Turning towards the light

And so the year turns, away from darkness, revolving into light, our blue planet tumbling through the mystery of time and space...

A patch of blue sky

Dazzlingly bright and sunny yesterday, and still able to see my lovely Nutclough Mill through the gap.

The long thin format of the view is growing ever more like my woodcut print of Nutclough though the view for the woodcut is from a high vantage point looking down from Moss Lane , whereas the view from Brooklyn studios is looking upwards.

What I like in the photograph is the glowing orange of the brick side wall complementing the cold blue sky.

Changing Light

Two views from my studio space taken on Friday with a gap of a few hours between shots.  The murky morning turned into a more pleasant if very cold afternoon.

Feeling a little bit sad that the view has been curtailed since then by the installation of our new studio stairs, but on the other hand I've gained a new wall to hang work on and there's still plenty of light coming in from the high window.

Fortunately I can still see Nutclough Mill from my space, I just have to move to a more specific spot to get the angle right.  For 14 years I had a view of Nutclough from the other side, from my rented house, actually one of the original mill workers dwellings.

During that time I took loads of photos of the mill from my kitchen window, in all kinds of weathers and at different times of the day.  I'd like to put together a selection for this blog, but will have to digitise them first as they were all taken on film.  A project for the new year I think.

Its strange how certain buildings seem to follow you around - even though they're totally anchored of course. When I moved from Nutclough City Limits (as we used to call it) I thought thats it I'll never gaze on the mill in the same way, but here I am a few years later still staring.

Festive Open Studios

Yes its that time of year again, when we open up our gallery and studio spaces to our friends. acquaintances and the general public.  I designed this poster over a year ago but it never got used except by me for a few invitations.  So this year its getting a proper airing, or should that be snowing? The lace elephant is from a treasured remnant  I had from my grandmother many moons ago.

It looks as though the heavy snow will put off many of our visitors from further afield, but if any of you are in the Hebden area over the weekend, you're very welcome to visit us and join in our festivities.  I shall be making mulled cider again since it proved so popular last year.  Hope to see you.

November Snow

Oh the irony - my post dated 13th October mentioned about a forthcoming book making workshop at Cartwright Hall on 1st December. The post ended 'I doubt if it will actually be snowing at the start of December but you never know...'

Well not only have we got snow but its quite bad, especially in North Yorkshire and the Yorkshire Dales where most of the workshop participants were coming from.  Anyway, the long and the short of it is that the session is cancelled, due to the weather, and thus highlighting one of the down sides of being self-employed - no work, no pay. Its very frustrating after I've done all the prep work, created a demonstration model and purchased some paper.  There really ought to be a cancellation fee, but of course artists are always treated shabbily in these situations.

Whilst the snow surely makes a big problem for getting around, it does compensate in the beauty stakes. So to cheer myself up, here's a very recent photo of The National Trust's Gibson Mill at Hardcastle Crags just up the road .

Winter Calligraphy in Window

A bit disappointed that the large-scale version of my Winter Calligraphy book wasn't able to go in the Scandinavian themed window at Spirals, as the space was too busy.  Its in the other widow and has a prominent position facing out onto the main drag of Hebden.  So I'm still hopeful it may create some interest and sales - I've had a few texts from friends who've seen it and recognised it as my work.

I've tried to take a decent photo quite a few times now but its impossible to get a good angle without getting run over and its always dark by the time I get down there so this is the best I can do.

Long-tailed Tits

A selection of my bird prints are now available to buy at the Craft and Design Centre at Leeds Art Gallery, including this latest one featuring 3 long-tailed tits feeding on Hawthorn berries.

The low temperatures and snowy conditions have forced the birds to be more daring about getting food and my tiny back garden has seen a much wider range than usual coming in a flurry of urgent wings. This weekend we've seen wrens bullfinches, thrushes, blackbirds, a sparrow, blue tits and coal tits.

The blackbirds have developed a way of launching themselves off a hanging basket towards the frozen remains of the black grapes left on our wall-trained vine.  We felt sorry for them and have put all the grapes on the ground for them now.

Giant version of Winter Calligraphy Book

One of my tasks today was to make a very large (for me!) version of my tiny concertina book called Winter Calligraphy.  Its for my friends Sarah and Helen, to be part of the Christmas window display in their shop Spirals on the main street of Hebden Bridge.  They are having a Scandinavian theme featuring winter trees, reindeer and other lovely festive things.  I'm really pleased to have been asked to contribute.

The photo is taken in my studio this morning, but you can't tell the scale so its hopeless really.
The pages are about 33 cm square, basically the largest size I can print on the old Epson 2100.

I meant to go down to the shop later on to see how it works in the window space, but got involved in a printing session and by the time I'd cleaned a huge slick of black ink and two rollers it was 6.30 pm and too late.

Hand-tinted Twite Woodcut

This is the hand-tinted version of the Twite woodcut fresh from the inking parlour!  (aka the clean corner of my studio space).  I am hoping to have these on sale at the Craft Centre and Design Gallery below Leeds Art Gallery in the very near future, along with some of my other woodcuts featuring song birds.

Cotton Grass

Hurrah! I've finished the fourth woodcut print for the Pennine Prospects commission.  Its not that I didn't enjoy the work but there's a certain satisfaction in getting the job done.  

Carving the block for this image was fast and easy, but just like the Twite, printing was a problem. The same flaw in the wood was apparent - not surprising since I sawed a larger block in half.  This time I had to resort to Makeready and Underlay, technical terms for adding customised paper padding above and below the block to affect the printing pressure in specific areas.  Eventually the patchiness resolved itself into even black printing - much to my relief.

I feel that this image could be enhanced by the use of different coloured ink and tonight I've been playing with Photoshop to get an idea of the colours I might use.

Printed Twite

So here it is - the first proof of the Twite print, in lovely black ink!

Its been a bit of a battle today as inking-up revealed some strange flaws in the wood which caused patchy printing initially, until I got the inking, pressure and paper just right.

This is the first woodcut I've done that features black line work as a major design element. It is very time consuming, but I'm happy to discover I can do it, and feel inspired to attempt more in the same vein.  And only two not-very-serious cuts in my fingers as a result of all that gouging.  I'm very pleased with the Pfeil woodcut tools I purchased at the start of the year, really sharp and comfortable to use.

Tweeting Twite

The woodcut block for the Twite is finished at long last!  You can see from the detail above that the image is reasonably complex for a woodcut and has demanded a lot of fine cutting - why did I choose to depict Yarrow, with its feathery leaves and tiny flowers? - well because its beautiful of course.  Tomorrow morning I will be taking the first proof prints - it'll be strange seeing everything in mirror image, having stared at it this way round for so many days.

More clever woodcutters

Finally found a few minutes to sort out a couple of photos from my woodcut class at Brooklyn Studios last Sunday.  The sheer inventiveness and skill of almost complete beginners never fails to surprise and delight me.  So here's two different takes on a woodland theme - Anna with her beguiling stag, and Rachel with her fabulous foxglove in the forest.

If you are interested in learning how to make woodcuts, my next intensive one day course is on Sunday 21st November, 10.30 am to 4 pm, at Brooklyn Studios off Valley Road in Hebden Bridge.  For more details contact me via, angie(dot)rogers(at)talk21.com.  This will be my final workshop during 2010.

Messy Studio

This week I've been working very intensively on a commissioned series of woodcuts, and the studio has started to become chaotic - you can't really see the mess in this photo but there's heaps of wood shavings all over the floor and my main work surface is piled high with tools, coffee cups, bits of tracing paper, ink and paint, ugh!

The commission is for Pennine Prospects, a local regeneration organisation based in Hebden Bridge.  Its the same company that's involved in the Watershed - Inspired by landscape residency I'll be doing next year. 

Working out the design for this Twite aka Pennine Finch in its natural habitat has been a challenge.  The leaves of the Yarrow are so feathery and finely detailed, my eyes are all mixed up.  The thing that looks like a giant bee, hovering over the Yarrow is actually a large knot in the wood, exposed when I gouged too deeply in a moment of wandering concentration!

My Studio Space

This is part of my studio space looking pretty cluttered.  Its a very small area and I have to fit in all my various tools, equipment, materials and work in progress, so unless I'm very disciplined it all breaks down quickly into a chaotic mess.

December trees in October

I've been asked to deliver an arty workshop for around 25 people attending a project evaluation day at Cartwright Hall, Bradford in December.

There's only one and a half hours to complete the task so it has to be something simple and straightforward.

The project is connected with the natural environment and the people will spend time viewing the botanical garden around Cartwright.
The magnificent mature trees are a dominant feature of the grounds and I wanted to focus on these if possible.

So I've designed this small book, made from 3 pieces of A3 card with a black jute closure.  The structure is a very basic flag book and is easily adaptable in terms of colour for any season of the year.

I doubt if it will actually be snowing at the start of December but you never know...

Edition in progress

So here's the result of cutting out the strips and joining them together to make the concertina.

I've printed this on my trusty old Epson 2100 pigment ink printer, using Somerset Enhanced paper. I love the matte surface and the richness of the colour but I'm not sure how well this paper would stand up to the wear and tear a book undergoes. So still plenty of work to do before I can make my edition for selling.

To compare this facsimile with the original hand-painted book go to: http://www.angierogers.com/#/land-books/4532044100

Artist's Books

Preparing portfolios of work for recent  interviews has made me take a long look at all the artist's books I've made in the past few years.  At Cliffe Castle Keighley for the 'Watershed - Inspired By Landscape' residency interview I was given plenty of time to set out my books on long tables which was ideal as they are mostly in the concertina format. I was pleased by the impact they made en masse and the reaction of the interview panel.

Nearly all of the books I've constructed are 'unique' in the sense that there is only one copy. This means that even if I wanted to sell them, they would be too expensive for marketing in my local area. I'd love to make more editions using wide commercial printing to speed up the making process and I'm hoping that an exciting new development might enable this, but its still hush hush until I've had confirmation, so more of that later.

In the meantime, here's a picture of the lay-out for A3 printing of my Walk Around Ogden Water book.  I quite like how it looks all in a block, but its actually meant to be cut into strips to make the concertina.

For Mum

Inishtooskert, the northernmost of the Blasket Islands on the West coast of Ireland.

'What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and wildness? Let them be left,
O let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.'

From Inversnaid by Gerard Manley Hopkins

White Holme Moss

After weeks of gloom and rain the sun reappeared in the South Pennines on Sunday, leading to a long walk along the tops to take in some rays.  We parked up fairly near to the top of Blackstone Edge Road and took a track that leads westwards to White Holme Reservoir.  From there we travelled clockwise past Light Hazzles and Warland Reservoirs. You'd think the reservoirs would be full after all that rain so I was surprised to see how low they are and how much of the stone tower on Warland Res is exposed.

Continuing in a huge circle with a diversion to Gaddings Dam for lunch, we marched along the Pennine Way before turning off eastwards past the rocky outcrop of Holder stones following the path along Warland and White Holme Drains.

These drains are constructed water channels like mini canals that quietly run for miles and miles around the tops, carrying the reflections of sky and clouds along with them. I call them the conduits and I like to let my thoughts slide away along their mirrored surfaces. I've been studying the conduits and taking photographs of them for years now. I expect many people will consider that a bit anoraky and I find it hard to explain why I like them. I think its mainly the sky-conducting aspect, or rather that they conduct light as well as water. On bright days they are sparkling blue ribbons across the green and manila moors.

52 Squared

Thought it was about time I posted about 52 Squared, a collaborative blog project I've been doing with my artist friend June Russell.  Every week since the beginning of 2010 we've been posting a square format image each on the broad theme of 'Journey'. The images are displayed side by side, mine on the left and June's on the right.  We never consult about what we are going to post, but always try to respond to the combination of images from the previous week. 
It would be possible to cheat, but what would be the point in that?

Its amazing how often we seem to be on the same wavelength, making the same visual connections.  Some weeks it really is uncanny, for example week 28 when June posted a photo of the head and arching neck of an ancient Greek? horse statue from Corfu and I posted a photo of an old curling, rusty gatepost from Calderdale.  Both images convey the idea of restrained coiled energy.

This project is so enjoyable, for the elements of surprise and synchronicity, chance and challenge, and I'm shocked to realise we are more than half way through the year now.
To view 52 Squared follow this link: http://52squared.blogspot.com  

Watershed - Inspired By Landscape

Exciting news!  I've been chosen to be the resident artist for the Watershed Landscape Project in 2011 focussing on our wonderful moors and reservoirs here in the South Pennines.

When I saw the call for proposals way back in the Spring, my heart skipped a beat, to read my dream job description, and now I can hardly believe its actually going to happen.

I can't wait to get started and today I met Char March, who'll be the resident writer during the same period.  I'm still taking it all in, but will post more when I have a bit more information. Its brilliant to have some work lined up for next year, and to know I'll be spending even more time immersed in our landscape.

Insight Exhibition at Earth Spirit in Hebden Bridge

Its the final few days of the photography exhibition where I've been showing my first proper cyanotypes and mini photographic books, alongside interesting and beautiful work by three other photographers, so if you're in the area its well worth taking a look.

The gallery upstairs at Earth Spirit is a lovely space for showing work as it's so clean and airy with lots of natural light from big windows. The exhibition has drawn many visitors and received a very positive response.

Pontefract Liquorice Festival

On Sunday I was with my friend Viv delivering a free liquorice jewellery making workshop for families at Pontefract Liquorice Festival, paid for by Wakefield Council.  It was a lovely sunny day and our marquee was positioned right on the main drag by all the action so we had 5 solid hours of intense confectionery stabbing!

A giant load of liquorice, jelly babies and midget gems in 3 Kg bags was donated by the sponsors Tangerine Confectionery, and by the end of the afternoon it was almost completely gone.  The four lovely lads above waited very patiently in a long queue before being able to make their adornments and I was really pleased they let me take their picture.  I only managed to snatch a few, we were just too busy trying to keep the edible embellishments rolling out.

We met lots of great people and a special thanks goes out to Brenda from Surrey who battled through the seething melee in her wheelchair to bring us a cup of tea each - what a star.

If you've never been to this event, it really is worth going, for the great atmosphere and the on-street entertainment provided.  This year there were some amazing sights, my favourite being a bright green strangely beautiful ostrich-like bird with an equally vibrant green rider - (actually all one talented person on stilts).

Cyanotype Photograms

The past month has been madly busy with all kinds of ups and downs and one whole week involving Cyanotype mania.

The lovely Sarah and Helen offered me an opportunity to take part in an exhibition of photographic work in their beautiful gallery space above Earth Spirit in Hebden Bridge over the arts festival period.

Stupidly, I put myself under a lot of pressure by deciding to have a go at doing cyanotype photograms from scratch, using the chemicals I bought over 2 years ago, and to work on a large scale on thick watercolour paper.  Things kept going wrong with the chemistry (I had no weighing scales), the weather became rainy and windy and some of the wild plants kind of went past their sell-by-date. I was running out of time and getting in a panic.  Luckily the weather suddenly became sunny and stable and further on-line research showed me where I'd been going wrong with too much hydrogen peroxide bleaching out my prints instead of speeding up the oxidation process.

For logistical reasons I was working at home rather than my small studio space, so making the cyanotypes also involved complete chaos and mess in my kitchen although I was very careful not to contaminate anything to do with food...

The chemical solution had to be painted on the watercolour paper with a big brush, whilst grovelling on the floor, so why did I choose to use a circular motif I wonder?  Because I love circles actually, and using a disused wire circle from a lampshade as a guide and a lovely wide hake brush, it wasn't as bad as I'd imagined it would be to get a decent shape.  The cyanotype solution dries to a wonderful pale lemony green before its exposed to UV light.

After exposure to the sun, the paper is rinsed in a water bath and gradually the Prussian Blue and white pattern is revealed in all its cyan glory.  I especially love the areas where the sun has partially exposed and you get pale blue shadowy areas.  I also tried some more abstract arrangements of the plant structures but although these show promise for future work, all the ones I did during this session went wrong, with the colour bleaching out or the paper getting torn etc.

I can't wait to get started again, having invested in some digital scales to mix up the chemistry more accurately, and having made a timed test strip to guage how long the Yorkshire sun needs to perform the alchemy!  The two images above show Horse Tail and Cow Parsley, and Foxgloves.  I hated picking the foxgloves when they look so glorious in the wild, and spread out my raids over a wide area to avoid making too much impact on any one habitat.

New Mini Haiku Book

Another project I've finally completed! This little Haiku picture book has gone through a number of transformations to get to its final state.

The book is called Thoughts on a Fragment (found in the ruins of an old school) and relates to the former open air school in Bradford mentioned in an earlier post (2nd May 2010).  Its printed on watercolour paper with archival inks and is a signed edition of 75. There are 8 photographs, a Haiku poem and a tiny story.