Seaside Wildflowers – The Development of a new Fine Art Linocut

Lynette Weir - Seaside Wildflowers - Oct 2013 WEB

SEASIDE WILDFLOWERS – CREATING A FINE ART LINOCUT

The centrepiece artwork for my new exhibition at the Northern Rivers Art Gallery is a new linocut – Seaside Wildflowers.
Back in February I was approached by the Northern Rivers Art Gallery Director Ingrid Hedgcock, to exhibit alongside an exhibition of the Master Woods Craftsman & his students. For me it came at a time when recently becoming an ’empty nester’ & my shoulder was looking like it was going to recover after surgery & allow me to work – carve – again. It was also when I really need to get my arts practice back on track after a few years of life being too hectic to gain a consistent approach to my work.

I made the decision that I would work on finally completing many works I had been developing over many years as well as creating the centrepiece for the exhibition a work based around the Wildflowers synonymous with Ballina.
I will talk more about the other works in the exhibition in future posts but will start with the Seaside Wildflowers & where it all began.

In the process of creating this work I took some video footage & sill photographs with the idea of creating an education video showing my process from the inspiration through to the completion of the artwork.
I have always loved the seaside – the beach, the rock formations, the sea, the wildlife & of course the Wildflowers or flora. Even though I grew up in Sydney we spent every holidays by the sea at my grandparents in Yamba. Woody Head was another favourite place where my great uncle & Aunt lived, it is a truly beautiful natural place. We also spent a lot of time over where I now live on the ‘plateau’ region behind Ballina with my other grandparents – not that far from the seaside. As kids we would spend many hours going to the beach but also exploring the surrounding landscapes. So I know this region really well.


I start this particular genre of my work with research – some of this is ‘formal’ – flora studies of regions, plant identification lists but also I go & spend some time wherever possible wandering around the region taking photos. I like to see the flora/Wildflowers I am going to be drawing & document that in my own photos. By taking my own photos it also give me the opportunity to explore the process of visualising each wildflower or plant & how & where that might be represented within the initial concept of the artwork exploring different images of the particular plant. I look at things like the structure, colour & overall impression of each.
As I have talked about before, my work starts with ‘flashes’ of ideas scribbled into small sketchbooks, on post it notes or on scraps of paper.

For Seaside Wildflowers it began as a quick sketch on a post it note which I have now stuck into one of my small sketchbooks with additional notes & ideas. For this artwork I have drawn on the flora lists of the region, the council guides for flora in the Ballina Shire, books of flora of the region, my own explorations of the Ballina seaside region, my own photographs of specific species & finally my memories of childhood holidays alongside living in this region for over 20 years.
One of my abiding memories of the flora or Wildflowers of this area is the stunning Pandanus – Pandanus tectorius or Screwpine.

These strong ‘structural’ small trees are integral to my childhood memories & they are such a strong presence along the seaside of this region. The fruit which starts as a small green ‘ball-like’ structure & slowly moves to yellow tones & finally a vibrant orange colour is the aspect most people would recognise. For me the depiction of the pandanus would need to include the fruit. Less obvious for many people are the flowers – many would not be aware of the flowers. So I made the decision to make the ‘wildflower’ front & centre for this piece. The flower starts as cream bracts inside which the flower heads develop but the slowly the whole long spike of flowers emerge with the female flowers ending in long spikes of cream flowers & bracts.


The long strap like leaves emerge in a spiral from a central point & form a cluster on the end of the rather tortuous trunk & limbs. I think the pandanus reflects the very nature of growing by the season it’s tough ‘wildness’ & so it was for me to become the pivotal image for this artwork.


I started with many possible flora species I could incorporate into the piece, more than I could actually use & so this is where after setting out the pandanus I explore the size, structure, colours etc of all the possibilities. I see this is the fine art aspect of developing my Linocuts – this is where my training, skill & inspiration as an artist rather than a craftsperson comes into being. I bring my drawing & compositional skills to this process & it can be both the most frustrating as well as enjoyable part of the developing of my artwork.
Once I finish the detailed drawing I work through further developing this drawing into a form that can be carved in Lino which is my chosen medium for this piece.

For me this involves inking the design into shape & spaces.

11 Seaside Wildflowers - TEMPLATE FINAL 1

I then carve this into Lino to be printed. For me these two further processes again involve choices & changes in the translations from drawing to final artwork.


Once the Lino is finished being carved I then print it in black ink & handcolour with watercolour the final artwork.

The hand colouring is not simply a ‘fill in the spaces’ it involves again skill & training in watercolour as a medium including colour, contrast, tone etc alongside the application of the paint.


I have taken some video footage of the processes which is a quick look at the whole process and it is now on youtube.

Music – ‘The Temperature of the Air on the Bow of the Kaleetan’

by Chris Zabriskie

Used with Permission

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/und…
http://chriszabriskie.com/

The process of developing my Australian Wildflower & Wildlife Alphabets

Australian Alphabets - Linocut WEB

Over 10 years ago I worked on an Australia Fauna Alphabet but over the years my artwork, style & designs have developed & so a few years ago I decided to revisit the idea of producing a new Australian Wildlife Alphabet.

Alongside this I wanted to also develop an Australian Wildflower Alphabet.

When I produced the original alphabet & exhibited it I had a lot of feedback about how it would be great for posters or friezes.

Australian Fauna Alphabet

My artwork has always had a focus on Australian wildflowers & wildlife – growing up in Sydney surrounded by the bush was a defining aspect of my life & it is my love of the bushland – both its flora & fauna – that has underpinned my artwork. I have always been drawn to exploring representations of wildflowers & wildlife whether that be drawings, illustration, photography or relief printing all my life. I love to draw others into this world through my artwork to explore the colour & vibrancy of the natural world that surrounds us in Australia.

So about 5 years ago I started to develop these projects, starting in my usual way of working – the idea/concept with small thumbnail sketches of ideas.

DESIGN CONCEPTS DRAWINGS PHOTOS WILDFLOWERS ALPHABETS 3 WEB

I am constantly taking photos & although I have always loved photography – recording events, including family – but I also underpin all my artwork with my photography. I like to look at everything that I draw & to take photos that capture all different aspects including not only the ‘structures’ of the objects/wildflower etc, but also light, colour & design possibilities. I have thousands of photos both digital & printed – and filed!

This image incorporates kind of how I think in this phase of working from the idea into more concrete images.

Photos, sketches, notes contribute to working through all my different ideas.

I have lots of these small sketchbooks – I usually carry one with me so if I get an idea for something I can quickly note it down.

DESIGN CONCEPTS DRAWINGS PHOTOS WILDLIFE ALPHABETS WEB

I began my first designs with the wildlife alphabet & explored ways to represent both the particular species & the alphabet.

I finally settled on the underlying idea of rather than using the actual letter, I would take the basic shape of the letter & explore how I could represent the particular species around this construct. I also made the decision to create 26 individual 10cm x 10cm printed images with both a header & a footer.

The next step was to look at each ‘letter’ & particular species that could be used. Sometimes I would work on a couple of different drawings for a letter & some like these caterpillars never made it to the final artwork but who knows where or if they will be revisited for something later.

AUS ALPHABET CATERPILLAR DRAWINGS WEB

I really enjoy this phase of experimenting with ideas & concepts & just the process of drawing is always lovely.

In choosing which images I would use I needed to look at not only the individual designs but also the whole end product – trying to get a cross-section of birds, insects, mammals, marsupials etc alongside colour & design considerations.

Once I had the basic drawings & designs worked out I again inked in each ‘letter’ & looked at the alphabet as a whole. Again changes in individual designs as well as the overall piece as a whole was worked on & developed.

Here are a couple of quick ‘timelines’ showing the evolution of the Hercules Moth & the Echidna.

AUS ALPHABET HERCULES EVOLUTION WEB

AUS ALPHABET ECHIDNAEVOLUTION WEB

Then to the carving, printing & finally the handcolouring.

For the Australian Wildflower Alphabet – I decided to simply represent each wildflower within the 10cm x 10cm format I had chosen rather than use the alphabet lettering shapes I had started with for the wildlife.

In between all of this I have been a Carer for my elderly family members & my sons for about the past 10 years in particular, but at the beginning of this year we became ’empty nesters’ which meant I had a lot more time to actually spend getting back to my artwork!

Over this time I had also developed real difficulties with my shoulder/neck that was significantly impacting my capacity to not only carve Lino but to work generally. In July 2012 I finally had shoulder surgery & set about the slow & steady recovery.

When I was invited by Ingrid Hedgcock to exhibit at the Northern Rivers Community Gallery early this year, it provided the impetus to not only restart my arts practice which had been limping along for the last few years, but to finally complete some of the projects I have had on the very slow burn. This included this long-standing project of the set of Australian Alphabets.

Although I had completed all the individual linocuts for these posters some time ago, I had become stuck on how to develop these onto a poster format & to find funding to actually complete the project.

A few months ago I approached awesome Artist/Printmaker/Designer Joanna Kambourian of Ms Browns Lounge & Lismore Arts Space to work with the design of the poster.

After discussing a couple of different ideas that I was thinking about – you can see a couple of these below, Joanna worked on the final concept design & completed all the pre-press work for production printers.

Australian Wildlife Alphabet EVOLUTION WEB

Then to find a trade printer to commercially produce the posters.

Joanna recommended CJKing Printers who are based in Perth & on the Gold Coast – not far from where I live. I made the decision to use a heavier weight paper that could still be rolled (& springs back to flat) but which I could also get gloss celloglazed.

CJKing have been great to deal with they have produced a rich gloss quality poster that I am just so pleased with.

These posters retail for $20 plus $6.95 for postage in a mail tube (postage includes up to 5 posters in one mail tube) and can be ordered from my website by clicking here – or click on the images below.

They would make a lovely Christmas present (shameful plug :)).

SOULSONG - Lynette Weir - Australian Wildflower Alphabet WEB

SOULSONG - Lynette Weir - Australian Wildlife Alphabet WEB

Blue Mountains Wildflowers first prints

Well today I tackled the first printing of this new design.

I set up the print studio and rolled out the ink onto the glass plate ready to ink the carved lino block.

Blue Mtns Wildflowers Print 1

You get an impression of how the print will actually look printed from the first roll of the black ink onto the carved lino block.

It is exciting to see the image come up as you may or may not have imagined it. There are always surprises which is nice.

Blue Mtns Wildflowers Print 2

This is a section of the first proof pulled off – you will notice the mirror reversing of the image from block to print. this is always something to be aware of when designing and transferring the design to the lino block – ALWAYS REVERSE THE IMAGE TO CARVE THE BLOCK. This is especially relevant if you are depicting a particular scene or using lettering.

Blue Mtns Wildflowers Print 4

This is the first image if the first proofs of the design. I’m pretty happy with it.

I may do a little deeper carving on the two Banksias on the far edge of the design but I will see how it colours first.

Blue Mtns Wildflowers Print FIRST

Wildflower Blue Mountains Linocut Carving 2

Well I have been steadily working on the linocut carving. Took a break for a day yesterday but back at it today.

Started with the final central waratah that needed carving. I have already carved the outline with a final linocut carving tool to start. I then use a v or u gouge tool to take out the centre of each of the sections outline. The carved out parts create the white spaces of the work which I can then handcolour of I choose to.

Blue Mtns Wildflowers 11

I usually always turn the carving upside down or sideways to check the edges of the carving to make sure I have carved nice clean & neat lines so when printed I get a clean  finish to the edges of the design. You can see some of the areas that need to be cleaned up if you look closely.

Blue Mtns Wildflowers 12

I am not the best at getting exact measurements so I took over an hour to make sure I had the panels in this piece as evenly mirror reversed as possible.

Blue Mtns Wildflowers 13

I tend to get a bit freaked out at this point. I measure carefully but lino does not always cut straight up as it, unlike wood, has some flexibility in it. So I took my time and went slowly as possible to carefully cut these lines. I want the panel structure of this design to be as straight and even as possible to get the Deco Art influence and the mirror from that era reflected in the design as closely as possible.

Blue Mtns Wildflowers 14

So finally the six lines are carefully finished. This particular design has stepped in panels so I need to cut different lines to create the edge of the work.

Blue Mtns Wildflowers 2

I start be cutting a the edge of the work with a sharp blade (Stanley Knife) slicing several times to created a deeper cut. I then VERY carefully crack the rest of the lino. If you have carving up to the edge you need to do this VERY carefully. If you do not take things slowly you are likely to split the lino in the wrong place.

Blue Mtns Wildflowers 3

I then turn over the lino block and carefully slit the hessian backing and remove the piece of lino.

Blue Mtns Wildflowers 4 Blue Mtns Wildflowers 5

This process makes creating the edges easier but tends to leave them a bit rough and they need to be cleaned up.

Blue Mtns Wildflowers 6

In my new linocut tools there is a lovely large flat blade which is perfect for running along the edges to clean them up.Did I mention I love my new linocutting tools. Mainly because they are so sharp and easy to use making it much easier on my shoulder for carving. They also help me achieve the image that I am looking for. The tools are simply a way to create the design in the lino, it is the final image that is the artwork. I do not see them any different to using brushes, computers, screens, knives, chisels or anything else an artist may use in order to create the final work of art. This is the set of tools I now have. My family bought them for me for Christmas and they make my life so much easier.

Pfeil Lino Cutting Tools

But for making a neat edge you can also use a sharp blade or a stanley knife.

Blue Mtns Wildflowers 7

here is the cleaned up edge which means the final print artwork edges will be nice and clean as well.

Blue Mtns Wildflowers 8

And FINALLY! The finished lino block ready for printing.

Blue Mtns Wildflowers 10 CARVING FINAL

New Designs – Wildflowers Blue Mountains

I must apologise for such a big break between posts. One of my dearest family members became very ill and passed away so I have been away several times in the past few months helping out. It has been a very sad time for me but I also very much valued the final time I had with him & the time I have with others in the family.

I have an exhibition coming up in December so it is now a matter of working solidly to complete the final couple of designs, get the designs I have completed carved & printed, get the handcolouring completed on those prints ready for framing, get them framed & then organise cards/posters to be commercially printed. Phew!! Not much really!!

One of the new designs I have been working on includes Wildflowers from the Blue Mountains, just outside Sydney to the west. It is a beautiful area with mountains, gullies and stunning wildflowers and wildlife. I always loved visiting this area when I lived in Sydney and still do when I can get a chance.

This is an old photo taken by my Godmother probably in the 1960’s or 1970’s of the famous ‘Three Sisters’ at Echo Point, Katoomba in the Blue Mountains.

Blue Mtns 1

Blue Mtns Wildflowers Design 2Blue Mtns Wildflowers Design 1The area was very popular in the early 1900’s and many of the buildings and ‘the style’ of the buildings is from the Art Deco period. This is also one of my favourite periods of Australian art & architecture history so I decided to base this particular design using a familiar design ‘pattern’ of the time. In fact the concept for the development of this design came from an old mirror dating back to this time that had been my mother-in-law’s. I had just been scribbling a few ideas when I thought about this mirror which is in my studio. The silvering on the back needs repairing but I thought it was such a lovely old mirror with scalloped edges that I had put it away in my print studio until I can afford to do it up.

Blue Mtns Wildflowers Design 3From these initial ideas I then research and work through a species list of wildflowers from that area and go through my photo files to find out which species I actually have photos to work from.

As I work from my own photos for my designs it is important to me that I then go & find any missing species that I may need photos of to complete the design.

I will draw up a basic framework into which I will create the design. This may change & evolve as I work through what species I will use & how I arrange them.

For this particular design I decided for the first time to mirror reverse the side panels. It seemed to work much better to do this. Although I do know that in the carving process small variations will occur as it will be impossible to repeat exactly the design on both side due to the flexibility of the lino & just sheer human fallibility.

This is the final result of the designing. As you can see I have made notes about which species I have used within the design.

Blue Mtns Wildflowers Design 4

From here I then photocopy the design & ink in the black areas.

Blue Mtns Wildflowers Design 5

Until I have a final template to work on. This way I find I make far fewer mistakes in the carving as well as galvinising the design in the process of creating the black & white image I make adjustments as I go.

This is the final template. You can see some of the changes I make – this is particuarly evident in the Blue Mountains Gum leaves.

Blue Mtns Wildflowers Design 6

Then to the carving!

I started the carving of this a couple of months ago before I was called away and have spent the last week working on it.

These are a series of images of the carving process.

Almost done! I should be able to finish this carving tomorrow and then to printing!

I can’t wait to see the final design printed and handcoloured.

 

 

Collections – Australian Floral Emblems

Whilst ‘on a roll’ I decided to update the info on this blog about another of my ‘Collections’ – Australian Floral Emblems.

In 2001 I was invited by Sutherland Shire Council Cultural Planning and Events Unit, for their Heritage Festival to produce a collection for exhibition based around the Centenary of Federation. This was the first invitation I received from this unit and came about after my participating as part of Group Exhibition in the Palm House Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney to celebrate the New South Wales State floral emblem – the Waratah – Telopia speciossima, in the ‘STATE OF THE WARATAH’ EXHIBITION – OLYMPICS ARTS FESTIVAL SEPTEMBER 2000 – ROYAL BOTANIC GARDENS, SYDNEY.

Having grown up in the Sutherland Shire it was wonderful to focus on the wildflowers – flora – of this area (and Sydney sandstone) and was a nostalgic link back to my childhood.

The result of this invitation was the exhibition called ‘Florafed’.

 2001 'Florafed' Exhibition - Australian Linocut Artist - Invite Card

The focus of new work for this exhibition was the completion of the series of linocut prints based around the Australian Floral Emblems.

I then expanded the idea of using the central floral emblem surrounded by wildflowers  found that State/Territory – recognising ‘state boundaries’ don’t exist for wildflowers! This took an enormous amount of research and help from experts who I am grateful gave me the time. The result was a set of eight larger pieces known as:

‘Australia: A Nation of Wildflowers’

Below is a closeup of the Nation of Wildflowers – Nation of Wildflowers.

To ’round off’ the collection I produced a celebratory piece – ‘Emblems’.

Australian Wildflower Linocut - Australian Floral Emblems

To add to the ‘Heritage Festival’ element of the exhibition I was commissioned to produce 2 works based on the Sutherland Shire – these now form part of a collection for the Sutherland Shire sister city of Chuo, Tokyo.

They are “Wildflowers – Sutherland Shire”  based around the ‘Gymea Lily’ – Hazelhurst Regional Gallery is in Gymea in the Sutherland Shire and “Kurnell – Endangered Ecology” highlighting the endangered ecological community of flora found at Kurnell (part of he Sutherland Shire and ‘Birthplace of the Nation’) and the idea of an image of a book closing and losing these important flora communities.

Australian Wildflower Linocut - Wildflowers Sutherland

Australian Wildflower Linocut -  Kurnell Wildflowers - Endangered Ecology

To see the collection in full please visit my website – Lynette Weir.

Out of my studio window – Banksias and Rainbow Lorikeets

I must apologise for the long ‘break in transmission’ – sometimes it is hard to keep up with everything.

I actually have 2 studios – one is my print studio where I  sometimes go to do work besides actual printing, as it is quiet and is outside the household so I can ‘hide’ there!! Well every girl needs a shed!

This quiet space may get a little tricky as my youngest son is studying art for his HSC and instead of having his work strewn throughout the house I have given him a small space inside this print studio where he is supposed to keep all his work. This means he can work up there as well as store things and leave his work out rather than having to pack it up out of my lounge room so we can at least sit down! We’ll see if it works!!

The other studio space is a room within our house where I can work and still interact with the family – so I can carve, draw etc there. This has its positives and negatives as I would probably get more work done if I could simply hide in the outside studio but not so good on the family front. It is light and airy and has two walls of large windows that open into my garden. Outside the northern windows are two large banksias – Banksia serrata and Banksia robur that have been flowering profusely over the past couple of months. The local rainbow lorikeets and their families have found these source of nectar and have been there constantly feeding. It has been lovely working in this space with them close by with all their antics. Our cat has also found it a source of entertainment and perhaps frustration as she can watch but not ‘get’.

Their call can be a little raucous – and I must admit though that the one factor that has been a little grating is the incessant cries of the baby lorikeets that is a little akin to fingernails on a chalkboard kind of sound…and it can go on and on..but this is usually overcome by watching them at their antics. I have taken these photos through the fly screens but thought they came up quite well considering.

Using native plants in the garden to attract and feed the birds and supply bird baths for water is a wonderful way to create ‘birdfeeders’ in the garden without the expense and mess of actual bird seed feeders. It is also far healthier for the birds.

As you can see these lorikeets are curious and also enjoy checking out those that are watching them!