Woodcut birds

I'm trying to make a series of woodcut prints of birds that live in the Calder valley.  If things work out the plan is to make a little book with an unusual structure.  A flag book is a variation on the concertina book and can give a kind of 3D effect.  I'm making slow progress as things keep going a bit wrong, sigh.

I've written a simple poem/song about birds and trees and I need to find a way to incorporate this text into the flag book form.  Anyway I'm making proof prints of the individual birds and experimenting with colours and papers. The bird here is a lady Siskin, not quite right yet but I'm getting there.  She's printed on a yellowing page from my ancient paper-back copy of art critic Bernard Berenson's  'The Italian Painters Of The Renaissance'. 

That book had a big influence on me when I was studying art history  many years ago. I don't think I realised then how long ago it had been written or that Berenson was a 'reactionary conservative who used his influence to discredit twentieth-century art and to preserve the notion of culture as aristocratic privilege', as I saw him described recently.  What I got out of reading him was the sense of a whole new world of colour, light and meaning welling up from the past, for which I will always be grateful. I certainly didn't feel shut out because I started life in a council house.

Another Woodcut Printmaking Course

By popular request I'm running another woodcut course at Brooklyn Studios on Sunday 21st March 2010 from 10 am to 4 pm. This is an intensive one-day course for both complete beginners and those with previous experience.

We'll be using A4 size Japanese plywood and Swiss made cutting tools to produce the printing blocks.  The trusty old A3+ relief printing press will be on active service again and participants will leave with a set of prints in both black and white and colour.

The course fee is £50 for the day including all materials and light refreshments.  A £25 deposit will secure a place on the course.  For more information or to book call in at the studios,  email me on angie.rogers(at)talk21.com, or text/phone on 0788 4307546

More on powdered charcoal

This is what Cretacolour charcoal looks like straight from the jar, a lovely velvety black that makes marvellous splat marks when dropped from height.

Powdered Charcoal

This morning I was in Bradford again, doing a demonstration and workshop for members of The Living Well Art Club.  We looked at two contrasting techniques:  sgraffito  with oil pastel on acrylic paint, and powdered charcoal applied with rag.

Its a shame that oil pastel isn't more popular as it is so direct and easily transported for outside use for example . But most people's initial experience of this versatile medium seems to be negative.  Usually its because they are using horrible 'budget' pastels that are all grease and no pigment, in sets with harsh colours and no subtlety - no wonder people hate them.  Much better to choose 4 or 5 individual, good-quality sticks in sympathetic hues.  I use Sennelier oil pastels which are very buttery. It took me a while to get used to the soft texture but was worth it for the high concentration of pigment and wide choice of colours.

The charcoal powder is wonderful, you can quickly lay on intense dark tones over large areas or drag extremely light veils of the palest grey.  Unlike my own home made powder which tends to be gritty, the Cretacolour charcoal from suppliers Great Art is extremely finely ground and moves around the paper like black mist. So far I've only used it dry but I'm looking forward to experimenting with water and other solvents.

Drawing in the sleet

Since mid January I've been working for one day a week in a primary school in central Bradford. Its a Creative Partnerships project and I'm one of the artists involved over the next couple of months. The children I work with are 9 and 10 and full of energy and fun. We are looking at aspects of identity and local environment.

Last week the plan was to make drawings of the outside of the school building, an old Victorian Board School with later additions. Travelling in on a foul morning I felt sure things would be cancelled, especially as the school is sited on an exposed and windswept hill. But no, we went ahead despite the developing sleet and freezing cold. The children were so brave and the novelty of drawing outside seemed to outweigh the physical discomforts.

This is the view for the observed drawings

And this is the children's side of things.

Sadly, I'm not allowed show their delightful faces, but if I was, you'd see cheerful grins. There is actually a roof structure over the children so its not as cruel as it might look and the paper did stay dry enough to make some interesting and detailed drawings.

Each small group of children had about 20 minutes max to complete their work, so didn't get too cold.  I on the other hand, was out there all morning and afternoon.  Thats when you fully appreciate the properties of thermal underwear, combined with multiple layers of wool.

More Woodcuts

All round good person Geoff Mitchell has kindly sent me a load of photos he took of the woodcut course on Sunday so here's a selection of the ones that best represent what we did.

Woodcut Course

The two woodcut courses over the weekend were a tremendous success with everyone producing excellent work, even the complete beginners. I'm always amazed by how inventive and resourceful people can be when learning something new, and such a variety of responses.

It was a great pleasure to meet interesting new people and to spend time with old friends.  The studio was filled with a wonderful atmosphere of concentration and purpose.  Cutting the wood is quite hard work physically and many decisions have to be made about positive and negative areas in the image but everyone  seemed to enjoy that part of the process and then the magic of seeing the print finally revealed!  You never really know how its going to turn out and thats the continuing fascination of printmaking.

And after everyone had gone home all I wanted to do was start making a new print myself...

Here are some of the learners and their lovely prints.