Wednesday, 24 December 2014

End of year reflection

Clachnaben from Glen Dye ©Fenfolio2014

 My latest newsletter where I reflect on the year past has now been published. I also like to take this opportunity to thank you for your support by following me here and I wish you Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Artistic Explorations: Intaglio Printmaking (2)

Collagraphy is a printmaking process in which materials are applied to a rigid surface like wood or mount or cardboard. Different tonal effects and vibrant colours can be achieved with the technique due to the depth of relief and differential inking that results from the collagraph plate's highly textured surface (source: Wikipedia). It might not come as a surprise that this is really up to my street!

After I glued my collage onto the mountboard with PVA, I sealed it all with two thin layers of shellac knotting. This is a solution for sealing knots and resinous areas of bare timber prior to the application of paints, waxes or polishes. Once dry I created intaglio based prints from my plates, where I applied ink to the entire surface and then removed it from the upper surfaces of the collage materials with scrim. Then it was run through a printing press. It's the same inking process as for my etchings which I wrote about in my previous article.

Below is a plate, about 10 x 20 cm large, that I made with various scraps of (wall)paper, fabric, lace, tule, scrim, acrylic medium with black lava and dried grass from the garden.

Collagraph plate " Earth Layers" ©Fenfolio2014

It was then printed on Somerset printmaking paper with oil-based sepia ink.

"Earth Layers" collagraph print ©Fenfolio2014

For the plate below (10 x 10 cm) I used dried leaves and flowers, dried lychen and some embroidery thread. I sealed it off with acrylic matt medium to see how it would compare with shellac knotting. For just one print it's fine but I wouldn't recommend it if a larger edition is being printed as it's not as tough as shellac knotting.

Collagraph plate "Organic 1" ©Fenfolio2014

It was then printed on Fabriano paper with oil-based sepia ink.

"Organic 1" collagraph print ©Fenfolio2014

This plate was created by applying polyfiller (I use the powder form and then add water) onto grey mountboard with a palette knife and embossing a pressed dried flower and a piece of scrim into it. Just before the polyfiller had hardened I took the materials away and an impression was left behind.

Collagraph plate "Organic 2" ©Fenfolio2014

The plate was then printed on Fabriano paper with oil-based sepia ink.

"Organic 2" collagraph print ©Fenfolio2014

Now we have been introduced to various printmaking techniques during the course, we can choose which one to focus on for our personal project. I have already decided to combine drypoint on perspex with collagraphy and in March 2015, when the course is finished, I hope to show you my final design!

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Artistic Explorations: Intaglio Printmaking (1)

The direct opposite of a relief print which I wrote about in my previous article is an intaglio print. Intaglio printmaking is a technique where the image is incised into a surface (copper, zinc, wood or perspex) and the incised line or sunken area holds the ink. Examples are etching, engraving, drypoint, mezzotint, aquatint and collagraphy. In this article I will show you a drypoint print and a few etching prints.

Fot my drypoint I used an etching needle tool and an A4 perspex plate.A picture of a song thrush I saw in RSPB's magazine was my inspiration for the design.

Drawing on perspex plate with etching tool ©Fenfolio2014
Once I finished the design, the plate was then inked up with sepia oil-based ink by using a squeegee or old credit card to get the ink in the incised lines and taking off excess ink.

Inking up plate with card or squeegee ©

The plate was then wiped off with scrim, or a muslin cloth, to take off more ink from the plate.

The scrim ©

Finally the plate was buffed up with some newspaper. As I wanted to leave a bit of texture of the scrim (circular movements) I only buffed it up very lightly. After I run it through an etching press this was the result!

Drypoint print of a song thrush on Fabriano paper ©Fenfolio2014

For the etching process we got a small copper plate which we covered in resin ground or chemical resistant wax material. The underside of the plate was then heated above a candle to make sure the resin would set and cover the whole plate. Once the resin had cooled down I drew a design in it with a blunt needle (you don't need a lot of pressure to make a mark). The plate was then dipped in a bath of acid for about an hour. The acid "bites" into the metal (it dissolves part of the metal) where it is exposed, leaving behind lines sunk into the plate. Halfway this process I applied aquatint (spray paint) to a small part of my design which I had completely left uncovered from resin. Aquatint is used to produce tone or shading as areas around the tiny beads of the spray paint (or waxy solution) will be eaten away. The longer the plate is exposed the deeper the bit and the more ink it will hold. Once I was happy with the incised lines I cleaned off the plate from the remaining resin.

Metal copper plate with my etched design ©Fenfolio2014

The plate was then inked all over (this time I used waterbased Caligo ink in the colours sepia and umber), wiped off again with scrim, leaving only the ink in the etched lines. It was then run through an etching press.

"Dandelion" etching print on Fabriano paper  ©Fenfolio2014

"Dandelion" etching print on my handmade paper  ©Fenfolio2014

This was not the first time I made an etching. About 35 years ago (!), when I considered going to art school in The Netherlands, I was doing an art course and made an etching on a zinc plate. Luckily I was able to retrieve both the plate and the print!

Zinc plate with etching of still life  made in 1989 ©Fenfolio2014

Still life etching print from 1989 ©Fenfolio2014

I really like the etching prints but I find the process very time consuming and I don't like to use chemicals. The drypoint technique on the other hand suits me much better so I think I will create a few more of these during my Printmaking course. Next time I will cover collagraphy which is my favourite printmaking technique!

Monday, 1 December 2014

Artistic Explorations: Relief Printmaking (1)

Last month I signed up for a course Printmaking at Grays School of Art in Aberdeen. Printmaking is a perfect complementary skill to have for my mixed media art practice. The techniques we are going to learn the next few months are Relief printing such as lino cut and Intaglio printing which includes drypoint engraving, etching and collagraphy.

This article shows what I have created during the lino cut session. In my following articles I will write about the other techniques.

Cutting a sheet of lino ©Fenfolio2014
When my design of tree trunks was cut I experimented with printing on various papers. I especially like the handmade papers, including my own!

Lino print on handmade paper with embedded petals and grass ©Fenfolio2014

Lino print on my own handmade paper made from an old blouse ©Fenfolio2014

A second lino sheet was cut in two stages to create two layers of colours. This is called a reductive lino print. A registration plate is then really necessary to make sure that the second layer is positioned in the correct place.

The white colour (which is the paper) was cut out first and the lino sheet was printed in a midtone colour. Then I cut the rest except for the shadow areas and printed it in a dark colour.

Reductive lino print in black and gray on Somerset paper ©Fenfolio 2014

Reductive lino print in black and turquoise on Somerset paper ©Fenfolio 2014

Last year I had already experimented with soft lino which I prefer (but it's much more expensive!) as it's smoother to cut through. I find lino takes more effort to cut although you have a bit more control when cutting delicate designs.

A nice alternative for lino is scratch foam which I found online about two years ago. The advantage is that you don't need a press, only a brush (the back) or non-sharp tool to draw into the foam, a roller and some acrylic paint. You can burnish the back of the paper with a clean roller or with the palm of your hand and then pull off the print.

Drawing in scratch foam ©

Below is one of my earlier prints I did. I first embossed the scratch foam with some leaf texture (embossing plate I had bought). Then I drew a flower on top and printed it with black acrylic paint. It's very simple, really effective and great fun for adults and children!

Scratch foam print ©Fenfolio2014

Monday, 17 November 2014

Kayak trip Helmsdale to Lybster

With the days now being so short and dark it's the perfect opportunity for me to catch up with my kayak logbook here. This summer which was packed with so many amazing trips has passed so quickly and it would be a shame not to show you how beautiful Scotland really is!

One of these trips was made in a weekend in July with two friends from Nesky kayak club. We chose to paddle from Helmsdale to Lybster to explore the fascinating remote and exposed coastline here.

The North East of Scotland, source; Google

On Friday night be set up our camp just South of Helmsdale with views across the calm sea. Luckily the favourable weather forecast hadn't changed so we could stick with our initial plan.

Day 1: Helmsdale to Dunbeath. Source; Memory Map

Plenty of light around 10pm  ©Fenfolio2014

After a quick breakfast and breaking down our tents we organised our shuttle, leaving a car behind halfway at Dunbeath and one in Lybster. We left most of our camping equipment in the car because we would set up our tents on the campsite in Dunbeath.

Setting off from Helmsdale we were instantly welcomed by a calm sea, huge cliffs and hundreds of seabirds such as guillemots, razorbills, fulmars and puffins!

The sea cliffs near Helmsdale ©Fenfolio2014
Massive cliff and sea stack at Ord Point ©Fenfolio2014
It looks rougher than it really was because of the angle!
Sea stack at Ord Point surrounded by seabirds

Hundreds of seabirds flying over our heads ©Fenfolio2014

Watching nesting seabirds from a safe distance ©Fenfolio2014
The cliffs have perfect ledges for the nesting seabirds

Berriedale was the only place where we could actually land so we took our lunchbreak here.

Approaching Berriedale
Lunchbreak at Berriedale harbour

Then we continued our journey further North and explored the wonderful caves at Traigh Bhuidhe.

Cave at Traigh Bhuidhe ©Fenfolio2014
Another cave at Traigh Bhuidhe ©Fenfolio2014
Entrance of  cave at Traigh Bhuidhe ©Fenfolio2014
The colours of the rock were really very vibrant!
Beatiful rock strata©Fenfolio2014
All this beauty is just a few hours away from our house!
The icing on the cake of our first day was to see the impressive and slightly psychedelic sea arch An Dun, where you get the impression of paddling steeply uphill (or downhill depending which way you go) due to the rock strata. While paddling through it and looking up these towering walls next to you, you feel so tiny and even dizzy! We couldn't get enough of this so we spent quite some time here going "up" and "down" again.

Paddling through sea arch An Dun ©Fenfolio2014

The rock strata gives you the illusion of paddling uphill!
Going downhill ©Fenfolio2014
Feeling tiny next to these huge cliffs! ©Fenfolio2014

More nesting seabirds ©Fenfolio2014

Paddling through another cave ©Fenfolio2014

Just before we arrived in Dunbeath we tried to find the secret entrance to the kitchen of Dunbeath Castle. Unfortunately the tide was not right to do this.

Dunbeath harbour with the castle in the distance  ©Fenfolio 2014
Crails at Dunbeath Harbour ©Fenfolio2014

Just before the heavens broke open we set up our tent and went to the Bay Owl for a nice meal, drink and sharing our experiences of a fantastic day.

The next day we started at Dunbeath Harbour again and made our way up to Lybster, exploring even more amazing caves.

Day 2: Dunbeath to Lybster. Source; Memory Map

Entrance of  a cave at Cleit Mhor©Fenfolio2014
And another one! ©Fenfolio2014

Rock art inside ©Fenfolio2014
There is light at the end of the tunnel ©Fenfolio2014

Stalactites in all kinds of shapes and colours
Nature's art gallery ©Fenfolio2014

The long and exposed coastline near Lybster ©Fenfolio2014

More sea stacks and great rockhopping ©Fenfolio2014

Rock strata ©Fenfolio 2014

Rock strata ©Fenfolio 2014

One of the spectecular caves South of Lybster ©Fenfolio2014

One of the spectecular caves South of Lybster ©Fenfolio2014

Cave with stalactites ©Fenfolio2014
One of the spectecular caves South of Lybster ©Fenfolio2014

Landing on Lybster beach next to the harbour ©Fenfolio2014

Yummy cake and coffee at Lybster cafe ©Fenfolio2014

The perfect ending of a wonderful kayak weekend
Words are just not enough to describe how fantastic this kayak trip was. It is one of the best for me so far since I took up sea kayaking in 2008. The West Coast of Scotland has always been the first choice for many sea kayakers due it's sheltered coastline and milder weather. I do hope that these photos will show the North East is a hidden gem and that they will inspire kayakers to consider it for their next trip!