This Saturday I'll be exhibiting my screen prints at Sheffield Print Fair alongside printmakers from Yorkshire and further afield. There is going to be some great work on show and I'm particularly looking forward to seeing some of my favorite screen printers. As well as meeting printmakers and buying prints the fair is also a great opportunity to pick up some printing tips as there are demonstrations running throughout the day. I will be taking my Japanese Print Gocco machine and if all goes to plan I'll be showing visitors how it works and producing some new Gocco prints. There is a Sheffield Print Fair blog which lists all the exhibitors and a Facebook page
Another new animal print I've been working on is of a patterned hedgehog surrounded by flowers and mushrooms. It wasn't too hard to choose the colours and mix them so
I thought things were going pretty well. I screen printed the first ten hedgehogs to see if I liked the design and colours.
Then I decided the hedgehog would look better with a plain face instead of a brown one. So I tweaked the artwork, printed out a new positive, exposed it onto another new screen and printed thirty hedgehogs with plain faces.
Now I can't decide which hedgehog I prefer. Maybe the face should be brown and the spines should be white!
I've been working on some new animal and bird themed prints for autumn and Christmas fairs. After working on The Big Hoot during summer the first in my new series of prints had to be an owl! I really enjoyed drawing the feathery patterns and leafy background. I mixed up some autumnal coloured inks and, after a couple of attempts, screen printed an edition of 30 little owls I was happy with. My new feathered friends will be accompanying me to fairs in Birmingham, Sheffield and Wakefield over the next few weeks.
Originally I only screen printed 14 copies of my Sunshine Everyday designand most of them have now sold. It's one of my favorite designs so I decided to print a second edition. This is the new version and it's slightly different from the original prints because I had to re-cut all the paper stencils by hand. The design is made up of layers of different colours; there are 7 in total and each one was printed with a separate paper stencil.
At last I can properly introduce you to my finished Owl of Athena created for The Big Hoot 2015. This is my owl while it was still in the studio in Digbeth but it can now be found outside Kings Heath library in Birmingham. I would love it if my owl makes people smile when they walk by and brightens up their day. If it inspires anyone to draw, paint or discover more about Athena and Greek Mythology that would be even better! A map showing where all the owls can be found around Birmingham is on The Big Hoot website www.thebighoot.co.uk
This month I was invited back to run another screen printing workshop for The Royal Shakespeare Company's Midsummer Sundae event. The RSC suggested printing Indian patterns to link in with a performance of Spiced Indian Air which is about a little Indian child in Midsummer Night's Dream who Titania and Oberon fight over. I printed some simple Indian inspired patterns onto coloured fabric and hung them together like rows of Tibetan prayer flags. With the help of illustrator Jane McGuinness we set up fabric printing equipment in a marquee outside the Swan Theatre next to the River Avon.
Jane and I had a busy day but it was great to work with so many creative and enthusiastic children, young people and adults. The best part was when they came back to do more because they enjoyed it so much! These are just a few of the fabulous fabric prints made throughout the day.
Here are some clues as to what I've been doing in June! My design was selected for the Big Hoot and so I spent almost two weeks painting a large scale owl sculpture at a studio in Digbeth, Birmingham. I knew it would be hard work but I didn't expect the painting to take quite as long as it did and at times I thought it would never end. It was a huge relief when my owl was approved and I finally got to apply the varnish. Hurray!
89 large owl sculptures have been painted, decorated and embellished by different artists and the sculptures will be exhibited around Birmingham over the summer. After that they will be auctioned to raise money for Birmingham Children's Hospital.
In May I made another trip to Yorkshire, this time it was to take part in Saltaire Arts Trail. Over the bank holiday weekend I was exhibiting my work at the Designer Maker's Fair in Victoria Hall. It was a great opportunity to display framed screen prints along with a selection of my other work. I enjoyed meeting visitors and also the chance to catch up with some of my favorite printmakers including Helen Peyton and James Green. The cakes and pasties were pretty good too!
The month of May was all about drawing instead of screen printing as I was working on a new series of animal designs for a commission. Naturally some of these characters managed to find their way into my screen prints. I've not printed many animals before and also set myself the challenge of trying new colour combinations. It was harder than I expected so there were quite a few failures before I finally finished this edition of Run Rabbits Run! prints in bright green, orange and brown.
Eastern European folk art and Soviet era design are two of the main influences on my drawing and printing. The results of this obsession often get mistaken for a 1970s style which was not my original intention. However for my latest design I have been looking at vintage coffee pots and ceramics for ideas. I like their striking shapes, bold patterns and bright colours, all perfect for inspiration for screen prints. The result is a freshly printed small edition of 'Morning Coffee' screen prints in three colours. They are something cheerful and a bit retro for people who like caffeine but not mornings.
For spring and summer 2015 I wanted to create a series of designs inspired by the patterns of Polish Pisanki eggs. Pisanki are eggs that are decorated to celebrate Easter although it was originally a Pagan tradition. There are several different types of Pisanki and they are usually associated with particular regions of Poland. Methods of decorating the eggs include scratching patterns into the shell, applying colourful paper cut motifs or painting the eggs with wax before dying them. It was these painted wax patterns which inspired my three new card designs.
It's only February and I've already run several screen printing workshops this year plus I have more planned for the next few months. At the moment it seems like they have taken over my life especially as there is always so much preparation involved. As well as buying extra materials and equipment I've spent alot of time experimenting with making paper stencils to screen print with. I particularly like using hand cut stencils because they force me to work in a different way from how I usually create images. There is very little drawing involved and it's much more about cutting, printing and layering different colours and shapes. With a bit of perseverance I hope to improve and develop so I can use the technique more for my own work as well as teaching.
I've added some new bird designs to my card collection for winter. They are inspired by Eastern European design particularly the work of Bulgarian graphic artist Stefan Kanchev. I've also been looking at traditional folk costumes, vintage Russian toys and children's books. The result of this is two more Russian doll cards and I hope I'll find time to do more soon!
Last year the Shop at the Old Fire Station in Oxford asked for some of my screen printed decorations for Christmas and I offered to create a window display as well. I spent the first few weeks of November screen printing an entire flock of birds with lots of bronze metallic ink. I also printed orange and gold flowers and some red and gold Russian dolls. Next came several long evenings of folding, sticking, cutting and assembling the decorations ready to install. There were so many birds I was still cutting them out on the train to Oxford. After about 6 hours in the window and 50 metres of nylon thread the display was finished!