Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Collagraphs - a learning journey, 2014.

I have a fascination with collagraphs:
I love that found and inexpensive materials can be recycled and used to make something beautiful. 
I love that textures can be captured and reproduced.
I also love the almost sculptural process of creating the plates.

I am also continually challenged by collagraphs. 
Just when I think I've "sussed" the process... technical issues arise. This can be very frustrating (to say the least) but it can also be the opportunity to push new ideas and try different approaches.

"Inky Goodness" group show
This series of images were created for a group show, "Inky Goodness", with my print group Waitakere Printers Ink. I chose to create a series of small images to "test-drive" some techniques.

Materials I used include cardboard (matte board scraps, cereal boxes), hessian and permafill (a plaster-like builder's filler).

"Wanderlust" $35
Collagraph with silver leaf by Toni Hartill
Paper size 20cm x 20cm
Edition of 3

"Castaway" $35
Collagraph by Toni Hartill
Paper size 20cm x 20cmEdition of 4

"Ambrosia" $35
Collagraph by Toni Hartill
Paper size 20cm x 20cm
Varied edition of 6

"Ambrosia" $35
Collagraph by Toni Hartill
Paper size 20cm x 20cm
Varied edition of 6

Inky Goodness Quilt
by members of Waitakere Printers Ink
including circular collagraphs by Toni Hartill.

"Antipodes" group show

This collagraph was created for the CPCANZ (Central Print Council Aotearoa New Zealand) group show with the theme "Antipodes". I used the theme as my starting point for this image "Memories Fade but Ties Remain". I explored the idea of how we collect and accumulate artifacts from our past (be it from our ancestors from the other side of the world, or from our own journeys and adventures) and these bits and bobs sit gathering dust, too "precious" to discard.  As time passes, their true meaning or origins fade and are forgotten and yet their ties, and our ties, to our past (and to our future) will remain forever. This was also inspired by the concept of the Rope of Mankind, "Te Here Tangata", a term used to describe genealogy by Maori.

The collagraph plate for "Memories Fade But Ties Remain"
by Toni Hartill
The back of the collagraph plate
showing the use of cereal boxes.
by Toni Hartill

The completed collagraph plate
by Toni Hartill

"Memories Fade But Ties remain"
Collagraph by Toni Hartill
Edition of 4

This was a challenging plate to print as it is very complex, with lots of nooks and crannies and differing textures and thicknesses. I wanted the image to be washed out, as if it is fading as the title suggests. I also added a length of string to be blind embossed running off the page, to further illustrate the concept of the rope of mankind/ genealogy. 

Still life collagraphs

"The Beachcomber"  $65ea
Collagraph by Toni Hartill
Edition of 4

This image was created along similar lines as the previous one using the idea of artifacts, this time collected from my wanderings along a beach (just as my windowsills attest to).

"Weighed Down by Sentiment" $110
Collagraph by Toni Hartill
Edition of 3
This image was again influenced by the idea of the things that weigh us down and hold us back in our lives – things we inherit, are gifted, acquire, accumulate… things we hang on to because we feel we should.

Do we really need all this “stuff”?!

These still life collagraph plates are, by nature, detailed and fiddly, mainly using cardboard scraps and the odd bit of string and fabric. (Considering I used to make miniature dollshouse furniture, my attraction to detail is not surprising... to me).

New works

Collagraph plate using pollyfilla, sandpaper, hammerite paint, & matte and gloss varnishes.
by Toni Hartill

For my next collagraph plates I wanted to experiment more with textures and the use of more painterly textures so I have spent time pouring over the works and processes of Brenda Hartill (no relation) - the queen of collagraphs, in my mind! Armed with a workbench of goodies including pollyfilla, sandpaper, hammerite paint, glues and varnishes, amongst other textural treasures, I am working on a new body of work in preparation for a group exhibition early next year. I am continuing to explore my theme of rockpools and oceans but this work is much more unpredictable and experimental as I "play" with techniques to see where it will take me.

Watch this space....

Some more collagraph artists who inspire me:

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Waitakere Printers Ink group shows, 2014

It's been a busy year for our wee print group "Waitakere Printers Ink".

We've had two shows at the Bruce Mason Centre in Takapuna, one in May and one in September.

 Our annual show at the Barrel store at Corban Estate Arts Centre was held 3-5th October.

A number of us have work in the current show A Peek at Print at the Victoria Park Market for Auckland's Art week. This was organized and curated by Ruby Oakley.

 and we are about to hang our latest show at the West Coast Gallery at Piha.
Opens on Saturday October 25th at 2pm. 

Thursday, 21 August 2014

The Common Denominator - Group Exhibition

This is the series of paintings I exhibited in The Common Denominator exhibition
at North Art, August 2014.

I look for beauty in unexpected, and often overlooked, places. 
These works are studies of the little “treasure chests” that are rock pools. 
It’s like I’m letting people in on a secret.  

Pink Barnacle Pool (SOLD)
Acrylic on Panel
220mm x 220mm

Detail of Pink Barnacle Pool

Ochre Pool, Takapuna Beach $250
Acrylic on Panel
220mm x 220mm

Detail of Ochre Pool.

Pebble Pool, Mahurangi $250
Acrylic on Panel
220mm x 220mm

Neptune's Necklace, Mahurangi $250
Acrylic on Panel
220mm x 220mm

Pohutukawa leaf in Pool, Pt Chevalier Beach. (SOLD)
Acrylic on Panel
220mm x 220mm

Detritus in Pool, Pt Chevalier Beach. (SOLD)
Acrylic on Panel
220mm x 220mm

Detail of Detritus in Pool.

Friday, 1 August 2014

The Common Denominator Group Show

I was invited to be a part of this group show by a good friend of mine, Fiona Graham. 

She wanted to put together a group show and so she selected friends, who are all practicing artists, to take part - Fiona is therefore "the common denominator."

Prior to the exhibition we only met once as a group and it was so lovely to meet these diverse and interesting women. We all paint, a few of us are also printmakers and I'm sure there are many other hidden talents and skills yet to be revealed. At this point only Fiona has seen a taste of everyone's work so it will be very exciting to see how the show will come together.

I am exhibiting a series of small paintings based on the theme of rockpools. This exhibition signals a return to painting for me after a couple of years focusing on printmaking. As I seem to have many opportunities to exhibit my printmaking I decided it would be a good opportunity, and a challenge for me, to create a series of paintings for this show. 

I am in a very different "place" from when I was painting previously so it has been interesting to see what would emerge this time round. I decided to work small so I wouldn't be intimidated and become bogged down. Each painting was completed over 2 - 3 days and once I had a sense for what was inspiring me about an image, they flowed very comfortably and it was a very enjoyable experience. It felt good to paint again!

The show opened on Sunday 4th August and runs until the 20th.

The show is listed on Arts Diary where you can view some images from the opening.

I was totally surprised and delighted to sell 3 paintings at the opening. And it was a pleasure to meet the new owner of my works. He will be taking them to hang in his beach house at Mathesons Bay, Leigh, north of Auckland. Perfect! This is where I met my hubby, some time last century, when we were working at the marine lab.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Matariki Exhibition : 2nd - 27th July, 2014

My wood cut series of rock pool prints, including my 3D print "Sea Nest" , were
included in this exhibition of various artists at the Lake House Arts Centre in Takapuna, Auckland.

Monday, 30 June 2014

Woodcut "Sea Nest" - 3D print

"Sea Nest" by Toni Hartill (sold)

"Sea Nest" by Toni Hartill

This artwork was a natural progression from my 2D woodcut images. I imagine rock pools as little treasure chests or waka huia of the sea. 
I also think of them as “sea nests”, nurturing and protecting the life forms inside. The nest can be either wall hung or can sit on a flat surface.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Woodcuts in the making - what am I learning?

I have followed through with my rock pool images, despite setbacks and technical issues, because I am determined to LEARN new tricks through doing. All too often I start on a project, have difficulties, shelve it, and therefore fail to learn from the experience. So... following on from my first rock pool image which started out as a reduction print, I thought I'd share some of the travails I have experienced as I endeavour to learn about woodcut printing.

When I google for information about using MDF/ customwood as a material for woodcuts it seems that people are fairly polarized in their views from "don't use it, it'll wreck your tools, it doesn't cut clean lines, it goes soft and furry..." to "it's cheap and easily obtained, it can be cut to any size or shape, it's easy to cut because it doesn't have a grain..."

My 2c worth: 
  • I use it because I have LOTS of off-cuts from making furniture so it IS cheap and to hand. 
  • It comes in large sheets 2400mm x 1200mm so it can be cut to any size or shape. It can also be bought in smaller sizes from hardware supplies or craft shops.
  • It IS easy to cut because it has no grain.
  • Unsealed, the texture of the MDF can show when printing blocks of colour. If you don't want this effect I dealt with this by undercoating the plate first with a standard undercoat-primer and sanding the surface.
  • It is hard on your tools - it blunts them fairly quickly so you need to keep them honed.
  • It doesn't like getting wet - it will swell, go fluffy, fall apart - so either seal it with shellac if you are going to need to wash the plate or, as I do, just put the plate through the press repeatedly with newsprint to remove the ink as much as possible.
  • You don't want to be breathing in the dust so wear a dust mask as a precaution but if if you are cutting with chisels you are unlikely to be snorting up wood chips (I would hope).
  • Don't over tighten the press because you can crush MDF but it is pretty robust.

Reduction print: image marked up with a
Sharpie marker to make cutting easier.

"Anchor Me"
Reduction Print

I was fairly pleased with the results of this first print but
I wondered what it would look like with a second tone of colour.

The image re-cut as 3 separate plates, still in a rectangle format.

So, step 2: I decided to cut 2 more plates to accompany the black plate but there was still something that bothered me:  it was very difficult to ink up a rectangular plate and NOT get ink where I didn't want it, especially in the hole in the middle. For this style of image I wanted it to be really clean edged. I don't have a hard, large roller that is wider than the plate so I am trying to ink up in all directions with a much smaller roller.

So... I cut around the images with a scroll saw and chiseled and sanded the edges to a bevel all around.

The plates have been cut out with a scroll saw
and the edges sanded to a bevel all around.

Of course, this was going to make registering a bit tricky! My solution: I drew cross-hairs on the back of the plates and matched this to lightly drawn cross-hairs on my printing paper. It took a fair amount (LOTS) of fiddling around to get it worked out initially and would have been much easier had I started out with this intention. 
TIP: Don't draw pencil lines where you will be printing - it will show through the ink and you can't erase it once it is printed over!

Backs of the plates showing cross-hairs for registering.

I liked the cleaner edges I achieved through doing this so big tick so far. 

Next step: I wanted to create a more organic image and I wanted to see what it would be like with more colours. Of course, why not make it trickier! So, a new image was drawn up and 4 plates were cut. 

I undercoated the MDF this time and sanded the surface to see if I might get a cleaner print. Interesting to note that any brush marks will print which can give a lovely effect, rather like wood grain. 
Note to self - this is something to experiment with further next time.

To work out the 4 plates I designed, cut and printed the black plate first. I then scanned this into my computer, opened it in Photoshop and used "layers" to "play" with colour options and placement. Inspired I thought! Oh how I love technology!

The 4 blocks that make up the image "Deep Down"

First block printed.
Note the light pencil registration marks on the paper
which match up with the cross hair pencil marks
on the back of each block.

Inking up the 2nd block.
Note: I did 2 colour versions of this block,
one with a purple and one with a more muted soft grey.

Printing the 2nd block.
This shows how it was not an easy task to register the overlapping blocks with each other.

The 2nd block printed.
This is a purple version of the print.

This is the 3rd block printed (over a grey version of block 2).

The final block inked and ready to print.

The final (4th) block registered and ready to print.

"Deep Down" ~ The completed image (purple version).

Although there were lots of little niggles along the way I've been learning lots of things through trial and error.

 My biggest gripe, ongoing, is the quality of the printing inks. I've tried Fas water-based inks: they give clean, bright and glossy colours BUT they remain water soluble. Next I used water-based Flint inks BUT the red and blue are grainy and leave tiny speckles in light colours which is not desirable when you are wanting a nice clean image. Researching relief inks perhaps I should use oil-based inks BUT aaaargh, I can't stand the cleanup. I know Charbonnel Aquawash may be an alternative but they are expensive and I'd love to hear first-hand if anyone has used them for relief prints. 

So, if anyone out there can recommend inks that they use for relief prints of this sort I'd love to hear from you.

Hope you find something useful in my experiments. Happy printing!