Moving on

We’ve seen the end of a very difficult year and feeling hopeful in 2021. We’ve moved to live and show our work in Cornwall, where both Paul and I find so much art inspiration! Here are my last three paintings from this year – all about the Merry Maidens stone circle, where girls were turned into stone because they danced on the Sabbath!

Each painting has a paper layer in the centre which is a monotype. It is layered in with acrylic paint and clear varnish, all on board. I’ve been interested for a while in how to combine monotypes with painting and these are the first three successful ones.

It feels positive to be developing new techniques and moving into a new location – roll on 2021!

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Last Days of Florence Workshop, until next year…

This print is from the final days of the timetable that I would have been following if we had been in the Florence printmaking studio, as planned. Usually, towards the end of the workshop, I try not to ‘finish’, but to open up new ideas to give some direction  to re-start work in my studio at home.

This print is different – darker and heavier than the previous prints, but it opens up the suggestion of a conversation between figures and stones, an idea that I might pursue. It was hard won – it went through four quite dramatic changes from an image that was just too pretty, through becoming dull and toneless, before it regained it’s vitality.

This previous print was more like the earlier ones, urging me to change the way I was working to develop a new direction.

Now I have several prints that I need to think about, that will set my work off again, but a little differently, developing the range of ideas in my home studio. I am glad that I gave myself the structure of a timetable and a limited range of subject matter – but I do hope that I can go to Florence for next year’s workshop!

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Florence Workshop Days 7 – 10

I’m following the monotype workshop timetable that I would have been working in Florence this year. I have made four more prints in this second stage, building on the ideas that developed in the first group of prints.

This print has a group of prehistoric goddesses from a carved drawing in Les Combarelles cave in France, set into a shape as a relief print and used here as a chine colle (this is like a collage, but embedded in the ink layers of the print). A small Snake Goddess, a relief print of another prehistoric image, is ‘visiting’ them. The setting is a monotype top and bottom, with the large circular etching plate of hydrangea flowers printed as intaglio.

There was enough ink left on the etching plate to print the ghost here, where I have added a chine colle (again a relief print) of three dancing women from Mycenae, this time with the larger Snake Goddess who is also an image from Mycenae, a chine colle from a woodcut.

I used another of my earlier plates for this print, the large woodcut of a hydrangea, printed on a fine Chinese paper to use as a chine colle. The two Snake Goddess figures are also each chine colle from relief print.

I was surprised to find that there were still traces of ink on the etching plate, so I printed yet another ghost from it and strengthened the top and bottom monotype setting. I added a chine colle from a life drawing, putting her in a lovely warm glow.

It’s unlikely that I would have made these prints if I had been in Florence and not in my own studio, because I would not have had any of my old etching or woodcut plates with me, only the prints that I had thought I might use in chine colle. It’s interesting how much the studio offers opportunities to influence my art choices.

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Florence Workshop Days 1-4

I’m following the timetable for the Florence Printmaking Workshop, which is where I should be now. I’m quite surprised that this is working for me at home in my own studio. I’m finding it hard to get ideas started, but once I’m developing an image I get immersed in the process. Once the studio was ready with inks, plates and presses prepared, I started with the intention of making a series of monotypes about the Merry Maidens, a circle of standing stones in Cornwall. This is not what I would have taken to work on in Florence, but I’ve been thinking about it for a while and the time feels right. I’ve made a group of direct monotypes from life drawings that I’ve done through the last year, which I thought I would use as ‘maidens’ turned into stone for dancing on the Sabbath – the legend associated with the Merry Maidens.

Yesterday was Day 4 and I have six prints. These are not at all what I expected, but I’m pleased to have been surprised by them. All of these include chine colle (similar to collage, but embedded in the print using an etching press). All have passed through several processes and may not be finished yet. This print has the large stone as a direct monotype chine colle. The initial drawing pulls up black ink leaving clear lines are left on the plate, then the plate is printed to make a black image with white lines. The smaller ones are a relief print repeated.

This is printed from the ghost plate of print 3, the ink left on the plate once the first print has been made. It was very pale and I added another chine colle on the main stone and more of the small relief prints.

This print has a chine colle that was the initial direct monotype drawing (black ink lines on buff paper). It was too dark round the edges, so I pulled up the chine colle edges and tore more closely to the figures.

This started from the ghost print of the one above, but the surround was quite pale, a similar tone to that of the stones, so I used a much darker blue to give more substantial forms. When I printed the blue, I masked the stone shapes with acid-free tissue, which does not provide a complete barrier to the ink. This gave some continuity to the surface.

As I peeled off the tissue masks from the previous print, I realised that I had a fine web-like texture of blue ink left on them, so I turned them over and used them to make this print.

The last print I’ve made so far was completely unexpected. There was a full moon the night before, very large and bright and I found out that it was the last of the Super Moons this year, called the Flower Moon because it appears at the time of the blossom. I had an etching plate from years ago that I’d made from hydrangea flowers, so I inked it up as a relief print (instead of intaglio), prepared a chine colle figure to be the ‘stone’ and made several passes through the press to build up this print.

Now I will take a day or two to review where I am with this series and to prepare for the next set of workshop days.

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Florence Workshop

I should be in Florence this weekend, making monotypes in a workshop near to San Marco. Instead, I am looking back to help me to move forward. This year I will work in my own studio and give myself a ‘virtual’ Florence experience – more later!

Last year I made several ‘Great Goddess’ prints. The ‘Dancing Goddess’ was an image I drew from a lovely little figure I saw in Malta, dating from 2,400 – 1,500BC. She reminded me of so many of the Prehistoric figures, some of which seem to be wrapped in furs or textiles. She was seated, but her perched pose made her legs look as though she was dancing. In this print I brought in some Caryatids from the Acropolis and some modern visitors, witnesses to the sequence of Goddess figures that we have inherited.

Other Goddesses that I have put together are the Earth Goddess from Mycenae in Greece, who is linked with Python and Demeter. I have a lot more to explore related to these ideas.

I also made several prints trying to bring some of my ideas about Pompeii and Herculaneum together, linking them to some of the imagery of myths of Odysseus.

I think there is a lot more that I could do with these themes. But the other area of work that was a surprise last year, was working directly from a life model in the print room.









This opened the potential to use rollers and card with printmaking inks, allowing us to make direct monotypes and then to work further on each plate to make a series of prints from a series of short poses. What fun! Our Master Printmaker, Ron Pokrasso, dashed around all day, often printing our plates while we worked on different plates, so I was able to make more than 16 prints that day.

We finished the workshop last year by holding an exhibition in our host’s gallery. The workshop is in the Santa Reparata International School of Art (we hope that they are surviving the virus and the lockdown).

Now I am thinking of how I would be preparing for this year’s workshop if we were about to go. I have been life drawing very regularly since last autumn, so I have a lot of possible groupings of figures to consider. I have another day to decide what I would have taken with me, then I shall try to work in my new studio in a similar way to how I would have worked in Florence. But how I shall miss our Italian and American friends!

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