Friday, 30 November 2012

More folding play: art gallery

Coptic binding practice - and a book exploring the way we look at exhibitions - wandering round, dipping in close now and then, standing back, retracing our reps, bending and smiling.  The paper comes from the RWA Gallery's quarterly publication for friends and visitors, "art". 

3" square single-sheet signatures, coptic sewn, in custom-made box.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Folding play

As part of my "Writing/Not-Writing" project earlier this year I made a large number of A2 drawings of "not-writing", and realised that these mark would make interesting material for folded books.  The concept of an artist's book implies the potential for books to be things which can be enjoyed as pieces of art in themselves, without the assumption that books are places for recording words, information, ideas, which are based on written or printed script which can be read.  An artist's book does not demand to be read, but rather to be looked at, handled, turned over and experienced.  Using marks which resemble script, but which are in fact not "meaningful" writing at all, explores this idea and suggests to the viewer that the book is an artefact which holds the potential for word-based meaning which in this case is with-held.

My sheets of not-wriing were done on heavy-weight cartridge paper which lends itself very well to making firm folds with an almost architectural quality: the folds are resilient and will stand up on their own: perfect for folded books.

I cut a number of 2" strips across my drawings and then folded each one in half, and then in half and in half again.  I then made further diagonal folds, bending these backwards and forwards in different ways.  I liked the sculptural qualities which they exposed, and found I was playing with them to make a variety of curved and convex shapes.  

Sunday, 25 November 2012

screen print workshop

The firs workshop was screen printing and was far more scary than expected, because it was the first time we had worked together,and I am sure I wasn't the only one who felt intimidated by plunging in.

Dave Fortune, the screen print technician, gave us a comprehensive introduction to mark-making using Mark-Resist film, and using a variety of pens and pencils. ONce we had all prepared an image on screen (and that was the scary bit) he showed us how to coat a screen with light-sensitive liquid which then dries in the heated drying cabinet, ready for exposing the image onto the screen using the vacuum-assisted UV light box. Once the screens were processed and washed, the image was clear and the screen ready for printing. The studio has about 6 big print tables, with frames to hold the screens securely, making registration relatively simple. The studio uses water-washable inks, with a huge range of colours and no problem about missing your own as required.

My image started out based on a photo I had taken of the hull of the SS Great Britain. What emerged was far more abstract, but did give me a chance to try out a range of types of mark, from fine lines and cross-hatching, edges made by rubbing graphite sticks across the edge of a torn piece of paper, and washes f various strengths of drawing ink. We were advised not to use Indian Ink as it doesn't give a true black finish, as do many black marker pens. The best ones are the ZIG Postern pens which are sold in the shop on site.

Given the nature of my image, I went for safety and used black printing ink. I was fairly happy with the results, and my image with its variety of tones, marks and textures was actually quite a good one to see how different kinds o marks translate into the printed image.

Catching up after a long silence

I have been busy, but not blogging, for some long time now, so this is an attempt to catch up, and get back into the habit.  I'm writing this on my i-pad, in the hope that this will be a better way for me to blog more frequently.  Hopefully it will be easier to load photos etc this way too.

My MA course at UWE is into its ninth week now, and we have been busy with a succession of print workshops, designed to give us a basic introduction to the main types of printing, the studio equipment and practices, and to settle in to the group and the course.  Workshops have been provided in screenprinting, relief print and monotypes, etching, lithography, enamelling, textile printing, photoshop, and bookbinding and letterpress.  These last two I have not signed up for as I did week-long workshops in both subjects at UWE during July 2011.  The idea was that we would have one or two images to use in each of the workshops, but in practice I found this difficult, as to begin with I had no particular images in mind, and no idea about how the various unfamiliar print options would work - e.g. would lithographs work best with a simple line drawing, or something more complex with variations of tone or texture?  Plus, to begin with, I was very shy about my ability to produce decent drawn images, and found it hard to concentrate, or to plan in advance.  As the weeks have passed, these problems have become less acute, and I am generally better-prepared.  Where I have been less happy with the images, or the resulting prints, I have plans to go back and do some more work to fill the gaps, and to repeat and therefore consolidate my knowledge of the various processes.  

The workshops have been led by the print studio technicians, who have been unfailingly calm, patient, informative and supportive.  They have made it easy to ask questions and have offered guidance at all stages.  In most cases the print studios are freely available to MA Print students every Thursday, and bookable on other days of the week.  So for me, living only about a mile from college, it is theoretically possible for me to go back and do extra printing sessions whenever I can fit them in.  

Our first formal assessment day is 13th December, and from now until then we have no set workshops, so can use the time to do our own work, filling in gaps and extneding our practice in some or all areas.  In addition, some processes are things I can do at home, eg lino and monotype prints, or preparing images for etching, litho or screen printing on site.

As well as studio workshops, each Thursday afternoon ends with a group session, for an hour or so, which has mainly been filled with a series of short presentations from each of us about our work so far, and what has brough us to the MA Print course.  Ther are 22 of us, and our backgrounds could not be more varied, both in terms of previous work and study experience, and teh kind of work we have done. Some people have been very engrossed in print-making, of varous kinds, and brought impressive portfolios of prints. Others have come farily recently from fine art, drawing or painting degrees,with a range of work from installation and scultpure through to photography and illustration.  We were all slightly nervous about these sessions,  the reluctance to put ourselves in teh spotlight, woudl our work look convincing, etc, etc. But in practice each person's work was impressive and original, and people had such interesting artistic journeys to disclose.  The sessions have ehlped us ond as a group, too.  It is a good bunch of people, with ages rangn from early 20s to 60+, 6 men and 16 women, and there is a friendly atmosphere with people eating together at lunchtime, and taking a realinterst in each other's work.  I have high hopes that this is going to be a very creative three years, no doubt challenging too, but in a group of agreeable people and a very optimistic sense of excitement and expectation.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Letters and books

Over the past few weeks I have been experimenting with making small artists books,  building on some work I began last year during my Foundation course.  I've been lazy about recording things recently, so what follows is an attempt to catch up with the autumn's work.  First up, alphabet books.  

While pootling around looking at blogs a while ago I came across the web-site for a wonderful international blog called A Letter a Week and decided I would have a go at making some alphabets of my own.  The first one I attempted was entirely made up of letters cut from newspapers, both lower and upper case.  I mounted these on 3" square sheets of cartridge paper, and then mounted these, in turn, onto larger squares of black paper, folded and creased .  I glued each folded letter sheet to the next, creating a 26-section folded book.  It does not photograph very well, and is easiest to see when you can pick it up and flip through the sections.  Not very special, but a good way to get my book-making juices running again after a gap of almost a year. 

My second alphabet consists of 26 3" square sheets on which I have created images of the 26 capital letters, drawn in sepia or black dots.  These are held in a coptic-bound book, each signature being a single origami-folded envelope, just big enough to hold one of the dotty letters.  I rather like this one, my Book of Letters, because of the pun on "letters" and "envelopes".  It is a better size and scale than the first book, and is nice to handle.  You have to pull out the individual letters to see them properly, but there are hints of each one showing through the open top triangle of each envelope.

Thirdly, I decided to mount the letterpress alphabet book which I had printed during a Letterpress course at UWE in July 2011.  This was a mammoth typesetting and measuring exercise, done on the last afternoon of the course, and almost abandoned because of lack of time. Thanks to Angie Butler, we got the type set up and printed, but apart from cutting the finished printed sheets into strips, I had not, until now, worked them into book format.

The result, now, is a very simple folded accordian book of all 26 letter prints (each one using an upper and lower case example of each letter).  I had intended, when i made the original print, to do 26 accompanying small drawings (or possibly rubber-stamp prints) of simple images to illustrate each of the letters, but so far this is still just an idea).

Monday, 5 November 2012

In the beginning....

A recent review of some of my first attempts at making books, reminded me of some of my work which I had almost forgotten, and some of it I was quite pleased with, such as these nesting, folding boxes, made as a response to the project to make pocket sculptures, for a Conceptual Art workshop session on my Foundation course at Bristol School of Art.  At the time, I was in the throes of moving house and retrieving my possessions from 4 months in storage - it seemed like boxes, and their appearance and disappearance, was filling my world....

These are some books I made as part of the project we did on the zoo at the end of the first year of the foundation course.   I used old copies of the RWA ART magazine as a base, and then inserted photos of all the myriad warning and prohibition signs scattered around the zoo.  I liked the idea of using wooden sticks (stakes?) as the binding - reflecting on the cages and fences which keep the animals enclosed and the people out.

This book was one of a series based on the high-level rope walk-ways constructed for the gorillas in their enclosure.  The two days I visited the zoo, the big gorilla was just sitting morosely at the top of one of the tree-ladders, looking down at the world.  The walkways was unused.  The gorillas must be terminally bored with it all.  I made a print suing a card and indian ink, and printed a never-ending walkway on large sheets of paper which I had folded to make into a folded/concertina book.   I folded it round so the end met the beginning, so it was literally never ending.

I made several smaller versions based on a book design made from a single, folded and cut sheet of paper, scaling the print accordingly.

My portfolio was also an opportunity to record some of the things I've one outside of the Foundation course.  Last summer I did a letterpress Printing course at UWE with Tom Snowden and Angie Butler.   I continued experimenting with books made from a cut and folded single sheet.  This meant I had to work out how to lay out the type so it would all work and be properly located/centred on the pages.  I made three separate prints and bound them into tiny books, using covers made from a print workshop done a couple of years ago.

I also did a week learning Bookbinding at UWE with Guy Begbie: a few of the examples I made.