Sunday, 27 November 2016

Collagraph Research - Stefan Barton

Stefan Barton describes collagraphs as 'a type of mono print pulled from collaged plates.' This is clear when looking at his work. the following two prints were pulled from the same plate but are very different.

Solid Rotation
The varied application of ink allows for depth in a completely different way to other printmaking techniques.
In this version Solid Rotation Frost less ink has been wiped away so there are less highlights, totally changing the depth and impression of 3D form.

I cannot figure out how this is made. The top layer looks like some sort of thick fluid applied. This is intaglio. I don't know how the checked pattern is created but it looks like one block with two layers, the squares and the top created by the thick fluid. Many of the prints appear to contain elements created by manipulating the ink as in a mono print but these squares must be part of the block as they are the same in the next print 
It appears the light squares could be the ink wiped away but they are so similar between prints they must be from the block.

These prints are quite dark in their subjects, and manipulate the collagraph technique well to create a big range of textures. I wonder if they are created by textured substances being painted on rather than through collage. It is also very interesting to see the difference variable inking can create. I am not sure if these are created with two layers or just by inking. I'm not even sure if you can print two layers with these or any other techniques that require damp paper. I know the paper will shrink and distort. I saw one example where the printmaker taped the prints to a board after printing so they dry flat. I have been researching this but have not been able to find this on the internet or in any of my books so will have to experiment to see if overprinting is possible.

Collagraph Research - Suzie Mackenzie

An artist I have discovered who uses collagraph is Suzie Mackenzie. The landscapes she creates make great use of the textural possibilities of this medium. She also uses chine colle in her work. These prints are printed intaglio.

Taken from collagraph tutorial Access Art

The collagraph has been used to create subtle textures in this work,  instead the interest comes from the shapes and contrast of the trees. Much of the texture comes from chine colle used to create the sky background. There is high value contrast in this print, creating great emphasis on the trees.

This print uses value and texture to create depth. The furthest hills are paler. The shimmering lightest areas of water really lead the eye around the image. These simple devices make a simple image make visual sense without lots of detail or big range of colors. These textures are really effective in impressionistic landscapes.

There is a really big range of values in this print, which are used to great effect by the artist. The sparse use of color also has great impact. It is very interesting to see how much can be achieved with so little. The print feels like a very rich, deep composition, but in fact it is composed of a small number of elements, texture, values and colors. It is the strength of the composition that makes this effective. 

I'm not sure whether relief printed collagraph is capable of such a big range of tonal values.

Both of these prints use one colour of ink and the other colors are created by chine colle.

Detail of process:

Mount board used as base.
Acrylic medium painted on for lightest areas
Plain mount board next coarsest, therefore the next darkest
Peel off layers of board for rougher texture
Textured paper, rougher again
Carobondum grit + pva for darkest areas.

Builders wood glue  + water, very thin dont fill gaps, to make sure everything is stuck down
spray varnish

Printed intaglio with damp paper in an etching press

The range of textures available make this a very appealing technique to try, although very challenging, and will require access to a press. Working with texture like this would be an interesting contrast to the linocut designs I have produced so far.

Collagraph Research - Carolyn Trant

Carolyn Trant takes an individual approach to this versatile medium. Her prints are relief printed, using cardboard blocks. They are inked 'a la pope' - with a doll - cotton ball to apply the ink.
All of these prints come from from handmade books also containing poetry.

Printed with large pieces of cardboard on block, inked variably with variegated colors. In this image smooth textures allow for the blends of color to stand out. However, the element which forms and shapes this are the white lines, the negative space of what has been removed by the artist to create this composition. These white diagonal lines and direction of the birds gives this image energy and movement.

Images from this work are featured in  Printmaking, Ann D'Arcy Hughes. In there she describes the process:

Thin layers of card on top of each other, different levels, varnished with button polish.
Different colors inked in one go with cotton 'dollies'. If you roll the block the image is too flat.
Relief printed with damp paper and lots of pressure, creates a highly embossed image.

This print has more intricate shapes and flatter colors. A small area of variable inking on the eggs creates form and contrast. The bold lines also define this composition, the white lines of the negative space of the bird and the contrasting blue lines of the tree.

This techniques has a different line quality to lino, straighter lines, sharper points. It also has completely different textures to other collagraphs. This technique could create quite a high level of detail, and tonal values all come from inking.

In the handmade book Winterreisse, which is based on the poetry and songs of Schuberts song cycle of the same name, collagraph prints are layered under transparent paper containing hand written text.

I absolutely love this idea. I hated this particular Schubert song cycle at university. I saw a very odd performance of it once and also had to study it in great depth. I have since seen better performances and the work, and genre, has grown on  me considerably. I love the idea of interpreting a piece of music visually, a challenge is always that visual art is static, music moves, a book is a beautiful way to express this linearity. From what I can see of this work it appears that the artist has interpreted the narrative of the text, it is difficult to know whether the lines and colors of the music had much influence on the visual qualities of the work.

It is difficult to see over the internet how much detail can be seen through the overlays. I suspect that more can be seen in real life than in these photos. These prints are extremely rich in textures, and become even richer with the overlays. These prints are different to the works above. They have a much bigger variety of textures so look like they may have used the intaglio method of collagraph similar to Suzie Mackenzie.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Access Art Developing Sketchbooks 3

For the next part of Access arts developing sketchbooks course I did 2 drawing exercises. I must admit when I first read these I wasn't enormously excited by them. One is to draw 8 objects in 10 minutes each, the second is to draw one object 8 times in different media and from different angles. However, I was surprised just how much these exercises loosened up my drawing and am really impressed with the outcomes. I guess I am still so outcome oriented that I wasn't excited by investing time in drawing simple objects, not being open to just seeing what happened. On the course there are loads of ideas for different ways to draw the objects and examples. 

I did this at the park as it is the best way to get some uninterrupted time while the kids are playing. My park is quite short of interesting objects, it is quite sterile really. I can really see why they tell you to do this all in one session, I really started to loosen up then had to go home and pick it up again. I drew these in pen, only because I forgot a pencil, had everything else with me, but no pencil. It was a good thing, forced me to be definite with my lines and marks.

I've started putting all my work from my sketchbook on the wall after seeing the local artist's open house where an artist always does this with her sketches. These sketches were all ok, I noticed while drawing a pine cone that as I drew each piece the pieces did not always line up, a bit like a jigsaw puzzle. I think my drawing is getting better and I definitely saw an improvement through the course of this task.
I learnt that there are interesting shapes and patterns in all things and that I need to be more open to seeing them. If I were to repeat this, and I think I will as a warm up task for my next sketch book, I would do it indoors and try using lighting for more clear shadows. I noticed that my knowledge of perspective influenced me in one of my drawings, I was drawing a lamp in what I realized half way through, was what i thought was the correct way, rather than what I was seeing as I was infact drawing it from the wrong angle. This was also occasionally true of shadows, my knowledge of drawing theory was telling me how to draw rather than observation. I wonder if I should draw some buildings and see if I can limit my knowledge driving these forms rather than observation. 

The next task was more challenging, I used a flower from my garden. It has very subtle shadows and highlights, perhaps I should have adjusted the lighting before starting. I used pen, colored pencils, watercolor pencils, watercolor, white pen on black paper, markers on yellow paper and charcoal and white pastel on yellow paper, blue drawing ink with graphite on yellow paper. 

I got a really solid understanding of the forms through this, but did not always manage to get it completely right on the paper, which in itself was interesting. Drawing is not necessarily about the finished drawing, it is about the process and the observation. I tried to stick to the 10 minutes each and although many of my drawings were not completely successful it has given me a resource of lines shapes and textures which will be really useful when developing my next designs. The shadows in this flower were very subtle and in all the different media I used I tried different ways of representing these shadows. In color media I tried using complementary colors, purple and yellow, analogous, yellow orange and red, as well as shades of yellow. The problem with the complementary colors was when using any media which is wet or not completely opaque is that these colors will inevitably mix and create shades of brown or grey. The flower itself had very subtle shadows and highlights and all of my drawings exaggerated these or it was just a continuous yellow mass. I wonder if that is just my lack of experience or patience representing such subtle differences, however, my different interpretations of these shadows was an interesting exploration of color. In particular, the drawing in blue ink on yellow paper, as I was effectively drawing in all the shadows in a color that was quite different to those I was observing. I am interested in using my collagraph block to create color variations of a subject through variable inking, these drawings were valuable practice in this.

I'm going to take this further by using one of these drawings as a practice print design. Now I know the shadows and highlights well I think I will be able to apply this to my printing. However, to do this effectively I will need to print without reversing the block, or I can't effectively add these highlights, so my print will be reversed. 

There are loads of these drawing prompts on access art and I think I will start each new assignment with an activity like this.

Music and Art Research

During the collage and visual association exercise in my sketchbook from Access arts developing sketchbooks course I explored representing music visually. This is something I have been interested in for a long time as I am a musician. I looked at an artist who uses music as inspiration before in this post when I looked at an artist who interprets madrigals in print. That work really was based around the structure of the words so I wanted to find artists who look at music more directly.

I found an artist using Bach's music as inspiration, Alan Warburton:

This work makes a clear connection between the elements of art and music. The music is formed of series of patterns of notes which I think are represented well by the patterns of lines made by the neon lights. Being a piano piece the notes are relatively uniform in their shape, which the neon lights represent well, shorter notes are shorter lights. This also makes a connection to the piano roll representation of music. At times these lines form all small shapes or units, as does the music in arpeggio patterns

At other times the neon lights form long lines representing the  music lines which have now become long and fluid.

Color is used sparingly representing inflections of chromaticism.

I also like how the most significant difference between music and visual art is represented, generally art is static while music moves through time. This installation also moves, and is in fact very large moving into a different room for a different movement of the piece. The visual representations I made of the pieces of music in the collage task were static, I would like to repeat the same task on a long roll of paper showing the lines changing and developing.

One of the most well known artist to represent sound with image is Kandinsky. 

This piece is Inspired by Wagner’s Lohengrin. It is described as
"Colors and shapes that evoke sounds
Pulsating surface that is alternately dynamic and calm"

This work represents a 3 hour opera with one image. By its very nature therefore it must make more abstract representations of the aesthetic of the music, rather than literal representations of specific lines like the Bach example. Kandinsky was a well known synesthete, seeing music in color. The interpretation of this work and its connection to the music is much more open to interpretation. I think the harmony is central, the circles to me feel like the feeling of suspensions swelling and then receding into resolution. I wonder whether the visual aspects of the opera had any influence on this? Whenever I have been to the opera I have found the visual qualities of the set and costumes always affected my perception of the work.
I would like to try representing a large work like this in a static work of simple shapes. I think it is quite different to find elements to represent the overall impression of a large work rather than representing specific details piece by piece. To really engage with a work like this, and have deep responses to it, it would be necessary to watch it performed live. Next time I am fortunate enough to see some large scale live music I will bring a small notebook with a view to recording some ideas.

In order to get a deeper understanding of this topic I looked for composers who have based their work on visual art.

In initial searches, I found mostly music following a narrative as laid out in a picture or series of pictures to create program music. Pictures at an Exhibition is an excellent example. This, as with many other examples of composers and artist's making this connection in both directions, has connections to set design, and as with so many artist's and composers of that time for the Ballet Russe.

This piece was composed after Ravel visited an exhibition of work by Victor Hartmann.
The promenade sections portray walking around the exhibition and the way he felt as he moved between the paintings, these sections are not representing the visual aspects of the exhibition.

Other movements depict the image.

This piece is very much based on the content or narrative of the image, the sounds of chickens and the way they move is represented in the musical lines, but this specific image has quit a different aesthetic, being quite static, the frenzy of chickens moving cannot be seen here at all.

In this movement there are some connections to be made between the visual and musical features, but I still feel the music is based on the sense of a real grand building, not this painting. The lines and harmony of the music are big, expansive and regal, also representing the institution this building represents and beyond that Russian Nationalism. So this is an interesting example of how while music may begin by representing the visual features of an artwork it will always be so much more than that, as an artwork does not exist in isolation, it represents its time, its culture as well as its narrative. I think this particularly applies to representational art, purely abstract art and purely abstract music, such as the Bach example at the top of this post, will share more abstract features and allow for a more in-depth connection to be made purely on lines or shapes.
Pictures from RSNO

How music can represents the broader aspects of an artwork also depends on whether the art and music are from the same era. In the Bach example a contemporary artist translated the music from another time into modern visual language. Bach himself would probably have been quite surprised by this interpretation. The Mussorgsky example both composer and artist were from the same era, aesthetic and political ethos of Russian nationalism. In the next example the composer is making a contemporary interpretation of an older work, Van Gogh Starry Night. This time he has the luxury of a deep understanding of Van Gogh's life, in particular knowledge of the mental health problems he was suffering from. The composer wanted to translate in his composition the "almost cosmic whirling effect which (the painting) produces". It starts with a slow moving chromatic melody creating character then later the swirling lines are depicted with fast moving melodic lines. I can hear how the composer has represented visual features of swirling lines with melodic lines, intense high value contrast with high contrast of register as well as the background history of the work of anguish and turmoil represented with chromaticism and irregular rhythms and phrases.

Timbres, espace, mouvement

Henri Dutilleux 1978

I would like to do some composition that interpreted visual art features, and I think it would help me generate connections and ideas for interpreting music visually, although this may take the form of exploration of sounds rather than a completed work.

Friday, 18 November 2016

Access Art Developing Sketchbooks 2

The second part odeveloping sketchbook skills and approaches is about visual association. They give lots of guidance in this and suggest a list of words. I chose headache and this image is a mixture of how that feels and representations of the visual characteristics of the migraine with aura I experience.

I experience a lot of these headaches and didn't realize how angry I was about them. It felt really good to get this out and onto paper.

I looked at other peoples work and they had used much larger images, I was really drawn to small sections of texture and color. 

Not being a very wordy person I started this activity by instead not using a word, but a piece of music. I did several pages on Bach, Air on a G string

This was a much more familiar starting point for me. The first collage had two distinct parts, the melody floating in blues and greens at the top and the harmony and bass driving forward in yellows and oranges from below:

I developed this further by focusing on the basso continuo. I am a bass player and I love the direction of Bach's functional bass and the energy it gives

I explored shapes and colors to represent musical features such as chromaticism, tension and release.

The second half of the piece has some different qualities; the melody rises in a more active sequence than the gliding first melody. The bass continues its driving forward motion but this becomes more energetic connecting with the melody in dissonance:

I explored some different shapes and textures to show these features.

Last of all I repeated all of this with lines, the lines were much freer, the blues and greens are the melody, the yellows are the countermelody, the orange and red is the basso continuo:

I really enjoyed this activity and wanted to develop it further so chose a contrasting piece.

Mingus IIBS is one of my favorite jazz works, again due to the dynamic driving bass. In this representation I started with the opening bass solo:

The steps represent the building excitement. I chose woody earthy colors to represent the timbre.

In the main section of the piece there are many instruments each with quite distinctive lines and shapes, I tried to show these with torn shapes. Unfortunately some color has bled through from the following page.

I repeated again with lines:

This was more successful as there is so much going on in this piece I needed the freedom of the markers to express it quickly, I'd like to try and show all these different lines in collage but I think it would need a bit more planning as it is a very lively piece.

I found the visual association to music much more stimulating than to words. These two short pieces of music had so many layers to them. I want to develop this further but have no idea how this might apply to printmaking. The next assignment is collagraph and a representational theme. At the moment these ideas are extremely abstract so I will need to research this further. 

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Access Art Developing Sketchbook Skills 1

After receiving my feedback for assignment 3, I really needed to work on the sketchbook side of the course, so I have started access art's online course:  developing sketchbook skills and approaches.     


The first part gives a range of suggestions for personalizing a sketchbook. I chose to follow a couple of these and then developed them a bit. There are many more ideas on the course, including making your own sketchbooks.

I knew I would be traveling so I needed a fairly robust book, so rather than make my own sketchbook I took a selection of papers to the copy shop and got them bound together. The papers I included were regular white drawing paper, watercolor paper, black and colored construction paper, colored Thai banana tissue paper, and colored pastel paper. I then added to this some colored overlays of semi transparent mulberry silk paper and some patches of of fabric on some of the white pages. I also added some construction paper pockets and extensions to a couple of pages.

I found the sketchbook of mixed paper enormously useful. It made me realize that I don’t like drawing on white paper, it takes a long time to fill a white page with dry media and I like drawing with white pencils and pens. I also like to use wet media so the watercolor paper was really useful giving me more flexibility as to the media I use and new ways to get rid of that white paper. This is an idea I have heard people discuss before but never really tried in art journalling blogs, with ideas for preparing pages with colors and texture. I found the thin Thai tissue paper least useful as it was just too thin and delicate.

 I then tried filling some watercolor pages with washes to draw over, which was good for sketching quick drawings in black and white. Trees drawings.

The washes I made were too textured and brightly colored and could be distracting for a more detailed or color drawing. I could continue with this, using a watercolor paper sketch book and preparing pages with washes, possibly  making these smoother and simpler. This would enable me to keep my work in one book. I have always found it hard to keep everything in one book as I like different papers and left out other drawings rather than including them in my oca submission.

Of the ideas I tried I enjoyed the colored overlays most. These allowed me to explore some different options for a drawing. 

In this drawing I sketched some flowers and then tried tracing through some details on the overlay. As the paper was quite dark it was hard to see the drawing below so I cut sections out of it and stuck therm onto other parts of the drawing. This was the first page of my sketchbook and I drew this very shortly after adding the extra paper. It felt a bit forced at first, I just pulled up the paper and drew waiting for an idea to come, which it did, and I think the added silk paper helped me develop a simple sketch in an interesting way.

In this drawing I tried a different window design on the overlay. The underdrawing is of a window in Saudi Arabia with Islamic tessellation style shapes inside it. The overlay is taken from a window of a Christian building with very different motifs and colors. I had this idea vaguely from quite early on. As soon a i drew the outline of the arched windows and door I thought that this frame was such a universal style. It was as familiar to me coming from a Christian background as it was  in Saudi. This was a nice thought in a country where many things often feel unfamiliar. I wanted to explore this with my drawing and the overlay enabled me to do this.

I stuck some patches of fabric onto some pages. In some pages I developed this into collage. In others I drew over them. In the first drawing I used inktense pencils dipped in water hoping they would bleed over the fabric. This worked a bit and gave nice contrast. In my next version I wetted the fabric and used dry inktense pencils hoping the bleeding would spread beyond the fabric. In the half with the blue background I wetted the paper with a wash for more bleeding and blurring. This was an interesting exploration. In these drawings i feel like the collaged fabric took my simple drawing in a new direction. I drew these a while after sticking on the fabric. I had forgotten the fabric was there so when I came across these pages again the fabric squares inspired me to try something new.

This paper is highly textured and very absorbent. It has leaves and petals in it. I found it challenging to draw on. I drew some leaves starting wth watercolor washes then added inktense pencil while slightly damp. Because it has a high rag content this paper is very absorbent. It is not like watercolor paper at all. The paint and ink bled a lot creating lots of new colors and unexpected shapes. As the colors were blurring together I decided to exaggerate them so the drawing had some definition and the color blends were more interesting. The leaves were green with red tinged areas but I really exaggerated this. I found that once the opposite color is added the color quickly loses its vibrancy so kept adding more color to maintain some vibrant areas. I think if I had drawn this on regular paper it would not have become so saturated with color and it was an interesting experience in color mixing. 

In this drawing I used neocolour crayons as they are thick and intense and I knew they would cover the flowers. I was hoping to create some interesting patterns between the flowers. The crayons made it difficult to draw much detail. I’m not sure the drawing gained much from the flower background.

In this drawing I used pen to draw some smaller shapes of leaves hoping the more open shapes would create more contrast with the flowers. I found when drawing the leaves that often I would start an outline of a leaf and when I got to the other side it would not join up. I think this is because the leaves were so small and I was moving around slightly looking from different angles, like very subtle cubism. Again, the flower paper did not add much to this drawing. Maybe I will come back to these two later and take something new from the interaction between the drawing and the background.

I never found an idea to use with paper pockets or extensions to pages yet.

These ideas enabled me to explore different textures, surfaces and drawing techniques. One of the biggest take aways from this is just how much more stimulating it is to work on varied papers. I never realized how much limiting myself to white paper in my sketchbooks was holding me back.

Artist's in Residence Open House

At our university two artist's have come over for a 3 month residency. They are interested in different aspects of the Red Sea research carried out here. The following information is taken from Artist's in Labs, who organize residencies for artist's at scientific institutions across the world:

Marie Grismar is an artist from Lausanne, Switzerland. In her artistic practice she focuses on water and the underwater world: the complexity and poetry of water is a major inspiration for her work. Marie has been diving since the age of nine and is a devoted observer of the marine life since then. Thanks to her diving skills she has come to understand water as a new space of creation.
Her project at KAUST will investigate the aesthetics of underwater ecological constructions in the Red Sea. She will be part of the research group of the Reef Genomics Lab at the Red Sea Research Center.

Sandra Kühne is an artist living and working in Zurich, Switzerland. She is inspired by novels, sentences and charts which describe relations and interdependence between body, space and interruption of action. In her drawings, cut outs and installations, which are mainly made from paper, Sandra leads two-dimensionality into three-dimensionality; she describes her artistic practice as a way of doing cartography. Focusing on the Red Sea coral reefs during her artists-in-lab residency at the Integrated Ocean Processes Research Group at the Red Sea Research Center, she will look for ways to show themes of interaction, balance and symbiosis through her art.

It was very interesting to meet them and discuss their working practices and development of ideas, particularly as they work very differently to one another.

Marie Grismar prepared before coming, with ideas quite well developed before arriving. When she arrived she had already planned to complete an outcome of an underwater sculpture within the 3 month residency. In the open house she displayed a range of drawings of corals and other underwater creatures, some drawn while diving. She had gained a more thorough understanding of these structures through this and through speaking with scientists and observing their work in the labs.

Although there is much of this process that I did not see my impression of it was that is was similar to  how I have been working, setting a plan for an outcome rather than coming to a new assignment openly.

Her explorations were detailed, but she had chosen the subject matter in advance rather than being led by what she found.

Sandra Kühne's approach was more exploratory and free, very much lead by what was found when arriving here. Her work had taken an unexpected direction incorporating blue and new media of blue ink, previously works contained little color, and consisted of mainly cut paper. Her exploration used a range of ideas representing the sea in different ways and observations of lines in different contexts such as ropes and charts. One of her lines of enquiry was scientists represent the world visually, and she made lots of comparisons between this and art.

One aspect of her working process that I found particularly interesting was the way she displayed all of her work on the wall. All of her sketches, photos, and other experiments are on display all the time. She uses this as a way to make connections and brain storm ideas. I found speaking to her really inspiring, in particular the way she made connections and wasn't afraid to take her work in new directions. I am interested to try this process of reviewing my work together. I am doing a range of drawing and sketchbook activities at the moment with access art, through which I am building up a range of seemingly unrelated drawings and explorations, it will be interesting to draw them together and look for links and common themes.