Monday, 14 June 2021

Welcome to The Workhouse


The Workhouse, Dunstable
© Teresa Newham

I recently spent a morning at The Workhouse in Dunstable, where I had a few linocuts hanging in their Print! exhibition.  Participating artists are encouraged to take a turn in helping out at the gallery, and I had great fun refreshing and rearranging the shelves.

a variety of work on display
© Teresa Newham

It was a good opportunity to take a closer look at the art on display, and there was plenty: in addition to the various types of printmaking there were paintings, textiles, glass and jewellery, as well as ceramics, sculpture and bookbinding. 

two of my linocuts on the wall L&R
© Teresa Newham

All the pieces are carefully displayed to their advantage, and a creative use of space ensures that every corner is filled. It's a great place for browsing art, cards and gifts, and for buying everything from a pretty face mask to a large sculpture - both of which went to new homes while I was there . . .

using all available space
© Teresa Newham

The next exhibition - Landscapes & Layers - has now opened and runs until Saturday 10th July.  I'm delighted that one of my watercolours - Bog Cotton - is featured on the poster, and I'm looking forward to another morning in the gallery on Friday 9th!

the poster for the next exhibition

Monday, 31 May 2021

designing out detail

finished design drawing for the second mini print
© Teresa Newham

I used to be decisive, but now I'm not so sure. Not if my experience so far with the second linocut miniprint for the Awagami International MiniPrint Exhibition  is anything to go by! I'd already decided to base the print on a photo taken last Autumn near the field which inspired the first of the two prints:

September, Cross Lane
© Teresa Newham

I spent a happy afternoon idly sketching the outlines of the fence, trunks and branches, trying to make sense of what was there and how I might incorporate that into the print itself.  I didn't develop my ideas any further at that stage, because I was concentrating on making the first print.

too many branches . . . 
© Teresa Newham

Now the deadline for confirming my entries is fast approaching, I feel the need to get on with number two even though nothing has to arrive in Japan until the end of July.  I was well into another drawing before it occurred to me that I couldn't possible include all that detail in a reduction linocut . . . 

. . . and too many leaves
© Teresa Newham

Although the photo which first appealed to me was landscape format, I quickly realised that the image would be best simplified for printing by turning it into portrait, and I developed the final sketch shown at the top of this post.

enhancing the transfer with sumi ink
© Teresa Newham

When I went over the image on the lino with sumi ink and a dip pen, to make it easier to see when cutting, it made some interesting marks of its own, which I tried to keep in when making the first cut.  I wiped off most of the ink before printing the first layer, to avoid it transferring to the paper.  Now all I have to do is work out the order for printing the rest of it . . . 

wiped and cut
© Teresa Newham

Saturday, 15 May 2021

Field, Cross Lane


Field, Cross Lane
reduction linocut by Teresa Newham

I've finished the first of the two reduction linocuts I'm planning to send to the Awagami International Mini Print Exhibition in Japan this summer.  Regular readers will know that this view is a favourite of mine - I take photos of it almost every time I pass by.

refining the design
© Teresa Newham

I sketched the original design for the print back in March, using an Inktense pencil sketch and a photo from a couple of years ago for reference.  Even so, I had to edit out some detail when I transferred the image to the lino with tracing paper.

cutting techniques
© Teresa Newham

I've learnt a lot about lino cutting techniques in the last twelve months, and put many of them into practice with this print: cutting fine detail, using an aisuki chisel to remove large flat areas, and cutting around watercolour marks for a more painterly feel.

the inking was a learning process
© Teresa Newham

The inking, too, was a revelation; I reined in my natural urge to slap the colour on and rolled out my layers as thinly as I could.  Extra pressure in the right places, and a gentle application of a little more ink where necessary, produced a far more nuanced result - and the layers dried quickly on the Awagami Hosho 80gsm paper. 

one of the finished prints will go to Japan
© Teresa Newham

Closer to home, I have five pieces in The Workhouse Dunstable Print 21 exhibition,  open 10am - 3pm Wednesday - Saturday until 5th June. As I haven't shown anything at a physical exhibition since the beginning of last year, I'm looking forward to spending a morning there meeting the public on Friday 4th June!

Friday, 30 April 2021

Wild about Washi

printing on Awagami Hosho for the first time
© Teresa Newham

It's fair to say that I'm a something of a paper nerd - a hangover from when I worked in magazine production at  the FT. I was once taken to a paper mill so large, the workers used bicycles on the factory floor; and my painting was transformed when I saw a watercolour demo on Arches 640 gsm  - a paper so thick it doesn't need stretching.

the inside wrapper from the sample pack of
Awagami editioning papers

Last summer I bought a sample pack of washi editioning papers made by the Awagami factory in Japan to help me try out Japanese woodblock for the first time.  I enjoyed printing on the different types of washi and loved the way the samples were presented, with lots of information about each type of paper.

the poster for AIMPE 2021
from the Awagami Factory

Recently I discovered that Awagami hold an annual mini print exhibition, open to printmakers across the world. All the work is exhibited, and there are prizes. The first 500 artists to register receive a sample pack containing a variety of fine art and inkjet washi papers. I couldn't resist, and soon received mine . . .

confirmation of my registration
© Teresa Newham

Entries can be on any washi, but it seems polite to use Awagami's, so I'll be making my two linocut entries on their 80 gsm Hosho. It takes the ink really well. I'm also following Awagami on Instagram - it's interesting to see the paper making process and the other types of paper the factory produces, as well as some amazing prints.

the registration confirmation pack included fine art washi papers . . . 
© Teresa Newham

I've learnt so much already about washi and how it's made. The mini-print exhibition  aims to encourage more printmakers to use washi worldwide, to help keep this great papermaking tradition alive. As for me, I just love the idea of having work on show in Japan . . . arigatou-gozaimasu, Awagami !

. . . including Kinwashi - almost too beautiful to use!
© Teresa Newham

Thursday, 15 April 2021



March I
watercolour, salt & metallic printing ink
Teresa Newham

As regular readers of this blog will know, I have a great artistic relationship with my neighbours' flowering cherry tree.  The source of much inspiration over the years, it has been the subject of paintings (Flowering Cherry, Cherry Blossom) and photos, as well as making the ideal perch for gangs of goldfinches and great tits.

a sketch made on my iPad
© Teresa Newham

Last August, all its leaves fell off; we feared it had died. So you can imagine my joy when I noticed signs of life in mid March, around a month later than last year.  One evening I was praying the Rosary while a blackbird sang to the dusk in its branches; I gave thanks, recalling that I'd sprinkled some Lourdes water on the tree last October. 

laying down initial washes with salt
© Teresa Newham

I had planned to do some printmaking in the run up to Easter; it never materialised.  The tree, by now flowering more splendidly than ever, had become an obsession. When I found myself making a little sketch of cherry blossom on my iPad one evening, I knew I had to get it out of my system - and there was only one way to do that . . .

flowers and foliage
© Teresa Newham

I began with some loose washes of Permanent Alizarin Crimson and Permanent Sap Green, with plenty of salt sprinkled over them while wet. Once these had dried, I used the shapes made by the salt to show me where the flowers should go, then painted in some branches with same colours, this time mixed together.

adding the background
© Teresa Newham

I used Cobalt Blue for the background and enhanced the centres of some of the flowers before picking out the stamens with titanium white and adding final touches with metallic copper printing ink.  The cherry blossom is fading now and the leaves are taking over, but that's OK - the tree is out of my system for another year!

March II
watercolour, salt & metallic printing ink
Teresa Newham

Wednesday, 31 March 2021

The Empty Tomb


The Empty Tomb
linocut Easter card by Teresa Newham

So she ran, and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple,
the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them,
"They have taken the Lord out of the tomb ,
and we do not know where they have laid him." 
Peter then came out with the other disciple, and they went toward the tomb.
They both ran, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first;
and stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there,
but he did not go in. 
John 20 : 2 - 5

As Easter approaches, I find myself musing on the rollercoaster of emotions the experience of Christ's Passion, death and resurrection must have had on His disciples and followers.  They have seen Him arrested, beaten and scourged, and crucified; Peter has three times denied that he ever knew Him.  Mary Magdalene and John (the disciple who Jesus loved) have stood at the foot of the cross as He died, and Mary has just discovered that His body is no longer in the tomb where it was laid to rest.

Sometimes we wonder why the disciples didn't understand instantly that Jesus had risen from the dead; after all, He had been trying to tell them that this would happen for some time.  But this is something completely new to them, and its full meaning is just beginning to dawn on the disciples as the sun rises on the empty tomb.

This Easter, unlike last year, many of us are able to attend Mass in person and meet up with friends and family, albeit with restrictions. Whatever your current circumstances, I hope and pray that all of us, too, are beginning to experience a new dawn.

Wishing you and yours every blessing at Easter.

Sunday, 14 March 2021

Driven to distraction


sorting out ideas for future projects
© Teresa Newham

Lent is supposed to be a time of quiet reflection, but with my teacher husband working from home and the impending easing of lockdown, the last few weeks have been unsettling.  Luckily I've found time to fit in some art, as well as contemplation, to help me to cope with my anxiety.

working up an initial design
© Teresa Newham

One thing I've been doing is to decide which piece or pieces to work on next, and in which medium.  I'm not short of inspiration - I have enough ideas to keep me going for a couple of years - but there are some subjects which I'm not yet skillful enough to render in Japanese Woodblock, for example, so I'm trying to be realistic.

cutting lino has proved an excellent distraction . . .
© Teresa Newham

Lent is also the perfect time for designing and printing an Easter card. This year I've deliberately made it more complicated than usual by introducing a second layer and followed Laura Boswell's guide to adapting her registration device to make small prints.  I don't want to spoil the surprise so I'm not revealing the result yet . . .

. . . as has printing it
© Teresa Newham

Finally, I'm taking part in the Herts Visual Arts Big Maker's Fair, which is running throughout March with the theme 'Objects of Desire'.  Around seventy Hertfordshire artists are showing work in the exhibition - I've had fun choosing three Spring-themed pieces as my contribution - and a variety of live events are planned for the weekend of 19th - 21st. Why not check them out?

the exhibits I chose for the Big Makers Fair 
© Teresa Newham

Sunday, 28 February 2021

Creatively cropped


Amaryllis - or should it be Hippeastrum?
from a watercolour sketch by Teresa Newham

When I planted up the bulb given to me for Christmas, it soon took over the windowsill in our small front bedroom; a splendid Amaryllis (or Hippeastrum, according to the RHS).  It was a great subject to paint, but far too large to move. I would have to do some location sketching in my own house . . .

the inspiration and the whole sketch
© Teresa Newham

I really enjoyed getting my watercolours out again after so long and sloshed away with abandon.  I could easily have put the sketch in a drawer and forgotten about it, but I realised that I could crop it into a piece which I might be able to frame. I could certainly make it into a greetings card.

My Mother's Roses
watercolour sketch by Teresa Newham

I first learnt this lesson with My Mother's Roses, a watercolour sketch which lives my studio (read the story behind the painting here). It's one of my favourites - I smile every time I look at it. I framed Purple Crocus (below) in a hurry to fill a gap after I sold a piece during an Open Studios.  It went to a new home itself shortly afterwards.

Purple Crocus
watercolour sketch by Teresa Newham

This jolly yellow frame was another Christmas present and needed something lively to fill it.  So I leafed through my old watercolours again, and now these cheerful daffodils brighten up my dining room. You can't go wrong with a bit of creative cropping . . .

watercolour sketch by Teresa Newham

Saturday, 13 February 2021

Learning to love Japanese woodblock


my second Japanese woodblock print
© Teresa Newham

I recently had another Japanese woodblock print session, after tidying up the original blocks from the first one.  They'd scrubbed up well, but it was obvious when I looked at the registration prints from my original attempt that I needed to clear away some more.

evaluating the blocks after the first print session
© Teresa Newham

That done, it was time to prepare the damp pack. Luckily I had plenty of notes to check in case I'd forgotten something vital  -  whichI did several times throughout the whole process, because the Japanese woodblock technique isn't second nature to me yet . . .

preparing a damp pack
© Teresa Newham

I used gouache as the print medium. Even while I was making trash prints and taking impressions on newsprint to check the colours and the registration, I could see that the colours were truer than I'd achieved with watercolour.

the colours were definitely truer with gouache
© Teresa Newham

Despite my best efforts, I still managed to over-ink the blocks - although I did use less ink than previously.  I'm too keen to get results straight away, and will have to get used to the idea that bright colours are best achieved by printing one layer a couple of times.

printing the various layers
© Teresa Newham

Finally I had six prints on three different washi papers. To dry, they go between sheets of clean newsprint for an hour under a light weight, and then under a pile of books for a few days, layered between sheets of blotting paper, which is changed daily.

placing the prints between layers of clean newsprint
© Teresa Newham

It's true - everything about this process is a faff, but I shall do more. At the moment, however, I have lots of ideas for linocuts, too, so I will set Japanese Woodblock aside for a while. Just as well I made those notes!

the finished prints on three different types of washi paper
© Teresa Newham

Saturday, 30 January 2021

New Year, new technique


my first ever Japanese woodblock print
- scope for plenty of improvement!
© Teresa Newham

As usual, Christmas took up most of my attention during December; so it was good to set aside a couple of afternoons in early January to finish cutting the blocks for my first ever Japanese woodblock print, listening to various podcasts and jotting down a few notes as I went along. 

a cosy afternoon cutting the rest of the blocks
© Teresa Newham

The thought of actually printing the blocks, however, was completely out of my comfort zone. I re-visited Laura Boswell's book and YouTube videos on the process, and carefully laid out everything I thought I'd need in what I told myself was a suitably Zen state of mind, but really it was displacement activity.

gathering everything I needed to print
© Teresa Newham

I made up a damp pack the evening beforehand;  the proofing and editioning papers are wetted with a water brush and left in damp newspaper or blotting paper overnight to absorb the right amount of moisture. Usually proofing and editioning are done in separate print sessions, but as this was an experiment I was keen to go through the whole process in one go.

first steps: mixing nori, watercolours and making trash prints
© Teresa Newham

On the big day I mixed up some watercolours in pots, and diluted some ready-made nori (rice flour paste), which is combined with the watercolour on the block to turn the paint into a print medium. I used Quinacridone Red and Cobalt Green (Yellow shade), and made a second, darker quantity of the red by adding a tiny amount of Sumi ink.

colourful blocks and a trash print to check registration
© Teresa Newham

I wetted each block  and brushed in some nori to condition it, before inking it and taking trash prints on dry scrap paper. I checked the registration by taking an impression on dry newsprint.  At this point I could have cut away some of the chatter from the blocks and adjusted the colours, but I wanted to move on to the editioning stage so I could compare results on the various washi papers.

printing proof prints and edition prints
- the damp pack is inside the John Lewis bag
© Teresa Newham

The prints dried between sheets of blotting paper under a weight for a few days before I assessed them. I'd forgotten Laura's advice that in Japanese Woodblock, less is more; I'd used too much nori and ink, which has affected the colours and - along with the chatter - made the prints messy.  But that's the thing with multi block printing - I can clear out that chatter and have another go!

final prints on three different washi papers from the Awagami factory
© Teresa Newham