Tales of the riverbank

We spent last Christmas floating down the Danube. Last year I had made a series of prints from my drawings of the Rhine riverbanks, which used some of the reflections on windows and water as part of the image. This time, I made the reflections the starting point of most of my drawings, choosing to focus on the windows that we normally look right through. Here are some pages from my sketchbook:

This is a mixture of the bridge, the street lights and the river running beneath, with a plant and the lights in the cabin.

Another window looked out to a church and had reflections from a window behind me.

The bridge again, this time drawn from a different angle.

This was an evening when people were dancing and many were waving their hands in the air – seen reflected in a window where I was watching the river go by.

A daytime view of winter river banks, when the sun was low and light flashed onto windows, making bright zig-zags and hints of rainbows.

Another daytime drawing, with detail in the windows reflected on windows.

Christmas Day in Budapest – lots of inside lights overlaying the views outside.

Now I’m looking forward to developing prints or paintings from these ideas. I like the feeling of starting the New Year with new ideas, although I still have a lot of work still in progress from last year!


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Goodbye 2016

img_20161231_0012A New Year at last! In 2016 we had Christmas floating down the Rhine and instead of our usual morning champagne on Worthing beach, we drank a toast to all our relatives and friends in different corners of the world and shared some with the Rhine to carry to Neptune and the loved ones we’ve lost! These are some of the drawings I made through the week afloat – now I’ll start working out how to make larger work from them.


This first group were of trees and windows lit up with Christmas lights, on the river banks as we moved out of Cologne.















There were lots of castles perched on the tops of hills. Sometimes I drew with a pen and often I added colour with water-soluble pencils and a brush with a small water reservoir.










2016 was very difficult for me because my younger brother died suddenly early in the year, which was a horrible shock and the reason why we had to do something very different and away from home at Christmas. As it happened, we arrived in Strasbourg docks on Christmas Day and I rather liked these magenta rail trucks.


Maybe I had quite a lot of champagne, because not everyone saw the Rhine maidens or the Rhine gold, as I did!








I’ve been thinking that I might develop some of my print sequences into books, so I joined a workshop focused on making visual diaries and graphic novels. That has helped me to increase the variety and spontaneity of drawing and I’ve learnt to be a lot less fussy about accuracy – who would have thought that it would take fifty years to shake off the objective drawing habits from 1960s art college! So these drawings may become part of a book as well as contributing to a series of monotypes – more in due course…




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New Florence Prints

We’ve just spent a few weeks in Florence again, making monotypes in a printmaking workshop with Ron Pokrasso and a group of printmakers from the USA and other countries. I’ve returned with fifteen prints, some almost finished but many with more to do.

At first I had an idea about including a short verse with an image and I tried it using the subject of a fountain in what had originally been the Medici Sculpture Garden.

fountain mix

I continued with a few more – here is one that links some of the art in Florence with acknowledging the benefits brought by the Medicis as patrons.

Medici balls

The paving stones and cobbles are uneven and often carry interesting patterns and marks, but when it rains there are many deep puddles. As I was looking down trying not to tread in puddles, I noticed the reflections and stopped to draw with an idea about looking at Florence in puddles. I like the possibilities in this and perhaps making a link with the very destructive floods in the 1960s, so these prints are just a starting point.

Puddle 1autoc


I’m hoping to work on all of these prints now, so that I can show them in our Open Studios weekends starting on June 18th. More news soon!


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From Experience to Art

A while ago (May 2015) I posted some of the watercolours that I made in Greece in spring this year. I’d intended to leave some ‘digesting’ time before I tried to work from the ideas that emerged from that trip. There was so much that it was quite overwhelming – which is probably why I’ve left it so long before getting focused.


This is the first painting I made, working from the small watercolours of this profile of the acropolis in Athens, but bringing in some of the imagery and ideas associated with it. I wanted to somehow refer to the turmoil and assaults that it so often suffered, but also to the theatre that flourished so long ago and has survived for us. I also wanted to include the haunting caryatids of the Erechtheum whose serene images still gaze over millions of visitors (OK, I know there’s one in the British Museum and the others there are copies now).

This began as a transparent watercolour (about 16 x 18 ins) with the caryatids drawn out in resist on a grey background before the gold sky was painted – I wanted them to float and seem timeless. The bright colours of the slopes come from theatre. The little red warriors climbing the hill are painted in acrylic and the visiting crowd of modern people is a relief print that I’ve used many times before to represent ourselves. I like this connection between new work and previous ideas. This painting is finished now, but I’m thinking about making a woodcut or etching to use as a monoprint plate to make a variable series.

I will be showing this painting as part of our Open Studios event on December 5/6th – see http://www.martinstudios.co.uk for details.


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The woodcut that went wrong and then right

You might remember that I finished a woodcut of daffodils recently. The idea came from seeing a field of early daffodils in Cornwall in February, with a grey and misty St Michael’s Mount appearing to float behind the drift of yellow. I printed the daffodils three times in different ways, then printed the St Michael’s Mount in the mist above it. Unfortunately, this really didn’t work how I’d expected. The top print looked very separate from the lower one and distracted from the daffodils, which had an integrity of their own. I left the prints on the wall for quite a while, reluctant to lose the idea of early daffodils with the Mount behind them, until I said these words to myself and realised that I could print the Mount immediately behind the daffodils and keep the tightness of the square of flowers.Early daffodils 3

I was very pleased to have a solution that I like. In this print the daffodil plate is printed twice, once in yellow and once in pale green, with a quarter turn over the first. The St Michael’s Mount was printed last in a very transparent pale violet which was blotted off the first two colours – I will print it first in future! It’s a new plate too, larger so that it fits well in the centre of the square.

There are two more of this first experimental group, each printed a bit differently. The one below has a random texture in greens and yellows with the daffodils printed just once in yellow and the second one has stronger colour rolled and printed over the daffodils.Early daffodils 1

Early daffodils 2

The original print had a smaller St Michael’s Mount printed under a print of wood grain above the daffodils. Here it is with the new larger Mount printed over the daffodils while I was experimenting with how it might work better. First proof

I liked the Mount and wood grain, so I separated it from all the daffodil prints. So I now also have three smaller prints of the Mount in the mist and I’ve added a line of people walking out to the island. This needs a bit more refining, but I like the general direction!Mt with people

Although many people use printmaking as a method of making repeatable images, my approach now is much more about making repeatable elements that can contribute towards building up layered and variable images.


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