Friday, 25 December 2015

Back Drawing

So, here are a few back drawn pieces. The learning curve was slow then a big improvement when I read some fellow OCA student's blogs and learnt some tricks.

 My first two attempts. I had an inked up plate already used for mask experiments and just improvised. The ink thickness / weight of paper combinations will always require practice for every new kind of ink or paper.

This example was drawn from life. I find it very interesting that a simple drawing like this takes on a completely new quality in this context. If this was drawn in pencil it would be very plain. I think the uniformity of the value of the marks combined with the patches of accidentally transferred ink creates a new aesthetic.

These are the first of a series of experiments drawn from life of gourds. The second print used two colours. I did not let the first layer dry before adding the second so a fine layer of the orange stuck to the black creating an interesting effect. I drew on the back of the paper with pencil so it was easy to add multiple layers.

I next tried to do back drawing over a masked print. The same combination of ink and paper did not work because the ink stuck to the already printed areas very easily.

I used less ink and got better results here. I traced the outline on the back of the paper but these were not as well aligned as I hoped.

For these better examples I used a copy of a drawing to create the mask. I then used a copy of the same drawing as a guide for the back drawing, giving me better alignment and keeping the back of the paper clean. I used a very lightly inked plate that was quite dry and a ball point pen. I love the subtlety of this despite the simple design and now feel confident to use this combination of techniques in more complicated designs.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Masked Monoprints

I've made a lot of progress with these. After my last post I lost direction with this as I just wasn't improving. I did a lot of research but got nowhere. There does not seem to be an enormous amount of information around about monoprinting, maybe I'm using the wrong search terms. I drew some value studies of coral and made these masks. The first prints are on cartridge paper. The colour scheme was inspired by Matisse Beats of the Sea.

I cut 4 masks for this. I cut a separate mask for each coloured piece of coral, then a new mask for the negative print which was the shape of all 3 pieces of coral.

Same idea with texture added. The trouble with bubble wrap is that it will always be bubble wrap no matter how you use it.

 I discovered the OCA printmaking Facebook group. This has been a complete eye opener for me. I quickly discovered ideas that have transformed my work. The most significant of these would be Japanese paper. I was very fortunate that I could get my hands on some of this easily, which is not always the case here in Saudi.

These prints are so much clearer. This is the discarded positive mask from the print above used in a new way.

 Can you spot the bubble wrap?

The Japanese paper really takes the ink well, maybe a bit too well as you can see the marks from the brayer in this print. I'm going to get some softer brayers to try this negative print again.  I'm really pleased with these, I feel like I'm back on track again with lots of new ideas I'm working on.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Henri Matisse Inspiration

As inspiration for monoprints I'm looking at a few Matisse works. This is Woman with a Hat, an early work from his Fauve period, completed in 1905. He uses dramatic unmixed colors.

I've lost direction with my painterly monotypes, I'm looking for some new ideas, so will try a simple still life but being more experimental with color. I think he has kept connections to the original colors and values, and possibly kept warm colors and cool colors in the same places, so that is a good starting point. I'm also going to try using acrylic paint as well as the heavier printing inks.

I've been a bit uninspired as I live in a very conservative place (Saudi Arabia) and don't feel comfortable working outside, so need to draw inspiration from the objects I can draw inside. I have collected some interesting shells and coral to work from so am investigating the Beasts of the Sea.

 In contrast to the last work there is a controlled use of color here, these colors look like they have come direct from the sea. Only a few of the shapes look like actual sea objects, the most distinctive shape being the blue in the bottom left, which is not dissimilar to my coral. I have already tried a bit of back drawing shapes like this on top of my first masked mono prints which I was pleased with so want to take this further with this investigation. The use of black and white are bold and important and lead the eye around the piece. I also like the subtle contrast of the coral pink. An interesting challenge will be to make several different colors clear and distinct. In my last practices I laid pink over blue and it did not show well. So from this I will try to make a masked mono print using several layers of color with my shapes taken from sea objects and some invented shapes.

This next work is La Gerbe, 1953, a large ceramic mural completed to commission at the end of Matisse's life. The simplicity of this is very effective, I want to explore a piece made up of all the same shapes, first all independent of each other then with layering.

Last of all, White Torso and Blue Torso, 1944, from the work Jazz. This piece was conceived as a collage then reproduced as a stencil. This work is a very simple shape stenciled as a positive and negative shape. This is a figure, I will continue with still life work so will look for some interesting objects, I have a nice bottle that may work.

A few ideas to be going on with...

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

First Masked Monoprints

I'm moving on to the next assignment of the OCA Introduction to Printmaking. I'm not sure where to go next with my first monoprints so will come back to them when I get some inspiration. The first image I created a mask from was a drawing of a river.

I created a collage of the image, I was interested in the curves of the river. I cut a mask of this and took a one and two colour print from it.

 This was not enormously successful, the stencil was too fragile as I had cut so much away. It was particularly difficult to attempt to line up the two colours. I used pencil marks to show where I thought the second mask should go but it was all too flexible. It was particularly hard to register the loose pieces of masks that do not touch the edges.

 For this mask I used some sketches of fish. I placed them diagonally to create energy which was effective. I'm not sure if using more ink would give a cleaner print.

In this image I added a second layer of a negative mask of pink fish. The color wasn't strong enough or I didn't use enough ink as it is not very clear. Maybe this could be a nice effect for a subtle layer. It is hard to get a balance between an image where the ink leaks out the edges from too much ink and one which doesn't transfer well. It would be interesting to see how this worked if the blue went over the pink.

In this image I used the negative mask from the first image. This is the second print from this. I used quite a lot of ink and the first print bled a lot around the edges. I much prefer this second image and the texture created.
In this print I have used two layers. Layer one is the ghost of the attempted layer of positive masked pink fish on the blue print above. This is one of many ghost prints I prefer to the first print. I then inked up a green plate and experimented with some simple back drawing leaf shapes inspired by Matisse collages.
This image is the ghost print of the green plate back drawing above. After I drew on the back of the paper to create some leaf like shapes and took the first print I put masks down to take this print and I like this texture. I will explore this further with more detailed back drawing.
This is the third take of this plate, I love these ghost images.
In these prints I have used very simple shapes, taken from simple sketches and my imagination. I love the textures I have created and am very excited by the beginning of exploring layering. I am going to develop this further by exploring some sea shapes in more detail and exploring Matisses Beasts of the Sea and other collages and stenciled works. I am pleased with the use of diagonal movement and the energy it creates and will explore this further.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Tracey Emin Monoprints and Blankets

Tracey Emin is not an artist I have ever paid much attention to. I was aware she made textile pieces, but they always felt so far away from my own aesthetic that I paid little attention. While researching monoprints I was surprised to find these works by her
Terribly Wrong, 1997

Sad Shower in New York, 1995

From the Week of Hell '94, 1995

They are all depicting very personal events, such as an abortion that went wrong in 'Terribly Wrong'. She has used back drawing to create them and I cant help wondering why. What has the process of monprinting given her over simple drawing? I wonder if the process has somehow distanced her from the final product, by using a process where complete control of the finished product is taken away, such as monoprinting, she was able to express herself more freely.
I have been  doing lots of drawing recently, all of traditional still lifes using traditional techniques in preparation for a class. Perhaps some more expressive uses could be found for my newly refined skills, to include the next stage from the OCA Printmaking class on monoprinting which includes back drawing. Am I brave enough to depict my innermost thoughts and anxieties in monoprint? I'm not sure I like these images particularly, but they have certainly got me thinking. Would they make any sense without the titles? I'm not sure. They are generally displayed together and their effect is a collective one.

Emin's monoprints and drawings are reminiscent of quick sketches drawn from life, as if she was using back drawing as a medium for gestural drawing, brief, figurative sketches, caught quickly as the subject moves. My earlier post on monoprinting shows an image of moving traffic, with movement created with blurring of the ink, Both of these suggest moving subject matter, could these two ideas be explored together? 

However, these images are more likely to have been drawn from Emin's subconcious, would drawing, or back drawing images from my memory, describing my own emotions, be an area I should explore? I could never be as open or free in my art as Emin, very few people are, but this may be a good way of loosening up as an artist and generate some interesting ideas for more expressive work.

Hate and Power can be a Terrible Thing, 2004

Emin's blankets are an unusual use of the medium. They are not art quilts, no joining of quilt layers took place, they are constructed by hand applique onto a prepared background. She has created a big contrast between the soft comforting medium of a blanket and the strong words. The message here has personal connotations but also powerful political messages too. Some of these blankets were created around the time of Tony Blair and George Bush's war in Iraq, with anti war themes. This a theme I identify with hugely personally. All the artwork I create is developed from an aesthetic perspective, could I develop broader themes in my work? Maybe these ideas come later in the development of an artists skills, but still interesting none the less.

All images taken from the Tate website. 

Thursday, 13 August 2015


I've signed up to a class with the Open College of the Arts called Introduction to Printmaking.

I have wanted to take my creative ideas a bit further for a while so have chosen this course. I have used linocut before and really enjoyed the process. I hope to follow it with further courses in textiles. 

The first unit is on monoprints. The unit starts with painterly monotypes, created by painting an image onto a printing plate and taking a print from it, I found this process quite difficult, especially regarding judging the right thickness of ink to use and keeping it even.

Here is a fantastic example by Toni Martina, Cross Roads:

 I have looked at this image really closely and it looks like a really thin layer of ink has been used, the brush strokes are visible and the ink has been scraped away in places too. The smudging is really effective in creating movement. The bright colours are very effective. There is little detail in this image, its impact is all about the movement. There is very strong contrast in values, the centre of the image is made up of intense colours, bright whites and strong blacks. I think monoprint is an effective
medium to create this contrast because scraping away inks gives bright whites. The technique also lends itself to these large areas of flat colour, too much detail is not easy to achieve. This also gives strong contrast to the smudged moving vehicles.

The most popular use of monoprinting seems to be creating an image through removing ink from a plate rather than painting it on. This image by Degas is a beautiful example of this style:

Here the image also contains movement created by some smudging of the ink. The dancers are composed with great energy. Again, strong contrasts of value are use to great effect.
Degas produced many monoprints and also worked over some with pastel creating interesting textures. This is a good example where the strong value contrast of the monoprint is enhanced with mid tones in pastel:

I found it hard to get all the materials I needed to get started, as I live in Saudi Arabia and mail order is very slow. I started with poor quality ink that was of inconsistent thickness and very hard to work with.

In these prints I tried to create effects by removing ink as well as applying it in different thickness's

These earlier experiments with poor inks taught me that the thickness of the ink needs to be well controlled. I bought better inks from Amazon. These water soluble oil based inks are very thick and my first detailed image was much drier by the time I took the print in the image on the left, in the image on the right I got a better result by wetting the paper. In the print on the right I was painting a white ceramic jug, it was challenging to paint in white paint and still use the exposure of the paper effectively.

I continued wetting the paper for these prints and was able to take 2 prints from one image. My five year old daughter helped me here reminding me to add shadows, very observant, I see artists eyes developing in her! I was quite preoccupied with creating highlights by scraping away paint and despite her reminders did not quite get the shadows right here, but I am pleased with the highlights.

In this test print I practised painting and removing ink for the fish image I was planing from a coloured pencil drawing from my sketch book:

I wet the paper before taking the print. This could have been more subtle in the texture of the background

My original drawing

The above inks came in very small quantities. The following images are made with different water based inks. I found these inks wetter, easier to work with. The first print I ruined by wetting the paper and it smudged badly. This test was done to test the colours with dry paper

I made a sketch with white pastel pencil to practice drawing in the light values as done by many monoprint artists

This is the print. Some areas dried too quickly and did not print well distorting the value, the table should have been darker but overall fairly effective

While I am pleased with my progress with this technique I have found it challenging. I am not a painter so perhaps did not have the background skills other course participants may have started with. This course can be taken as part of a BA in painting. 

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Craftsy Class Creative Darts and SeamlinesMcCalls 6696

I've been working on this class for a really long time. After two wearable muslins of the A-Line dress I think I have the fit sorted on this which I can transfer back to my sloper. Why did a custom drafted pattern take so long to fit? Who knows, maybe I didn't measure well. The areas where I had problems were the armholes. In the moulage draft it didn't look right. I cant remember exactly when but some point she has you use an industry standard measurement of placing a new bust line. This put this much too high and made my armhole too small. Is this method unsuited to ladies with larger busts? I'm not sure, possibly I just did it wrong. Suzy replied to my questions very promptly and was really helpful. So now I think I have it in this simple dress:

I took the sleeves from McCalls 6696, and altered the armhole by making a 1/2" armhole dart, which I left unsewn for a bit more ease as directed in the sleeves drafting course which I am yet to embark on. I thought going through this process would mean no more fitting, but I was wrong. You have to be able to fit to draft patterns, and if you have an unusual proportioned body in any way it is going to throw up problems in any method of making clothes. All my clothes, me-made or shop bought feel or look awkward in the sleeves. I often have extra fabric around the front arm hole and not enough room to move, more specifically play the double bass in.
This class gives directions for many garments, many of which are very fitted, which doesn't really suit my life in a very hot country. This is one of the looser fitting patterns, there is also a swing line top and baby doll line pattern. No finishing details are given like necklines or closures.
This dress is made in fabric called crepon de coton from les coupons de Saint-Pierre. This shop is in Paris but despite the delivery still fantastic value and quality. I couldn't work out what to do with this fabric for ages and then ordered some double gauze from and discovered it is almost the same, slightly heavier but still light and drapey. I could then look up what other people were making with this and I knew it needed to be used in something loose and unstructured. I took the neckline from a pattern that came free with a magazine ages ago. 
So now I'm over the hardest bit I hope? I'm going to make this again in something firmer to test the fit again, hopefully it will still look ok, then maybe try and draft some sleeves, although I've run out of enthusiasm for this process a bit now, it is so time consuming!