Posts Tagged ‘ design ’

It’s All In Black ‘n’ White

Snake_Etsy

So a while back I posted about how I had recently found the etching/drawing medium of scratchboard – mainly to supplement my inability to make woodcuts easily while I live in New York away from my home & studio back in Australia.

Well not much has changed geographically but I feel like taking the time to update here, my initial impetus, to say that drawing on scratchboards has dramatically changed my artistic desires and inclinations – not only my composition skills and speed of which I work. Thankfully there is no monetary motives to me creating, so I do exactly what I feel like unhindered. But like any new path you find yourself on you end up exploring the possibilities, testing yourself and as always trying to find the best way to get that thought, that idea, that (barely in focus) picture in your head out and onto the page.
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I have said it before but I can’t draw (in the traditional sense). I have had no schooling in making art and put a blank white page in front of me and all you will get in return is my paralysis. While I do pull most of my inspiration from the modernism of early 20th century European art (Futurism, Dada, Bauhaus, and in particular Der Blaue Reiter and German Expressionism) it is not what I feel compelled to try to make. There is a certain realism that I am drawn to when I create that stands in contrast to my inspirations. It is as if, no matter how strange or beautiful or disturbing something of mine is – it could equally exist in the real world – as if it was a photo as much as any other document.

Woodcuts have for a long while given me an “in” to creating but of late I have started to consider the how and why of it. Scratchboards in particular have gotten me thinking. I don’t actually have the answers to the amorphous how and why but this much I have worked out.
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I draw/carve/scratch/print because it gives me a positive feeling of worth. There should be nothing surprising in that though.

I often draw the thoughts I don’t have another outlet for, be it verbal or otherwise. Sometimes I simply draw the things I want to think about but don’t want to talk about. Even the time spent creating gives me the space to better understand what I am trying to clarify in my own head. And…. ¬† sometimes it’s just a picture, nothing more.

I find the ability to erase, modify, update or reset, detrimental to saying what I want to say. I question and second guess just about everything I do so working in mediums where the cut can’t be undone, the area removed can’t be replaced means that moving ahead is the only course of action. I trust my first impressions and there is a strange honesty in one’s ability and intent when your first attempt is your only attempt.
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There is something inherently foreign to me in the way a painter or illustrator add to an image (each line, each layer building upon the last). I have always been drawn to the idea of taking away. Stripping back until you find that perfect spot where you can illicit the maximum reaction/emotion/dialogue with the minimum amount of information – equal to a sculptor I suppose.

I love going black to white. Finding the negative space, coming to something almost in reverse. It’s like slowly turning up a light until you are finished and the room is illuminated for the first time.

With magnifying glass in hand, of late I have relished the smallest of detail. Creating lines and shapes, so very deliberate but just about impossible to see when standing back and looking with the naked eye. In the way you look at pop art or even billboard sized posters – finding that the image is just a collection of separate dots arranged just so as to fool your brain into identifying it as the content and not the physicality of the actual item.
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Now none of this was really the reason why I sat down to do this post. I figured I would just give an update on what I have been drawing of late. But as with such things, the above is what I think about while I work away. The above is me watching me work and wondering what the hell I am doing and why I am doing it instead of going outside or spending time with my friends. The above is what came to me as soon as I started writing.

Why I creative things has always been as interesting to me as the actual creative practice itself. I blame all that philosophy I studied at university…

Ps: my instagram account @againstthewoodgrain is where I put up most of my scratchboard, prints and other creations. Usually about five minutes after I have finished if it has all worked and I am so chuffed I want to show everyone.

Pps: if you are not already aware, my online store on the Etsy website (search: alexgillieswoodcuts) is where I sell my prints and my scratchboard originals.
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Scratching About

So at the moment I don’t have a working studio space. This means working away on woodcuts and printing editions is a bit of a challenge. So I decided to try my hand at something that seemed both familiar and new. Scratchboards.

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The process is very similar to relief printing in so much as the image is about positive and negative space. But rather than carving on wood in reverse. You simply scratch away at the black surface to show the white surface underneath. A wonderful combination of drawing and the stark reductive process of block printing. Plus that element that I love where all marks are permanent and where nothing can be undone – which makes you commit to what you are creating in a refreshing way.

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So, here are my first few experiments with scratchboards. To say I am fast becoming hooked on it is an understatement. For the forseeable future I am going to continue to experiment and have fun drawing whatever comes to mind…
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Above is Louie, a cool fellow I met last year. His mum and dad, Kristie and Luke let me look after him for a few days. The above scratchboard then led to other friends asking me to do a commission piece and below is Frankie. A cool cat with different Bowie-like eyes.

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And as I play with textures and backgrounds, shadows and lighting I couldn’t help but do one of one of my dear friends, bandmate and favourite noisemaker: Donnie.

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I have a few ideas already forming for what to do next. I am interested to see where this new medium takes me…

 

Inspiration & Necessity – Woodcuts & Tattoos

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Sometimes woodcuts come about due to the desire to make art from what you see in the world or a memory that’s floating around your head. Sometimes though they have a more specific purpose. For me they have long been intertwined with my love and obsession with tattoos. In fact many a woodcut I have created has been a way to get an image out of my head and keep it off my skin by making it into a print. Sometimes however then in fact just help clarify how much I want them as tattoos.

A few prints come to mind with this scenario. The print above exists on paper and exists on my left arm. A design created to cover-up laser treatment done on a decades old tattoo. That was the final design and below is the initial design that was almost used but didn’t end up fitting the space well enough…

 

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So from all this we ended up with the following result.

 

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One tattoo and two beautiful woodcut prints that I have printed up and are now also available for purchase.

Going back a bit, for years I had an illustration that I loved. The original was from medieval times and I had tossed up for a long time if I should get it as a tattoo. In the end back in 2014 I thought it best to make it into a woodcut and get it out of my system…

 

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But as it turns out that still didn’t stop me and in January 2016 I found myself under the needle again…

 

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…and so the tattoos influencing woodcuts influencing tattoos pendulum¬†continues to swing. I love tattoo flash and I love the print related art I make. I don’t ever want to tattoo someone else but I do want to keep carving making the print related art I love. And hopefully turning more ideas into images – cause I only have so much skin to work with!

https://www.etsy.com/au/shop/AlexGilliesWoodcuts

Behind The Scenes

…or should that be ‘Behind The Zines’.

So instead of joining Instagram or something equally 21st century, I decided to make a few copies of a zine recently. I had been looking back through photos and design ideas that while good in my opinion had for whatever reason been discarded or were not right for the chosen project. From there I got to thinking about the long road that leads to any artistic outcome.¬† The so-called ‘behind the scenes’ that I see every day but is never visible in a finished print or album cover.

I collected up what photos I had of woodblocks in progress, ideas, designs, thoughts and whatever else seemed still appealing to me. Made some small books out of them and then placed them in a larger folder cover. Sure it’s not done on the photocopier or with sticky tape and glue but for me it still has the zine aesthetic of something you want to communicate whipped up in a short amount of time with little fuss. Also wrapped up in the visual ideas is a long winding train of thought that I often find myself thinking through while I work away at a woodcut. You know how your mind wanders sometimes from the small things to bigger how and why questions – well I thought I’d share some of that in there because my woodblocks are also my thinking time.

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I’ve made them available through my Etsy Shop should you want to have a closer look. I’ve also put some more new and old prints I have in there as well.