Tuesday, 30 June 2020

lock down life.... part three.... playing at printmaking

We have survived more than 100 days.

OH ( my other half) and I. Together, like never before.

Day after day.

Meal after meal. Walk after walk. Episode after episode of Breaking Bad.

Waking when the birds wake us.

Sleeping when the day has been worked through, minute after minute, hour after hour.

We are still here. Still friends. 

Easing out of lockdown carefully.

OH itching to fly south to see sun and the Mediterranean. Cold beer and a pool.

Me itching to fly to Vancouver to see my children, but unwilling after all this time to spend two whole weeks in enforced isolation in a hotel room before being reunited. Not to mention travel insurance issues.

We have explored Kent.

Taken long walks in the countryside.

strawberry farm, kent

Seen apple and cherry orchards and soft fruit growing in huge greenhouses.

Who knew that strawberries no longer grow in the ground?

strawberrry farm

We found quiet corners away from the perambulating suburban crowds.

a quiet corner of Kent

And last week even found a pub selling real ale, to be consumed on a grassy field across the road.

Things are looking up.

So what has been achieved, artistically, in the last 4 weeks of lockdown?

Mostly very little, with a couple of forays into monoprint and chine colle.

 monoprinting in the garden

With the encouragement of Nick Archer's on-line art classes I tried making monoprints using oil paint, a roller, an acetate sheet and some A4 paper.

Paint is rolled onto acetate or glass, then marked by drawing in the paint, masking it with paper, or pressing on the reverse of the A4 paper once it is placed over the inky acetate sheet.

Messy, unpredictable and mostly fun.

I soon had a large number of inky prints around me , and nowhere sensible to dry them.

It started to rain. The wind was blowing them around the garden.

So they ended up on the floor of my home studio.

Filling it completely.

monoprints drying on the floor

These being oil paint, they take a good week to dry.

More time than I could tolerate really. I had wanted to chop them up immediately and make little books with them.

I ended up with just a couple that I really liked.

The one below I called 'pointless'.

Because that was how I was feeling.

'pointless' monoprint

I would like to make a series of 'pointless' prints.

That really appeals to me now that I have given up work and am locked down, doing nothing of great use.

The following week's lesson was monoprint with chine colle.

Chine colle is a form of collage where fine paper is bonded to a print during the pressure process. In traditional printing the pressure of the print creates a seamless transition. For the purpose of this class, and in the absence of a press, we were to use glue and hand pressure.

Here is an example of a print with red tissue chine colle

I wanted to add some sea creatures and fossils to my prints.

I sourced some public domain images from the Harvard University, Ernst Mayr library archives

I printed these on thin paper and cut out some shapes, along with some birds from my own archive.

monoprint with chine colle
Mostly the fossil shapes disappeared into the ink, as in the image above.

The birds were a bit more successful when their wings didn't tear off as I tried to apply the glue.

I need a lot more practice, and a real printing press (of course....).

So I tried simple landscapes. Masking areas of the paper with torn newspaper.

just a monoprint

Later I cheated by adding a bird digitally.

monoprint with bird

Next I tried two crows chosen from my photographs from India. Crows seem to be everywhere that I go.

I dropped them into a scene as if landing on rocks.

the landing | monoprint

I was happier with this one, so printed it onto Kozo paper, mounted it onto a board, and coated it with beeswax.

The wax coat is a risky process involving  melted wax and a hotplate in an upstairs bedroom. I was VERY careful.

melting beeswax for wax encaustic overlay

baking tray waxing station

The final product is now waiting for a frame.

the landing | a waxed print

Lastly I went a bit experimental in Photoshop with another print.

This time I layered it digitally and added some colour.

It is no longer a real monoprint.

But as I am now 'an artist', I have decided that I can create work in the way that works best for me.

And if others enjoy it, then I won't feel quite so 'pointless'.

And that will be a good thing.
the dive | a layered monoprint

Tuesday, 2 June 2020

Lock down life - part 2

rain dance 5 | © Caroline fraser 2020

So, we reach week 10 of lockdown, and this weekend, for the first time, I have been into a shop. 

I won't say that I enjoyed it.

I found it intensely depressing; the fear of getting too close to real people, the not being able to touch, the worry about paying using a touch screen. 

OH ( my other half) has been doing all the shopping for the last 10 weeks.

For which I thank him.  But there are drawbacks......

Here are some pros and cons of having all my shopping done by OH....

  •  the house is full of meat. ( By house I mean the fridge and the freezer). There are black puddings from Stornaway in every drawer of the freezer, and a supply of sausages sufficient for a large garden party, except that we are not allowerd one of those any time soon).
  • There are secret foods that I am not told about, and don't realise they are there until I see the packaging in the bin ( strawberries and smoked salmon for example ). I am told that I 'only have to look in the fridge'. But I can't see past all the meat.....
  •  there are 10 tins of tinned tomoatoes in the not very large larder cupboard. No wonder I can't see what else is in there.
  • I am given 2 minutes to decide what ingredients I require for the meals that I am cooking for the next few days. I have never had to plan meals ahead with such precision.

rain dance 2 | © Caroline fraser 2020

As you can see, I am not easy to please.

But then nor is OH. My attempts to introduce a one night a week vegetarian night have not gone well.

I wouldn't mind, but given that OH eats meat at all three meals every day, then you might think that one veggy meal was going to be tolerated. Not so. 

I have resorted to using fish as a vegetarian option.....

Life is full of compromises.... 

 I choose my own breakfast and lunch from the non meat options available ( muesli, porrige, bread, cheese, salad).

You get the picture.

And the pros?

  • I get to make new images during the time that I would have been queieng at the supermarket.
  • I can do my meditation Youtube video without interruption half way through from OH  asking me  'do you want to watch Boris on TV '.   To which the answer, of course, is NO.

While OH is shopping I fiddle around on the computer trying to create new images from my local walks and from old images from my travels.

I am experimenting with layering of photos and paintings. 

Some work better than others.

Here is a Scandi style window from Finland. 

playing with layers and warp tool in Photoshop

And here is a tree from Lofoten with some starlings from Wales.

playing with photographic layers

I seem to return to trees time after time.

These dead branches from Vancouver.

towards the sky | © Caroline fraser 2020

And these graceful fallen branches from a woodland in Kent.

tree dance | © Caroline Fraser 2020

But it is the images from my local pond that please me most.

I have found the shapes of the leaves reflected in the water to be an endless source of work over the past 10 years.

Raindrops falling just add to the fun. 

The ripples create an added dimension. 

rain dance 14 | © Caroline fraser 2020

But we have had no rain since I took these photos on 28th April. 

Hopefully some will come again soon, and I can extend the series a little further.

Light and water, light on water. Water falling on water . I don't have to go far to find a place to capture my favourite subject matter.

Here is a video made beside my local stream, a few yards away from the pond. 

A place of peace.

Sunday, 3 May 2020

lockdown life

Springtime in suburbia..... I once made a book about it.

Endless days of sunshine in April.

Unusual. Enjoyable. Surreal.

For last time we had weather like this in April I was studyimg at Central St Martins for a PG cert in photography.

This time I am locked down. Day after day. Week after week.

My other half (OH) and I confined to quarters, together in a way that we have not been together for many years.

Normally OH is travelling for work, and I am travelling for photography or to visit family in Canada, or both.

I am not going to go into details of the pandemic..... you know about that.

I am going to share some good things that have come out of this time instead.

Firstly, we have gone mad in the garden. Ripping up lawn to plant vegetables.

Digging for sanity.

The kitchen floor a mass of dodgy looking seedlings.

Secondly, OH has tidied 20 years worth of papers from his study.

You have no idea how happy that makes me.

OH has also become bread maker and soup maker extraordinaire. When I enquired of his plans for today he advised that he was going to be 'very busy'. He has bread and soup to make, and dinner to cook.

I will have to amuse myself writing, and watching my seedlings grow.

messages in the woods

The house is a lot cleaner than it ever has been.  The only items in my once busy diary are a daily instruction for which room to clean today ( somehow I can only make myself do housework if it is in my diary).

Later today my phone will beep to remind me to put the garden waste bin out for collection. Who would have dreamed that we could all be so excited by a waste and recycling collection. Some of our neighbours have had boxes out for days......

Secrets of a lockdown life revealed.....


There are no secrets when the recycling doesn't get collected.

And duck for a dog?

Then there is the simple pleasure of  'drying socks on the garden table'..... so much time saved by just throwing them all down in the sunshine.

It would be fair to say that we have had our moments.....

but we have overcome these with vigorous amounts of walking and cycling. OH disappears off on his bicycle while I walk to the woods, or dance in my front room gymnasium.

Youtube exercise videos have kept me sane. My favourite is a short burst of total exhaustion with Train like a ballerina.

Here is my gymn.

But what of creativity I hear you ask.

It has been a time of feeling unsettled and that has impacted on my making.

So I have been incredibly grateful to join a zoom painting class with Nick Archer of @artclassesinrye

I find it a welcome distraction and a way to connect with friends at Rye Creative Centre.

I have never painted with acrylics, and it is a love / hate relationship, but I have so enjoyed learning about colour, how to mix colours, and the discipline of not being satisfied with a colour that isn't right.

I started painting a piece of white paper on a white background.

It turns out to be all about greys and shadows, and I got so frustrated with it in the end that I painted it all over in black with a view to starting again.

I have rediscovered how much I hate getting charcoal all over everything, and how it is hard to know when 'enough is enough'. 

Next week we are looking at mark making. A chance to go a bit wild....

After watching the Royal Academy film "Painting the modern garden; Monet to Matisse" I am raring to go.

This documentary is an absolute delight, and I now see the pond in my local woods as akin to Monet's waterlily garden; a bit of an obsession. Monet became obsessed with the reflections in the water, just as I do.

pavement selfie

Every day I walk, and mostly I go to the woods.

There have been some lovely surprises...

another good thing that has come from this time.

When the sun shines, the spring leaves are vibrant and fresh.

the stream

But to capture the wild garlic requires softer light.

wild garlic, hawkwood

And the highlight of this week has been the rain; so welcome after all those endless dry sunny days. 

The woodland refreshed, and watery ripples on the pond.

rain drops on the pond

pond reflections


 So we have settled into a fairly content routine.

And I am beginning to be able to get back my creative mojo.

Here is one from the pond, inspired by Monet.

Rain dance 7 © Caroline Fraser 2020

Tuesday, 31 March 2020

These different days..... on making art during the corona virus pandemic

these different days
Week one of self isolation is over.

A frantic, tiring week of getting used to be home all day and locked in with OH ( my other half).

We usually keep very busy out and about. Going our different ways much of the time.

So how to adjust to being together all day every day?

  1. gardening like maniacs, digging up lawn to create a vegetable patch.... digging for sanity - DFS
  2. watching Breaking Bad from the beginning... one episode a day
  3. walking up and down a big hill every day ( me)
  4. cycling up and down a big hill every day (OH)
  5. making soup (OH)
  6. eating soup (me)
  7. You tube exercise videos ( me)
  8. making books ( not OH obviously.....)

We made it into week 2, and who knows what that will bring.

So what was the book?

I am a member of an Instagram group #areyoubookenough , started by Sarah Maker of Editions Studio in Seattle.

Each month there is a given subject, and if you wish to join in then you make a book themed to the subject.
It is an incredibly friendly group of like minded book loving creatives, and the ideas that people come up with never cease to amaze.

So for March we had 'Hexagon'.

Very mathematical , geometric.....

these different days©caroline fraser2020

I got out a pencil and compass, and re-learned how to draw a hexagon. I have forgotten all my maths.

I googled hexagons in nature

I couldn't get inspired.

I played with shapes. Still nothing.

I definately didn't want to make a book about bees and honeycombs, or turtles.

I learned that pencils are hexagonal so they don't run off the table.....

I was getting nowhere fast.

And then I discovered a template in Photoshop that contains geometric shapes.

I used it to make shapes with images from my computer; old images that felt suitable for a graphic creation.

I went a bit crazy for the next few days, playing and experimenting. Layering and blending.

I used images from the sea wall at Camber sands .

these different days © Caroline Fraser 2020

I used mountains from Norway

These different days © Caroline Fraser 2020

Birds from Aberystwyth

These different days © Caroline Fraser 2020

 and trees from an ancient oak forest inWales

These different days © Caroline Fraser 2020

These different days © Caroline Fraser 2020

And when I had finished I had a motley collection of images that didn't all work together.

Next I wrote some words.

These different days

They asked me to make a book;


but all around the world was changing.

I thought of honeycombs and basalt columns
turtle shells and snowflakes
Saturn’s hexagonal clouds.

But they matter not.
For outside in the brilliant sunshine
while spring is doing its thing,
inside there is darkness, 
anxiety and apprehension.

How to create work in these different days?
Hexagons of no relevance right now.

As the anxiety rose I turned to my library of images
and began to work.
Layering and sifting,
mixing and blending,
cutting and pasting,
sequencing and printing.
Circles, triangles (and hexagons too).

I kept working until time ran out
and I realised that what mattered was not the book
but the thinking, distraction and experimentation
that had buffered my thoughts,
and kept me going 
through these different days.

And once I had the words then the book had to be constructed.

I printed out images and sequenced them, quickly realising that I needed to limit the colour palette for it to work.

I chose orange, grey and turquoise.....

orange, grey and turquoise

These different days © Caroline Fraser 2020

I printed the words onto one sheet of paper, and made a concertina with the abstract images.

The final book was completed on the 7th day of the first week.

And here is the final product with yours truly reading the words in a very serious voice.....

The next topic is machine 

I think my typewriter Olympia will want to be in on that one.

Let's see what tomorrow brings....