Working Hard

And three weeks slipped by… not because I have not been working, but because I have been working too hard!

After Open Studios was finished, I took stock (literally) and worked out that I needed 3 brand new pieces for my next exhibition – Cambridge Original Printmakers.

I’ve made a linocut – Spirit of Red Fen, and two collagraphs on linocut – Cheval de Guerre, and another as yet unnamed. In total I will be exhibiting 18 works.

Do put the COP Biennale in your diary, it’s a fabulous exhibition!



I love being part of Cambridge Open Studios – I love see all my work up together, I love talking to visitors about my process, my printing press, even my garden! I usually share with another artist and it is great to hang out with them.

But mentioning to someone outside of the Open Studios that it was a lot of work got the reply  ‘Why?’

So I thought you might be interested in what goes into having a successful Open Studio.

cos 2018 photo 1

First of all, there is making the work. I work quite slowly so I am planning from January what I will need to do. I also like to have at least one new piece for loyal friends who have gone to every other exhibition I have ever done!

This work all needs to made in time to go to the framers. All the framers in the area will be up to their eye teeth in work for Open Studio. I got mine in at the very beginning of June and that wasn’t really early enough – they were ready one day before our ‘hang’ on 12th July!

Meanwhile, there is advertising – collecting Guides and posters and distributing them to other artists, plus taking my own allocation to venues where people may pick them up – libraries, coffee shops, dentists etc. It is important to do lots of promotion on social media too – plenty of people want to see Open Studios but forget to check which weekends their favourite artists are open.

A couple of weeks before, I make sure that I have other things to sell as well as the artwork – cards, gifts etc, and that all the unframed prints I will need are wrapped up and ready to go.

cos photo 3

About a week before, we start the Big Tidy (and clean). More houseproud artists won’t need to do so much cleaning, but before the pictures can go up we need to rearrange furniture, tidy away clutter (and valuable items), move the artwork we normally have on the walls.

A few days before is The Hang. This takes several hours of moving pictures around and adjusting their positions. Our house is so old and wonky that it isn’t possible to have all the pictures at the same level, but we do try to level up ones that are on a flat bit of wall. But positioning is also about flow – what pictures enhance each other if hung side by side, what pictures look good or bad in particular lights. As I share with another artist who makes very different work, that becomes an even more interesting puzzle.

cos 2018 photo 4

The day before I need to complete all the paperwork tasks, and find everything I will need. Nicely presented labels for the pictures take a LONG time, then there is a catalogue and artist’s statements to do. Flags and a banner for outside, red dots, other labels, gift bags, all the cards and so on to go on the ‘merchandise’ table, receipts, signs that say things like ‘welcome’ and ‘private’, drinks and snacks to offer people … and more tidying and cleaning up too!

On the big day the dogs need to be taken to kennels for the weekend, and there will be a supermarket delivery arriving too. Then we have a couple of hours to do all the final touches – put out the card rack and gifts, arrange some flowers, put up the signage outside and inside, put some soft drinks in the fridge to chill, remember to put clean clothes on. I set up demos of some aspect of my process – this year I talked about ‘rainbow rolls’, and my partner Allison Henderson did a portrait of her daughter.

cos 2018 photo 3

And then it’s 11am, and I can breathe!

Next time: new work featuring an owl!






Hans the Printmaker

Well, once upon a time, I found a miniature printing press on Pinterest. So then I managed to find it on Ebay – in the USA, and the next thing I knew I was building an entire miniature printmaking studio to put it in! Almost everything in it is hand made by me, most of it from scratch (the house itself was a kit).

It’s almost ready for Cambridge Open Studios next week! Do come and see it!

my gallery best.jpg

Something old, something new

Experimenting: I love it, I think all artists love it.

A few years ago I made a linocut called Sleeping Beauty. It showed a woman asleep under some prickly flowers, and I printed it in cream over a monoprint gold/green background.

sleeping beauty mounted

The only problem was that not many people liked it (other than me!). It was hard to make out the actual image, and the gold in the background caught the light in a distracting way. People puzzled over which way up it should be, too.

Preparing for Open Studios, I looked at my framed print of Sleeping Beauty, and wondered whether I could improve on it (and so reuse the frame!).

I did some experiments on Photoshop. Well, many experiments on Photoshop! I quickly worked out that it would be radically improved if the flowers were a different colour to the sleeping woman.

But how was I going to do this? I could cut another block for the linocut, or hand colour, or try to do a reduction cut of the block I had. But I came up with another plan.

I liked the pale woman and pale background, with strongly coloured flowers the best – green was the clear winner for colour. So first I printed the woman in white oil based ink on off-white Japanese paper:


While that was drying, I did some experiments. I had decided to do a variant of chine colle to get the colour into the image, but in a more precise manner than conventional chine colle (where usually bold or semi abstract shapes in thin tissue are glued to the printing paper before printing).

I chose to use hand made green mulberry tissue paper. First I printed my linocut onto the green paper, this time using pale green ink. I used a quick drying water based ink (because I know from experience that it works better on this type of paper). Then I taped the green linocut upside down on a place mat, and pasted all of it with japanese rice glue.

Despite the tape, the paper dried really crinkly, so I also pressed it under some heavy books overnight.

The next day I cut out all the flowers with a surgical scalpel. This is half way through. It was fiddly work, but the dried glue on the back made the paper crisper and easier to cut than in its native state.


When the base print was dry, I carefully laid all the cut out flowers onto the print…

dsc_0827.jpgFinally I painted over them with clean water and a soft sable brush. This reactivated the glue and adhered the flowers to the white on white print. I pressed the whole thing overnight with more heavy books to prevent crinkling and…

…I think it’s gorgeous! Coming soon – a photo when it is completely dry and framed. Watch this space!



Back from Cornwall

I’ve just been away in Cornwall, and as usual have come back with a few sketches of variable quality, a lot of photos, and a lot of ideas in my head. Thirty six views of Stonehenge is one possibility! Tintagel is something I’ve wanted to make a picture of for many years, but Restormel is lovely too, and we also visited the stunning gardens at Heligan and the Eden project. Not to mention the beautiful fishing villages…

Anyway, I’m going to focus on Tintagel first, as I would like to have a new Castle picture ready for Cambridge Open Studios in July. Watch this space for updates!

La belle Paris

louvre sketch

I’ve just been away for a weekend in Paris – glorious weather too. I’m going to talk you in detail through a sketch I made in the Louvre. I always have a good look at my sketches once I get home, to learn from my mistakes.

I found a bench where I had a good view out onto a sunny courtyard of sculptures. I liked the light, it wasn’t crowded with people, and there was more than ‘just’ art in the scene. It was also a challenge because I hate perspective drawing!

I took this photo from higher up in the building.


I did a sketch in soft pencil, ‘measuring’ sizes and angles to try to get the perspective right. I blocked out geometric outlines of the statues, and the trees, and quick rectangles to show a few people passing through.

I then went over it with a fineliner pen, re-drawing the shapes and putting the details in. I ‘fudged’ the arches at the back, because having drawn the first one I had to make the others match it! As you can tell, I don’t use a ruler. For the people, I had to remember roughly what had they looked like when I drew the rectangles.

I erased all the underlying pencil drawing and put in some shadows with blue and brown brown graphite pencils. Then I stopped because I was tired!

I was pleased with the picture but not 100% pleased.  I’ve done some illustrations to explain the mistakes.

Here I’ve drawn some lines perspective on the picture. The green ones I’m pleased with (for me), the yellow aren’t toooo bad, and the red ones are way off. The thing I focused on – the statue of the man on a winged horse – I did pretty well,  but by the time I got the other side of the page I’d completely lost it. Note to self: pay equal attention to all areas of the scene, not just the most interesting element.

louvre perspective.png

The people. I have been very inconsistent with their perspective. The feet of the people are higher and higher up the page, as they should be from my angle, but the heads are all over the place! Of course, people are naturally different heights, but if they are just part of a scene rather than the main subject, sometimes it’s better to fudge that in order to make them look ‘right’.

On the right I have resized and moved the people. Putting a very faint line across the page as I’ve done on this altered version would have helped me judge at what level to put their heads and feet. I think it’s an improvement.

Finally, colour and tone. At the time I considered making the trees green and the colours more distinct.

louvre sketch green trees.png

Glad I didn’t! In fact I wish I had used one colour for all the shading, instead of two.

But what I had really failed to capture was the contrast between light and dark. I thought it would muddle the picture too much to put much shading in, but I think I was wrong… what do you think?

louvre sketch dark

So I hope you liked this photo essay.  See you next time!





Creative Reactions 2018

Creative Reactions is a project I love – it pairs artists and scientists, and the artist produces an artwork about that scientist’s research. Last year I got a scientist researching the effects of obesity on offspring, and made a cyanotype series called ‘Sugar Mice and All Things Nice:

For this year I have been allocated a scientist working on DNA replication. Noooo! I thought, no double helixes!

I have come up with an idea involving prints, hand made books, and the plates which make the prints. I just hope it won’t be too difficult to hang at the exhibition!

Here is the main print (provisionally titled Mitosis) and its plate, both still drying. I have deliberately not cleaned the plate as that is how I want to exhibit it; I just carefully wiped a little extra ink off the body of the man, using a cotton bud.

As you can see one of the prints is darker than the others – the paper was too wet, I think. But I can still use it as material for the hand made books.

I look forwards to showing you the final installation in a couple of weeks time!