Archive for the ‘ Printing ’ Category

This was 2013

So this is how I spent 2013. If you didn’t see me, well it is because I was at home doing this!

31 woodcuts in total. 2 artist books, 1 zine, a 10″ Ep,  a t-shirt and 3 exhibtions. An honorable mention for the woodcut guitar that while started in 2012 was finally finished this year.

Also a big shout out to my friends in Harmony & High Tension for asking me to illustrate their records. It was an Honour!

Thanks to everyone for the kind words, comments and all round support towards all this. I hope your year was as good as mine and that next year will be better for us all.

Alex.

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Getting Off To A Good Start

So I have been working hard at a new musical project (commonly known as a band) since February this year. It has been a huge amount of fun and I really don’t want to start playing gigs because it’s so cool just getting in a room and writing, refining songs and really just making a lot of noise with really great friends.

But as it goes, you tell other friends about the band and then other friends want to hear the band and so forth… Which eventually leads you to making a demo of your songs. Well, the recording side of the demo was made a few weeks ago which left the obvious question of how to distribute what we’d recorded. Sure, putting a digital file up on the internet would have been the easiest and zero dollar option but where is the fun in that? No I was hoping my bandmates would let me make something more tangible – even if it was just for us to keep.

Well making CDs was definitly the cheapest and quickest physical option available so over the last few weeks I’ve been toiling away at making something attractive to house our recording. Here is what I cam up with.

G4

Obviously the woodblock looked a lot nicer before I printed the heck out of it. Still, the little Calavera character that I carved out was mighty tricky simply because he was no bigger than my thumb. Still some handy work with a surgical scalpel got me what I was wanting…

G5

And here is the cheeky little bugger printed:

G1

Then came the task, fun at first but not so after some 8 or 9 hours of printing the coverart onto the custom made sleeves I got from Stumptown Press

G2

And so now (after some handy folding and burning of CDs) my bandmates and I have 50 copies of our first recording. I love making these things and really I hope it never changes so long as I have music to share with my friends.

G3

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Have Owl, Will Travel

So over the last month or two I have been working away on quite a large owl woodcut that I designed. This block was interrupted a few times by other woodcuts that came calling but this week I finally finished and printed it. I am very chuffed at how well it turned out seeing as I found it to be really challenging not only in the carving but in trying to push my style in new directions.
Owl_Block-2

Here is the Artist Proof with the block.

Owl_Block

More often than not I usually either print an edition or put it all away and come back to it months or years from now in preparation for hanging in a frame on a wall somewhere. This time however I shared it with folks on my Facebook page and was encouraged by the positive response. This led me to think about cheaper/better ways to share what I’ve made. From this I’ve decided to try something new – I’m going to make a limited edition run of t-shirts of our new avian friend.

This is what the woodcut will look like once it’s hand screenprinted onto the t-shirts.

OwlDesign

…and this is how the t-shirt will look on the front and the back.

Owl_mockup_tshirt

I have decided to set this all up as a strictly two week pre-order. The pre-order period will start Friday 11th October and close Friday 25th October. Go to…

http://againstthewoodgrain.bandcamp.com/merch/limited-edition-owl-design-t-shirt

…and you will be able to pre-order the t-shirt in your preferred size. Please note I am currently only planning for this to be a one off run. Once the two week pre-order period has passed, I will take everyone’s orders and go get the t-shirts printed. Once that’s done I will ship them out to everyone.

So yeah, thanks for reading and I hope you’re interested in this little experiment/offer. I think these t-shirts will look really cool.

 

 

 

 

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You Call It The Studio, I’ll Call It The Kitchen Table

Recently Charlie Hillhouse (of Small House Books) dropped round to take some photos for the folks at Mild Manners. I was in the middle of finishing the last woodcut that will be in next week’s show. This is where I spend most of my days off. Around meal time it’s the kitchen table – the rest of the time it’s where all the projects that are strewn around the house are worked on.

StudioVisit_1

While most of the time is spent carving the woodblock, once a woodcut is finished up, I head downstairs to the spare room which doubles as my makeshift printing room. On this day I was going back and printing a woodcut I hadn’t touched for over a year and had not gotten around to editioning. Everything is pretty much DIY. A jig from some left over timber. Inking glass that’s from an old picture frame. A drying rack that was once a clothes rack. Whatever gets the job done really.

StudioVisit_2

The vast majority of my prints are printed by hand (I don’t actually own a printing press). This means that when using a baren (the little bamboo disc beside the print there) I usually need to make a few passes of the print – ink the block, apply the paper, ink the block, re-apply the paper and so on.

StudioVisit_3

This is the fun part where I get to see if the woodblock has worked and eventually with the right amount of ink, the image starts to come off the block

StudioVisit_4

And if everything goes according to plan then I’ll end up with a rich image with just enough wood-grain to complement the carved lines and add some texture.

StudioVisit_5

So while I might take days, weeks or even longer to carve out a woodblock, I can usually have a few prints made in a couple of hours. A satisfying way to end the creative process.

Thanks to Charlie for the snapshots of me at work.

Harmony & Heartache

Some good friends of mine from Melbourne have a band called Harmony and I think they’re pretty damn good. The bees knees as a matter of fact! Thing is that there are six of them. This is good when it comes to the music and the singing and such but bad when it comes to affordable independent touring!

This Friday and Saturday they’re playing here in Brisbane as part of their national ‘Heartache’ tour.

Friday night: X&Y Bar (Ann St in the Valley)
Saturday night: The Waiting Room (Browning St in West End)

Because we’re lucky enough to get two shows, I initially though of doing a poster for it all. This however, in my usual way of getting carried away with things, meant that I ended up carving out a special woodcut and hand printing 20 prints instead.

I figured if I make 10 prints for each show and the band sell them for a few bob, then it may help them with the petrol money and get all six of them safely home to Melbourne (instead of leaving one or two on the side of the road half way home). That (joke) aside, I’m sure they will sell out both shows, be great to watch and these prints will make wonderful mementos of it all.

All of the prints have the same illustration but are printed in a unique fashion…

There’s definitely a lot happening this coming weekend. On Friday night I for one am having an art exhibition opening a few blocks down the street at the White Canvas Gallery which is where I will be before X&Y.

If you don’t have Harmony’s debut album yet, bring a few extra bucks to the show and get it!

Before then you can check them out here: Harmony Bandcamp

Or at these various facebook pages cause that’s where people seem to hang out these days.
Harmony Facebook
Waiting Room Facebook
X&Y Facebook

Woodcut Workshop Sunday 28th August.

It’s a bit late notice but I am holding a workshop this coming Sunday at the Impress Studio out at Camp Hill. I will be running through various woodcut techniques and printing methods and getting folks to try their hand at making some relief prints of their own. It will be from 10am-4pm and one or two places are still available.

Follow this LINK to find out more and book a place.

Home Festival this weekend

Back in April I was asked to conduct a workshop on woodcuts and relief printing at an event called the Home Festival. Well a bout of really horrible weather caused that little shindig to be postponed. Good news is that the Home Festival is now happening this weekend and the weather forecast is fine, fine, fine!

So I will be in Raymond Park, Kangaroo Point (behind the Pineapple Hotel) Sunday from around 10am till 3pm. I will be there working away on carving out some bookplates and will be happily taking people through the process of how I make my prints. If you, your kids or frineds feel like it I will happily let people try their hand at making relief prints of their own. Lots of people have inquired about how I make my woodcuts (secretly, it’s not that complicated) and I’m looking forward to doing a little de-mystifying.

As for the Home Festival itself, it looks like a heck of gathering. Their website has this to say about the day…

The Home Festival is a free all-ages event being driven by Kangaroo Point and surrounding communities, who have a passion to celebrate, connect and explore the complex meaning of ‘home’ through music and creativity. All of the people involved in the festival are doing so voluntarily, with the common goal of creating a fun, inclusive and meaningful community gathering.

The festival aims to:
-embrace and connect the local community
-provide a strong platform for up-and-coming performers of all genres to showcase their work
-allow everyone – from children to seniors – to share the joy of creativity through free workshops enliven Brisbane’s precious open spaces
-refocus on the vitality and importance of inner-city festivals.

Go check out their website and all the weird and wonderful things that will be taking place on the day.

So what have you been up to lately?

Fair enough question when you think about it. One friends ask friends all the time. To be honest I feel like I’ve been saying the same answer for a long time now. This isn’t a bad thing because next week I get to show not only my friends but other people exactly what I’ve been up to.

It was June last year when my good friend Murdoch sent me his ideas for a collaborative piece he’d titled ‘When The Demon Knife Weeps’. Murdoch did the initial illustration and the idea was that I would adapt it to a woodcut. I really like Murdoch’s skills at drawing and illustration and so I was looking forward to the challenge. I was also looking to try something I had not done before with this medium, I wanted to see what would happen if I tried my hand at a large scale woodcut.

At the very start I didn’t really know what I was doing and almost every part of the process of making this woodcut has included me having to research and problem solve to get the desired outcome. Firstly, I have taught myself to make woodcut prints from hardwood. Hardwood doesn’t come large so I had to try a different timber source and many people on lots of different blogs were saying they used plywood. So off I went to the hardware store to buy some plywood sheets. I found the largest piece I could fit into the car (around 85cm by 120cm) and literally stood there in the store for an hour carefully inspecting every sheet they had for imperfections – all while tradesmen and handymen gave me strange looks.

Finally after some scaling issues and a week of drawing, I got Murdoch’s image onto the first sheet and started carving

Plywood is much more fragile than hardwood and required a careful and steady hand. I found myself spending around two or three hours a day, most days of the week working on the block and slowly the weeks went by. In fact almost three months went by (as work and life kept interrupting me) until I finally finished what was to be part one of a three part image.

Now I only have a small book press in my printing room. Most of the time I make prints by hand. I did try this with a test print of this block but that ended badly so I knew I needed help. I called, emailed and finally was put in touch with a wonderful Polish man named Jacek (phonetically pronounced: Yart-zeek). He had a printing workshop called ‘Under The House Of Art’ and he was in possession of the largest, manual etching press in the southern hemisphere. It just so happens that he was 15 minutes drive from my house – a lucky break in no uncertain terms!

In the weeks leading up to finishing the first part of my woodcut, I started to get quotes on paper to print on and what it might cost to frame such large woodcut prints. Needless to say, these aspects of the project were going to cost me much more money than I had and so I needed to rethink how this was going to work. Thinking specifically about the subject matter of the prints and some of the oldest forms of Japanese Ukiyo-e, I decided that the answer lie in making scrolls. It was my girlfriend however that suggested I use linen cloth instead of fragile cotton rag paper. And so then it was a trip to the fabric store to by around 20 meters of finely woven linen cloth.

So, arriving at Under The House Of Art with my plywood woodcut and my roll of cloth, I set about using the smaller of the two presses Jacek owned. I tested my first panel and breather a huge sigh of relief when, by the second print got a great looking relief print.

The woodblock itself looked pretty impressive too!

So by now it’s mid September and I’m starting to wonder if I can get this finished by the end of 2010. Filled with more confidence the second time round, I started on the next panel of my collaborative triptych image. This one was the same as the first and the days and the weeks slowly ticked by. Days off were spent not leaving the house. Weekends were spent bent over with fine carving tools giving me callused hands and all the while I learned new techniques to shade areas, how to use my tools for specific effects and generally enjoyed the meditative task of carving out the images characters.

Soon November came to a close and I contacted Jacek (that’s him in the corner of the photo) to organise another printing session and in early December, I made final prints of the first two parts of ‘When The Demon Knife Weeps’.

During this printing session it would take around one to two hours to get a good print. Much fussing had to be done and checking and rechecking and inking and aligning so as not to waste the fabric. Truth be known… about half the fabric I bought ended up on the reject pile (now hidden in the back of my wardrobe). After two days of printing the downstairs area of my house looked like an overcrowded laundry and I had locked in two artists proofs and an edition of one for display/sale. I was now two thirds of the way through this piece.

2011 didn’t start the way most of us in Brisbane had planned. On the 11th January I was sent home from work as the Brisbane river rose an rose and eventually flooded my workplace. After a week of helping my friends and others with the aftermath of the flood, I was told that I wouldn’t be going back to work anytime soon. A problem on one hand and gift on the other as I sat down and decided to start the final part of my triptych. Where as the first two had taken a few hours a day over several months. I shut out the world and in a workman like way, sat down from 9-5 every day for three weeks and carved. My forefinger and thumb bruised in the first week and by the second the indent from the tools became an easy groove to sit them within. Either way, by February I sat at my kitchen table with the completed woodcut in front of me. I felt happy but manly I think I just felt relief at, seven months later, not screwing it up but in some small way I was really proud of having the perseverance to complete what was becoming the most remarkable piece of art I have attempted to create to date.

However, even with the prints physically made, I still had a lot of work ahead of me. Now I needed to make ready for public viewing. More trips to the hardware ensued and with the help of my Japanese Bookbinding book, I set about turning my large pile of fabric into scrolls. I have to at this point send out immense thanks to Eileen who foolishly said “I’ll help!” and set about pinning and hemming the sides of the cloth and working with me to finish them off. You’ll find her personal textile creations here. Neither of us realised that this task alone would take another two months as no less than 40-metres of sewing occurred. Yep, every part of the process was another lesson learned. Come April however I had this to show for all the hard work and… well to be honest I stopped counting the hours after the first panel hit 100 hours.

The final part of the puzzle was what to store the finished scrolls in? After investing so much into making them, I wanted to make sure the elements, dirty hands or accidents didn’t ruin them. More research ensued and again following the example of traditional scrolls, I enlisted the help of Naut from Naut Cases to custom make me storage/display cases. Made with beautiful birch paneling and a sliding (cigar case-styled) lid – I picked three of these up last week. This week I am spending my nights lining the cases with gold satin-backed shantung and with any luck this weekend the project will come to a close and next week I’ll get to show you in person what Murdoch and I have made.

WHEN THE DEAD HEART BEATS is on at Nine Lives Galley from Thursday 9th June, kicking off from 6pm. It will feature over 20 new works on paper by Alex Gillies & Murdoch Stafford.

All creations big and small

Well, the annual art show might be all wrapped up for another year but that doesn’t mean that things have slowed down any or that I’ve been lolling around watching tv. No, from one thing straight into the next and boy have I been busy with the next…

The fine folk at Nine Lives Gallery asked me to contribute to their mobile gallery that they are hosting at the Splendour In The Grass festival. I’ve contributed three pieces and while I will not be there in person, It’s nice to know plenty of gumboot wearing people will get to see some fine art amongst the myriad of things happening up there. If I get my hands on some photos I’ll throw them up here.

There’s a good and a bad side to making limited numbers of your art. The good is that you don’t often have to find storage space at home for all your creations. The bad side is that your friends and others miss out if they’re not quick enough. This was the case with a series of souvenir handmade books I made for my Doggett St Studio art show. The books showcased most of the woodcuts in the show (and one or two not in the show) in a nice little hardcover concertina styled creation. The book was an edition of 11 and was all sold out in around an hour on opening night. Still you can check them out here.

So fast forward to a couple of weeks ago and while I was at GOMA buying some great woodcuts from North Korea (more on that below) the bookstore manager Peter asked me if I would put some of my books in the GOMA store to sell. What an awesome opportunity! And so I’ve made a second edition of books. This time I’ve made 20 copies and have made some changes. This edition is green and like the first edition, has an original, unique woodcut print in the back of the book only this edition has a different print which will be available nowhere else.

The other project that has taken up a huge chunk of my life germinated some time ago but became a reality only recently in the form of a collaboration I’m doing with a good friend and fellow local artist Murdoch Stafford. We are collaborating on a triptych based around Japanese mythology, Murdoch is creating the initial illustrations and I’m making woodcuts out of them. In my way of always seeing if I can bite off more than I can chew, I’ve decided to do the woodcuts as big as possible – which is an A0 sized piece of plywood (for those overseas, that’s 33 x 45 inches)

This morning I finished the first of the three parts which happens to be the second of the three panels – it took around 52 hours just to carve it. This is as much as I’m going to show you for now…

…and the last bit of exciting woodcut related news I have (and mentioned above) is in regards to some art that I’ve purchased recently. A few months ago the state gallery had it’s triennial of art from the Asia Pacific region and amongst it all was a room full of wood and linocuts from The Mansudae Art Studio in North Korea. I spent a lot of time looking at these full colour relief prints and putting the politics of North Korea aside, I believed that these are great art. A few weeks after the exhibition closed, I went into the galleries bookstore and saw four of the prints in the show on sale. I could only afford two of them but I was so chuffed to have them to look at daily and be inspired by. The biggest of the two though is a meter and a half long and is so heavy that I couldn’t put it up on my wall. Instead it sits atop my shelves of records. The smaller one however currently sits pride of place in the loungeroom.

With these two pieces coming into my home, I got all inspired to frame up another print I got earlier in the year of a local artist named Sue Pickford. This is her linocut and it currently hangs on my “art wall” in my music room.

I have more art currently at the framers and so I’ll tell you more about those when I get them back home. Now I’m going to turn my attention towards the second panel of my collaboration so I guess I’ll be quiet for quite a few weeks to come.

Letterpress Type

Last Friday I received a very heavy package in the mail, all the way from San Fransisco. I was happy to unwrap my letterpress type. I’m looking forward to incorporating text into my prints over the coming months. Not into everything but I do have a few ideas I now get to flesh out without trying to carve out extended sentences of text – something that I’ve had mixed results on in the past. This weekend I will test it out on my latest series of prints and with the long weekend coming up, I’m looking at spending much of it over a block with roller and baren in hand.

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