Friday, January 31, 2014

Nature in Print: Selected Highlights

My past three days as a special guest artist of the Australian Print Workshop have been a joy. The ten participants in the Nature in Print linocut workshop were all eager to learn and make the most of the three days allotted to them. I couldn't believe how much they achieved in the relatively brief period, which certainly went by in a flash.

The class instructor Simon White was a fountain of knowledge. After the first day I sat towards the back of the room to keep out from under foot, especially when the others started printing in earnest. Meanwhile I worked diligently on my own linocut, Jewel Beetle Woman (see directly below). Periodically, however, I'd join them to watch one of Simon's demonstrations or have a look at the progress of everyone's work. The enthusiasm of the group was both infectious and inspiring. I tend to work in solitude for most of the time, and had almost almost forgotten how energising a print studio can be. This group made it especially so. 

Left to right, looking into the distance: Linda, Jini, Bronwyn, Gaele, Richarda and Chris

From left to right: Tristana, Marie, Linda, Gaele, Simon, Margaret, Bronwyn, Thea and Richarda

Left to right: Gaele, Simon, Margaret, Richarda Marie, Thea and Jini

Bronwyn rolls up her lino block

Gaele and Simon

From left to right: Simon, Bronwyn Linda, Jini, Marie and Tristana

From left: Bronwyn, Richarda, Simon, Linda, Margaret, Jini, Gaele, Tristana, Thea (behind Thristana) Chris and Marie

On the second day Thea brought in some specimens from her remarkable insect collection to share with us:

Thanks so much to the APW and especially Simon and our wonderful printmaking group: Marie, Thea, Linda, Chris, Margaret, Bronwyn, Jini, Tristana, Gaele and Richarda. I learned such a lot from everyone (all artists are perpetual students, no matter how many years we put in). It was a pleasure to spend time with you all. Keep up the great printmaking.

For more photographs of the linocut workshop, visit Moth Woman Press HERE.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Nature in Print: Jewel Beetle Woman

As those who have read my two previous posts will now be well and truly aware, tomorrow I begin a short stint as a special guest artist of the Australian Print Workshop Summer School’s Nature in Print. The workshop instructor is APW Master Printer Simon White. Like the class participants, whom I very much look forward to meeting, I will be making a linocut during the three-day course. I'll also discuss my research methods and the ideas that have directed the current work.

Over the last few years I’ve accumulated a considerable collection of natural history books and journals, as well as studying insect specimens first-hand. The website of the CSIRO has also provided rich source material, particularly in relation to Australian moths.

My image has already been drawn onto the block in readiness for the workshop; I’ve documented its development to indicate the process involved up to this point.

In preparation for this linocut I made three small working drawings and from them chose Jewel Beetle Woman. The image was outlined on the block in pencil and completed in brush and ink. In addition, I applied white acrylic paint in order to facilitate some alterations and corrections. The linocut will be printed by Simon White and I will hand colour the edition with watercolour and pigmented drawing ink.

Pictured above: 
Jewel Beetle Woman, 2014, lino block in progress, 45 x 30 cm
Sketchbook images: Pencil on paper, 15 x 11 cm (paper size)

Ways of seeing

As the Nature in Print workshop at the Australian Print Workshop is set to commence, so is another heat wave. Thankfully the APW is air conditioned, as is the fabulous Melbourne Museum; the three-day workshop kicks off tomorrow morning with a field trip to its natural history section.

Directly below is a further selection of snapshots from my recent research trip to the museum. (See also previous post).

Thursday, January 9, 2014

2014 Australian Print Workshop Summer School: Nature in Print

I’m delighted to be one of the special guest artists of the 2014 Australian Print Workshop Summer School. Fellow guest artists are Vicki Couzens, Juan Ford, Tim Jones, Roslyn Kean and Lisa Roet.

Cover art above left: Louise Weaver, le tigre, photo-lithograph

My workshop includes a field trip to the Natural History section of Melbourne Museum. Its remarkable insect collection has been a rich source of inspiration for much of my own work:

Homo-insecta, 2013 (images only): Portfolio cover: 33H x 24W x 1.5 D cm Cover art: linocut, hand coloured 22.5 x 12.5 cm 
Contents: 7 linocuts, hand coloured, 29.5 x 21 cm; edition: 10

During the workshop I will produce a limited edition print, working in collaboration with Master Printer Simon White. This week I visited the museum to do some preliminary research:

For full details of the APW Summer School workshops, visit the links below:

Linocut and the Melbourne Museum
Instructor: APW Printer Simon White

Tuesday 28 January – Thursday 30 January
10 am – 4 pm each day

Australian Print Workshop
219 Gertrude Street
Fitzroy Vic 3065
03 9419 546

Download the enrolment form here:

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Forward to the future

Pictured above are some lino blocks, all destined for 2014 projects. Most were made in what has been my temporary studio for way too long: the tiny third bedroom in our house at Ballarat.

It’s over two years since I bought the house. Our Master Plan was to convert the large garage in the back garden into a studio. Because of work commitments, however, the conversion largely went on hold. But during 2013, progress was slowly, but very surely, made. Shane added skylights and insulated the walls and ceiling. We also had a sink and double glass doors installed. Just before the year's end, Shane finished laying a floating floor (purchased from IKEA at a bargain price).

It’s finally starting to look like a studio, although there’s still much to be done, most notably calling in an electrician to install new lighting and a removalist to transport our press, plan cabinets, work benches and other miscellaneous equipment from Melbourne.

The end of what has been a frustratingly drawn out process is definitely in sight. What a wonderful way to start the year. 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Back to the Present

Welcome to my Art blog, to 2014 and what I hope will be a marvellous year for all of us.

But before launching into a busy year (despite my best laid plans, it's already shaping up to be another one of those) I thought it important to pause momentarily and consider just some of the events that for me made 2013 a standout, that fed my work because they fed my spirit.*

Back in April at the Comedy Theatre in Melbourne, Driving Miss Daisy with Angela Lansbury, James Earl Jones and Boyd Gaines gifted us with some of the most superlative acting I’ve ever experienced. Over the years I’ve been privileged to see some mighty fine theatre, not just in Melbourne, but in London and New York; this was one of a handful of occasions on which I witnessed true greatness.

I never again expected to see anything remotely as fine in live theatre, but only a few weeks later Barry Humphries’s Weimar Cabaret opened at Melbourne’s Hamer Hall. The Australian Chamber Orchestra, cabaret singer Meow-Meow and Humphries himself brilliantly performed music from Weimar Germany, much of it heard for the first time in Australia.

Click on the link below for an interview with Humphries and Meow-Meow and a clip from the show:

Since childhood, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec has been one of my favourite artists. So completely wrapped up in his work was I, it took me years to discover how shamefully underrated he is. Toulouse-Lautrec: Paris and the Moulin Rouge, for which we traveled to the Australian National Gallery in Canberra, was another of 2013’s highlights. For the many who associated him solely with those (admittedly superb and ground-breaking) lithographic posters, it also showcased what a brilliant - and extraordinary prolific - painter and drawer he was.

Pictured above: La rousse au caraco blanc [The redhead in a white blouse] [Carmen Gaudin in the artist’s studio] 1887
Oil on canvas
55.9 (h) x 46.7 (w) cm
Lower right: HTLautrec (H, T and L in monogram)
Reference: Dortu P.317
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston Bequest of John T. Spaulding
Pictured above: Jane Avril at the Jardin de Paris  [Jane Avril au Jardin de Paris] 1893
Planographic, brush and spatter lithograph, printed in five colours on wove paper
125.0 (h) x 92.0 (w) cm
Signed lower centre, printed from the stone in olive-green ink, 'HTLautrec'
Reference: Wittrock P6b
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra NGA 1996.891
Gift of Orde Poynton Esq. CMG 1996

Pictured above: The jockey [Le jockey] 1899
Planographic, brush, crayon and spatter lithograph, printed in six colours on wove paper
51.8 (h) x 36.3 (w) cm, edition 100
Signed lower right corner, printed from the stone in black ink, 'HTL' monogram dated lower right corner, printed from the stone in black ink, 1899 [inversed]
Reference: Wittrock 308
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra NGA 1977.15
Purchased 1977

In what was a singularly trying year in Australia - with the certainty of worse to follow in 2014 – it took something pretty damn special to take our minds off our troubles, if only for awhile. Meeting the retiring champion racehorse Black Caviar at her farewell appearance at Caulfield Racecourse rates as highly as any of the other events listed here. Like several artists, including Lucian Freud, Edgar Degas, Alfred Munnings, George Stubbs and the abovementioned Toulouse-Lautrec, equine subjects have significantly figured in my partner Shane Jones’s work. He has been following Black Caviar’s illustrious career for a long time and has even painted her. Meeting her for the first time was an inestimable treat for me and getting so unexpectedly up close and personal was an unexpected surprise and a first for both of us. We were completely besotted and stayed for hours. Seldom in my life have I met such a gentle, patient, intelligent, laid-back animal. Clearly she loves people every bit as much as they love her.

Back in the theatre, Victorian Opera enchanted us with Robert Wilson and Phillip Glass’s Einstein on the Beach. The infamous five hours running time (with no interval and no discernible plot) passed in the blinking of an eye.

The same company’s exquisite production of Stephen Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George was by far the best version I’ve ever seen.

At Melbourne’s Kino Cinema we saw a filmed version of the celebrated West End revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along. I was extremely disappointed to miss out on seeing this production live in the West End when I postponed a planned trip to London. But this was the next best thing – dynamically filmed, with stunning performances, and a scintillating libretto that was all the more poignant for starting at the end and tracing the three protagonists’ stories backwards to the beginning of their friendship. Sondheim’s score, of course, was utterly sublime; several times I was moved to tears.

There was something disconcertingly familiar about the leading female character, Mary. When I recalled that the musical was based on a 1934 play by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, the penny dropped. I was almost certain that Kaufman and Hart had used their fellow writer and Algonquin Round Table Member, Dorothy Parker as a partial basis for Mary's flawed, but fabulous character, which a little research subsequently confirmed. That really made my day.

*The above list is by no means inclusive; it does not include highlights already covered in previous blog posts.