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VARC Residency

In May this year I had the most amazing time at Highgreen Manor in Northumberland. My first residency was a total joy. It was hosted by VARC as part of their ENTWINED programme, and I was lucky enough to be co-hosted by Unison Colour Pastels. Somehow, since I got back, time has flown, and the blog posts which I fully intended to write about everything I saw, the people I met, and the work I have produced, have so far failed to materialise! I am now back off up to Northumberland to set up my part of the ENTWINED exhibition. When I get back, the blog posts will be written, and there will be a myriad of photos for you to look at…

The California Printmaker

My first journal article! Published in the April 2021 edition of The Journal of The California Society of Printmakers, ‘The Californian Printmaker – Printing in Color’

Pocket Handkerchiefs

What do you do when you have a voucher to have some fabric digitally
printed? Design some handkerchiefs of course. This is an idea that has been
niggling at my mind for some time.

The colour circles share the same DNA as my ‘Colour of Place’ screenprints, but whereas in the prints many of the colours arise from the overlapping of layers of ink, in these circles each colour is pulled directly from a photograph of a specific place. The example I am showing in this post comes from a walk to the Wainstones in Yorkshire, I have also made a second handkerchief based on a walk to Maes Knoll Tump, to the South of Bristol.

The idea of making a handkerchief comes from wanting to make a memory of a walk that you could keep with you, a way of remembering and sharing colours. Also a handkerchief can be a keepsake, a treasured gift, a token to give to a loved one – it’s a lot of responsibility to put on a small square of fabric.

When my fabric arrived I admired it in its entirety for about a week before being brave enough to cut it into squares.

I wanted my handkerchiefs to be large and flamboyant, so they are based on the size of the largest man’s handkerchiefs I could find online – coincidently this means they have ended up approximately 42cm square, a number that pleases me immensely.

An unwillingness to lug my very heavy sewing machine downstairs led to my
hand sewing the hem of the first handkerchief, and what a revelation that was!
I was expecting to find it annoying and frustrating, and instead found it relaxing, therapeutic and thoroughly enjoyable. The handkerchiefs seemed to demand that I committed the time to it.  To wiz along the hem with a sewing machine would seem totally out of keeping with the whole idea.

I am not sure how my handkerchiefs will progress. So far I have sent them as gifts to those who have helped me get through the last year. I think I want to work them into some sort of project, but what, I currently do not know. Rather than calming the niggle in my mind, they have started other thoughts clammering. This is a good thing.

Latitude and Longitude

I realise that the titles of my recent prints are a bit of a mouthful, but I am quite excited about ‘51°51’42.2”N 3°03’21.5”W’.  It is the first one of my ‘colour of place’ series to be based on somewhere in the Northern Hemisphere.  The previous seven have all been inspired by places in Australia and so had ‘S’ and ‘E’ (South and East) in their titles.  This one is inspired by the view from Sugarloaf Mountain in Monmouthshire, Wales, so is North and West.

The titles give the latitude and longitude in degrees, minutes and seconds (this is where Google Maps comes in very handy to pinpoint exact locations).    Latitude tells you how far North or South a place is, from 90° North at the North Pole, through 0° at the Equator, to 90° South at the South Pole.

Longitude lines run from Pole to Pole and tell you how far East or West you are of the Prime / Greenwich Meridian in London.  Anything east of the Greenwich Meridian is in the Eastern Hemisphere and is labelled °E.   Anything west of the Greenwich Meridian is labelled °W.

I always feel it is more like drawing than writing when I name my prints.  I like the idea that the titles I give my work can mean everything or nothing – you can use them to pinpoint the exact position where the photo that inspired the print was taken, or just accept them as additional information like that found on the key to a map.

Planning A Geological Print

I’ve recently shown my series of Geological prints on Instagram after not really looking at them for a while. I thought you might like to know a bit more about them…

The prints came about after an odd series of conversations that ended up with my becoming the custodian of a very large collection of maps that, without my intervention, would have ended up in a skip. Endless out of date OS maps, fascinating large scale maps of the Bristol area, the odd map showing land use in Africa, and quite a few of the most wonderful, subtly coloured geological maps.  It took me about a year of thinking before I came up with a way to use these geological maps as inspiration for my prints – when something is so beautiful in its own right, it becomes somewhat intimidating. 

These circles are simplifications of the maps and the colours found upon them.  I abstracted the main areas of colour from within a chosen circle (each colour on a geological map represents a type, or age, of rock), and printed that shape in the appropriate colour.  As the shapes on the map are so amorphous, when you turn them into geometric shapes, you create many areas of overlap.  As the inks I use are so translucent, this meant where the colours were printed over each other, new colours were formed, and the resulting image diverged from the colour scheme of the original map.

When I was planning each print, the process seemed very logical and precise to me.  But now, looking back at my sketchbooks, I find it hard to follow my own logic – I realise that I must do more planning in my head than I thought!  Still, even if they don’t make total sense, here are some of my sketchbook pages.  They show planning and preparation for my South London, Bath, Bristol, Lizzard and Brighton prints.

If you would like to see the finished prints, please visit my Geological Prints page.

Sketchboook page of circular composition ideas for geological prints
Sketchbook page of compostion experiments
sketchbookpage of colour experiments
Sketchbook page of colour matching and composition for Brighton printprint
Sketchboook page of circular composition ideas for geological prints
Sketchbook page of colour matching and composition for Bristol print
sketchbook page of colour tests for print
Sketchbook page of colour mixing experiments

Colour Walk – Walking West Continued

Very unsettled weather led to an ever changing sky. From heavy brooding grey clouds to perfect blue and back again in the time it takes to take off your jumper. Pausing every three minutes to take a photograph looking straight up.

The wonderful sugestion from a friend to use the resulting image as a mood descriptor – today I have been feeling rather E6, but I am hoping tomorrow will be C5…

Colour Walk – Walking West

June 6th

7.6 miles through Windmill Hill, Bedminster, and Ashton Gate, then across fields before trailing through the very appropriately named Long Ashton and finally ending in more fields.

A walk focused on discontinuities, divisions, and joins. The easiest to spot – mends in the tarmac, joins between old and new walls. The largest – the huge bridge built to carry the new Metrobus.  Built to join areas of the city together, but currently unused and gathering graffiti, visually dividing the landscape and creating a physical divide in the public footpath. I found unexpectedly sharp divisions of land use where a brand new housing estate buts right up against an area of wildlife. I thought I was walking along a clear division – a fence dividing two fields, one containing me, the other full of cows. But then the fence ended. The physical division was no more and I had to create a mental one, convincing myself that the cows were quite happy on their side of the field and had no desire to join me on mine.  Luckily they agreed with me.

This is the first set of photos that I have taken whilst consciously thinking how they would work when pixelated. I deliberately positioned the discontinuity along the midline of the photo (either horizontally or vertically) in the hope that it would be clearly visible in the change of colour in the pixelated image.

Colour Walk – Walking North

May 30th

A walk through sprawling Bristol. My aim was to try and walk as far North as The Mall shopping Centre (the group of white buildings above and slightly to the right of the furthest north point of my walk). I got tantalisingly close, but in the end was defeated by a combination of a locked gate, a grumpy caravan owner, and the extreme heat of the day. I did get to Filton airstrip, now defunct but still a huge mark on the map of Bristol.

My first timer went off as I walked down a cut through between houses – high brick wall on one side, a fence on the other.  The only spot of colour, a ‘danger of death’ sign on an electricity transformer box, gave me my theme for the rest of the walk – every three minutes I took a photograh that included some element of text:

Old favourites, company names in the frogs of bricks piled high on a demolition site.

Sign in a window ‘These premises are alarmed!’ – by what?

Grafitti – ‘we have to start somewhere’ and ‘no going back’.  Signs of the times, but sounding to me like the start of a Margaret Atwood distopia.

‘Look right’ sprayed on the grass at a golf course. A safety warning, or sartorial instruction?

WAITING.  For what?

Colour Walk – Walking East

May 16th

Walking East, not an easy thing to when there is a river in the way. There are surprisingly few places to cross the River Avon to the East of the city, hence the large detour North before I could head east again.

The rule for this walk, a photograph of the ground every minute, suggested itself as soon as I left the house – wearing walking boots rather than my normal sandals, I was very aware of the sound of my footsteps on the pavement.  I took the photos without judgement, looking directly downwards every minute as the relentless buzzer went off, but turns out even a quick photograph and a speedy reset of the timer takes time – I was out for four hours, but according to the number of photos, I was only walking for two of those.

I am drawn to the images of the grey tarmac, especially those that have captured a mend, or join, an unconformity in the continual surface of endless paths.

Colour Walking – CMYK continued

If I ever print these colour walk images, they will be tiny little post cards to make you really look up close and personal at the images, or to hold the colours tight to you. A comment on how hemmed in I have been feeling during lock down, especially this month when I was expecting to be roaming free in the wilds of Northumberland.