Danish Højskole and printmaking

Sometime in April this year, I realised that travelling abroad was very unlikely to happen to me this year, so I had to think of some local options for summer holiday. Trying a Danish Højskole was on my sort of “bucket list”, so I saw it as a good opportunity to tick it off.

A Højskole is an interesting phenomenon. If extremely simplified, these days it’s a summer camp for adults 🙂 You usually stay there for one or two weeks (mine was one week), and spend time practicing the subject you choose. The subjects are different, but there are many sports and art schools – so I went for art, ofc. My course was called “from sketch to a graphic print”. Two years ago I was at the Art Academy London for a week course in photo-etching. Since then I developed a special fondness for printing on a press. Unfortunately, there is no workshop with a press in Aalborg (yet, hehe), so I could not take a course or experiment during the year. So, when I saw a course in printing on a press – I said “Yes, please!”. And I totally didn’t regret my decision to spend a week this way.

It was a wonderfull environment, where I had a pretty unlimited access to the workshop, nice guidance, aaaand…I didn’t have to think about mundane necessities like figuring out meals or a place to sleep – yes, they fed us three times a day plus some cake at 9 pm (hmm)) and we lived there the whole week. So I think I spent about 50 hours over 5 days experimenting. And in my opinion, I was quite productive.

We tried relief (woodcut), intaglio (etching on plexiglass and carving carton), and planographic (lithography with gum Arabic, I think it’s also called xerography). So, pretty much the whole spectrum of printing techniques, if you look it up on Wikipedia. 

I tried relief before, so didn’t spend much time on it. But etching and planographic were really fun to try 🙂 I think I enjoyed most to work with plexiglass: it’s easy to do etching on it and I like drawing, so it felt quite natural. The results I enjoyed most, though, were on carton. And xerography gives infinite options for collages. 

Aalborg was quite well-represented at that course, so now we are talking about arranging a workshop with a printing press here in town. I really hope it works out and I’ll have access to a place where I can experiment more. 

I feel a little tired of colours these days, want simpler shapes and clearer lines, that’s why old-fashioned printmaking makes me feel so fresh.

UPD: it took me the whole weekend to figure out how to present the prints online 😀 Just scanning and cropping did not feel good enough. In the end I decided on some sort of coloured passe-partout  (oh, I love French words <3) 

scanning oil paintings

The main discovery (or at least an aha moment) of this lockdown is scanning oil paintings. For some reason I was absolutely convinced it won’t work, so I even didn’t bother to try. Until a week ago – and, oh miracle! It’s working like a charm JSo now all my smaller canvasses can finally be decently digitalised. The problem remains for bigger formats. I really don’t think I can manage a 60×80 canvas on an a4 scanner 😀 I tried taking photos, but it is just not as good quality, and it is very hard to keep the angles right, not speaking of the lighting. I need to discipline myself and check properly what people out there are doing. Will make an update, if I figure out.

According to wp statistics, this page has been getting much more traffic than usually. I really wonder if they are real people or it’s just some bouncing. I want real people, but all promotion I have done so far was facebook ads three or four times. So is it time to take it more seriously? 😀

Oil

A month ago I started going to a painting studio Monday (sometimes Wednesday) evenings to learn a bit about oil and acrylic painting techniques and just book some time for painting at least once a week. What can I say?

Oh..I enjoy oil paint so so much! My background is watercolor and most of the time it’s just a lot of stress: you have to be fast and you get only one attempt, almost no chance for fixing it later. Oil? It’s the texture, beautiful soft mixing properties, no change in color after drying. Downsides? It dries very slowly. So to get the next layer, you have to wait at least a day or two. For an impatient person like me it’s a little hell, but, on the bright side, I get a lot of time to think about the next layer, and planning is good even in arts 🙂

So, in a month I finished three paintings, sizes are 20×30 and 30×30. My personal favorite for now is the mussels :3

My goal was to get less figurative, and I told my teacher about it from the start, so today he said something like, “ok, I can see you can paint, so do you want to push it a bit further?” Yes, I do 🙂 so on Monday I’ll start my first big abstract, 60×60 or so. Looking forward to 🙂

Flat brushes and a sprayer

I somehow came back to where I started – ballet dancers. Planning to make a few more for a small poster/postcard series. I really like these gracious shapes, and there is quite some room for experimenting with the materials. For example, this cloud of colour surrounding the figure is quite thickly applied paint further spread by a sprayer. Yes, I just paint on paper and then I spray on top, and it moves in funny shapes – will definitely try more of this technique.

And then flat brushes – probably the most irreplaceable instrument when it comes to painting architecture and cityscapes (I have 5 or 6 brushes in different sizes)). They are also very good for painting ballet dancers’ fluffy skirts (I love the word “tutu”) – makes it look really airy and quite naturalistic – I am very satisfied with the result 🙂

silk scarves

I didn’t have much time to draw and paint this summer, so was mostly doing some work in photoshop. You know, the “fun” part, where you need to do scanning and cleaning of the original works.

At the same time, I got contacted by a Chinese company, who works with prints on silk and silk scarves. I checked the website and it looked legit. So I decided to give it a try. I ordered two samples of my designs on silk chiffon, and what I received was of a very good quality. My second order was 5 more samples. And here are the results. 

I tried different kinds and of silk: silk twill, silk satin, cdc, and chiffon. All are 100% silk. I needed to iron them to get rid of the folded lines and used a steamer, hot air and a bit of moist didn’t create any problems, so they are not as fragile as they might look J

I also got many good replies from my friends and followers on Instagram and Facebook. In the end I made a small bulk order or two patterns and asked to make new samples – I think everything will be ready in about two weeks, I’m very excited to see how it turns out. The plan is to put some on etsy. I also contacted one of the local arts and craft shop and they asked me to bring a few items when I receive my bulk order. The fact that they were so open for it gave me quite a bit of confidence JNow I’ll need to do some homework for the legal and visual merchandising parts.

How to use references?

Recently I’ve seen a drawn copy of a photo I pinned to one of my boards on Pinterest, and then I’ve seen more pictures like this. It made me think about references in general. Just a quick note for those who are not sure what a reference is. A reference in art is an object, often a photograph, used for getting the details like anatomy, lighting, colour etc. right in the drawing/painting. Ideally, an artist should be able to draw “from head”, and some people are strictly against using references. But I think it is all right to use them in order to get a more realistic image – a bit of help to get the shape right. Quite often I have an idea of what I want to paint/draw in my head, and then I start looking for a suitable image to use as a reference, quite often I have a particular pose in mind, or an object.

What I am against, is when someone makes a copy of a beautiful photograph she saw – on Pinterest, for example. I don’t think it’s real art then, because the photographer has already done all the work: found the light, made composition. Making a copy is more of artisan, not a real artist. But sometimes it is really hard to resist “copying” something, especially when the picture you’ve seen is so great – I’ve tried that myself 🙂 In this case,I think it’s a good idea to add something of your own to it, supplement it with a new character/element, tell a bit different story, use other colours. Maybe even though it’s not 100% yours then, it’s still have your individuality in it.

I am a big fan of Pinterest, but now I think I’ll be using it less for references and more for recipes and cool things for the décor 🙂 Where to get the references then? Magazines, commercials, movie screenshots, pictures from your vacation, just what you see around you. I think it’s not even the question of where you get your references from, it’s about how you work with them. Do you copy it all, or just get that one line you were not sure about, or that combination of colous that you haven’t thought of before.. there are many ways. I’m trying to use the pictures I take myself more. I’ve collected quite a lot of material while travelling, and on a usual weekday try to not be lazy and pull out my phone every time i see something interesting.  

These watercolors are based on the pictures I took on my last trip in Asia, one with my phone and another with the camera. Trying to do “art” of a snapshot is quite an exercise, makes you think 🙂

Long live drawn images :)

I was checking visual trends on getty images and came across an article about illustration. This passage is quite encouraging:

“We are living in a time where attention and share of mind are commodities. It’s fostering a return to the basics with easy-to-grasp storytelling that stands out. And while the photograph will always be an industry cornerstone; illustration can be the difference between being drowned out in the limited real estate of human attention or standing out from the crowd.” Long live drawn images 🙂