Happy Easter everyone!

Spring is definitely here and I have managed to squeeze a little painting time in between finalising my MA project.  I love the fact that I can get on my bike with all my painting gear and just cycle along the towpath of the River Cam.   
Later I found the lovely spot at Stow cum Quy that my friend Mel introduced me to a few years ago. Quy is prounounced Kwai.  Locally the bridge I was standing on is known as The Bridge over the River Quy/Kwai, although officially it is called Quy water.
Stow cum Quy

River Cam towpath
Four weeks to go until I hand in my work for assessment and that will be the end, except for summer access and our exhibition in September. 
Almost three years glorious years of printmaking and how incredible it has been.  I keep saying I am going to be dragged kicking and screaming from Anglian Ruskin University’s print room.  

Now to get on with some gardening.  I am trying to maintain my Dad’s standards, but sadly, it’s not possible at the moment.

Bye for now.

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Catching up!

It’s almost the end of January!  I can’t believe it.  I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone!   
After spending Christmas with my Dad and Aunt, I drove down to Gloucestershire to spend a lovely creative New Year with my friend Annie.  I think I have mentioned before that she has a charming dog called Eddie.  It’s always good to go on long walks with him and Norman, Eddie’s little friend, who is equally charming, if somewhat mischievous.  Not that you would think so looking at his photo!
Eddie
Norman
In December I had volunteered to help some young school children, who attend a Saturday morning art club.  They were coming into the Anglia Ruskin University printroom to do some relief printing.  They inspired me so much with their wonderful images, I thought… hmmm, I think I will have to have another go at this.  Whilst I am by no means an expert, I have had so much fun and below are some of my attempts, cut up and collaged to make some cards.  

Of course, I did a little painting too.  I do find that doing the printmaking has really loosened up my painting.  I think the two definitely feed each other.  Does anyone else experience this?
Near Annie’s ii 6  x 6 ” Oil/Panel
Near Annie’s i 5 x 7″ Oil/Panel
Finally,  last but not least, today we hung our latest Printmaking exhibit.  Some alumni and final year MA Printmakers are having an exhibition in Cambridge.   It opens tomorrow, with a Private View on Wednesday, 29th January, 2014, 6 – 9.  Details are below.  Please come along if you can.  We would love to see you there.

The research goes on…

Three trips to Margate in a month and now Pushing Print is over.  It was a good show, lots of interesting work and getting to meet other artists was lovely.  I also got some good entomology suggestions too, so the beetle project is developing. 
Unfortunately the Zoology Museum in Cambridge is closed for renovations,  however,  I was kindly allowed a morning’s access to a few beetles last week.  Can you imagine the work it is going to involve packing up all those insects, birds and shells, etc?    
It is such an amazing experience going into these more scientific/academic ‘zones’, which are obviously so different from the messy, yet controlled hubbub of a print room.  I was given a desk in a quiet corner with a magnifiying table light and I sat quietly drawing all morning.  I am intrigued by all the entomological equipment, the perspex boxes, the pins, the little platforms of styrofoam,  where cork or something similar was used before… (note to self – check this out!). 
Musk Beetle
I have produced so far a few beetle etchings.  I am trying out different methods, hard ground, soft ground and sugar lift aquatint to see what I think works the best.  Here are a few to begin with.

An assortment of beetle etchings in progress and sketch of Darwin’s Beetle box.

Hister Beetle – Sugar lift Aquatint, hard ground and burnishing.

Rhinoceros beetle –  Hard ground etching.

In addition, I have just finished a  Nuthatch painting.   Now to finish my tax return…. that’s no fun at all!

Nuthatch on a branch – 10 x 10 in Oil/Panel

Since my arrival…

It’s been all go since I arrived in New Mexico on the 6th June.   Paintings to finish, article to prepare for,  (more on that when it’s published),  tending to our somewhat overgrown garden and the very occasional foray into DIY!  In addition to which I have been catching up with dear friends and family and my lovely husband (Barry McCuan) of course.  It’s been eighteen months since I was here last and it’s lovely to be back, but it is also quite strange and takes a little getting used to, a little like a parallel universe!  Driving on the wrong side of the road certainly concentrates the mind for sure!

Spending the odd half hour in the hammock under our Black Locust trees has certainly helped me slide back into New Mexico life.  The warmth of the air, (the heat of the midday sun), the cool evenings and mornings feel so good to me.

Here are a few photos to start with…   The dust devil photo was taken on our drive back from Albuquerque on the day of my arrival.   Amazing to watch, as it slowly made its way across the arid landscape.   I have been enjoying taking photos around our house.  The strong shadows created by our coyote fence have particularly intrigued me and one of our Agave plants flowered in my absence, leaving a most beautiful ‘living’ sculpture.  The wildlife has been making their presence known and I love the way the moth matches our adobe walls!   However, I am rather glad that the fierce looking Assasin or Robber Fly stays outside. (Thanks to Russell Stebbings at the Zoology Museum, Cambridge for identifying this creature).   It’s the first time I have ever seen one in New Mexico.  

I have been to the Santa Fe Etching studio only once so far (yes, Eric, we will be back this week!), where I created a tiny soft ground.   I will leave you with the view from my hammock! 

Stephen Chambers at Lynne Strover’s Gallery and a new work in progress!

I have just returned from a talk given by Stephen Chambers RA at  Lynne Strover’s beautiful gallery in Fen Ditton, near Cambridge.  What a treat!  Just a fifteen minute drive from Melanie’s and I get to hear Stephen Chambers talk about his new large printed work inspired by the 1958 American Western, ‘The Big Country’, which will be opening at the Royal Academy on 24th October.

I was pleased to be able to see his smaller series of prints again, ‘When Trouble Meets Trouble’ which I absolutely love, and first saw at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition.  This suite of prints are a wonderful mix of etching and chine colle and has certainly inspired me to add this technique to my printmaking repertoire!

Marie Antoinette – Stephen Chambers

A few miles outside of Cambridge,  Fen Ditton is an unlikely place to find such an exquisite gallery as the  Lynne Strover Gallery, but well worth a visit to see some really good art!

When Trouble meets Trouble – Stephen Chambers

 
Stephen Chambers signing his book

And here is my latest little bug, a hornet, given to me by a fellow student, (thank you Susi!) .. it is a work in progress.  It started out as a test plate on the back of another test plate (copper is so expensive!!) for a bigger etching, using sugar lift, but I like the way it’s going and now want to do more little creatures.  This little one is only about 1.50 in square.  Sugar lift is a technique whereby you mix sugar and water and some black ink and paint it on a degreased plate.  The image you paint, is the image that is eventually printed.  You ‘stop out’ the rest of the plate with either a varnish or a hard wax ground and then put the plate in hot water, which lifts off the sugar solution.  After that you add an aquatint, which is what etches.  Some people put the acquatint on first and paint the sugar solution over this.  Ahhh… the joys of printmaking, so many ways to do the same thing! 

Susi’s Hornet – sugar lift with burnishing and scraping out.

New drypoint and Barbara Rae

One of the really great things about being in Cambridge during the week is being able to take advantage of all the events that happen here.  There is a never ending list of films, concerts and galleries to see, so many that it’s hard to choose!  Friday evening I attended a talk by Barbara Rae at Trinity Hall.  I have loved her paintings for years and have an old catalogue from the early 80’s, so it was a real privilege to listen to her talk about her work in such down to earth and amusing way.  It’s so important to see her work up close as she uses a lot of collage and textures.
I am beginning to think I might try painting with acrylic again!
Barbara Rae – Red Terraces Collioure  – 152 cm x 152 cm
I spent all day on Thursday working on a new drypoint and below is the first print.  I have been looking at some botanical drawings by Stella Ross Craig, an illustrator of flora whose masterly drawings of British plants took 26 years to complete.  I really enjoyed drawing this cowslip, although the leaves are too dark in places, so now I have to fix that!

Cowslip and Bees 6″ x 8″ Drypoint in progress

Vermeer and Bridget Riley, drypoint progress and Bumble bee drawings.

Bridget Riley,  Rose Rose 5   oil on linen,
94.6 x 78.3 cm
I can’t believe that I forgot to mention my visit last Saturday to Kettles Yard and the Fitzwilliam Museum.  If you find yourself in Cambridge, be sure to visit Kettles Yard.  It is such a beautiful place with so many interesting drawings and paintings.  You can read about it’s origins here
What an amazing contrast these two exhibitions were.  Bridget Riley’s paintings and then a few Vermeers.  Both perfect in different ways.  I just couldn’t get over The Lacemaker.  Seeing it closeup was a privilege.  You can see why his paintings stands out.  The coloured threads hanging from the cushion were almost abstract in their handling.  Amazing. 

Below are some of my less than amazing drawings, and the drypoints I have been working on!
I am learning so much and strangely enough enjoying drawing directly onto the plate.  It’s like magic when you finally get to print.