Monday, 7 July 2014

Matisse - 'The cut-outs'

I've just returned from London where I took the opportunity to visit Tate Modern to see the current exhibition, Henri Matisse - The Cut-outs.

This is a beautifully curated and presented exhibition and contains several examples of the pochoir prints made in the production of his artist's book Jazz. I was surprised to read that Matisse was, 'Disappointed that in the published book the cut-outs seemed to lose the contrast of different surfaces layered on top of each other'. He added that (the pochoir) printing 'removes their sensitivity'.

Certainly something was inevitably lost by the necessary low level of lighting in the galleries but despite this it was possible to experience the vibrancy of the finished prints. The prints can be seen in their full, colourful intensity by viewing the YouTube link to an exhibition held at the Pompidou Centre in Paris in 2008: here you can see the Jazz pochoirs accompanied by a Miles Davis Jazz track 

I was particularly interested in Matisse's method of working to produce his organic, plant-based forms. Using paper coloured by gouache and shear-like scissors 'It is no longer the brush that slips and slides over the canvas, it is the scissors that cut into the paper and into the colour'.

Next I'm going to explore this way of working to investigate a new approach to printmaking.

This is my first try. Instead of free-cutting with scissors, I have used a craft knife;

Friday, 13 June 2014

Gaston Bonnier

Some time ago I found this book in a second-hand bookshop;

The author is Gaston Bonnier and the new edition of the book was published in Paris in 1926. Gaston Bonnier (April 1853 - January 1922) was a French botanist and plant ecologist who studied in Paris and Uppsala. He authored several floras in France and I have found his approach to plant identification easier to follow than the more conventional methods in floras published in Britain.

In the introduction to 'La M├ęthode Simple' Bonnier says that the book aims to find the names of plants quickly without requiring any previous knowledge of the more conventional organisation of flowers in botany. He says, 'To use it, just read in the order indicated and answer the questions asked'.

I like the illustrations within the somewhat brown old pages. The book also has several pages of coloured examples of plants:

Monday, 12 May 2014

An inspiration for fruits & seeds

A printmaker whose work I admire is Mandy Bonnell.

In 2013 she was winner of the international artists' book award, the MCBA Prize. Her winner entry titled 'Bethany Seeds' contains 12 wood engravings of seed from Bethany, Connecticut with a letterpress poem 'Caryatid' (hand set and printed typography by Graham Bignell of New North Press, London). For the wood engravings Mandy used lemonwood.

The rest of this beautiful work can be seen at

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Botanical painting on fabric

Some years ago I made hand-painted clothes, mostly in silk. They now come into the 'vintage' category and are still wearable and a reminder of their 'flower power' origin;

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Fruit and Seeds

It's Spring. Sunshine with heavy showers and newly ploughed fields. Thoughts turn to seed sowing, the fruit enclosing seed and the diversity of this in botany.

I'm working on sketches for a series of prints on this theme;

Sketches: Fruits & seeds

I did these watercolour sketches a little while ago and they fit into the theme;

I've taken the idea of seeds within a fruit and made these prints using the pochoir technique;

I can see from this that the simpler image works better. I've spent a couple of hours with my sketchbook thinking about this and working on some thumbnail sketches;

Monday, 27 January 2014

New pochoir print

This doesn't hold back on colour! I cut the stencils from acetate sheets and used gouache. The print was an experiment in using acetate and the method worked well.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Seed heads

I'm looking at a less detailed approach to pochoir, necessary to keep the charm of this type of printing and think about the interaction and positioning of colour which is also important.
I've started with some fun, relaxed (and stylised) plant 'seed heads';

I'm using gouache as I like the clear, dense colours.