Monday, September 15, 2014

New work in process

acrylic ink on Maidstone 270 gm rag
4 colour stencils
edition of 20

I haven't posted since late June and most of the posts from earlier this year focused on my role as an art educator in the schools. The summer saw me occupied working on small print based studies that have been funded through an Ontario Arts Council Northern arts grant for new work. My series of around 20 studies will focus on the flora and fauna found in the region of the province of Ontario where I reside. The working title at the moment for the series is Small Wonders of the Boreal. All work falls within the classification of miniature artwork due to the size restriction. My goal is to present these works to the public in 2015 in the form of exhibition. A few of the studies also relate to the concept of 
species at risk.

Last week I spent a good deal of time working on several small serigraph (screen prints). This occurred outside of my home studio. I was asked to house/pet sit for a friend who owns a year round residence on a remote wilderness lake outside the city of Thunder Bay. The setting was quite beautiful and was the perfect location to inspire and motivate my creativity. The absence of everyday urban noises of traffic, people and planes overhead was very welcome and put me in a totally different headspace. 

The challenge for me was to find a space in her home where I could set up shop and be able to screen print.
I first created a portable screen printing surface complete with hinges, frames, screen material, squeegees, inks, papers and all other supplies one would need to create silkscreen imagery. I decided to use film and special latex opaque black ink as the basis for creating my stencils. Fine microfilament screen material was stretched across several wood frames and light sensitive diazo photo emulsion was flooded coated on to them. They were allowed to dry in a dark place. The positives were set on top and exposed to a light source. I developed the open stencils by spraying the screens with a fine jet of water post-exposure. 
I printed the imagery by creating a registration base for the paper and positioning of each screen to register with this base. Acrylic based screen printing inks were used. Several stencils were used and inks were printed starting from the lightest colour to the darkest. 
Editions have been kept small for this series due to budget for all of the materials I have required but also the amount of labour involved for each print application I am using.

Below is the process I have chronicled for one of the serigraph studies titled Pileated. It hopefully gives an idea of how the final image came about.

photo that I took earlier this winter in my backyard. 
A red headed pileated woodpecker on the suet feeder. Using artistic license I adapted a sketch from this photo and placed the bird onto the weathered trunk of a tree I spotted on a morning walk. It just made more sense to have the print reflect a more natural setting.

above is the tree and background sketch I made in ink on acetate using a rapidograph technical pen. you will notice that I have made little plus sign registration marks on the corners. These help to position the positive on top of the screen after it is coated with the photo sensitive emulsion. Registration is a key factor for all aspects of the process.

the clear film and opaque black ink positive for the bird and texture of the bark on the tree trunk. This would be the second last stencil (in this case the black ink.)

here is an early progress proof. I decided the reddish brown ink wasn't to my liking. I altered this to a colour of ink more akin to clay and what I think looked more believable.

The makeshift print studio. I clamped the screen base onto a dresser in an entry porch. The mdf board worked well. The height off the floor and having the board extend out beyond the top of the dresser making it ideal. You will notice the space is used for storage and housing a few pet facilities. The room had good indirect natural light through large windows. I strung up twine across the room to use for clipping the print paper onto to dry inbetween colour applications.

3 colours at this point had been printed

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Elementary School Art - More drypoint mix media


I just completed a project with another grade five class at St. Martin elementary school that explored drypoint and watercolour (mix media). The theme explored was ancient civilizations.
Students used clear acrylic styrene plates to scratch in their sketches. These had Caligo safe wash etching ink wiped into the lines and using my small table top etching press were printed into 270 gm Maidstone rag paper. After about a drying period of 1 week watercolour was painted into the black and white prints to add in a colour element. Below are photos highlighting the paint application and a few of the black and white prints on boards before colour application.












applying colour

print on paper in black and white etching ink

beginning process of colour application



Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Elementary School Art - Canadian Symbols - Watercolour paintings Grade 5

totem study in landscape

The results of several visits I made during the months of April and May to a grade 5 class at St. Martin Jr. Catholic Elementary school in Thunder Bay. The theme being explored in the paintings is Canadian Symbols.
Students first researched to acquire images which they then translated into pencil sketches. These were transferred onto the 140 lb cold press cotton rag paper that was taped down onto core-plast boards.
They were shown examples of paint application and a few watercolour techniques that included wet into wet, dry brush, bleeding, softening edges, removing paint using sponges and application of highlights and finer details into dried painted areas. The project used Reeves student grade tube watercolours and 2 sizes of synthetic sable brushes.


Maple tree

ice hockey


Mounted Police


Parliament buildings Ottawa

 CN tower Toronto


Black bear

Orca pod


Beaver lodge

Grizzly Bear and salmon

inukshuk and northern lights

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Elementary School Art - Styrofoam jigsaw prints - Grade Four

jigsaw relief prints hanging to dry in the classroom

I just completed a styrofoam relief plate printmaking project with 23 grade four students. The theme explored was Medieval times.
Students were challenged throughout the project and had to move through several stages.
These included: 

  • research of subject matter and sketches
  • transfer of sketch to a soft polystyrene plate using tracing paper using ball point pen
  • incorporation of textural elements
  • disassembly of the plate into separate sections
  • application of inks
  • reassembly of individual pieces
  • transferring ink to the paper using hand burnishing techniques
  • printing more than one copy from the same plate surface

clever use of ink application by small tip brush for small intricate areas 

after the plate is cut apart the students to had to reassemble it. Individual pieces were removed one a time and water based block printing ink was rolled onto each piece using a soft rubber brayer.

printing set up. Table for ink application with cookie sheets, ink, non-slip pieces of material to set pieces onto to apply the ink and metal handle soft rubber brayers

 assembling plate with inked pieces 

This project used the following materials:

  • scratch foam plates
  • ball point pens
  • xacto craft knives and scissors
  • black kozo paper
  • Graphic Chemical water based relief printing inks
  • soft synthetic rubber brayers
  • rubbing sticks, spoons
  • tracing paper, layout paper                         

assembly of inked pieces

plate inked and reassembled for printing

placing black paper over the plate and using a brayer to facilitate ink transfer


 mythical unicorn


harlequin suited court jester



 flag with crest

another dragon

prints pinned onto a strip of cork just above the chalkboard