Wednesday, December 22, 2010

some older works not posted before

I have been going through the print drawers and digging out some work to build up the offerings in my Etsy shop. So thought I would post these as a new entry in my blog.
Speaking of Etsy, I was asked recently to join Printsy, a collective of printmakers who feature their works in that site. It is an honour to be included so thank you to those who extended the invitation. There is some stellar printmaking by these artists featured both in the Printsy blog and in their individual Etsy shops.

This is a blind embossing that is titled Concentric. The relief plate was constructed from precut shapes of 4 mm thick Eskaboard  that was glued to a base sheet. I then coated it with a couple of layers of varnish and set it aside overnight to dry. A piece of Somerset 250 gm rag paper was soaked and blotted then set over the constructed plate. It was pressed into the paper under the pressure of my etching press roller. It was then set under blotting sheets with the slight weight of a panel set over top and allowed to dry.
I have a basic white cut mat around the impression (same white as the rag paper) and set this into a square birch shadowbox frame.

The study below is a drypoint titled The Park printed using Graphic Chemical Graphite ink on fawn colour Stonehenge rag paper.

The next study is titled The Gistpoort. It is a drypoint with chine colle printed using oil base sepia ink on a cream colour tissue thin piece of kozo. This was adhered to a piece of Bockingford white rag paper with wheat paste during the run through the press rollers.
It is a study of a famous entrance way into the Abbey of our Lady complex in the old medieval city of Middelburg in the Netherlands. I had the honour of being able to visit the complex in Sept. 2003 and had taken some photos that I developed into a sketch and then transferred onto the plate with a drypoint needle.

The following study is titled Moonlight Garden. It is an intaglio print from a solar plate. The artwork positive that I exposed onto the plate was created using pen & ink and also a little noise (background dot texture) that was printed using my computer software onto the inkjet transparency and then scratched away in selected areas. The plate was inked with a mix of carbon black and prussian blue water soluble oil ink made by Caligo Inks from the UK. It was printed into damp and blotted 250 gm Arches Revere paper.

This is a collagraph titled The Stand.
I used a product called play-doh (remember this when you were a kid?) to create the raised elements.
Rolled strips of the medium were flattened and glued down to a cardboard substrate. As these dried the play-doh cracked and left indentations which were revealed when ink was wiped into the plate. However I sealed the plate first before inking using a couple layers of acrylic varnish. Akua inks were used and the image was printed onto Fabriano Rosapina rag paper.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Thinking ahead

Winter in the forest
linoleum block print (art card)
open edition
copyright 2010 B.Holden

This study is fresh from the studio this morning. It is based on a photo that was taken earlier this year during the winter months. With the seasonal change underway thought it might be nice to have some new winter theme work made available as possible Christmas gifts. I may also send a few of these out as my own personal card this year to family and friends.
Three blocks were used to create the image. The first block, the key or main block was carved from a piece of battleship gray linoleum and was the last block printed...with black ink. The second block was also cut from battleship gray lino and it was printed as the first colour in the sequence using a gradiated light cerulean blue and white that were blended together on the inking slab (the white areas were cut away from the surface). Then the block for the bluish gray shadow in the foreground birch was cut from a piece of vinyl composite material and this was mounted to a thin piece of flat cardboard (sealed with water base varathan).
I used a three hole punch taped down to a registration board and set the blocks into an L shape brace. These were printed by passing under the roller of my press with a piece of 3 mm (1/8 inch) tagboard set on top of the paper.
I first spent a day cutting the blocks and pulling rough proofs on newsprint using less expensive water based speedball ink. Once everything was aligned and I had the colours down then I mixed up good colours using oil based Faust aqualine relief printing inks. The keyblock was inked using Caligo carbon black safe wash oil base ink. Both of these inks use soap & water cleanup as they are modified oils that break down with liquid detergent and are also certified non toxic. I feel quite safe working with bare hands knowing this will not harm me if absorbed into the skin.
Since it is not overly large in size I have decided to print the 8 x 13 cm (3.25 x 5.25 inch) block onto a 13 x 18 cm (5 x 7 in) piece of rag paper and thought I might market these as artcard size original prints.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

More miniature solar plate based printing

solar plate with hand colouring
varied edition

This is a landscape study that was printed from a small leftover piece of unexposed solar plate I made last year.
It highlights a bit of shoreline along Lake Superior at Pukaskwa National Park which is very close to where I spent my early years growing up as a child. This place is one of my favourite annual journeys as the geography is unique and the vistas are stunning.
At the time the plate was created I had only printed several images off the plate before becoming sidetracked with other things.
The 5 x 9 cm (2 x 3.5 inch) plate was recently rediscovered and brought out of storage. I have been continuing the edition. It is a varied ed. due in part to the hand colouring application and additional elements in the visual added after printing. Basically the original plate image (printed in black oil base ink) gives me the foreground treeline and the background islands and hills. I put down a little masking frisket in the sky and in the foreground water and applied washes of blue watercolour. I then added in shadows into the clouds and a bit of light pale green to the background hills.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Swan - hand tinted Solar plate etching

I am in the process of creating a series of small miniature studies from left over ends of a larger piece of solar plate. Here is one of the first to emerge from the studio yesterday.
The swan study is from a plate (5 x 5 cm or 2 x 2 inches sq.). Here in the photo it is set into a 15 x 15 cm sq. mat (6 x 6 inches).
I scan the artwork and then using the inkjet printer print the artwork as grayscale onto a specially coated clear plastic transparency page. The plate was exposed to an artificial lightsource (UV emitting blacklight) in a homemade exposure unit. A double exposure method was used. The positive was set on top of the plate and a piece of glass clamped over top. First a fine dot aquatint screen exposure was made (1.5 min) which was then followed by the positive (3 min). The plate was developed in lukewarm water by scrubbing with a soft bristle toothbrush.
Subtle lines were added into the polymer plate surface using a drypoint needle to add a little definition into the bird. Then Graphic Chemical Intense black ink (modified with a little Easy Wipe compound) was applied to the plate and wiped using tartalan cloth followed with a surface wipe using yellow pages from an old phone book .
These were printed onto Magnani Revere 250 gsm suede white rag paper. The paper was soaked in water first for maybe 5 min and then blotted between white cotton towel with MDF board set on top.
Once the inked plate and paper pass under the roller of the my etching press I taped down each print onto a piece of plywood with butchers tape and set aside to dry.
A bit later using Daniel Smith and Fragonard watercolour I applied the colour tint into the water and the swans bill.
I apologize for the visible watermark in the print, this is just for copyright protection while the image is displayed online when a right click disable option is not available.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Relief Printmaking workshop

This past weekend I gave a workshop in relief block printing to 12 participants over a two day period in the town of Atikokan Ontario.
This was basically an introduction to linoleum block printing and for this each participant was given a 15 x 30 cm (6 x 12 inch) piece of softoleum, a Alvin linocutting knife kit, a 4 inch soft rubber brayer, a specially made foam core registration board with push pins, a variety of papers that included Kozo (mulberry), Frankfurt laid, Stonehenge, Subi block printing paper for proofing and also some Thai Unryu papers for chine colle application.
Due to the time constraints and the fact most were new to the medium I asked that their designs be fairly simple and limited to less than 2 or 3 colours. In addition to showing them a demo revolving around basic design, printing more than one colour block, cutting and printing techniques they also got demonstrations in how to apply collage using thin handmade tissues, rainbow roll and hand colour application.
We used Speedball water soluble inks to print with and each person then took home 100 gm (3.5 oz) plastic containers with lids filled with colour inks that included: black, white, red, magenta, yellow, blue.
The participants used hand burnishing to print their images from which a variety of tools for this purpose were supplied by yours truly.
All in all it was an exciting and productive weekend with many prints produced.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Wilderness - Exhibition opening

artist and his work

entrance to the Pictograph Gallery - in the lower level of the Voyageur Mall in Atikokan Ontario

This past Saturday (June 5) was the official opening of my solo show titled Wilderness at the Pictograph Gallery in Atikokan Ontario. I had the honour of hanging the show myself and given the amount of wall space available chose to work an arrangement that would allow each individual work some spotlight. I chose to tag each of the work with floating text by printing title, date and medium onto translucent laser labels. Unfortunately due to the low ceiling and closer proximity of nearby walls the regular glass picked up reflections a bit too well in the photos so I apologize if this makes viewing difficult of some of the work in the attached photos . It didn't appear to be as bad viewing these in person though.
Although the weather turned out to be a bit cool and wet about 40 persons dropped by to view the work and learn a bit about printmaking from this artist.
The show runs until Saturday June 26. The gallery is open Tues - Sat from noon until 3 pm daily. The gallery phone number is (807) 597-4344 or one can contact them via the website link above for more information.
My friend Luke who was in attendance took some video footage featuring a close up of each piece. You can view the footage by clicking the following links:

installation of horizontal work

portable wall and end wall with view of vertical work

a fitting quotation that accompanies my work

a small wood engraving - one type of relief surface printmaking that is featured

a monochromatic study pulled from the surface of an engraved acrylic plate

Quetico French Lake
relief block print

finally... a big thank you to the hard-working staff and volunteers of the Pictograph Gallery (with the support of the Ontario Trillium Foundation) for allowing me the opportunity to showcase in this venue.

Also a sincere thanks to the  Ontario Arts Council again for providing the support that enabled public presentation of this series of work.

The Ontario Arts Council is an agency of the Government of Ontario

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Preview in local newspaper arts section of my upcoming solo exhibition

A couple of weeks back I did an interview with Jolene Davis, a well known and respected arts columnist who writes for the Chronicle-Journal, our local newspaper here in Thunder Bay.
The article was published in todays issue (Thursday May 27) and was featured on the front page of the Arts and Entertainment section.

Unfortunately photos of a couple examples of the work that were submitted did not make it into the article, most likely to space issues and overall cost factor for printing images in colour by the publisher.
None the less I am quite happy with her review of my series and hopefully this will draw a few folks out to view the 40 pieces.
The show opens on Sat June 5 (noon - 3 pm) at the Pictograph Gallery in Atikokan ON (109 Main St. West in the lower level of the Voyageur Mall). It runs until Saturday June 26.
I will be present at the opening and will give a brief talk about the series and it's importance to me.
In addition I will also be giving an Introduction to relief block prints workshop in Atikokan on the evening of Friday June 25 (5 - 9 pm) and all day Saturday June 26 (9:30 -4. If you are interested in participating please contact the gallery at (807)597-4344 or email

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Home art studio solutions for small spaces

Here is my print studio in a low ceiling poorly lit basement
I am considering buying and assembling a prefab satellite structure that could be housed in the back yard 

Some of my artist friends are part of studio tours here and in other communities where they live and work. They have been fortunate to have spaces in their homes where they can have people come by and see them working on their art and also have a display of work on the walls for viewing. I have not been so fortunate to date with my own set up.
My partner and I live in a fairly old 1-1/2 story small house (it will be the grand old age of 100 in a couple of years) and since we have lived in it (14 years now) and has been undergoing updating in small increments as time and money will allow.
I have a small number of my art work in frames and hung on walls but they are scattered around the house. Some are not even really accessible to guests for viewing. So I have had to decline invitations to participate in studio tours to date. To be honest I am even embarrassed to have other artists see my printing I avoid showing it at all costs...until now that is (see photo above).
Anyhow I have been seriously thinking of late about trying to find space here at my home where I can  have a prep area to work on designs but also have my printing area close by and a wall or two for gallery, in other words an all in one studio space. At present I have three seperate areas in the home I use. The large pine table in my dining nook (which provides wonderful natural light as it has 2 walls with windows) and is where I create drawings, do my block cutting and engraving, etc... I have another room (office/library) where we have our Dell pc and Epson printer/scanner. This is the room where I do photo editing, scanning of artwork and printing of transparencies.
Finally there is the printing area. This is an area in my basement that has a low ceiling (6 ft of overhead has to duck under the main support beam when they are navigating around). It is a bit dark down here, it is not finished and can be damp in the warmer weather (not so great for an etching press). There is a dehumidifier that helps during the year when the gas furnace isn't running, plus have rigged up several daylight compact flourescent lights around my printing table and press, but....things could be better. Given that my health is getting more fragile as I age (especially with things like air quality and mold, dust allergies) it would be nice to be in a place where I can breath healthy, have natural light to work by and be able to have a work desk in one corner, my press and printing bench in another and also some area with organized shelving for paper, inks and tool storage.
Given that I do not have any other options inside of my home for a proper studio I may have stumbled across a possible solution.
One of these is something that caught me eye by accident while doing a Goggle search on art studios. It is called a Modern Shed. Given that there is a bit of free area in my backyard this just might be the solution I am looking for.
In the third and fourth photos posted below is an interior of one the sheds. I like the angled ceiling idea with the bit of light allowed in at the front at the top in addition to that from the windows. This structure for my own use would definitely have to be insulated given the area of the world where I live and would have to figure out a way to keep it heated in the winter (solar, small gas fireplace or wood burning stove?) and have a source of electricity (solar panel mounted on top or nearby perhaps or something immediate such as running an extension cable from my house plugged into an outside outlet?).
As an artist/printmaker who uses a lot of water soluble or water based mediums (enviro friendly non- toxic thankfully) I would most likely have to construct some form of washing up area (perhaps an acrylic laundry tub that could drain into a pail underneath). I really don't want to have to worry about complicated plumbing installation so I would try and devise a practical solution for this.
Then there would be security. Maybe an alarm system that could be powered off the solar battery? Luckily I have good neighbours close by who also are around a good deal of the time so that helps.

I also did a bit of Goggle searches and found other small structures (some prefab) which might work too.

This is an interior shot of a structure made by a company called Modern Cabana

and a company here in Canada manufacture perfab spaces such as this little beauty

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Adventures with Monotypes

I have been a little under the weather the past couple of weeks battling a rather nasty virus which had me finally resort to getting a prescription for an antibiotic. Although I prefer to treat ailments using homeopathy or naturopathic medicine, in this case neither was really helping to defeat this virus so hopefully the prescription will do the job?
Needless to say my energy level has been running at about 50% and also suffering with sore achy body. However have managed to at least create something that doesn't require a great amount of physical labour (as say carving a lino surface). I was able to achieve a couple of studies created using a type of printmaking that produces a one off image.

Below are two examples of painterly printmaking. Both are Monotypes.

The first pictured above was created by first sanding the surface on one side of a piece of thin plexiglass plate lightly using a fine grit sanding sponge. I then coated this surface with a thin layer of diluted dishsoap solution and allowed it to dry. Then applied pure watercolour pigment straight out of a tube using brush. You can also use water colour crayons or pencils.
This was allowed to dry. Using masking tape I hinged a piece of Masa paper to the edge of a an equal size piece of paper (the registration sheet) and then centered the plate and drew a pencil line around the edges to mark it's position. A fine mist of water was sprayed over the paper and then I folded it over to cover the plate. The moisture on the paper will reactivate the watercolour pigment which will probably have dried before being printed. Using the back of a metal spoon I used hand burnishing to transfer the reactivated watercolour onto the underside of the paper.

I then folded back the paper and removed the plate which I washed clean and repeated the process with coating the plate with the diluted dishsoap and applying a new layer of watercolour. The plate was again set into the pencil outline on the registration sheet and printed again using hand burnishing. I repeated this several times to build up a series of layers of colours.
The print is a bit organic in it's composition and the layering of colours created some interesting effects.

 This is the plexiglass plate with the final colour (dark indigo) painted on the surface.


This is my second study and is a that uses a process of removing ink.
It was created by first coating a piece of plexiglass using a brayer coated with a thin layer of oil based black relief printing ink. Ink was removed from the surface of the plate (here is where the subtractive comes into play) using a variety of tools that included the pointed end of an old paint brush, q-tips, wood toothpicks and my finger tip with small bit of tissue wrapped around it.

The plate was printed onto damp Somerset paper. The plate was first set onto a sheet of white bristol board which had the plate outline marked in pencil in the center and cross marks in pencil to indicate where the corners of the printing paper should align. This was set on the press bed with the inked side of the plate face up. The paper was placed on top, then a piece of newsprint and finally three layers of wool felt blankets over top of everything. The entire works were then passed under the roller of the etching press and transferred the image to the paper underneath. This is the same routine you would use to print an intaglio etching althought not as much pressure is required. My plexiglass was thin enough that I didn't have to worry about bevelling the edges ahead of printing, If it were a little thicker then I would file a bevel so that both the print paper and blankets do not get damaged from the edges of the plate under the pressure of the roller.

The inked plate with details created by removing ink using a variety of tools.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

New prints - Water in the Wilderness:Northwestern Ontario

Quetico/French Lake
colour block print

Posted below are a few photos that show some of the new work from my series titled Water in the Wilderness:Northwestern Ontario on display at Gallery Stratford
I addition there are several other prints from this series featured in a few of my previous blog posts

Artist Statement

We are living in a time of great concern with regards to the welfare of our planet.
Forces of change are occurring that are playing a major role in factors that affect the natural world and ultimately its survival. One important area of concern is water.
Water is of great importance as a basic element that provides sustenance for all life.
In nature it provides a source of nourishment and habitat for aquatic based life such as insects, fish, bird and animal life. It carries nutrients, minerals and the seeds of life in its flow. It is instrumental in shaping and defining the landscape through its own natural processes.

Water is also a common theme in many of the works I produce as a visual artist.
This connection may be due to the influence of having lived a good majority of my life along the shores of Lake Superior, the largest body of fresh water in the world. The region also contains vast areas of boreal forest that encompass a large number of fresh water rivers, streams, lakes, ponds and marshes. There is an incredible biodiversity that exists in Northwestern Ontario that is accented by an array of unique species of flora and fauna. All are dependent for their survival on a continuous supply of life sustaining fresh water.

I have had the good fortune to observe this relationship first hand during journeys by canoe to remote wilderness locations that use numerous river systems and portages between lakes. I have hiked on foot through the woods and followed along or directly through streams and shores and waters of lakes or ponds to reach interesting remote destinations. Many of these have been recorded and stored on my camera, which I use as a means of acquiring source material. This collected photo imagery often serves as reference material that is used as the basis for my work. The basic composition that I derive from a photo is then translated to an artistic study using a variety of traditional and modern printmaking disciplines. As that image develops either above or below the surface of a particular matrix it frequently takes on a life of its own. I will focus on a particular area or point of interest in the work where a fair amount of time is spent placing emphasis on details in the image.

The intention with this series of work is to relay some of my personal observations that examine the influence of fresh water in the realm of the natural world is it exists in the wild. I have a fascination not only with landscape which is a prominent component in many of my images, but also with the structures and forms that are found in the many varieties of organic life. With this series I have chosen to illustrate the important interconnectedness that exists between the landscape, living things and the element of water. I present these studies in the form of a visual diary that capture my experiences as individual moments that reflect a particular time and place. As forces of change proceed to alter these habitats and ecosystems these studies might serve as a record for future generations.
The images are derived from a variety of surfaces that employ several types of printmaking techniques. These include serigraphy, relief block, collagraph plate, intaglio plate and photopolymer gravure. It doesn’t matter what discipline is employed, for each one will present a set of challenges that force me to think about, learn from and ultimately expand my levels of skill and expertise in that particular medium.
Some of the images have incorporated the combination of media such as the addition of watercolour applied through hand colouring. The computer has also been used as a tool for creating positives in the photo polymer process and also printing of opaque positives that have been exposed onto photo-emulsion coated surfaces that were used in several of the serigraph studies on paper. Polymer plates are a more recent development that allow one to marry new technology with traditional printing processes in a safe non-toxic manner

colour relief reduction block

Superior shoreline - west towards Rossport
series II
various relief surface block print

polymer plate photogravure with hand colour

Young Deer Kamanisitiquia River
polymer plate photogravure / hand colour

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Water Mark - Gallery Stratford Jan 17 - Apr 4, 2010

My series titled Water in the Wilderness - a series of 25 hand printed images on paper

I recently returned from Stratford, Ontario where I attended the opening of Water Mark at Gallery Stratford. My series of 25 images on paper collectively titled Water in the Wilderness were created using a variety of printmaking disciplines and are part of this trio exhibition .

Also of note, the new works are featured in my brand new website which launched this week to coincide with the exhibition. You can view the Water in the Wilderness series as well as some older works still available for sale by clicking the following link:

There is a link in the site to archives where you can view older artwork that was created using other mediums in addition to printmaking.

Gallery Stratford on Romeo St. in Stratford, Ontario. It was once a water pump house.

Besides being present for the docent walk through I also gave an address about my work to those in attendance during the opening on Sunday Jan 17.

The show also features a series of over 45 various size wood engravings by Stratford printmaker Gerard Brender a Brandis and a series of 12 aquatic theme monoprints by another Stratford based artist, Lucinda Jones.

Special thanks to Gallery Stratford staff and Carla Garnet, the guest curator who worked with the artists and facilitated the decision making for presentation of the work.
I also wish to acknowledge the assitance of the Ontario Arts Council. The Ontario Arts Council is an agency of the Government of Ontario.

left to right: Gerard Brender a Brandis, Carla Garnet, Lucinda Jones,myself and Zhe Gu Director of Gallery Stratford.

Opening reception for Water Mark on Sunday January 17, 2010.

Educational display case for Lucinda Jones

Educational display case for Gerard Brender a Brandis

Educational display for Brian Holden

The artists were also asked by the curator to supply materials for an education display showing tools, surfaces and source sketches and photo material used in the creation of our printmaking. is a looped video that was filmed on site as it appears playing on the montior in the gallery and is another component of our trio showcase.

It is composed of four short video clips, the first and last clips by yours truly and the middle two clips provided by Lucinda Jones. My segments were recorded last fall and originate from two remote Northwestern Ontario locations. This video display has been included as additional source material along with the items each of us provided for the display cases.