Archive for the ‘artists books’ Category

libris awards

May 11, 2013




Opening tonight at Artspace Mackay in North Queensland is the annual Libris Awards for artist books.  I hear this is the biggest show yet with work from over 90 artists selected. The work I have in the show is titled “Bone Sequence II”, and is of course the second book of this type that I have made from a sequence of prints taken directly from an animal bone.  A third is slowly underway.





How do you print from bone you ask?  In essence, I treat the bone as if it was a wood engraving block.  Careful sanding with fine grade carborundum paper creates a polished flat surface, acting as a section through the bone and revealing detailed intricate structures within.  I don’t need to do any further shaping or carving, I’m just there to reveal what is already present.  This flat surface then has printers ink applied with a roller, and an impression transferred to paper.  Again, my work with wood engraving told me how to go about this in a way that would capture the greatest possible detail with the greatest possible clarity.  The process is repeated many times, creating a sequence of ‘samples’, which coincidentally turns the whole bone into dust.  Collated into a book, these images, one per page, act as a model or analogue for the real object now destroyed in the process.  In the above image you see the strong black image printed on translucent paper, showing the receding shadowy hints of the subsequent pages beneath.  Perhaps this process is also an analogue for human culture and society.  The more ‘advanced’ we become, the more our ability to obtain and collate knowledge of the world increases, the quicker we destroy it.


Artspace Mackay Libris Awards will be showing until June 30 2013.

collections and collecting

November 3, 2012

Detail from ‘Sections of Life’, Artists’ Book, Peter McLean, 2009


I’m happy to report that the State Library of Queensland has recently purchased two of my artists’ books to add to their collection.  The library has an extensive collection of artists’ books, all searchable in their online catalogue and available to be viewed on request.  The books added to the collection were “Sections of Life; Black Mountain” which includes a sequence of relief prints taken from a small animal jawbone, and “Drooping Sheoak”, which is a sequence of prints from sections through a Casuarina seed pod.  Both were made in my Canberra days, one associated with walking and camping on Black Mountain, the other Mt Ainslie. The Library also has a copy of the broadside ‘Sky’ which I made with Ampersand Duck.

Meanwhile, I’m currently involved in collecting of a very different kind.  I have joined a crew of professional seed collectors, and we have been working in State Forests in norther NSW, collecting native seed to be used in landscape restoration projects and the like.  We’ve been working hard, and I’ve had little extra time or energy for drawing, but I’ve been taking a lot of photo’s of the processes along the way, to transform clippings from some bushes growing in the forest, into bags of pure seed.  We’re not there yet, and the final stages will be done back at ‘HQ’, but we are working our way through a lot of material.



monotypes at The Left Hand

August 24, 2011

A little interruption to my Marin musings to let you know that I’ll have work in a show which opens this week in the Canberra region.  The Left Hand is a great little gallery in Braidwood, NSW, where the art is always interesting and the people friendly.  Alone off the Press is an exhibition of monotypes – one off images made through printmaking processes.  With a wide variety of artists including monotype specialists, and printmakers who mostly make editioned prints but sometimes employ the monotype, there should be plenty of variety in approach to this oft under represented medium.  Also in the gallery, will be Flipping Books, a show of artist’s flip books, so definitely something for everyone!

You can also read more at the Facebook page here.

first prints

August 14, 2011

Just in case anyone thinks I’m just hiking the hills and not doing any work at all, here are a few pics from the first days experiments with printing from some of the redly available natural materials that have come to hand so far.

The obvious first place to start seemed to be to mount a sample of Bishop Pine, Pinus muricata, to begin a new ‘sequence book’.  Bishop Pine is one of the main trees in the immediate vicinity and has a restricted range – including here on the Point Reyes Peninsular, and in Baja California, Mexico.  Of course these two locations lie on opposite sides of the San Andreas Fault and were once connected!

California Bay, Umbellularia californica,  is another common species here, growing quite large in the temperate rainforest which forms a mosaic of vegetation types with the rainforest and the pine forest sometimes being quite distinct, and sometimes intermingling somewhat.  Largely to do with fire history I expect.

This piece is printed from a cross section of a large piece of bark.  Probably from a Redwood, but I’ll leave them for another day.

To finish, the view from my printing spot in the studio (note the garden produce by the door, brought to me by my neighbour Rufus).

prints from bone

July 10, 2011

Preparations for Preserved Disintegrations continues at pace. Some of the works in the show will feature a new set of prints from bone. Not pictures of bones, but the bone itself used as the relief printing matrix. There is a lot of time spent preparing the bone to make it suitable to print from, and to get clear detailed prints, but I don’t actually carve an image into the bone – the natural form and structure is the image.

Here is the ‘block’ ready to print. What was initially one single bone (a sheep’s pelvis I think) was glued onto a wooden block. It has been ground and sanded down through repeated processes of sanding and printing numerous layers. The narrow bit of wood screwed onto the block forms part of my registration system.

In front here are prints constructed from all of those layers printed one on top of the other – and hence the need for accurate registration. They are hand printed on a yellowy buff Iwaki paper. Barely visible in the background are the book pages printed on white kozo. For the books there is only one impression per page, and so the act of turning the pages mimics the process of gradually sanding the bone down, revealing a modified image at each layer. While only one layer is clearly visible at a time, I’ve chosen a paper that is very thin and a little translucent so you get a sense of the shifting structure laying just below the page which impels the viewer to keep turning and gradually reveal the entire form.


June 27, 2011

Sent off the file to the printers today for the invite to a new show opening at The Front Gallery and Cafe in Lyneham, Canberra from July 20th. Working hard to get it all together on time, but it’s looking good so far. Will make a nice last hurrah before setting off travelling. I’ll add more images from the show over the next few weeks.

Fremantle Print Prize

September 27, 2010

The 35th Fremantle Arts Centre Print Awards, Australia’s largest print prize, opened last friday (in Fremantle, Western Australia).  I was very pleased to have been selected as a finalist with Sections of Life, a handmade book of relief prints taken from bone.  The show continues until 21st November, so if you happen to find yourself in Fremantle…

Peter McLean, Sections of Life, 2009.

bone prints

December 21, 2009

An exciting new direction my work has taken in the last few months has been relief prints taken from bone – that’s right, bones.  In this case a small animals’ jaw bone that I found in the bush has been sanded flat on one side to print from.  I didn’t do any additional carving into the bone, other than create a flat surface, so all the intricate shapes and forms you see above are a direct result of the structure of the bone.  A series of these prints were taken from the one bone and bound together in a little hardcover book I called “Sequence of Life”.  I’m very excited by the possibilities for a lot more bone prints next year, and other natural structures that I find on walks too.  I’ll keep you posted on that.

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