensibly finished, though I would make a final decision after a test print. (NB the image below is larger than the actual lino block!)

I was happy with this test print and didn't do any further work on the chain lino. The image derives from my memory of the chain barriers in front of the first house in Toronto where I lived. I remembered sitting on the chains and treating it like a swing. I always wondered about this memory, until one time passing the area on a streetcar I saw the "barriers" that separated the house lawns from the surrounding footpaths. They were very low chains between short bollards, no more than two feet high. It made sense of my memory - my family moved from that house when I was two years old.

The test print of the gate at Knockeen was also satisfactory. This small gate, seemingly within the hedge separating the second house in which I lived in Kerry from the fields in front of the house, had a glass ball (a buoy?) affixed to it's post.

Though I bought the red wellies in Galway in the summer of 1988 because my shoes were soaked from a downpour, I practically lived in these wellies, rain or shine, while in Kerry 1994-1996. I wanted to keep the image simple, so did no further work on the lino. 

I have spent about half my life living in Ireland now, just as long as I've lived in Toronto, and although I haven't always been in Bray, it is most certainly my "home". There is a Victorian promenade at the seafront, looking out over the Irish Sea, and it easily becomes a genteel symbol of the town's history.

The block I did of pegs did not work on such a small scale, and I decided I would make another image of one peg, as the image has meaning within the series.

Wednesday 18 November 2020

daily self-portrait

During my three studio residencies at Signal Arts Centre, I have always started the day with a self-portrait. I have previdusly blogged about my studio residencies many times, the main beginning or progress posts can be found here (2018), here (2019) and here (2020) and there are a number of other posts that refer to those residencies. For me focussed observation is a good warm-up to making art and a good way to start the day. The main decision is regarding what media to use. This sketch is from my second week at the studio (Oct 9) and the medium is watercolour pencil.

This is also a watercolour pencil sketch, but shows how a different day can affect an observation, even if the same medium and same subject is the focus. This sketch is from Oct 13.

My tray of watercolours has gone AWOL so I was unable to bring them to the studio. I do, however, have some cheap tubes of watercolour (which feel more like gouache as they dry very chalky). I decided to use them up, and first off I decided I would limit myself to using only three colours and one brush.

I found the exercise of limits both fun and freeing, so I did it again the next day (Oct 16), choosing three colours only but this time allowing myself the use of two brushes.

I specifically had set up an area of the studio for making the self-portraits, thus I could leave a wet page open to dry while I carried out other work in the studio.

I absolutely hate using any colour that resembles brown but decided that, in order not to be left with undesirable tubes of paint, I would choose three colours that I normally wouldn't touch with a 10 foot brush: burnt umber, yellow ochre and burnt sienna. Once again I allowed myself the use of two brushes for this sketch of Oct 19.

Giving the paints a break, I decided on Oct 20 to use a soft 6B pencil for my daily self-portrait. It was to be my last self-portrait in the studio for the month of Oct, as I packed up supplies to bring home since another level 5 lockdown was due to start.

Although I would have been able to continue working from the Signal studio, at least part-time, I decided that I simply needed to keep up the work momentum of my residency in my studio at home. With this in mind I have continued the practice of a daily warm-up self-portrait before doing any other work. The first example of this is the blind contour drawing of Oct 21. This is an enjoyable technique of intense observation without reference to the surface on which one is drawing and without lifting your medium from the page so that the line is continuous.

Wednesday 11 November 2020

Home Sweet Home Goodbye published

I founded Precariat Press in the spring of this year with the publication of my first chapbook of poems in mind; My husband, James Hayes, designed the logo for me after an evening of brainstorming. The cover design is based upon my earliest existing piece of "art" - a goodbye card I made for my grandparents when they were returning to Ireland from a visit to Toronto in 1967. I talk about that in a previous blog, here. This was the first time I met them, and the card was found in my grandmother's handbag after she (my Oma) died in 1980 and it was returned to me.

I have spent the months in lockdown (the first one!) designing and printing up the cover, which I have blogged about here and hereand choosing the final poems to be included. The chapbook contains a mix of poems previously published in other journals (which I acknowledge) and work that I think are deserving of publication! They are a mix of oldish poems (probably revised somewhat) and newish poems - spanning 40 years of writing poetry.

I have bound Home Sweet Home Goodbye in the traditional chapbook binding style, i.e., three-hole bind, with cotton thread. It contains 17 poems over 25 pages of poetry, and the cover is a monochrome linoprint. It is approx A5 in size, a standard chapbook size. I have blogged about the book mockup and binding herehere, and hereThis is a limited edition publication, with 50 copies only. 

Wednesday 4 November 2020

pre-lockdown printmaking

It's only been a couple of weeks since I left the studio residency at Signal Arts Centre, due to the second lockdown, but I did get a lot done in the three weeks that I was there, and am happily continuing the momentum. I posted a blog at the start of the residency here.

My plan while at Signal was to focus on creating silk-fibre paper (I had learned how to do this in a Zoom workshop in the summer and blogged about that workshop here) and use these pages as surfaces for alkyd monoprints. I spent the first week and a bit at Signal making silk fibre paper, which I blogged about here and then I wanted to start printing, but first I did some test prints of images that I was interested in creating as part of Memory Is My Homeland. I have previously blogged about the origins of this body of work here and have continued to blog about it numerous places on this blog (NB, at the beginning I simply referred to it as "The Home Project"). 

One of my reference photos is of my Mum & I, in the 1980s, standing in the backyard of my parents house in Bray in front of the clothesline, pegs awaiting laundry. The backyard was a very tiny space, off the kitchen and, while I lived in this house for a couple of years in the late 1980s, it mirrored my own backyard on the same street later when I returned to the east coast from living in Kerry, on the west coast. In any case, it was the image of colourful plastic pegs, waiting on an empty line with a white-washed stone wall behind them, that interested me.

Because I knew I wanted the handmade silk-fibre paper to be as featured as nuch as the printed image, I was working on small acetate plates, using alkyd paints to create monoprints. However, even with a tiny brush, I could not get the details of the pegs on the line, and the press just seemed too happy to squeeze the colour enough to blur the image. Although I do not think this image (below) worked, I did not give up on the idea of the peg image!

Although the Victorian railing has since been painted more subtly (which I think is uninteresting) the orange and bright blue railing is an iconic image of Bray, recognizable to anyone with affiliations to the town. 

I bought a pair of red wellies in Galway in 1988, shortly after I had re-located to Ireland. I wore them on dry, sunny days in Kerry while gardening, and they were a necessity on the wet, sideways-rain days too. I think their death-knell was sounded when I sunk into the bog while looking for the stations of the cross on the mountain near my home in Kells Bay, Co. Kerry. The stations were there since the days of hidden religion, before Daniel O'Connell, "The Liberator", secured the emancipation of Catholics in Ireland in 1829.

I was so intrigued with the first test print, that I did another on heavier paper.

The final test was to see how the print would work on silk fibre paper. On the one hand I was happy with the print - the silk fibre paper was happy to take the print - but I thought the image was still too big for the paper. 

With regards to Memory Is My Homeland I decided that the colours were too vibrant for my idea of memory. It was after doing this print that I made the decision to do much tinier images, using lino blocks and the final images will be monochromatic. I have not made any decision on colour for future prints, but I have begun working on the linos. Watch this space!