Animating printmaking

While I’m partial to printmaking, I spent most of last year animating for an upcoming film Underpass Motel which will be released on DVD in October. Thankfully, this year has disappeared under tubes of paint and assorted sculptures without a puppet or print in sight. Doesn’t mean I’m not interested… Here we have a couple of very different animations – both involving printmaking.

This first one from the Internet Archive is a video:

made by a sort of video silkscreenlike printmaking process. The images are printed over the underlying video…

While this one from You Tube is a “linomation” (hand carved animation using lino prints) by Mark Andrew Webber with music by Adam Dedma. It was done using 296 10cm square individual linocuts. It was took Andrew around 500 hours to produce. The work is titled Dehisce – a word which means:

(biology) release of material by splitting open of an organ or tissue; the natural bursting open at maturity of a fruit or other reproductive body to release seeds or spores or the bursting open of a surgically closed wound

Looks like fun, Amanda

Woodblock on film

I haven’t printed in ages and it’s not going to be happening any time soon. Something to do with an upcoming exhibition of paintings… Doesn’t mean I ain’t interested though. Take a look at this 1968 film about woodblock artist Lowell Naeve working step by step on a project. It’s from the Academic Film Archive of North America. Fascinating.

Could be fun.

Toner on copper

Puff the Magic Dragon

Puff the Magic Dragon

I just finished re-making Puff the Magic Dragon – not as a diptych this time – but a triptych in one frame. The experience of having the duo hung on opposite walls in an exhibition p’d me off so bad that I went back to Studio A and started over. After some thought, I made a new version that would make sure it couldn’t happen again. Well, not this side of having someone take to the work with a saw. Could happen…

It actually works out well because the Myths, Stories, Legends exhibition it’s headed for (opens this week) calls for up to 150 words to explain the thoughts behind the work. Puff is (in part) my response to:

Little Jackie Paper loved that rascal Puff,
And brought him strings and sealing wax and other fancy stuff.

Together they would travel on a boat with billowed sail,
Jackie kept a lookout perched on Puff’s gigantic tail.

A dragon lives forever but not so little boys,
Painted wings and giant rings make way for other toys.

Excerpts from “Puff, the Magic Dragon” (1959) a poem by Leonard Lipton

This new work, of the same name as the old one – oh, yes I can – is *giclée on canvas again but this time mounted on board rather than stretched. I made the frame too because I wanted to put the title on the work as is usual with printmaking. The style of the label, however, is more like that of works of old – copper set into the wood.

Toner on copper

Toner on copper

There were a couple of ways I could get the wording onto the copper – as printmakers do by etching with acid but chose instead to use ferric chloride as they do for making printed circuit boards. Why? Because I had the stuff laying around. (It’s a long story.)

The first step, however, was to get a mask or a resist onto the copper. When that part was done I liked it so much I left it be and didn’t bother etching it and that’s what you can see in the photo – toner on copper. The method used to transfer the resist, I’m thinking, might be of use to someone else out there in art land… because it too uses stuff you probably have lying around. (Disclaimer: I know this is good for ferric chloride, you can Google how, but don’t know if it works with acid)


Gloss inkjet photo paper Laser printer or photocopier An iron


  • Print the image onto the inkjet paper with the laser printer – yes you did read that right.
  • Put the image with the image side face down onto the copper carefully aligned and well stuck down with masking tape so it can’t shift.
  • Heat the iron on the hottest setting – no steam please! Take care at all times from here on because the copper will be HOT.
  • Put the paper / copper / masking tape sandwich with the backside (blank side) of the paper facing you onto a block of wood or other heat proof surface and iron the back very, very thoroughly. And then iron it some more. And then iron it some more. At some point after ironing it very thoroughly you can peel up an edge of the masking tape and take a peek to see if the image has transferred to suit your taste (I was looking for scratched and less than perfect.)
  • Peel off the masking tape and the paper. It will leave a layer of paper on the copper. Don’t pick at it!
  • Drop the copper into a dish of water and leave it for a bit (10 minutes? 20 minutes? depends on the paper) until the paper goes really soft. You can pull it out every now and again and give it a gentle rub. It’ll eventually come off easily.
  • Voilà! Or maybe not. If you don’t like it have another go – the toner will clean off easily with a plastic scratchy. (If you want to make minor repairs you can use a Dalo pen (about $6 from Dick Smith) to touch up the resist.) And if it’s all too hard you could just get a giclée printed onto aluminium which looks very nice and wouldn’t take all weekend experimenting…

Have fun,

PS I’m going to give Type Tamer my giclée supplier a plug. (They’re in Malaga. That’s Malaga in the northern suburbs of Perth, Western Australia, not the one in Spain…) I will however declare that I do have an interest in the company but also state that the work stands for itself.

The Inscription

Amidst much needed housekeeping around this website, I remembered a linocut (among many other items… oops…) that hadn’t made it to these pages for dissection and discussion among the printmakers who read here and possibly of interest to those much appreciated souls who appear to be collecting my prints (thankyou!!!). My gallery, such as it is, hasn’t seen much updating in the last two years – the work on show is old and early. Ask any artist how they feel about work that is old or early… Wouldn’t most agree on the dubious merit of early work until such time as the artist is famous or dead? Usually both.

My excuse for gallery neglect is that I’ve busy making stuff, reading stuff and writing about making and reading said stuff. I promise I’ll fix it properly as soon as I’ve finished reviewing the stack of books to the left of my desk which, from what I have heard, are the primary interest of visitors (other than diehard printmakers and print lovers). Priorities and all that. That said, the print under discussion has been hurriedly added to the gallery to make larger images available straight away.

The Inscription, linocut, oil based inks on Velin Arches


The Inscription, linocut, oil based inks on Velin Arches, 105cm x 60cm

The forgotten linocut, “The Inscription”, is unusual – in both making and meaning. We’ll have a quick look at both to some extent or other before I (hopefully) leave you with more questions than answers!

The Inscription is big – comprising four lino blocks printed on a single sheet of Velin Arches in the largest size I could find – a huge 105cm x 60cm – the sheet started out slightly wider than that but needed to be cut down to fit the width of the press, the length allowed to hang over. Thankfully there was balance to be found between the constraints and harmony achieved.

Inking four blocks and having the first remain damp enough to print before the last is ready isn’t easy on a day when the mercury is pushing 45°C (113°F). I quickly realised, I needed a second pair of hands, one set to take each block to the press while the other inked the next. After many, many proofs worth of practice – we made a workable team – and decided that the temperature was not going to drop nor the crit-day deadline move further away. Fingers were crossed and just three were printed on the Arches – all of which will be considered artists proofs (fine for critique purposes). The edition can wait until the temperature and humidity are considered more co-operative for good printing.

The building in the image is mythical but I will admit that it’s inspired by the beautiful old stone church about five minutes south of the tiny town of Bindoon in Western Australia. The remaining elements are fictitious. Sort of…

Now for the cryptic bit. The inscription on the final panel reads “lorem ipsum dolor” and no, I didn’t make it up. These are the first words in a block of text famous among typesetters and designers for use as meaningless filler text. Traditionally lorem ipsum was available in galleys or Letraset blocks ready for pasteup but these days it’s generated by software – it’s even standard issue in layout packages such as In Design. In this context lorem ipsum is text used as a placeholder at the layout stage of a design. One could say that it talks about emptiness, being without meaning or merit or true worth.

In contrast to this modern use, “lorem ipsum” is in fact derived from Cicero’s (106 BC – 43 BC) book called About The Purposes of Good and Evil The original passage began:

Neque porro quisquam est qui dolorem ipsum quia dolor sit amet, consectetur, adipisci velit

Which translates as:

“Neither is there anyone who loves grief itself since it is grief and thus wants to obtain it”.

H. Rackham’s 1914 translation is also of interest:

“Nor again is there anyone who loves or pursues or desires to obtain pain of itself, because it is pain, but because occasionally circumstances occur in which toil and pain can procure him some great pleasure. To take a trivial example, which of us ever undertakes laborious physical exercise, except to obtain some advantage from it? But who has any right to find fault with a man who chooses to enjoy a pleasure that has no annoying consequences, or one who avoids a pain that produces no resultant pleasure?”

Meaningful words worthy of thought. Would you not agree that these sentiments are a striking contrast to the modern one of no meaning.

So what does all that have to do with The Inscription?

Why would a gravestone be inscribed “Lorem Ipsum Dolor”?

That, unfortunately, can only be answered by the person asking the question.


Border Patrol

I was showing this print a couple of weeks ago when it was just the first proof off the press – yes – I photographed it with wet ink. Well, it’s finished. Printed, dry and numbered. All that remains is to finish packaging and the first twelve of the edition will be heading to America. And it finally has a name – no kidding the thing has sat in the drying rack for nearly a week longer than it need have done because I couldn’t think what to call it. Can’t number it without a name. Anyway I woke up at 3am and out of nowhere I had the answer. I was so excited I told my husband – he wasn’t exactly thrilled to be woken up and needless to say didn’t show much interest…

Border Patrol Oil-based ink on Stonehenge paper

Linocut cat



Linocut cat

I’m taking part in my first international print exchange and here’s a little preview of my offering – the first proof off the press.

Linocut cat

This print is 10″ x 8″ to comply with the rules for the exchange – normally I work a bit bigger than this which meant I had nothing suitable in my files. A new design was called for.

It’s a linocut worked on a piece of grey Silkcut lino. This particular print, being one of the first proofs, is printed with waterbased ink on heavy cartridgepaper. The edition will use the lovely Graphic Supplies oil based ink on Stonehenge paper. In fact the paper is already cut to size and everything set to go – just waiting for me to stop typing and go print instead.

The deadline for prints is ages away but I’m getting it finished now, along with several others for other exhibitions because once I’m back at college printing has to take a backseat to assignments.

The kitty-cat pictured is Smoky – 8 years old which makes him a senior. In our house that’s meaningless he’s just a kitten compared to Rosie who’s over 21. Then there are the four young ‘uns… yes that does make six. Then there are two dogs, two sheep, 8 ducks, 7 chooks and a rabbit.

The hardest part with this print is coming up with a name. If I were keeping it, I would just call it Smoky. Decision pending…


Linocut tools

Linocut tools

Linocutting tools

Since I had them out to play, I thought I’d snap a picture and show my linocutting tool kit – even though there’s not much in it – someone may be interested…

  • two tools: a small v and a gouge out of a set of Japanese wood carving tools. I do have the set but only tend to use these two. I also use them for woodcutting so I’m careful to keep them sharp. Sharp tools are easier to use and safer too.
  • a strop kit to keep the tools sharp, I use this one but any strop would work. Small is fine because the tools are small. Clear instructions came with my kit but there are also good instructions in this thread at the Wet Canvas forum (go down to the third post by Willamette)
  • a small piece of the rubbery stuff that goes under floor mats to stop them slipping – any department store should have it. I “borrowed” mine from under the mat in the hall… It works better for me than a bench hook (shown below) – mine is home made from scraps of MDF and works just fine. I’ve simply come to prefer the bit of anti-slip mat.

Linocut bench hook

Linocutting bench hook

Beyond that that you need good lighting, a comfortable chair and some good music. It can be a long process on the bigger or more intricate blocks – please take care of your back by not hunching over. Remember to take regular breaks to stretch.

That’s it… happy linocutting.


A chook called Dippy Egg

Really! She’s a breed called ISA Brown and definitely getting on in her years but still a favourite with all of us. She was really friendly and proved to be a natural clown from the day she came to live with us – hence the double meaning of dippy – on the one hand a soft boiled egg and on the other someone slight soft in the head! Do other people call chickens “chooks”? Or is it just an Australian thing?

This the first proof from the linocut block. I rather like the single colour here but I’ll experiment on some proofs with watercolour to see if I want to add colour. I could offset the block and make more blocks for other colours. Edition pending a decision.

Linocut chook

Dippy Egg, linocut, 30cm x 30cm (12″ x 12″)



Sheep linocut

Another linocut – this time one of my sheepish friends. He’s named Victa – after an Australian brand of lawnmowers – his only duty in life is to keep the grass down a bit, which he actually finds to be a bit of a chore since he prefers roses. My roses.

Victa, 30cm x 30, Graphic Supplies oil-based ink on Stonehenge paper


Rules to exhibit by…

Maquette for artist's book

Maquette for artist’s book

I recently entered some of my art in the WA Printmaker’s Association Annual Awards. Not that I was expecting any awards since I was a brand new member without a clue, but there was the thought that the best way to learn about exhibiting in the real world would be to submit something and see what happened. What I got was a crash course in what not to do…

When I visited the exhibition I couldn’t find my prints. Why? Because they were hidden down the back, around the corner, in the dark. Why? Because they were printed on cartridge paper. Oops… I was taken quietly aside by several members, on both occasions I was near the place and lectured about paper. I was told quietly that they were only included at all because the images were so strong. At least that’s something. Still embarrassing.

Rule No.1 Cartridge paper isn’t good enough for the real world.

The second mistake I made was submitting three prints as a triptych rather than individuals. I thought this would mean they would be hung side by side. Wrong this means they were all put in one extra long frame, one above the other, like a totem pole. Yuk. Probably helped them get hidden.

Rule No. 2 Ask how things are done.

The other piece I submitted was an artist’s book. It wasn’t hidden down the back but had a lovely plinth with a perspex box over the top. Wow. It would have looked wonderful, except it was the wrong way up. The person looking after the exhibition couldn’t help me change it – we couldn’t get the lid off. Apparently I should have submitted a diagram showing what it should look like. At least it wasn’t cartridge paper…

Rule No. 3 Assume nothing. Document and label carefully.

My last faux pas (that I know of…) was the catalogue. The association decided during the exhibition to put together a photo catalogue and make it available on CD. An email went out requesting photos. How on earth? My stuff was in the exhibition several hours away. Not fancying the drive – I remembered I had other copies of the prints and a maquette of the book. Beaut. Unfortunately my photos weren’t very good. Especially after emailing them. Oops. Someone rescued me (or rather they wanted their CD to look good) and re-shot my stuff for me…

Rule No. 4. Take decent photos with good lighting. No snapshots.