Busy busy busy!!

I can’t believe that it has been a month since I wrote a new post here. My residency in Sweden seems like ages ago and I’m feeling slightly overwhelmed by the amount of workshops that I’ve been teaching and exhibitions that I’ve been preparing for but there is light at the end of the tunnel and I am keeping my fingers crossed that by the time December comes, I’ll be able to start working on the ideas that I started at Ålgården.

In the meantime, as an update, my seven week collagraph evening course at Number Six Studio in Pateley Bridge is now three weeks in. I have seven returning students who have become ‘old regulars’ and one brand new student who has not done any printmaking before but has really thrown himself into the process and not been put off by the fact that he is also the only man on the course. I’m looking forward to seeing his collagraphs develop.

I’m also four weeks in to my Introduction to Printmaking Techniques course at ArtisOn Ltd. This is on a Tuesday afternoon and so far I’ve covered monotype, making a basic relief stamp, linocut and drypoint! My ten students seem to be enjoying themselves and we will be making collagraphs this week.

Rural Arts in Thirsk has been running taster workshops and I’ve done some three hour collagraph sessions and am about to run a two-day collagraph workshop on consecutive Fridays (16th & 23rd November). I also did a monotype class for the Leven Art Society and a linocut workshop at ArtisOn. After my linocut Christmas card workshop at ArtisOn in December it quietens down a bit and I’ll have more headspace for my own work. I enjoy teaching and it really keeps me on my toes and pushes my professional practise but it also takes up a lot of time and energy so it is important that I get the balance right and give myself enough time to work on my printmaking.

Winter exhibitions include group shows at Cambridge Contemporary Art, The Waterstreet Gallery in Todmorden, The Lime Gallery in Settle, Will’s Art Warehouse in Putney and I’ll be taking part in a two week show at RHS Garden Harlow Carr from 27th November to 9th December. Phew!

I was very pleased to be one of the fourteen printmakers selected for the West Yorkshire Printmakers ‘Flourish Printmaker of the Year’ award and had two of my prints on show at the exhibition in Mirfield. Sara Clarke won the award and there were three commended artists: Moira McTague, June Russell and Dan Booth. It was good to attend the preview and ceremony and meet up with other printmakers. This is one of my selected prints which was created during my Extending Practise Award last year. Chrysalis Arts funded me to be mentored by Jane Sellars, Curator of the Mercer Gallery in Harrogate, whilst I created prints inspired by the Vale of York Viking Treasure Horde. These went on display at the Mercer Gallery alongside the treasure.

It’s always interesting to see what sells and so far I have had quite a lot of success with my most recent print ‘The Raspberry Thief’.

This was inspired by watching a whole family of blackbirds feeding in my back garden. The male and two fledglings were stealing raspberries whilst the female wrestled with a large slug!

My most recent print was created last week and is of a mountain hare. I have been asked by The Lime Gallery in Settle to make a couple new hare prints for their winter exhibition. They are such wonderful creatures and steeped in folklore and mythology. I often watch them in the fields near where I live and have taken many photos. I’ve always wanted to see a mountain hare in its winter coat but haven’t yet. Maybe one day! Instead I have made do with making a little collagraph of a snowy hare.

I’m now working on another hare print and will photograph the different stages for my next post.

I’m already planning various exhibitions for next year and have been invited to take part in a show called ‘Flight’ at the Craft Centre and Design Gallery in Leeds. It will start in March 2013 and will feature four of my prints and four each from Janis Goodman, Pam Grimmond and Mike Smith. I’m also taking part in a group exhibition called ‘Our Feathered Friends’ at Cambridge Contemporary Arts which is also in the spring.

On a final note, I’m delighted to be having an exhibition with glass artist, Jane Littlefield at Rural Arts in Thirsk. This will take place from 16th March to 31st May 2013 and we have chosen the title ‘Telling Tails’. We met last week to discuss the show and discovered that we are inspired by the same things: wildlife, the countryside and the myths and stories that are connected to both. We plan to show glass and prints featuring birds and animals with an illustrative twist. We will both be running workshops to coincide with the exhibition.

Right, I’d better get on with the paperwork I need to finish before continuing with my new hare collagraph. More on that next time.

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Final Days at Ålgården

I started this post whilst I was still at Ålgården but I had so much to do before I left that I never got the chance to finish it so here it is! The final days of my residency were quite intense but very satisfying. On Sunday I successfully exposed my latest graphite drawing as a photopolymer plate. Here is one of the first proofs. I forgot to mention the fact that all my prints are being printed onto cream Hahnemüle paper which accounts for the slightly pink/cream looking photos

I’ve been a bit obsessed with puddles in the forest and wanted to capture something of the feel of the pine forest after the rain.

It was also a beautiful afternoon on Sunday so I went for a long run with my camera to try and get as many photos as possible. I have built up a really good image bank that I hope will help me to continue my Swedish work during the winter months in the UK.

I then went into the studio with the intention of making some small monotypes of the autumn colour in the birch forest. However, I found myself making an enormous grey (not even black) monotype of the birches and it took me ages. I was so tired that I almost gave up on it but forced myself to finish. I think I wanted to make the most of having access to the huge press but it was a bit of a mistake. On Sunday night I thought it was an awful print but I looked at it in the cold light of Monday morning and it wasn’t so bad and will be useful as a reminder of things now that I am back home. Although it hasn’t travelled too well and will need resoaking. I packed all my prints up very carefully and they were fine but this was so big that I had to roll it and stow it in my case. Needless to say it is now squashed flat!

On Monday Ida Brogren, artist and illustrator http://www.syskonenbrogren.se, arrived with her camera and she took photos of me exposing the monotype transparency onto the photopolymer plate. Here are the two transparencies stuck together (there is a lot of overlap of ink).

Following all the steps described in my previous post, we exposed and developed the plate. I also exposed an identical plate using the same timings but using the aquatint screen that Björn had given me to see what the difference was. This is a picture (taken by Ida) of Christina and me examining the screens.

I’m chuffed to bits with the proof prints! (Here is the one made from the plate using the studio’s aquatint screen:

and the one made using Björn’s screen:

The dots on the above screen are more open and so you get a rougher and more grainy effect. It would be interesting on certain prints though and it is great to have it to start me off. Björn has also given me the details of the man in Gothenburg that makes the aquatint screen that I used. It would be a good investment for me to order one from him once I have made my lightbox.

I spent the rest of Monday printing and organising all my stuff for transporting back to the UK. I then found out that Modhir Ahmed was coming back to Ålgården to film people looking at his exhibition and then sharing their thoughts on his paintings. He arrived in the late afternoon and Ida stayed behind to help with the filming. She also made a beautiful meal for us of pea soup with creme fraiche and caviar with olive ciabatta and her friend arrived with the most delicious apple cake. It was a nice surprise because I’d intended working through and just snacking on a bowl of cereal! 🙂

Once we’d eaten, Modhir insisted that we were filmed looking at his paintings. I have to admit that I was a bit reluctant due to the large amount of work that I wanted to do on my last night but I managed to say a few words that I hope were meaningful before scuttling back to the studio. It got to about midnight and I decided that I needed to wind down a bit so I went to the lithography studio and made some acetate screens to take back to England. You may remember that this involves using a large and a small lithography stone with carborundum and water and it is a meditative thing to do. I made four which took about 25 minutes so I felt quite relaxed by the time I went to bed.

Tuesday was my last day at Ålgården and I was determined to say goodbye to the forest so I went for a 5 mile run in the rain. It was lovely with lots of jays and nuthatches flying about and I saw the friendly woodsman and was able to say goodbye to him too. I got back to the studio and Modhir Ahmed had a surprise in store in the gallery. He wanted us to come and look at his exhibition and in the night he had painted over all of his paintings in black and chalked a single English word on each. It was something of a shock but exciting too. He is a very interesting and well-respected artist in Sweden, full of ideas and energy. I found an article on the Ålgården facebook page that talks about it: http://www.bt.se/kulturnoje/konst/konstkuppen-malade-over-tavlorna%283472160%29.gm

I wasn’t able to do any more work but had the whole morning to pack everything up carefully and prepare a couple prints that I wanted to give to Christina and Björn and also one for Lennart who arrived just in time for my farewell lunch. He and Ute had made a print together for me too, I was really touched. Björn made veggie spaghetti bolognese and eight of us sat down to eat together. Then it was time to say goodbye 😦 Anna Mattsson kindly drove me to the airport and it was really good to spend the time with her. I managed to get through the luggage check in even though they had to mark my bag as ‘heavy’ and send it down the oversize baggage chute. They also let me on with a very heavy rucksack as hand luggage and a large parcel of prints. I was quite surprised but the plane turned out to be half empty so perhaps they were being generous with regards to the usual baggage restrictions.

I will really miss everyone that made me so welcome at Ålgården and I will also miss the fantastic opportunity to immerse myself in my printmaking without the pressures to teach or sell my prints. I already feel that it has been an extremely valuable time and I suspect that it will have a profound long-term effect on my printmaking and the way I view my work. Being amongst other professional printmakers in well-equipped studios exchanging ideas and learning new techniques has all the best attributes of being at art college but with the added maturity and insights that come from actually making a career from your artistic practise. I’ve been through some low points and some self-doubt but I have also reaffirmed the fact that printmaking is what makes me tick and is how I want to make my images. I find it exciting that, after eighteen years of printmaking, I am just scratching the surface of what can be done in one small area and now the photopolymer combined with my monotypes could be a whole new avenue for me to explore. 

I now have a really hectic couple of months with at least seven group exhibitions to prepare for and two printmaking courses to teach but I have light at the end of the tunnel in the form of the quieter months of December, January and February. I usually find this time quite uninspiring and my creativity is often at a low so I tend to just use it to restock my editions and prepare for the coming months but this winter I want to consolidate some of the ideas that I have had in Sweden, make further prints based on my experience of the forests and explore photopolymer printmaking further and see where that takes me. I need to build a light box but I have good advice from Christina and Björn as well as a good book on the subject and a friendly contact in the form of Rebecca Vincent at Horsley Printmakers (check out her lovely monotypes and etchings http://www.horsleyprintmakers.co.uk/rebecca_vincent.html).

I’ll continue to write here so please do check back in the future to see what I’m up to. Oh yes, I’m already considering the possibility of returning to Sweden once I’ve developed my ideas a bit further and also I am hoping that Art Connections will be able to develop their link with Ålgården. It would be great to see some of the Swedish artists in Yorkshire in the future and perhaps we could collaborate on something. Before I sign off for now, I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone at Ålgården who made me feel so welcome and have become friends and also to Christine Keogh and Rick Faulkner at Art Connections for giving me this opportunity, it’s been just what I hoped for and more!

Vernissage(s)

Well, it’s been an exciting last weekend here in Borås. I’ve been continuing my experiments in photopolymer printmaking and have been to two exhibition openings (as well as a couple forays into the forest).

Modhir Ahmed, http://www.modhir.com/web/index.html, arrived on Thursday night. He is an artist from Iraq who has lived in Sweden for over thirty years and has an international reputation for his printmaking. He was here to put up his exhibition ‘Lord of the Earth’ in the gallery at Ålgården, where he is also a member. Friday was very busy with lots of people toing and froing in preparation for the opening and at lunch time we were all treated to a beautiful meal of smoked salmon and potatoes in a dill sauce (I’ve become a vegaquarian whilst I’ve been staying here as fish is a large component of most meals). In the evening, following my run in the forest, I went to the opening or ‘vernissage’ as they call such things here.

Lots of people came and when we were finally able to close the gallery doors for the evening, we all had a meal together in the Red House (the artists’ house where I stay).

Today was another busy day. It started with a lifedrawing session in the gallery. Our model today was Sassa, who was very good humoured and challenged us with no poses longer than 4 minutes and most were 2! It is interesting how the models lead the sessions here at Ålgården. All the life drawing I’ve ever done before has been led by the group, another artist or a teacher and the model played a passive role. I like the fact that the model is in control here. After the drawing, Anna Maria gave Ute and I a lift to another opening at a small town called Dalsjöfors. We stopped off at her house to pick up her husband, Peter, and were shown around their wonderful studio (they are both artists) and garden. The exhibition opening was for Ålgården member, Kristina Thun http://www.kristinathun.se/ who has been working every day since I’ve been here making beautiful lithographs and photopolymer prints.

I think her work is really atmospheric and her printmaking techniques are fascinating. She often uses up to seven different layers of greyscale to create her lithographs.

After that it was time to return to the studio and meet Anna Mattsson who had kindly offered to show me some techniques using wax including how to make image transfers and also work into wax on paper. It was really good fun and, during tonight’s run in the forest, I began to get ideas of how I might use it in my own work.

On the photopolymer front, I am currently waiting for two acetates to dry. I’ve created a much smaller version of the watery monotype that I did the other day. It was a two stage monotype but this time I wasn’t printing it and will be using it as a stencil so I needed to make two acetates to place on top of one another to create the whole picture. I used water soluble relief ink and that takes a few days to dry so I am now waiting (impatiently) for the acetates to be ready to expose onto my photopolymer plate. Ida has asked me if I will wait until Monday to make the plates so that she can come in and photograph the process. I agreed and am now glad that I did because I know what I’m like and if I wasn’t waiting for her, my impatience would have got the better of me and I’d have tried to expose them when they were still a bit wet and probably got them stuck to the plate 🙂 I’m also making another graphite drawing for a photopolymer plate and, all being well, will expose that tomorrow. A lovely surprise today was that Björn found an old ‘raster’ (or aquatint dot screen, as I now know it is called in English) that he’d made some years ago and he gave it to me as a gift to take home so that it will be easier for me to get straight on with my photopolymer printmaking. He also suggested that I prepare a load of films in the litho studio so I can take those home too.

I’m feeling really positive about this residency and the effect that it will have on my future printmaking practise. I’ve got stacks of ideas but also a real desire to experiment and push the boundaries of what I have been doing. I will talk more about that in another post but I need to get to bed now! I’ll leave you with a picture of Lennart and Kristina at the preview.

and Ålgården’s resident black rabbit 🙂

Adventures in Photopolymer!

Well, I promised that I’d write about my latest foray into photopolymer printmaking and so here goes!

To start with, perhaps I’d better explain what photopolymer is. As the name suggests, photopolymer is a light sensitive polymer. The material has been used in the commercial printing industry for years but in the last couple decades printmakers have adopted it and used it in a variety of ways to create original prints. I have used it myself and refer to it as solarplate because I use the sun to develop my plates. I first came across it when a good friend and fellow artist, Jon McLeod, was doing a residency at Highland Printmakers. I had just come back from travelling extensively overseas and was ready to create a body of work based on my travels. I wanted to include text and maps combined with my collagraphs but didn’t know how to. Jon suggested ImageOn film or photopolymer plate. He gave me a bit of a demonstration and I went off and bought a book on the subject. I basically taught myself everything I know (not a lot!) and have been able to make basic relief and intaglio plates using my photos and text which I then convert to pure black and white on photoshop and print out onto a transparency. This is then placed on top of a steel plate which is coated on one side with a light sensitive polymer (you can buy them from printmaking suppliers). The black part of the design blocks out the UV light and the clear parts let it through. Where the light hits the plate, the polymer hardens and where the black parts mask it, it stays water soluble. The great thing about it is that you can then wash out the black parts using warm water (no chemicals needed). The final stage is to expose the washed plate in the sun for a good hour or so to cure it and then it is ready for printing.

You have to do test strips to determine how much time the plate should be left in the sun and of course, the sun’s strength can vary due to the time of day and the season and you do actually have to have some sunshine in the first place! Many a day has been spent scrutinising the sky for a gap in the clouds so that I can develop my plates. I’ve actually got some good results with relief plates but my intaglio plates tend to have large areas of ‘open bite’ due to the fact that I can’t get mid-tones.

Anyway, I’ve been aware for a while that you can make really interesting photopolymer plates which will retain all the tones and fine detail of drawings and photos and will replicate the look of lithographs, etchings, drawings etc. Fortunately for me, Björn Bredstrom and Christina Lindeberg are experts in this field. Christina spent some of her valuable time teaching me to make the initial test strips today.

But…let’s not get ahead of ourselves! First you have to create the image that you intend to make into a printing plate and before you do that you need to prepare the transparency. This entailed using acetate intended for lithography. You need to roughen the surface of it to be able to draw onto it. This is a very satisfying process which involves wetting a large lithographic stone and squeegeeing your acetate onto the surface so that it doesn’t move about. You then add carborundum grit and water to the topside and take a smaller lithographic stone and grind it over the whole surface in a figure of eight for about four minutes. This gives you a surface with an even bite to it. You can then work on this with acrylic paint, graphite, tusche or any other light fast material. I used 6B and 4B pencils to create the transparency below.

The next step is to determine how long you need to expose your ‘raster’ for. I don’t know what the English name is but a raster is the Swedish word for an acetate with a random dot pattern on that replicates aquatint. You use it to pre-expose your plate before you expose it with your design. The tiny dots mean that you can get fine detail, mid tones and large areas of black without having ‘open bite’ (when you can’t avoid wiping out the ink from large areas of dark tone on your plate because it is completely washed away). I can’t explain it better than that so please google for further details if you haven’t already fallen asleep!

Christina helped me to make the initial test strip and Ida photographed the whole process (she is going to let me have copies) and made notes because she wanted to learn too. We had to cut a piece of the photopolymer plate and then mark a sheet of paper with sections and the timings written underneath. The numbers look odd because they are units not actual minutes and seconds.

I forgot to mention that we are not using the sun. We are using a rinky dink all singing all dancing light box!

You also have to make sure that you don’t expose the plate to light whilst you are in the process of preparing it. It is not so sensitive that it has to be done in a dark room but you do need to keep it undercover when you are in between stages and it is best to cut it in a very dim room. Once we had cut a strip of plate, we then put it in the light box and lowered the glass down onto it, set the vacuum pump to make a good seal and then exposed the whole plate for 1000 units of light….what about the ‘raster’ I hear you ask? Yes, well, we forgot all about that and only remembered when we went to cover part of the plate to start the tests. Whoops! We cut another strip (it’s expensive stuff so you learn a hard lesson when you make mistakes) and this time we laid the ‘raster’ over the top of the plate and then lowered the glass and set the vacuum. After the initial exposal to 1000 units of light, we then covered the marked sections at 100 unit intervals so that one end of the strip had been exposed to 1000 units and the other end had had 1900 units. This took quite a long time!

Next we had to develop the strip so we took it to the wash room and under a yellow light we sat it in a tray of warm water (room temperature) for a minute and then a further minute was spent gently brushing the surface of the plate under the water to remove the unexposed particles of polymer (the black dots of the ‘raster’).

We then had to dry the plate. You can use a hair dryer but here we have a great little drying box. After 5 minutes in there, the plate needs to be cured with a full dose of UV light so back it went into the light box for 15 minutes. Phew!! What a process and it was only a test strip.

After lunch my job was to ink, wipe and print the strip to see which part gave us the best black. The part that was blackest would indicate the amount of units of light needed to expose the plate. Unfortunately the test strip was inconclusive because we realised that the ‘raster’ must have moved each time we lifted the glass screen. Blast! Björn also suggested that we clean the sensor in the lightbox before we made another test strip. This time he told us to divide a strip of polymer into three segments and expose it at 750, 1200 & 1500 units. From that we should determine the range that we would need to make a further test strip. We should stick the raster down with tape so that it didn’t move when we opened the glass each time. The numbers seem a bit random and this would also mean going through the process described above twice and it was now 4pm but Ida and I decided to do as we were told in order to be ‘professional’ 🙂

Thankfully, the three segments showed us that 1200 units gave a lovely velvety black tone.

Björn told me that I needn’t make a further test but I should expose my plate to the raster for 1200 units and remove it and expose my design onto my plate for the same amount of units.

So…I went back and cut a piece of photopolymer plate to the right size and put it in the lightbox with the ‘raster’ on top of it, the glass down, vacuum on and exposed it for 1200 units. I then took away the raster and replaced it with the transparency with my drawing on and exposed that for 1200 units. I went through the developing process, drying process and curing process and after about an hour, the plate was ready to ink, wipe and print. I could see that there was a delicate design on it and I was really excited.

I printed the plate and it is just amazing…you get a perfect copy of your drawing! The only slight downside is that I don’t seem to be able to get a ‘white’. There is an overall grey tone to the print. This could be to do with the process but I suspect that the timing on the exposure of the design needs tweeking. I’ll ask Björn and Christina when they come in tomorrow. I’m now really excited about the possibilities. I am wondering if I could do a reduction monotype on acetate and instead of printing it, I could allow it to dry to make a transparency that I could expose to the photopolymer and then get a plate with all the beautiful marks that you get from monotype but that you can print repeatedly…the possibilities could be endless.

The other thing I need to do is to work out how I can transfer this process to my studio at home. I have a book that tells you how to make a lightbox and Björn says that he has had good results just using an overhead bulb or an anglepoise lamp (the light has to be uv or ‘cold’ light) but you have to make sure that the light stays at a fixed point above the plate and the distance from the plate has to be the same as the diagonal length of the plate in order for there to be an even coverage of light. There is also the small matter of the litho stones and preparing the transparencies but I am sure that improvisation might be possible. Tomorrow I am going to make a transparency using monotype techniques and ink.

Monotypes

Well, I was going to talk about photopolymer tonight but I’ve just had a busy evening in the studio and I’m not sure talking about technical processes is such a good idea at 23.00. Bear with me, I will go into some detail in my next post 🙂

I forgot to mention that I now have a housemate. Ute is from Kiel in Germany and, having enjoyed her visit last year, she has come back to Ålgården for two weeks of printmaking. She has a project that she would like to complete and has already been busy making drypoints in the studio. She’s good company and we went on a little trip to Alingsås with Lennart this morning. The idea was to visit Lennart’s favourite organic food store, the red cross second hand shop and then to have pizza in what they both promised me would be the best pizzeria ever! I’ll admit that it was pretty good and it has to be the cosiest and most colourful restaurant I’ve been to in a while. The organic food store was wonderful and I came back laden with apples, a squash and some chilli chocolate (for emergencies).

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The drive was lovely too. The autumn colour is really beautiful at the moment. The forests are a patchwork of green, yellow, golds, reds and oranges. I’ll take some photos if the rain ever lets up!

Yesterday Lennart brought in one of his cast bronze sculptures to show me. He knows I’m  a big fan of crows and I love this one, it is so full of character and has a real presence when sat on the table next to you.

The rest of the day has been a good one. I had a sleepless night last night (possibly caffeine related!) and found myself mulling over what to do and where to go with my printmaking in order to make best use of the next few days. I knew I’d be making a photopolymer transparency but I couldn’t decide what to do for that either. So when I got back to the studio today I was really strict with myself and promised myself that I wouldn’t leave it until the transparency was drawn out. I made several starts before settling on a birch wood. I figure that it will be nice to have a few different kinds of prints of the birch forest to compare techniques. I’ll expand more on the process in my next post but once I’d finished the drawing, I felt in a really good mood and ready to make something else so I decided not to go running today in case I broke the spell and instead I holed up in the studio all evening. 🙂

I’m still frustrated about not being able to depict the pine forests and so I went back to basics and decided to do a reduction monotype. I figured that if I did it in two stages, I’d get around the problem of how to depict the dark trunks but still have a darkish background and the light coming through the trees. It took me about three hours to complete and I was using water soluble ink so I was a bit concerned about re-soaking the paper after the first plate was printed. The result was that when I printed the second stage on top of the first, the ink didn’t transfer so well because it was drying out and the paper was drying out. However, I am happily surprised by the result.

It still isn’t how I’d envisaged it but strangely enough, the ethereal pines against the very watery looking background captures more of the atmosphere that I experience on my rainy runs than I would ever have imagined that I could achieve!

I had printed the ‘ghost’ print (the traces left on the plate after the first printing) and ironically the paper was too wet so I got a really abstract result but when I printed the ghost trees over the top, because there was still a lot of ink left on the plate, I got an interesting second print.

I had a happy evening working tonight and Ute and I seem to work really well together. We are both quiet and keep ourselves to ourselves but when we hear the press going, we both tentatively wander over for a peek at each other’s work and it is a nice combination of having privacy to work but encouragement and an opinion if we want one.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I can get Christina or Björn to help me expose my photopolymer plate tomorrow. I will report back with my progress.

Turning Corners!

It’s been a few days since I wrote my blog. This has mainly been because I’ve been really busy and every evening I think I’ll sit down and write a post but by the time I’ve cleared up in the studio, it is usually almost midnight and I’ve been too tired. Anyway, enough of the excuses! Last weekend was Open Studios in Borås and Ålgården hosted an exhibition in the gallery with one piece of work from every artist taking part. The preparations for this took the best part of three days running up to the weekend and the studios were a hive of activity. The event opened with a ‘vernissage’ (or preview as we call them in England) with lots of artists and art lovers gathered together round flaming braziers for a bit of hobnobbing whilst inside the gallery a rather avant garde band called The Soil Collectors played.

One of the artists from Ålgården had decided to hold his open studio in the intaglio studio so it became out of bounds for the best part of three days. What with that and the fact that the place was buzzing all weekend, work was out of the question and I decided that I would take myself off to Gothenburg for the day. Easier said than done as it took me an hour of walking in the torrential rain to find the train station. I then bought my ticket from a machine and waited on an empty platform until five minutes before departure when I got suspicious about the lack of other travellers. I asked a man (who was going through some bins!) where the train was. He pointed to the bus station and it turned out I’d bought a bus ticket. Luckily I found the bus and managed to get on it just before it departed! Arrival in Gothenburg was a big relief because for a start…it was not raining! I spent a lovely day wandering around the Art Museum and Hasselblad Centre where my favourite things were a really interesting photographic exhibition about racism by Sasha Huber http://www.sashahuber.com/ and a great ceramic show by Klara Kristalova http://www.kristalova.se/ I did a quick tour through the various periods of Scandinavian art (nice to see some of Carl Larsson’s in the flesh) and had a longer look at the contemporary paintings and sculpture. I also visited Grafik i Väst http://ramverk.se/giv/ which is a gallery and organisation of 259 printmakers. I managed to catch the opening of the Palle Nielsen exhibition and picked up a few of their annual catalogues. It has been really interesting to see the work of so many Scandinavian printmakers over the last few weeks.

After another exhibition opening of an Ålgården member, Maurits Ylitalo, I spent the rest of the afternoon wandering round the very interesting and hip Haga district.

I finished my day with an hour sat on the harbour wall soaking up the sun (I’d almost forgotten what it looks like!) and watching the ferries come and go.

Sunday was spent visiting Sirgitta’s studio, running and generally keeping busy until I could get back to work. I’ve decided to continue to spend at least some time in the forest every day whatever the weather. I want to really get the atmosphere under my skin and build up a vast archive of photographic images (and some drawings) so that I have lots to work from when I get back home. I’ve had some really wet and fun runs in almost darkness with owls hooting and only the reflected dying light in puddles to guide my way!

In the studio, for the last couple days I’ve mainly been wrestling with carborundum! I’m happy that I’ve made a good start on depicting the birch forests and I am confident that I can explore that further when I get home but the pine forests have been eluding me! They are so dark and atmospheric that I thought carborundum grit would be a good medium to use. I’ve had some success with it in the past and it is possible to get an almost mezzotint-like feel to the prints. Unfortunately, I haven’t had access to my usual materials and so have been experimenting with new kinds of card base plates, different kinds of glue and there has been no foam roller to apply the glue evenly. It’s all part of the spirit of the residency. I’m here to experiment and try new things but it has meant that results have been rather frustrating. After having spent the last two days making plates, proofing, remaking plates, reproofing, still the results are awful and I’m calling time on it for now. I will go back to it when I am back in the UK. There is no point trying to reinvent the wheel when I know I can get the results I want using the materials I have at home. Hey ho!

I did manage to get a reasonable print from a collagraph plate that I made last week. It is intended to give something of the feeling that I get when I stop and listen to the birds in the forest. I’ve realised that if I stand really still, the birds start flitting about around me and soon there can be over twenty tiny chattering blue, great and willow tits as well as finches and often a couple of gold crests. It really is quite magical. The print is just a proof and I will work on the idea further when I get back but I think it has potential.

I will end this post here and come back tomorrow with an update on some possible developments with photopolymer. It is a material that I use already but I have taught myself the basics from a book and have never known how to use it to its full potential. This could be a bit of a break through for me and I’m really excited!

Tall!

It’s been a good couple of days for a few reasons. The first being that we must have had at least 15 minutes of sunshine today 😉 I’m so grateful that for my first days in Borås we had lovely weather and I was able to get out and sketch a lot. I’ve been out drawing since but it has been a damp experience and I invariably get a wet backside from all the beautiful but very soggy moss. The smaller paths are now little rivers.

Yesterday I got up very early to go and visit a 700 year old pine tree with Lennart. It was quite a long way away (thus the early start) but the forest nearby made the trip doubly worthwhile.

After spending some time getting to know the lovely old tree, we then crossed the busy road and had a walk in an ancient forest full of 300 year old pines and 200 year old spruce trees. The forest was dripping with water and we were wading through some deep puddles but it was eerily quiet and still despite the sea of traffic noise from the road behind us and the lichens hanging from the trees were amazing.

On returning to Ålgården, we had some lunch and then I tried to do some artwork. Unfortunately, the studios are really busy at the moment due to the impending open studios exhibition and I find the constant coming and going distracting. I talked to Christina about it today and she feels the same. She’s preparing for an exhibition and trying to make some new work but has been frustrated that she can’t get absorbed into what she is doing. I combatted the feeling today by holing up in my bedroom and working on a drypoint at the desk listening to the radio. It was lovely and I got a lot done. I often go to the studio in the evenings and work late as it is so peaceful. The residency has been really interesting for many reasons and one is that it has given me insights into what conditions I need for working and about the nature of creativity. I’ve found my way of dealing with times when I feel restless and frustrated. Getting out for a walk or run in the forest brings everything back into focus and I come back feeling full of creative energy and ideas. I then need peace and solitude to work out designs but once they are done, I can enjoy making plates and printing in company. When I look back to college days, I spent my most productive times at home between 8pm & 2am and got far less done in the studio between 9am and 6pm and nowadays in England I am always alone so I don’t really have the same dilemma. However, the downside of working alone all the time is that you don’t have the creative input of other people, you aren’t able to bounce ideas about or be inspired by other artists’ work and it can get quite lonely in the winter. At home I am quite fortunate in that I have good friends to ring or visit, many of whom are artists too, and the internet has been a real asset for all of us that that work alone but need a bit of contact now and again! I do wish there was somewhere like Ålgården in North Yorkshire, it would be really fantastic!

For my last week or so here, I intend to make the most of the facilities and print but I also want to soak up as much of the creative spirit here as I can, exchange thoughts and ideas with the other artists whenever possible and really get the atmosphere of the forests under my skin. I hope I can then draw on it all when I am back at home.

The drypoint that I’ve just printed is inspired by one of the old pine trees in the forest. It is made using drypoint plastic and a single drypoint tool. The first print was too pale. This one still needs some adjustments but the beauty of drypoint is that you don’t need to seal the plates and you can proof it and then make changes if you need to.

The word for this kind of tree (it’s a Scot Pine) in Swedish is Tall! How brilliant is that?

As a footnote, I had my first Swedish ‘conversation’ today. I went for a run and stopped to watch a pair of goldcrests. I was stood peering intently up a pine tree when two men came past with their dogs. They said hello and something indecipherable to me and I said ‘Hej…fagel…kungfagel’ to which they both said ‘ahh’ nodded and one made a gesture with his thumb and forefinger to indicate something very small. I was so pleased that I quickly said ‘Hej da’ and ran away before they said anything else that I couldn’t understand. 🙂 So, I now need to see a dormouse or a bear because I know the words for those!