Sunday, March 31, 2013

Cold Wax Encaustic Technique.

I stayed overnight at my studio Saturday night and used the time to see if I could make something interesting with an encaustic painting.

I used a cold wax process, to see if I could do something that had a little form than I have done before. I have often experimented with textures in the hot wax method, both painting and monoprinting, but I never managed to really hold anything with a semblance of reality.

Firstly, I collaged some sandpaper roughly onto a panel. I then added in a basic underpainting with Ultramarine Blue, Colbolt Green and Sanguine oil paint mixed with Liquin to make a permanent base.

I layered an image of shoes and a patterned background with a brush, then with a palette knife I both added and removed the paint mix. The wax is pretty thick, so fine detail is not possible, but there is far more control than if the hot wax method is used.

Once the paint is dry, the "encaustic" part comes in. I needed to melt the wax in order for it to become a true encaustic painting, so I used my telescopic desk lamp with a 100 watt bulb (I'm not sure how much longer I can get hold of 100 watt bulbs, they seem to be a thing of the past!) in it. This was an incredibly slow process and I could not hold the lamp in one place too long, just long enough to burn the painting in.

I let the image cool for the rest of the day, then just before heading home today, I buffed it up with a soft cloth.

The image is "relatively" realistic. The medium does not allow for realism in the traditional sense, due to it's thickness and unpredictability under the heat source. This process is much easier to control in contrast to the hot wax method though. The patterned background was pretty much lost, along with much of the shoe detail, but I think the image can just about be made out as a pair of shoes.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Twisty Abstract thingy

I'm loving the twisty, delicate organics against the heaviness of the black. A touch of blue lifted the contrast to make it a more appealing image.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Pond Abstract

Continuing with the abstracts from yesterday, I used a photo from outside my studio and abstracted it. I used the same formula to create it as the others, by switching out different filters and adjusting visual levels.
Here is the original:

Here I have carried out the manipulations and rotated the image to reach a composition that I found pleasing:

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Abstract prints

I made two versions of a picture and liked both for different reasons. The abstract is quite organic in character, but the different colour variations give a distinct feel in each. I could not decide which image to choose for today's image, so I pinned them both for open comparisions.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

My Dried-up Studio Pond

My studio is built over a large seasonal pond, almost a lake really. From May to October, it is a beautiful, deep mirror of reflection. By December it is a puddle and the end of February a mud pit. Right now, the mud is baked dry and awaiting the water that fills it in Spring. I anxiously look forward to the water returning at this time of year.

The pond is a constant source of inspiration to me, even today when it is at it's dryest point I find the shadows on the earth attractive. Already, the willow trees are showing a hint of green as everything starts to wake-up for the start of the warmer weather.

Here are a couple of images from the studio today.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

St. Mary's Bedpan

I am probably over doing the Virginia City images, so here is the last for now.

St. Mary's was formally a hospital and run by the Sisters of Charity. One of the reminders of this past are the bedpans dotted around the building!

St. Mary's Bedpan

Monday, March 25, 2013

Virginia City Cemetery 3

I am totally in love with the amazing patina of the ironwork at the graveyard at the Old West Boomtown of Virginia City. I intended to show silver mining activity in the background to emphasis the main killer of these Virginia City inhabitants in old Victorian times. Sometime soon, I intend to make some etchings of these photos. I will have to wait until I have press time again.

Sunday, March 24, 2013


I loved these gates at Virginia City!

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Saturday, March 23, 2013

Virginia City Cemetery 1

Following up from my retreat, I will add a few of my cemetery photos over the next few days.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Day 4

Day 4 was the last day of the retreat. I did not get very much sleep as I had been both late to bed and also laying in bed practically crapping my pajamas over a painting and lamp falling, at about 3.30. I had been warned that my room had a ghost that was a late night partier or something. Anyway, ghost or not, I was NOT feeling brave enough to close my eyes.
I was up early and cut myself a little plate and filed it ready for printing. I decided to do a small image that would ink up quickly to make the most of the short time.
I had found an old photo of the town back in it's silver rush of the 19th Century. I scribed a quick reversal image rendition onto the plate and added a balloon. After the plate was finished and paper torn for printing, I went to the sad task of packing up my things and loading up the car. Once the room was clean, breakfast eaten, I set about the task of printing the balloon.

I managed a decent amount of prints before sadly packing up and going home.

Day 3

Day 3, I became fixated by angels. Here is a rather bad photo that I took of one in the cemetery the day before. I decided to work a drypoint etching of one.

To start with, I loosened up by making a few monotypes and getting the press warm.

I then spent the rest of the day scratching in a stone angel... Don't Blink!

Of course, it was St. Paddy's Day, so it would have been rude not to go into town and have a Guiness. The town was also proudly serving "Mountain Oysters", but I decided to pass and take a grilled cheese sandwich instead.

I found the old bars had very interesting, eclectic lighting.

This one was in Virginia City's famous "Bucket Of Blood Saloon". You have to love the Wild West don't ya?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Day 2

The weather was fantastic on Day 2, so i packed up some watercolours and headed to the nearby cemetery. There were some really interesting stones and iron railings. I had never seen wooden railings around graves before, so I sketched these spindles for a while and admired the worn grain.

Walking to this stone angel, I heard a rattlesnake give a warning sound. After that I stuck to the wide paths!
The views were amazing, I can see why the early miners chose this as their resting place. The silence was a peaceful one, not a creepy dark one, like so many graveyards back in England. There were swooping magpies following me looking for crumbs from my tuna sandwich. I decided to make a sketch of one as a plan for an etching, but once I got to the press, I switched the magpie out for a crow.
I also made some monotypes of this old barn that is within view of the retreat center.

Photos of me printing (in the morgue) by Frances Melhop

This was the first pull off the drypoint plate.

By midnight, the inking station was getting a bit messy...oops.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Day 1

After arrival at Saint Mary's Art Center, myself and another printmaker set up the printing area, etching press and drying rack. The former morgue was devoid of windows, but the long sink turned out to be a very useful inking and paper soaking area.

Towards the evening I took a walk along some nearby trails to take in the scenery and enjoy the solitude. Most of the other artists were due a day later, so the building was very quiet other than the creaking of the old wooden floor boards. As far as I could tell, the ghosts had not noticed our arrival yet.

Sugar Loaf Mountain, Virginia City

Trees on a trail near SMAC, Virginia City

Monday, March 18, 2013

Retreat decompression

OMG! Did I have a fab time or what? I need a little decompression time tonight, but I will share a little over the next few days.

Here are the snaps I took arriving at the retreat center:

The Old West town ofVirginia City is perched up high in the mountains, somewhere just under 7,000 ft above sea level. I was surprised that I could feel the extra pressure on my lungs, but was otherwise fine, a couple of people experienced nose bleeds and other altitude sickness symptoms, which is always a bit of a drag to have. It was worth it for the amazing sensation of the air at such a height.

These buildings were on the left of the road as I drove down. I am not sure what they were, but were obviously original and now just part of the ghost town.

Speaking of ghosts.... The retreat center is one of America's most haunted buildings. Many groups of ghost hunters visit and record the paranormal activity. Interestingly, the building was once a hospital run by nuns and the ghosts are said to be previous patients. The window free printmaking room was originally the morgue. Had I known that BEFORE the trip, I am not sure I would have been in there alone at Midnight....


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Retreat Preparation

As usual, I left things until the last minute again. I'm off to a retreat tomorrow, hopefully to print and paint without distractions (other than a St. Patrick's Day Parade with some local Steampunks). I am throwing clothes into the washing machine and trying to find a pair of pajamas that do not have Mickey Mouse all over them.

It feels so weird to be going away without my three kids and leaving the hubby behind. When I told the kids, they were completely shocked. It is their father that travels for work, never me. I have not even been away from them before this, so it is a shock to me as much as them I think. It's amazing how being a mum can easily take your independence away, even for someone that used to disappear regularly when the sun hit from the right direction.

I was going to raid the fridge to see what could come with me, but figured Pot Noodles would be fine and save me the hassle of cooking. I will pack a bottle of Absinthe to help dilute the sodium in the noodles, plus it is green and I was always told to have something green in every meal for good digestion. Excellent, food is done!

I made a bit of a head start on an etching for a swan. I know much of the first day will be setting up the printing station, so having at least part of an image will help with press settings. I will also pack a couple of troublesome paintings that I have not had the time to figure out. I'm wondering if I can find room for watercolour, oils and acrylics when I already have a bunch of printmaking supplies. Oh well, I can always use the car as a locker.

I wonder if I can fit all my clothes into a carry-on sized bag? My top hat (I'm thinking of the parade here) would probably take up the whole bag on it's own, how little costume I can get away with, hmm. Tricky stuff this packing lark.

I am going to disconnect for the retreat, so no more posts for a few days. I will try my best to come back!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Spring Sunshine

The weather was glorious at the studio today, with warm sun to awaken the spring plants.

I am going through my studio collecting up paints, inks, papers etc for my upcoming artist retreat. I think the hardest thing is limiting what comes with me and not overpacking.

I bought a few small sheets of plexiglass and filed the edges to prepare them for drypoint etching. Sadly, you can't get many prints out of plexi, but it is fast, allows you to put an image under the plate for tracing and is super cheap.


Sunday, March 10, 2013

Map of Kandy

This image is called "Map of Kandy", in reference to the town of Kandy in Sri Lanka. Kandy has a beautiful temple in honour of the tooth of Buddah that is kept there. I am not sure if the tooth is on display, but prior to a bombing of the temple when I visited, it was possible to get very close. The image is to represent the strength of the people of Sri Lanka after the civil war.
I contoured the face with a topagraphic map of the area as well as a few contours based purely upon artistic license ;-)
"Map of Kandy"

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Embossed Iris

Today, I have been gathering supplies for an artist's retreat that I will be attending from Thursday. How does one pack so little, yet have enough supplies? Sigh... I need a bigger car to carry my studio with me.

Friday, March 8, 2013


It has been a while since I made a trace monotype print, so earlier today I hit the ink! This was a three colour, multiple drop print.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

iPad Bonnet

I have been receiving some information from Laurie McCarriar recently (I'm on her web page here:, an artist who runs her artlife from an iPad. Inspired by her "artist geekiness" I made today's image on the iPad.

Using my iJot stylus, that I love (despite already killing one that I had for Xmas).

Finally, a digital bonnet painting!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Beacon Hill Peacock

I have had an acrylic painting kicking around the studio since last summer. It was not good enough to put up for sale, but I liked some aspects too much to throw out.
The image was that of a peacock that we had chase us one windy and rainy evening in Victoria, Canada. The peacock was in a park called Beacon Hill Park and we had decided to take a walk through the park and have a little picnic. Before we finished eating, the heavens opened and we raced under a large cedar to shelter. We foolishly started throwing a few crumbs out to the peacocks that had joined us under the shelter, not realizing that they were practically killer birds. I swear that the ham sandwich just enraged their thirst for our blood. Thankfully, we made it out of the park with most of our children and only minor blood shed.
I added a faint barometer to the image with the French words for wind/rain and soften the image as one might see an image slightly blured through looking through rain. I just added this image on Fine Art America to see if I can figure out how their site works.


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

A Sort of Artist's Statement

This is a sort of artist's statement, but far more boring and long-winded. My current form of blogging is to limit the text to as little as possible. I am lazy when it comes to writing and the blog tends to trickle off when I feel the pressure of having to add words to the pictures. I hung my exhibition yesterday, so today I will ramble a little about the reasoning behind it (and to help me get over the guilt for hardly writing anything in the last couple of months). Please feel free to skip the words and look at the pictures!

For a long time after moving to America, I found it difficult to process who I had become and the new meaning of home. I was English, yet found the American "English" language a challenge. This culture that in many ways was similar to my own, is in other ways completely opposite and confusing. I still often experience a shock by a sudden feeling of otherness and a perhaps a reminiscence for the past, yet I relish the possibility of new pastures and freedom to travel. It was these thoughts that triggered the exploration for my exhibition "Juxtaposition".
I am making a visual journey through the unconscious, unveiling fragments of images, dreams and thoughts that subliminally affect our daily lives. The images are changed in form, appearance, nature or function and allied with something seemingly unrelated to become unusual or strange, creating metaphors of human cognitive and emotional thought processes. That sounds pretentious, but it sorta fits.
I had a skiing accident a few years ago, where I broke a few non-essentials and started the back disc issues that I have now (I made the mistake of thinking I was a better skier than I actually was). I also bumped my head, which has since caused me to have some memory issues and a certain level of thought fragmentation. I have days where my sentences are all backwards and words become misplaced. I have toyed with expressing this in my compositions and have had fun with titling some of the work based on this. Since the start of the year, I have blogged many such pictures as I further explore this work that I originally started around 9 months ago.


I use a medium called Tradigital Art, a medium that combines both traditional art and computer-based techniques to implicate an image. The images seen here in the blog and at the exhibition are derived from my oil paintings or photographs. I manipulate to generate a new original that I could not have been able to create with painting strokes alone, but bypassing the canned look of straight photoshop image. As a traditionally trained fine art printmaker, I love the fact that there is a hybrid option that can give me a look unobtainable elsewhere and that also satisfies my thirst for printmaking.
I am forever battling to get the visual balance between abstract and realism, consciousness and sub-consciousness, time reality and relativity. I never managed to settle for one or the other as I often get distracted by some texture or colour combination I have made in the corner of a painting and end up replicating that small section as an abstract. Stylistically, I am currently inspired by Surrealists painter Salvador Dali and Dada artist; Kurt Schwitters. I was lucky enough to visit the "Merz Barn" Exhibit in London a couple of years ago and this spun me off on a certain visual direction. I meld aspects of thought from these icons with that of my own, putting trust my own hand and eye. 

As I work, I try to quiet the internal voices; the ones that demand reason, and the ones that demand chaos (and less effectively, the ones that demand chocolate). I add and subtract until the work makes sense to me and offers me a genuine surprise. But, as much as I want visual harmony and a narrative for myself, I also want to offer a puzzle for the person viewing. I am hoping that there will be some work in this exhibition that will cause a person to stop for a minute to figure out just what the relationships mean to them.

Monday, March 4, 2013


Busy day today hanging my show "Juxtaposition". It is a series of 40 works made in the last 9 months.

I have mixed feelings about the hanging system here; on the one hand it is relatively fast to put up, on the other hand the grid is somewhat distracting visually. When I say quick to hang... it still took over 2 hours to get everything level and labels up etc!

I had some really nice comments about the work from curious bystanders who were sneaking a look before the work was all up. I may even have made a sale on one print from the floor (literally the carpet!) already.

The exhibition hangs in the center of Reno city, in the Downtown Library Gallery, so I am hoping that it gets good exposure. Juxtaposition will hang for the entire month of March.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Ink Fish

This is a fish shape that I often doodle or paint in a slightly different manner. It is one of those automatic images that stream from me allowing me to enjoy a brush, pencil or pen in a zen like way.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Four Gentlemen

I have completed the set of "The Four Gentlemen" that cover the four seasons. My plan is to make these into a limited edition hand signed and numbered set of prints in the next month.




Plum Blossom