Archive for the ‘prints’ Category

passing on the knowledge

May 3, 2014

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Weekend Workshops Coming up

One of my favoured printmaking techniques is of course wood engraving, the means of creating detailed graphic images which was once so commonplace it was used to illustrate everything from bibles to newspapers.  Technology has long since passed on from the days when commercial printing was done from hand carved blocks wood.  But there are a few of us around who love to preserve these archaic methods, while putting them into a contemporary context, and for me it is a pleasure to share what sometimes seems like forgotten knowledge.  So it is time again to offer some weekend workshops in wood engraving.  I am visiting Sydney at the moment, and will be sharing this technique with students at the National Art School, and while I am here I am also offering a weekend workshop in Newcastle hosted by the Newcastle Printmakers Workshop on May 17/18.  Click on the link for more info.  After I return to Queensland, I’ll be offering the same course in Brisbane, at the newly opened studios of Impress.  That will be 28/29 June.  I look forward to seeing you there.

In The Wilderness

September 6, 2013

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woodcuts, Dürer and the desperate man

June 13, 2013

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I’ve been looking at a lot of Albrecht Dürer images lately.  I acquired a secondhand book about Dürer recently, and I already had a book of the etchings and engravings.  One day I must get the companion book of the woodcuts.  I’ve also been able to see some of the woodcuts ‘in the flesh’ a couple of days ago, since the Queensland Art Gallery has the entire Apocalypse series, plus a few other woodcuts, on display at the moment. (on show until 21st July 2013).  Dürer is of course, one of the greats of Western art history.  Born in 1471 in Nurenburg, he was part of the great revolution in image making and distribution brought about by the development of the Gutenburg Press around 1450.  One of my favourite Dürer images is the one above, sometimes titled ‘The Desperate Man’, though Dürer himself gave it no title.  It is not a woodcut, but an etching done in iron plate, and possibly his first use of this medium which was in it’s infancy at the time.  So, with all this as background, and having just bought some ply wood with the intention of making some new woodcuts, and armed with the love of reversals and contradictions perhaps common to printmakers, I set about making a new work based on The Desperate Man.

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So, in making a woodcut homage to one of Europe’s first great woodcut artists, I’ve chosen to base it on one of his etchings – a medium he seems to have made infrequent use of (there are many intaglio prints by Dürer – mostly engravings).  When I teach relief printing, I seem to end up talking a lot about ‘black line’ and ‘white line’, and indeed I thought about this again in making this print (and I wrote about black line way back here).  You see, when Dürer made woodcuts, along with those that followed for many many years, his designs were ‘black line’.  An image would be drawn on the wood in black ink, and then the negative spaces lowered by carving, so that the lines would be left in raised relief (and hence the term relief printing) where they would receive black ink to then be transferred to paper.  Lately I’ve been preferring to make images with a ‘white line’ approach, thinking of the marks made by the carving tools as positive white lines on a black ground, coalescing to create and image delineated in white lines.  This doesn’t alter the nature of the way the process works – it is still the raised areas that receive and transfer the black ink, it’s just a different way of thinking about the creation of the image.  A lot of my recent images have been made in this way, from drawing with white chalk or pastel on black paper, to the monotypes of white clouds and skulls hovering in black spaces.  Indeed with this new print of The Desperate Man, I have continued my recent liking for bleed printing, that is printing right to the edges of the paper rather than leaving a white border.  I think this enhances the idea of the white line, making up the white object floating in a black field.  Viewers are sometimes fooled into thinking these prints are printed in light ink on dark paper, so used are we to the idea that the ‘negative space’ of an image equates to being ‘left blank’.  I love to watch that moment of confusion as people viewing these works figure out the mechanics.  To come back to that idea of printmaking being an inherently contradictory beast, this is indeed the case with a relief print, in the sense that the areas that print are those where no carving has taken place, but this is often masked in the way the conceptualy active parts of a design often seem to be made up of the blacks.  In a black and white image of course, as with any binary system, one side cannot work without the other.

Confusing?  Perhaps now you feel like The Desperate Man.

The Desperate Man (after Dürer), Woodcut, Peter McLean, 2013

The Desperate Man (after Dürer), Woodcut, Peter McLean, 2013. Printed in black ink on grey stonehenge. 28x65cm

(Yes, I know, I’ve left out his head. All the better to display the wonderful pose of the hands, which somehow makes me think of Child with a Toy Hand Granade by that rather more modern master image maker of humanity, Diane Arbus.  The Queensland Art Gallery, incidentally, also has some Arbus photographic prints on display at the moment).

wood engraving classes

April 8, 2013

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I began teaching a new class today at the National Art School in Sydney.  I have been working with first year students over the last six weeks, giving an introduction to woodcut and etching. Today I began working with second year printmaking students on a relief printing course and began by introducing them to wood engraving, which is one of my favourite techniques to work with and also one I particularly enjoy teaching.  I think that is partly about it being a technique that is not practiced my many people, and offered as a class quite infrequently, so I enjoy the idea of being one of the people who is keep that knowledge and practice active.  It certainly didn’t look like the NAS tools had been used recently.  I think the students were a little surprised to see how small the blocks were that they were being provided with, but I soon managed to impress on them the fineness of mark-making that is possible and they have all undertaken admirably ambitious designs that they soon realised will take time enough to carve, despite (or perhaps because of) being so small.  I look forward to seeing some of the images start to be printed some time tomorrow.

I am also offering a number of other opportunities to learn this medium in the coming months, with weekend workshops running in Newcastle and Brisbane.

The Newcastle Printmakers Workshop will be hosting me on Saturday the 18th and Sunday 19th May with more details available at http://www.newcastleprintmakersworkshop.org/Workshops.html  For enrolments contact Samantha on 0422 362 924 or samantha.powell@det.nsw.edu.au

On the weekend after (25/26 May) I will have made my way north, and will be running the workshop at the Brisbane Institute of Art in Windsor, with more information and enrolments available on their website.  The BIA phone number is (07) 3857 5377.

I will also be teaching wood engraving and woodcut as part of the NAS public programs winter school in July, with more information available on the NAS website soon.

 

Monotyping at Megalo

March 17, 2013

 

 
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In between teaching days at the National Art School in Sydney, I’ve been doing some walking and camping, time on Sydney Beaches, seeing some shows etc.  This weekend I have traveled to Canberra for a bit of time in the studios at Megalo.  It’s a bit like a second home here at Megalo, since I am so familiar with the studio and presses.  I’ve been taking advantage of the big Hilton electric press to make some more monotypes, with the imagery referring back to summer in Queensland.  I’m thinking a whole new series might be nice, with the figure in the landscape being more explicit than some of my previous work.  They always take a lot longer than I expect though.  I only took two prints yesterday, and one at least should be trashed.  I’ve been here several hours this morning, and only the above print has so far come off the press, but I’m reasonably happy with it.  Bleed printed in a greenish black ink on a half sheet of Hahnemuhle (76 x 56 cm). Below is the second print from yesterday, showing how the drawing changes each time, especially since I am only working from a rough thumbnail drawing about one inch square, which itself was drawn from memory soon after visiting this creek in Mapleton National Park.  What might be lost in faithful realism, is amply made up for by what is gained in the freedom to express a mood and sense of the place without feeling the need to copy a photographic reference.

 

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Diversity in Print

March 7, 2013

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Last night saw the opening of Diversity in Print an exhibition of prints at the Royal Queensland Artist Society gallery on Petrie Terrace (Brisbane).  I’m in Sydney teaching at the moment so couldn’t get to the opening of course, but the good people there phoned to tell me I had been awarded a second prize for the wood engraving Forest Tunnel shown above.  This print was one of the ones I made in California, while at the JB Bunk residency.  I particularly like the crispness of the printed bark, that I had carefully retained on the block of birch wood as I cut and polished it prior to carving the image.  This print also makes use of  hand printing with a banana leaf barren in such a way as to produce subtleties of tone through the controlled use of variable pressure.  I’m glad to have been able to represent the somewhat neglected art of wood engraving in a show called Diversity in Print.

The show is on until 23rd March at 162 Petrie Terrace, Brisbane.

drypoint

March 4, 2013

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It was a busy start to the year, and my internet connection at home is rather tenuous, and so I somehow neglected to blog about the very exciting news that I have acquired a small etching press.  With assistance from the Australia Council for the Arts via an Artstart Grant, and the craftsmanship of Stephen, the press man at Melbourne Etching Supplies, my press arrived in early January.

Having a press now enlarges the range of techniques I can print at home to include intaglio methods such as etching and drypoint, as well as the type of monotypes with deep flat blacks that I like so much.  While a two person job to lift with ease, the press is technically ‘portable’, so I will, if need arrises, be able to print ‘on the road’ or give workshops in a broader range of techniques in locations without access to a press.

The first print I made on the new press was the drypoint above, depicting a curious waterfall I recently visited in Conondale National Park.  A day was spent exploring Peter’s Creek, upstream from Booloumba Falls, including this waterfall which plunges into hole about two meters across, with a very solid bedrock barrier between this turbulent, but out of sight, base of the falls and the large swimming hole in front of it.  No hint of current or bubbles gives any indication of the necessary connection between the two.  The maps I have give no name to this feature, but thought it deserved one, so Cauldron Falls it is.

As for the title of the print: So I Called it Cauldron Falls.

printmaking classes

January 26, 2013

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I am once again offering two day printmaking classes in the exquisite art of the wood engraving.  A traditional relief printing technique best known for the ability to capture very fine detail in small scale images that draw the viewers attention into a miniature world.

This round of classes will be offered in Brisbane on February 9/10, and Inverell (NSW) February 23/24.

For more details and enrolments for the Brisbane workshop, see the Brisbane Institute of Art website at: http://brisart.org/ and follow the links to classes.

For details of the Inverell workshop see the Inverell Art Gallery website and follow the ‘what’s on’ link.  Enrolments for this class should be made through me by email to peter.mclean@ymail.com

 

Megablah

August 31, 2012

Megablah is a members project being run by Megalo Print Studio in Canberra. Inspired by Noel Counihan’s The Broadsheet publications, produced in the 1960’s featuring relief prints by Counihan and others.  Everyone using the studio’s at Megalo is being encouraged to make a megablah – or even just submit and image and they will make it for you!  So of course, over the last few weeks, a megablah has been one of the things I’ve been working on.

With Counihan’s work being the loose inspiration, I wanted to make something with a more obvious political content.  So it was, that I decided to make use of the copy of the San Francisco Chronicle I had kept from last year, along with some of the leaflets I picked up at various Occupy Encampments.  I left California in late October 2011, when the Occupy Camps were still in full swing on the streets, and it was very much an issue in the media.

I decided to pretty much make a straightforward re-creation of a selection of my source material, and let it speak for itself, but with a few twists.  So this led me down the wondrous path of CMYK screenprinting – something that has long fascinated me but which I hadn’t actually done before.  CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black – known as the process colours and used along with colour separations and halftones to print full colour images, like those found in newspapers and magazines.  When you see the separations, it can hardly seem possible that they will combine to produce the colours you want, but magically they do.  Well almost.  Printing this stuff by hand, not to mention variations in the amounts of pigment and paste, always leads to minor variations and inconsistencies.  With a lot of patience and careful testing they can be ironed out, but this was meant to be a quick fun project, so caution was thrown to the wind and I just printed them straight up.  Time for some pics-

First colour down, Cyan.  Megalo had already printed up the border for me, I just had to insert my image.

Second colour down, so with Cyan + Magenta it’s looking pretty purple.

The yellow screen, clamped in the table and ready to print.

So now with Cyan, Magenta and Yellow all printed, it’s looking pretty good (though it did end up a bit over yellow in some spots).  The final black will really make it zing, even though in this case there was a lot less on the black screen than I would have thought.

And There we are.  I just love the way the shadows under that top part of the image really make that bit of paper seem to sitting above the rest.

The final stage to complete the image was to cut out and paste in the wood engraving I had made previously to replace the main photo of some pretty heavy looking police action to clear the Oaklands Occupy Camp.

Quite pleased with the final result.  On one level it’s simply a recreation of my memorabilia, documenting a particular episode in history.  On another level, the two types of print used refer to newspaper imaging old and new, with wood engraving being the original means of producing illustrated newspapers, and of course CMYK and halftone is the current technology.

remembering san francisco

August 14, 2012

It’s been nice to be remembering my time in California last year, while I’ve had the Fog and Fault-lines exhibition on at Megalo Print Studio + Gallery in Canberra, and as I relate to the audience here my experience of the residency there.  While the works from the residency focused on the physical and natural environment, I was of course also interested in observing aspects of culture and politics etc, especially while I was travelling after the residency and spending more time in towns and cities.  So this week I’ve  been working on a new/old project, that I have had in mind since then but is only now starting to take form.  I’ve kept a San Franciso Chronicle (October 26, 2011) and various leaflets that I collected from the Occupy Camps in Berkley and San Francisco, and am planning to recreate them to produce a print as part of Megalo’s Megablah project.  So far I have made a wood engraving, based on the main photo from the Chronicle’s front page, and printed them on kozo paper, but that is only a part of the overall image, so stay tuned for more…


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