Sunday, February 25, 2007

Topic #41 - Morning

Having CFS has an interesting impact on my photography - I have very few photos taken in the morning, because I simply don't get out of the house till about midday! Hunting through my folders did reveal this one, with the foliage shadows on the washing, taken in Melbourne.

I took this photo for inspiration and was thinking about making large panels of translucent porcelain to "project" shadows onto. A lot of my earlier work revolves around shadows as you can see here and here.

I spent a lot longer than I intended trying out different ideas for this piece in Photoshop - damn computers! they gobble up your time, but they do make it easy to explore a range of options. In the end I had so much trouble selecting one as my entry that I am just going to upload a number of options and whichever comes up first will be the entry! You can visit my blog to see what else
I came up with (for those reading this on Artwords).


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Cycles: an artist book - wip

I've spent hours on Photoshop today working on different options for this image. It will be the basis for one page of an artist book I plan to make for my masters. The working title for the book is Cycles and it will explore the cyclical nature of all life - continuing the theme of process/change. I'll probably do an inkjet transfer with the image or maybe incorporate it in encaustic. Those explorations are the next step. Once I decide for one page, then that will set the media for the book. I have chosen a flutter book format because I want the whole thing to be visible at once but also create a circle. There is a bit more work to do in PS - I'll be removing the powerlines, but otherwise I am reasonably happy with these two options. Let me know if you have a preference.
Just a short post today because I'm typing one-handed - the other one is supporting the head of my sleeping cat!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Self portraits update - more advice needed...

I want to thank all the people who took the time to leave comments or email me personally to give me some feedback on the self portraits I am working on. It was incredibly helpful and really helped me to fill in the gap that working off campus creates.

I have done a few more tests, and am posting a few more images here. One thing that came up was the idea of at least seeing some facial features in the portrait with clay. Rather than working just with layer opacity I decided to try splitting the face, as you can see on the left. I actually had a lot of fun playing with this in photoshop and trying to achieve some sense of 3-D. Of course, working with real clay and projections would look rather different. Again I would appreciate people's opinions on this. Already my husband has said it reminds him of Phantom of the Opera, which isn't an association I really want.

This is an attempt at simply using a figure and embedding that in wax. To me this lacks the emotional strength of the actual face. What do you think?

In this piece I am exploring the use of the square in place of a figure. I think this speaks mostly about the materials and loses most of the sense of preservation or embalming associated with a human being in wax. I do love the way the fibres in the paper are visible - it looks like hair when held up to the light - and suggests some new directions to follow in the future.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Topic #40 - Heart

With my love of anatomical drawings I couldn't miss the chance to join in this weeks Artwords challenge - Heart.
I made this book page some weeks ago, the first for a book with the working title "Preserve". The concept is an exploration of how we try to hold onto life, which is actually a slippery process, changing constantly and passing us by.
We live in our memories and struggle to extend our youth but change keeps happening in spite of our efforts.
If we could only accept this and live in the moment, things would be so much easier.
The paper is Rives BFK, hand-embossed for depth with a Sheer Heaven transfer, wax and oil paint.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Self Portraits - wip

With only five weeks till I fly out to Melbourne for my first meeting with my masters supervisor in over a year and a half, I am trying to do as many tests for different artworks as I can. Working in isolation here in Brisbane means that I don't get to show my works-in-progress to anyone and get feedback. I have suddenly realised what a loss this is. I am hoping that readers of this blog might step in and give me some feedback. I would really appreciate it if you could comment or drop me a line if you have an opinion on some work that I put up here over the next little while. I am definitely open to criticism - so if you don't think something is working, please tell me. Conversely, I will obviously be thrilled if you think something works well.

I have started on a piece which I conceived of as a diptych of self portraits. One portrait will be embedded in wax and the other will be a projection onto drying clay. They are both life size head shots and the idea is to contrast the two. In the clay piece, the clay is drying, undergoing a process and together with the projection is trying to communicate transience in life. The wax piece sits in opposition to this - an attempt at preservation.

I am still deciding whether to use a naturalistic portrait or something else - the black and white transfer above, a figurative outline, or even just a circle. Each says something slightly different and I am wondering which might be most powerful. I always tend to lean towards the less specific, but something tells me the face embedded in wax is quite powerful and somewhat alarming. I will be posting some alternatives in the next day or so.

These are four photoshop mock-ups of the face with the drying clay. I think no. 4 is a lot stronger than any of the others, but I am keen for feedback on this too.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Inkjet transfers with Australian materials

On Monday I decided to get methodical about a technique which can be challenging at best. For some reason, I love the idea of transfers. It offers so many options for working with imagery - both my own and "found images" from the public domain. So in order to sort out what I needed to do, I decided to test out some methods until I found one that I could get to work for me reliably.

Part of the issue with this is that while there is a lot of information and advice out there on the net and in books it all tends to be with American products. Some of those are available here but many are not, and by the time you order things online and pay postage, well... and besides, call me strange, but I like supporting Australian products.

I should explain that inkjet transfers seem to be more temperamental than those using laser copies or xerox/toner copies. There is a lot of variability between printer inks, gel mediums,transfer papers and method used. I bought a new photo printer before Christmas with one of the goals being to be able to use archival inks so that I could incorporate transfers into my artwork. After research I came home with a Canon Pixma i5200. The quality of the photos is great - I could not be happier, but I discovered that while the ChromaLife 100 inks it uses are just as archival as the ones used by Epsons, they are not waterproof. Luckily for me, this hasn't actually been the problem I thought it might. Surprisingly, you can spray the image with fixative or even hairspray (I prefer Cedel for that scent of the 60s....) and it will still transfer but it doesn't run. Go figure, as They say. So it should be known that after printing, each of the following transfer images were sprayed, in this case, with Micador fixative.

So here we go.

First I tested out Jonathon Talbot's method, which you can find here in its original form with full US supplies. I had used it successfully with a colour image in a work which appeared in an earlier post (thanks to Kelsey for her advice on this.)

You can see the problem I had - the green and red inks transfered separately. This was the same for both, although you can work through the green and achieve the sort of reddish brown you see here. The Golden definitely gives you a clearer image, which may or may not be what you are after with a transfer.

Next test: DJ Pettitt's method.

This method has been circulating furiously on the internet of late in the groups I frequent anyway, as has this modification. For some reason, I started with the modification but I just could not get it to work at all. It leaves a layer of gel on the receiving surface, and I could not pull off the transfer without pulling all or most of the gel right off the page. Obviously I was doing something wrong, but I moved on to the original method and here are the results. First I should discuss the issue of sandwich/deli paper. Just what is this? Well it is a very lightly waxed paper used to wrap sandwiches in deli's. It doesn't really look or feel waxed but it is greaseproof. You can't seem to get it in supermarkets in Australia. In the end I did a Yellow Pages search for catering supplies and found a lovely Queensland company who couriered me a very generous sample! Did I feel guilty! So I suppose I should give them a plug. You can find them at and I tried the Caxton Greaseproof Unbleached. However, these two transfers were done using Glad Bake which is available is supermarkets. You have to cut it to
size, which is a hassle, and feed it through your printer very carefully, but it will work. One tip though - make sure you use a nice sharp blade for cutting because any slight defect in the paper edge seems to send the printer mad.

Both of these were done with Golden soft gel (matte) which has proved the most hopeful in the test with the "modified method". I was really happy with this result. It's a little grainy - that's from the fixative spray, but I like the way the brush strokes show, there's good colour and good responsiveness to burnishing.

On Tuesday my "real" sandwich paper samples arrived, so I gave them a try.

And this is the result: Now this is onto canvas, and I have to say I was thrilled!

Well I hope this little review is of some help to someone, especially if you are in Australia and like me are finding the hunt for comparable materials a bit of a drag.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Topic #38 - Memory

My entry this week is an encaustic painting. This is a medium I am very new to, so I have a lot to learn. Even so, I find working with the wax absolutely fascinating and despite the challenges it presents I experience little or no frustration.

The building up of translucent layers really lent itself to this weeks theme. To me it represents the way memories become fuzzier over time. I started off working quite intuitively, putting down layers and scratching back to reveal hidden textures; then painting more layers of wax.

After a while I started to see a theme emerging of archaic time. The textures seemed geological and the scratching back reminded me of archeological digs. There is also a flavour of the primordial soup, I think. In order to integrate the image, I overlaid some structure in the final layers. Without that, the imagery was a bit too chaotic for my eye. I do hope you can see some of the layering and detail in the enlargement, because without that some of the meaning will be lost.

I am cheating a little, by posting my entry for last week here as well. As I explained in a previous post, I just wasn't happy with it last week, but when I returned to it this week, it somehow looked a lot better! You know how it is! It really does seem to capture the mood.
This photo was taken in our driveway in Melbourne after a day of 40 deg. celsius heat. It was about 10pm and a cool change came through, with the most gorgeous cooling breeze. The temperature must have dropped about 20 degrees in an hour or so - as it can in Melbourne. These bushes were blowing about and I have of course photoshopped them, to enhance the effect.

A Painting A-Day: The Last Week

I am running a bit late with this update on my Painting-A-Day (downgraded to the much less catchy A Painting Every Second Day here) so in fairness given the time extension I have created more work - eight pieces in all. The lateness was caused by some health issues (migraines provoked by the sudden onset of summer heat here in Brisbane) and the fact that I spent the week working mostly with wax (good choice for hot weather, I hear you say!).
One thing I love about wax is that if you don't like what you've created, you can melt it down or scrape it back and hey presto! start again! The trouble is, this is a little like computers, they don't save you any time, but you can end up with a better end result - it just depends how much patience you have....I am also pretty new to using wax so there is a lot to learn - but after this I feel somewhat more confident...dipping and collage are going okay but painting, well I'm not a painter, so I've got a lot to learn.
The collage shows the works in the order they were finished, and includes two entries for Artwords and one for Illustration Friday. You can see the red paper-cut for IF in my other blog, Amanda-IF and I will do a separate post for the Artwords entry for this week - Memories.
The first piece is a page for my second artists book. You can see my first one here. It is still coming together, but is about the transience of the body. This is a Sheer Heaven transfer of the heart, encased in wax. The working title for the book is "Preserve". There is a LOT more work to be done on this, as this is the first page I've completed. I was pleased to test out my techniques though and find it came together quite well.
Next is a digital entry for last weeks Artwords, which I wasn't really satisfied with and did not end up posting. The prompt was "wind" and it's a digitally altered photo of the wind rustling the trees in our driveway in Melbourne. Looking back a week later, I actually think it captures the theme reasonably well.
Third is an attempt at a collage I've been thinking about which explores the cyclical nature of existence through the lunar cycle. I wasn't at all happy with the woman in this and re-did it, as you can see in the second last piece. This one feels more true to my aesthetic, but still needs work.
Next is my second wax box. You can see more detailed images of this on Flickr. This one is constructed entirely of Japanese lace paper. I plan to make a series of these boxes as part of my masters work so you'll be seeing more of them in future posts.
Next is a red wax collage using Sheer Heaven transfers and inlaid wax drawing. It started as an experimental page for Preserve but I doubt it will be used now. The final piece is an encaustic painting incorporating a little collage and it's my Artwords entry so you'll have to wait for the Artwords post to read about it.
The great thing about this month has been that I have created a lot, explored themes and techniques I've had in mind for literally months, and most pleasingly, been really well and energetic through it all. Now if I could just manage to sustain this level of output, I think I might have a chance of finishing my MFA....
So the plan for the next month is to get working on masters pieces. I have scheduled a visit to Melbourne for late March and I want to have plenty of samples to take down with me. Tomorrow will be a big planning day. Over all, a great start to the year.