A recent collagraph I've been working on after spending many happy hours watching the cormorants and gannets diving off Waternish Point on Skye earlier this year. This is a working proof yet to be editioned but I think its just about ready to go. I really love those rich, velvety blacks full of texture which collagraph can achieve.

And some fresh inspiration from a recent trip into the Cairngorms just in time for the first serious snowfall of the year. The walk up was eerily misty but once in the bowl of the corrie it suddenly began to lift, revealing spectacular black rocky outcrops and snow filled gullies.

New linocut prints

 So I have been busily printing away over the last month or two making these couple of new linocuts among other things. The terns were inspired by a trip to the Isle of May nature reserve earlier in the year and the experience of being mobbed as we made our way up through the nesting site away from the jetty. Its somewhere I'd like to return to for longer with a big blank sketchbook!

Santa Fe

Well its been an incredible month or so working in Santa Fe, New Mexico during July and August with master printmakers Ron Pokrasso, Lennox Dunbar and Don Messec. I have learnt so much over the past few weeks and am itching to get back into the studio and start some new ideas. 

Much of the work was very much monoprint and monotype based allowing for very painterly results and "one-off" images rather than mulitples and editions. For me it was the perfect way to expand on that blurry area on the margins of painting and printmaking where the work is neither quite one thing or the other.

For example this piece again based on some of my Cuban drawings where I combined photo-etch, monotype, chine colle, collage and drawing. And below some work in progress at Ron's studio, having fun getting lots of colours, shapes and textures down onto the paper before either working back into them to bring out a composition or cutting up to use as collage.

I'd also like to say a special word of thanks to the lovely people at the Elizabeth Greenshield Foundation whose support made possible all of my travels and learning over the past year. I'm incredibly grateful for such a wonderful set of experiences.

Postcards from Cuba

I have been working on some small pieces based on my Cuba sketchbooks, just playing with a few images and trying out different ways of applying some spots of colour or collage. The postcard size format seems particularly fitting for these "disposable" pieces which are not so much about a finished product but the journey to realise an idea. My actual postcards sent from Cuba went on a bit of a journey themselves - who knows where to - but they arrived back in the UK a mere 6 months after being posted!

Sequential Works

Narrative and the creation of series of works is something that has interested me for a long time, to see a picture in context with its companions. I think in many respects it harks back to my love of sketchbooks and how precious these are to me as a visual timeline of places visited and ideas noted down. There is also something very personal and intimate about sketchbooks and artists books which are not necessarily created with the aim of public display. Like exploring a new place the book reveals its contents slowly with a fresh discovery at every turn. It is something I hope to explore more over the next year or so, especially in relation to the Cuba sketchbooks.

This piece 'A Walk Along the Naver' was completed after my residency in Sutherland, incorporating chine colle, collagraph, embossing, Japanese woodcut and painting. It was exhibited with a selection of small objects by sculptor Trevor Gordon at Dundee Contemporary Arts during the Impact 8 International Print Festival

The Cuba sketchbooks #2

Sometimes I find a position to draw from which allows me to capture all the information I'm looking for in one image and this can then be used very much as it is to scale up or begin some ideas for more finished work. Other times there just isn't a good vantage point, I run out of time or there are lots of little interesting details in a larger area so I will make numerous studies and then find a way of piecing them together at a later date. Here is an example...

I drew this building on the corner of Infanta and San Rafael on a sunday afternoon while the languid heat encouraged many people to pause and take a seat either on battered old chairs, front steps or pavements edges in the shade. Even the street vendors were taking a break to chat and maybe drink a coffee.

And below a different street but a similar structure on the ground floor and that same atmosphere of just sitting waiting for time to pass.

This man was sitting making fishing flies and hooks but I chose in the lithograph below to depict him holding a bunch of the paper wrapped cones of peanuts which are sold for a peso on practically every busy street corner in Havana. Details from the two buildings were incorporated and I used it as an opportunity to play around with some textures to try and bring movement into what is otherwise a very static scene.

The Cuba Sketchbooks

Here are a few pages from my sketchbooks, all in Havana Vieja. I used a combination of watercolour, gouache, various pencils and soft pastel and from all I remember the conversations with various curious onlookers, in particular a very kindly stall keeper at the Egido market (top right) who brought me a stool to perch on while I completed the drawing.

The sketch of a young woman sitting watching the world go by was directly translated into a stone lithography print (one of my first of this technique)...I forgot to reverse the image onto the stone in the excitement to get started so it appears here not exactly true to life but close enough.

I really enjoyed the mark-making process that lithography affords, it feels very free and liberating to draw directly onto the stone which has a wonderful fine texture to pick up the greasy crayon and painted marks. Once these were dry I was also able to scrape back into them to create highlights or further textures.

The making of a print...

I regularly work with a variety of printmaking techniques, one of my favourites being collagraph. This was a plate based on some sketches gathered out and about around Sutherland... and a wee look at the process that goes into each print:

The prepared block ready to be inked up...

Ink is applied with a spatula in a layer across the whole surface...

Then wiped back until just a thin coating remains, trapped in the textural surface of the block...

The block is laid on the press with a sheet of dampened paper on top, tissue paper and thick wool blankets...

It is then wound through...

And at the other side its time to carefully peel back the paper and see how the image has printed...

The print is complete and will be stacked between tissue paper and weighted boards for a few days to dry.

A Walk in the Hebrides

This collagraph was made as part of a series based on a walk along the west coast of the Isle of Lewis, observing the changing colours and light from early morning through until the late midsummer dusk.

A Khanderao Sketchbook

Recently I've been experimenting with a variety of printmaking techniques with the aim of conveying all the scraps of information I collect during the process of working on location. This piece is predominantly collagraph and based on a vegetable market in Gujarat, India. Finding a quiet spot to settle down and draw among the hustle and bustle wasn't easy but the setting in a quadrangle bazaar with canopies strung overhead, deeply shaded passageways, mounds of glistening produce and the constant movement and voices of customers, sellers and porters was captivating.........and there was always a hot cup of chai close at hand!

The Moine

During one of my drawing trips around Sutherland while working as artist in residence with the Strathnaver Museum I stopped to make a quick sketch of this ruined cottage beyond the loch. Moine House was once a travellers resting place on the expanse of peat bog which lies between Tongue and Laid. With a strong breeze clouds were moving quickly and the loch was alternately steely grey and dazzlingly bright.

The Moine: Collagraph print on silk