Sunday, 19 November 2017

Woodcut workshop with Gary Shinfield

PCANZ (Print Council Aotearoa New Zealand) members have recently been lucky enough to participate in a series of workshops tutored by Australian printmaker Gary Shinfield. Workshops were held in Wellington, Hawkes Bay, Kawhia and Auckland. As Auckland rep for PCANZ I was responsible for organising the Auckland workshop, held at Westlake Girls High School for the weekend of Nov 11, 12, 2017. 

Gary Shinfield is a printmaker from the Blue Mountains region in Australia. He is known for his large multi-layered printed works on paper which are inspired by the landscape and environs. His workshops focused on woodcut techniques but also included some caustic etching of lino. We used brush painting onto fine Asian papers as a starting point to generate ideas through mark-making with a nod to the theme of "mountains and valleys".

To see examples of Gary's work please visit his website:

Border Lines, woodcut and photopolymer plate etching on
8 sheets of handmade Thai paper, 150 x 214 cm, unique state print, 2017.

To begin we were treated to a slide show of his work followed by demonstrations of the processes he uses to prepare drawings, techniques to transfer the drawings to the wood and the process of carving away either the positive or negative areas of the image. We were also introduced to his technique for etching lino using caustic soda.

Once we had enough info to be getting on with we were all completely engrossed in our own work. Our first task was to paint freely and spontaneously onto small sheets of our Asian paper. I found this to be an incredibly relaxing and meditative exercise - note to self - do MORE of this as an exercise for loosening up, generating ideas, getting "unstuck", embracing "play"...

Everyone was heads down and engrossed

Clockwise from bottom right: ink drawings, drawing glued to woodblock
and being carved, tools and sharpening strop, lino prepared with wax
for etching with caustic soda.

Gary Shinfield demonstrates inking up.

Gary Shinfield demonstrates his registration process for
multi-colour, mulit-block images.

Lino blocks being etched with caustic soda solution.

Etched lino block, cleaned and ready to print
by Toni Hartill

By the end of the weekend everyone had generated multiple images, experimenting with overlaying images, repeating images using ghost prints and generally playing with the techniques, exploring the many possibilities. As always in a workshop like this I am interested to see how everyone brings their own ideas and ways of working into the mix and how varied and diverse the work produced is.

We finished the weekend with shared nibbles and drinks and welcomed in family and fellow printmakers to see what we had been working on. 
Gary generously gave another brief talk, showing a small selection of his works. 

Gary Shinfield presents examples of his work.

by Gary Shinfield

by Gary Shinfield

by Gary Shinfield

by Gary Shinfield

by Gary Shinfield

So, what did I learn from the workshop?

I approach workshops as an opportunity to learn and trial new processes. I try to avoid the temptation to try to produce finished works and am more interested in exploring and documenting  the processes with a view to taking what I have learnt and working on it further in my own time and space. I think that if you get too hung up on whether what you are creating is "good" or "bad" you may miss the chance to push your skills in new ways. So, nope, I created no masterpieces but I did discover some really interesting combinations and processes I will definitely be adding to my practice. Especially, as you will have seen in my previous post here, I am very interested in exploring a more painterly and experimental approach to my printmaking.

I thoroughly enjoyed the liberating nature of painting with ink. I added colour using dyes, watercolours, gouache and gesso. Working on multiple sheets of paper helps to not be too precious on any one piece.

Ink drawings by T Hartill

I took one of my ink images and used this as a basis for the image I had in mind. In retrospect, having viewed more of Gary's work and watching how others worked in the workshop I would now take a completely different approach in how I approach the layers and the carving however it was good to follow through with my initial ideas to see how the processes would work in general.

Wood block by T Hartill

Etched lino block by T Hartill

Carved lino block by T Hartill

In this image the paper has been stained with loose washes of colour prior to printing.
I had envisaged all along that the etched lino would print in a lighter colour over the other colours. I particularly liked images of Gary's where he had printed white over other layers.

Carved lino + carved wood by T Hartill

Plus etched lino by T Hartill
Nothing spectacular here but little glimpses of deliciousness - the rich colours coming through from underneath, the fine lines apparent from the etched lino, overlapping patterns visible through the layers of ink. I also like the cut lines of the wood block - the wood is like butter to cut and so works wonderfully for "taking a line for a walk" (Paul Klee).

Again this image started with stained paper. I layered the carved lino then the carved wood. The patterns happening at the bottom were interesting but otherwise, not great colour combinations. So, I layered the carved lino back on top using white. I really liked the lines and the patterns that this achieved and could easily see how working more abstractly would create many opportunities for experimentation.

Carved lino + carved wood over stained paper by T Hartill

From this point I experimented with layering and overlapping pattern.

Stained paper, carved lino block, repeated by T Hartill

Stained paper + cut lino block.

Plus ghost print of cut lino block.

While playing around with inks and dyes I began also playing around with over-painting with gesso and acrylic and then printed in white over the top of everything to see the effect on the underlying layers. This created some really interesting tonal patterns and textures which, I think, show potential.

There is definitely a lot to be said for working spontaneously and responsively when using these techniques. Leaving plenty of opportunity for the "happy accident" to occur makes the possibilities very exciting.

by T Hartill

by T Hartill

by T Hartill

Thanks to Gary Shinfield for a great workshop!

Thanks also to Kathy Boyle, (PCANZ President) for making it happen!

Thanks to everyone who took part - 
it was a really fun weekend spent with wonderfully creative, like-minded people.