Monday, October 15, 2012

Elementary School art - Styrofoam plate relief printmaking

Tom Thomsons "Sunset" painting reinvented
styrofoam plate relief print on black paper
© 2012

Once again I'm in the midst of an elementary school printmaking project courtesy of a grant I received in 2011 from the Ontario Arts Council. This time around I am working with a total of 48 students from grades five and six in one school and 16 students from another.
The project again explores square image relief prints using thin styrofoam plates (made by Scratchart company in USA). The approach is jigsaw block, where the foam plate is drawn into first then dissected using either scissors or craft knives.
The goal of this project will see all students contribute an image to a large scale mosaic mural composed of squares. Each classs has chosen a theme to explore and have a range of sub-categories as subject matter to choose from that fall under the blanket of each general theme.

The grade six class have chosen the theme of weather. This would include a range of portrayals and one of these could include landscape.
I decided to use a famous landscape painting by noted Canadian artist Tom Thomson as an example that I would interpret as a relief print. However the challenge was to create a simplified graphic based on the original artwork. I have made it a bit more of a challenge for the students in that they must try and create their image in no more than ten pieces.

Tom Thomson
National Gallery of Canada

I started first with a sketch in pencil on paper that will match the exact size of the plate (in this case 19 x 19 cm or 7.5 x 7.5 inches). The challenge was to create a design that has several entry points from the outside edge (to allow access with scissors) but that each element internally in the plate would interconnect in some manner.

Once I had determined my 10 main shapes I then added in colour in rough using marker. A number was added to each piece. This will act as a guide for reassembly of the plate after it has been dissected.
A tracing was made for the main colour sketch and then it was flipped over and redrawn into the foam using a ballpoint pen pushed through the thin tissue.

I then darkened the indented lines in the foam surface with the pen point. At this point I was able to add texture into the plate for added effect in the final print.
The plate was cut apart into the ten main shapes and using permanent black marker I marked the corresponding number from the colour sketch onto the reverse side of each piece.

I applied a water based block printing ink onto the non-numbered side of each piece and then carefully reassembled all the pieces onto my registration board. Slightly damp paper was set over top and using hand pressure with rubbing stick was printed. A print was first made onto a piece of white subi paper. I applied more ink to the pieces and printed the plate onto a dark paper. I cropped the print on the dark paper and mounted it onto a white background.

For the black line version I printed the inked plate onto black construction paper and by passing the registration board, plate and paper under the roller of my small etching press. Even though I had added a little white to the ink to make it a bit more opaque some of the black did come through and influence the vibrancy of the colour.

You will notice that I did a little blending of colours on a few pieces during the inking stage. This was achieved by blending two colours of inks together on the brayer before it was transferred onto the styrofoam plate piece.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Summer inspired sunsets - block prints

four colour block relief print
varied open edition

I recently found the four blocks from a linocut I created back in 2006. This was inspired by the wonderful oil studies painted in the early part of the 20th century by Canadian Tom Thomson (who was the inspiration behind the formation of the Group of 7).
Below is an example of one of Thompsons famous sunsets from an evening here in Ontario, most likely from his time spent canoing and camping in Algonquin Park in the central part of the province.

Tom Thomson

ã National Gallery of Canada

 Ottawa ON

At that time I printed a small run of an open edition using Speedball water based ink onto Stonehenge machine made rag paper.
This time around I have been experimenting on Awagami fine art bamboo rag and using Graphic Chemical water base relief printing ink (pigment is binded from food grade glycol).
I really like the open air time factor with the inks and that fact that they dry literally to touch within a few hours once they are absorbed by the paper surface. These are the same inks I have been using exclusively the past year in schools since they are easily washed up with warm water and liquid soap.
The blocks have been printed using my three hole punch registration system on my small press. I set a piece of book binding board over top of the paper on the inked block and this provides an nice even pressure to make good contact with the two surfaces. I haven't used damp paper and ink transfer has been fairly even. I am however adding a little extender to the second & third block inks to create a little transparency effect in the cloud shapes. (more visible in the second photo example)

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Show of small hand printed works

Look Closer: Small and miniature printmaking exhibition
Baggage Building Arts Center
Prince Arthurs Landing, Thunder Bay ON
Aug 1 - 31

I currently have a public showing of 30 studies that are on display until the end of the month in a section of a brand new arts center located in the newly developed Prince Arthurs Landing here in Thunder Bay.  
The exhibition is titled Look Closer. It was funded courtesy of an exhibition assitance grant from the Ontario Arts Council.

Here is an excerpt from my artist statement for this particular series:

With this series titled “Look Closer” I have put together a collection of works on paper originating from various above and below surface matrix that are hand-printed. These are select pieces from a collection that spans a period of over 20 years and that represent a cross section of various printmaking techniques I have explored to date. The uniqueness of this particular series is the size of the imagery. About half of these fall into a category known as miniature art. True miniature art by definition would not be bigger than what could fit into the palm of your hand. Some of the works exceed this but are still considered small in size.
There are several reasons why I chose to create artwork of this scale.
First, it forces you the viewer to get close and personal with each work. It is my hope you develop an intimate relationship with the image. There is a saying that less is more. I think such is the case with this series. They are not so small that the image is unrecognizable but still requires a close proximity to really see details.
Working with imagery on this scale forced me to refine the techniques being used and determine how to work a surface to allow particular small details to become evident, as for example wood engraving. If these were in a larger format then I wouldn’t have had as much of a challenge since details would be more prominently displayed and easier to view.
Finally I made good use of odds and end pieces of plates, blocks and screen stencil areas that might otherwise have been tossed in the bin.

I have a video tour of the works uploaded to my YouTube page
click this link if you would like to see all of the works featured as recorded on video:

Here are some more photos taken on-site:

Baggage Building Arts Center
Prince Arthurs Landing
Marina Park, Thunder Bay Ontario

Cascading water feature and second entrance to the gallery/gift shop on the upper left.
This is an older Canadian National/Canadian Pacific Railways baggage building
that found a second life as a seasonal art gallery from the 1970s through to 2007.
The structure was designated historically relevant and was renovated from 2008 - 2102 
and had an addition added onto the side of the building extending out towards the lake.
The structure has once again found use this time around as a community based arts space
complete with a gallery, gift shop and areas for artists to work and public workshops can take place.

 Outdoor large scale sculpture installation at the Water Garden pavillion

entering the building from street level and looking towards the artists and workshop area
defined by plenty of natural light

workshop area

 Gallery and Gift shop on the upper level

Here is a grouping of pieces set on a panel that designates the entrance area to my exhibition.
The sunset block print in the pine frame is on loan from friends for the duration of the show.
 This particular image had broad appeal when it made its debut about 8 years back
and was one that best defines some of the regional influences in my work .

overall frame size for these landscape studies
measure 8 x 10 inches (20 x 25 cm)

 one of my small polymer plate etchings that incorporates the addition of watercolour 
you can see the printed image area is really no larger than a business card
(which are the size of the tags below each work)

 section of a panel that features vertical format prints

another panel with square studies and two horizontal studies of cats

 I had a little time before the opening to experiment again with collagraph printmaking
here is a print that emerged recently from the studio

Giant's Head
ã 2012

This is a study of a local geographic landmark viewed from the shore across the bay.
The plate was constructed using torn paper, dried plant material, PVA glue, peeled away layers of paper from the mat board and acrylic gel medium. It was sealed with several layers of shellac.
I printed it with Akua carbon black intaglio ink and then added in colour using watercolour washes.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

more drypoint

drypoint on acrylic plate
7 x 10 cm (2.75 x 4 inches)
B. Holden ã 2012

A new study titled "Entrance".
Based on a doorway I photographed in an interior of medieval structure in Northern Europe.
The plate size measures 7 x 10 cm (2.75 x 4 inches). Faust Aqualine Burnt Umber intaglio veg. oil ink was wiped onto the plate and then lightly polished with tartalan and tissue.
The lines were scribed using an etching needle and diamond tip scribe in a vertical direction to denote the different tonal shading in the image.
I printed the inked plate into damp blotted Somerset velvet cream paper which had felts placed over top and was passed under the top roller of the printing press. As the plate is plexiglass (perspex) I don't think it will yield many copies. However I am thinking of doing a high resolution scan and exposing a positive transparency of the image onto a solar plate. I may be able to find second life for the image and yield quite a few prints, more so than just off the acrylic plate.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Collagraph and acetate drypoint workshop in Kenora Ontario

abundance of activity happening during my recent printmaking workshop in Kenora

This past weekend I gave a lively workshop to around 14 enthusiastic participants in Kenora, Ontario. This was part of the Community Arts Hub initiative arranged through the Kenora Association for Community Living . Kenora is a picturesque city located on the shores of Lake of the Woods in the further most western region of the province of Ontario near the province of Manitoba and state of Minnesota borders. It has a robust arts community and is a busy place especially during the summer months with a great influx of tourism due to it's beautiful surroundings and many appealing recreational activities. Below are some photos taken during the weekend. The first batch listed under Kenora are from the town itself. These are followed with a series of photos from the workshop that focus on the creation stages, printing and a few of the results produced by participants. A big thank you to Jeff, Laura and M.E. for your hard work that allowed this to happen. I also want to personally thank each participant who attended, your creative spirit was very evident during the weekend. 


              View of the town of Kenora from restaurant on top floor of Best Western Lakeside Inn

nice evening colours over Lake of the Woods

View of Lake of the Woods looking south

Lakeside Inn Kenora ON

Collagraph and drypoint on acetate

The workshop was divided into two sessions that inclued a three hour intro and demo on the Friday evening and a full 8 hours on the Saturday. The activity took place in a space that is a converted older residental home. When you fill these mid size rooms with tables and people it can get a bit tight for space. The trick was to organize areas for particular things such as where one can work on making a plate, where to place the press, an area for applying the inks, an area for papers and space to put prints to dry post printing.
Participants created collagraph prints using collage techniques and choosing from a variety of materials to adhere with adhesives to mat board base sheets. These were sealed mainly under plastic food wrap using a tack spray adhesive coupled with the pressure of the press roller. Plates were passed under the printing felts to mold the plastic over the low relief elements.
We used non-toxic Akua Intaglio inks since these produce fairly vivid colours but also their ease of clean up and lack of odour. The ink was wiped, painted and rolled onto the plates and then the plates had damp Canson Edition rag paper set over top, newsprint and 3 layers of wool felt blankets. They were passed under the top roller of my small press using various pressures depending on the plate heights.

For the second component of the workshop participants were given the opportunity to scribe a simple sketch into thin acetate sheet using anything from an etching needle, awl tip to nail head. These had ink wiped into the line, the excess surface ink was wiped away with tartalan bundles and then a relief roll of a contrast colour was applied with a brayer to produce a simple but colourful print.

here I am giving a demo of the printing stage

showing the print on paper

 Saturday morning participants work on constructing their plates
 from which collagraph prints would be created.

corner for applying inks

paricipant applying ink to her plate
she used an actual dried swallowtail butterfly as one of her collage elements

a bit of a tight squeeze not only for the press procedure but for participants who want to get by

the reveal of a monochrmatic collagraph that incorporated birch bark and fern leaf

a colourful floral theme was produced in this print
from a plate that incorporated a variety of materials
ã 2012

slighter pressure passing the plate under the roller
coupled with selective spot wiping produced this energetic study
ã 2012 

this participant brought some of her own handmade paper
It was derived mainly from cotton but also had organic found objects
 including cat tail fibers and the foam that is found floating on the surface of water along shore
ã 2012

monochromatic collagraph print taped onto thin hard board to dry
ã 2012

example of participant collagraph print
ã 2012

collagraph print
ã 2012

monochromatic study of a birds nest collagraph
ã 2012

very bold monochromatic collagraph

drypoint with relief roll from acetate sheet
ã 2012

collagraph derived from fern leaves
ã 2012

collagraph produced from various organic elements
 including insects and grasses
ã 2012

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

On the road away from the studio being inspired

Just returned home from a week and half in Southern Ontario. One of the highlights during my trip was at the Art Gallery of Hamilton where I had the privilege to view a show titled "Nature and Spirit". This retrospective features the coastal landscapes of noted Canadian west coast painter Emily Carr. (click on link at the beginning of this post) This show is on loan from the Art Gallery of Vancouver and is a wonderful collection of this famous Canadian artists works on canvas over the period of her entire career. I find her imagery most interesting, her colours are delightful and the play of shapes are very pleasing and a mix of the energetic and the sublime. There is indeed a connection made when I look at her keeps my attention.
Here is a link to a great site dedicated to the art and writings of this artist:
I am also sorting out some photos I've taken over the past few years to use as source material for new images in my printmaking. Here are few of my favourite including three recent photos (#6, 7 & 8) taken during my recent road trip along Lake Superior to S. Ontario and back: