Monday, 13 October 2014

Etching Class at The Art House

This is a drawing of the etching class I taught at The Art House in Wakefield. It was a two day course, and was very successful for the students, who left still smiling.
The drive to improve and discover new ways of making work has really taken hold. It's interesting how old methods from art school have resurfaced and proved to be still interesting and effective.
There are two different styles here; one is to use a watercolour drawn line and then use a rough conte brush as the colour, and the other is to just have the pastel and no line. I prefer the latter, it's more painterly and chunky, it just about hangs together as a description of forms. This could go more rough and abstract in future drawings.

Neal's Yard, London

This was quite a big project. It started as a watercolour from about 4 years ago, but I decided to really push myself and do a big 60x24cm version in Photoshop with the new rough Dry Media brushes.
I'm really getting into my stride with the Kyle's Brushes, and have discovered quite a lot about drawing and painting. The most important lesson has been to work out how detailed to go and where to leave the quality more rough and loose.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Tea Time

On the trail of the Tour de France (Yorkshire Grand Depart), I had lovely cream tea at Bainbridge in Swaledale.
Then did a picture of it. Forget photographing your food, draw it too. Maybe that's a good idea for everyone to try…

It actually started as a test to see if I could tackle my horror of drawing ellipses. It took a day to draw it out, and a day to add colour and get the balance right for the composition.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

History Girl

It has been a while, but I'm back now, with a drawing of a Tudor Feast. It is a scene from Tudor Christmas, BBC. The scene was so reminiscent of the beautiful Dutch paintings of the 17th century, so I had a go at tackling such a lovely scene.
It was made on the Wacom Intuos tablet, and Kyle's Dry Media Brushes, which have fantastic texture qualities.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Mystery House drawing

This house has always fascinated me, it is in Crouch End, north London, opposite where I used to live. Apparently it looks even worse 4 years after I took the photo.
The dark picture is a tryout at night-time lighting, with an orange light in the hall. What I've found so enjoyable with this new way of working is the quality of shading with the Dry Media Set (Kyle's Brushes via

Monday, 30 June 2014

Portrait time

If you follow my blog you may know I'm a bit of a Doctor Who fan. Sometimes I like to draw portraits of some characters. So before the new series starts here are a couple of portraits of new-boy, Peter Capaldi. If you are eagle eyed you can see that the lower one has the mouth slightly more pursed. What is this man thinking? Will a witty comment come out?

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Etchings of elder vikings

Some more vikings (I'm building up a collection).  These are two expressive vikings, the first is looking worried, and the second very imperious. They are both c. 18x26cm. 

New tools- Kyle T Webster Brushes for Photoshop

it has been far too long since the previous post. I've been very busy with work, and then needed to get my batteries recharged.

Via a friend's students at Aberystwyth University in Wales I discovered the wonderful Kylesbrushes. The link is I'm usually a bit sceptical of photoshop brushes, and favour Painter for my digital drawings, but was bowled over by their high quality.
This did involve me upgrading the tiny Wacom tablet used since 2008, and getting an Intuos Pro large, which has also revolutionised how I work. The Wamazing watercolour brush, Xerox brushes, and Dry Media brushes are my favourites.

Coffee Barker, Cardiff.
Kyle's Xerox Brushes.
Coffee Barker, Cardiff.
Kyle's Xerox Brushes, with colour layers. 

Dorling Kindersley Children's Reference department.

The first stage- a Wamazing brush drawing, with white chalk
added underneath, and a watercolour paper base.
Colouring layer, added, without white layer. 
Colour and white layers, without lines. 
The complete image, 60x20cm.  
A small section, as a portrait of Andrea, one of the editors.

Gulen's desk, Carlton Books.

Watercolour brush, 'Wamazing'. Full colour.
Sepia version, more subdued colour.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014


This week is about jobs to do.

1. Set up my e-Commerce website, so you can buy my prints easily.
2. Get work ready for submissions to the International Print Biennale, International Open Mini Print Exhibition, and the Lincolnshire Open Print Biennale.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Crackle effect

This is a technique which has some interesting results. It is the application of gum arabic to a layer of BIG (Baldwin's Intaglio Ground) resist. 

1. Apply BIG in several thin layers and heat until cured (it becomes very hard like a varnish)
2. Allow to rest for 45mins to 1hour. 
3. Lightly dust with talcum powder.
4. Paint on gum arabic, preferably in a thick layer to make it stronger. Thick layers make bigger cracks but less of them, thinner layer makes more cracks which are thinner. 
5. The plate is heated on a hot plate, the gum shrinks back exposing the resist underneath. It is very unpredictable, and you can end up exposing too much resist.
6. Carefully take off the resist with cotton wool and white spirit or Lincoln Wash.
7. Carefully wash off the gum arabic with water. 
8. Etch the plate. You can do an aquatint before this process, but I didn't, not wanting to spend too much time on it.
9. Clean up the plate and it's ready to print.

A larger experiment in colour printing.

This is one of my favourite buildings, the rather sombre Hornsey Town Hall in north London. It's Art Deco and has some fascinating ironwork and staircases. I loved the back and forward quality of the stairs and how enclosed it was, so used a strong red as the diagonal and under stairs shading.
So I put it to good use as a colour print. There are 2 layers to the print- the etched zinc plate, and a thicker mylar sheet with drypoint. It's quite large for an experiment, about 45x36cm.

Colour printing

I've done some printing in colour. After buying Etching in Colour by Nigel Oxley I learned how to do a correctly registered print, using the same plate, but with different applications of ink, layered onto the same piece of paper. It has been something I've fought shy of for 3 years, being unsure of getting it right. Why did I wait?

The first print was a combination of drypoint scratching on a sheet of mylar inked in yellow, then blue and magenta on the original etched plate, printed over. the mylar didn't last very long, and I hadn't quite sorted out my exact registration. The second print is a combination of the mylar, then printing the magenta only on the toy itself, and finally the blue on the background. During this experiment I had to use scrim (muslin) to apply and brush the ink off, which is a better way of doing complicated prints, rather than using yellow pages which makes it hard to see where you're brushing.

The second type of print was made by inking only certain areas of the plate, then reprinting with different colours. It gives some really interesting colour combinations.

This is the original black and white print, which a friend has described as 'spacey'. He was spot on.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Drawing in the Garage

I haven't done some drawing for a while, so have been itching to get observing the details in my home.
This is the garage where I do printmaking. The drawings were made on the iPad with Procreate app.

First line drawing

Usual lighting of strip lights.

The sun is out and is shining through the skylight

More extreme lighting.

Monday, 2 September 2013

Experiments part 2

This is the next little set of experiments using different resists.

I've heard of people using Sharpie permanent marker as a resist, so had to try that out as I'm always looking for ways to mask out areas precisely. Its fantastically fine detail, and works on an open bite etch. It doesn't work with icing sugar aquatint though, it cleans the BIG (Baldwins Intaglio Ground) off the plate.

More open bite experiments- the drops of white spirit work really well as marks, and the wipes on the lower two prints are just a cotton rag with a little white spirit wrapped round my finger. The 2 plates are printed twice- the first versions have more ink wiped off than the second ones; just to see how they would look if treated differently.

The final print is great if you want a blackboard and chalk look. The Sharpie on the right didn't work- it just cleaned the resist from the plate, not helpful really. The Caran D'Ache water-resistant crayon was good, in steps (left side of print). Candle works well as just a rough texture. A good challenge would be to try and make a print by using only crayon and candle. 

The next print will hopefully use some of these marks.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

New printmaking experiments

I've been very busy doing science experiments.
In the quest for non-toxic ways to make etchings I've been away from the blog messing around in the garage, but now its time to post all the results.

First- copper sulphate solution has replaced my old nitric acid etching, and has been a massive success.
I followed the examples from Zea Mays printstudio's website:

The etching works on a sub-atomic level (!), swapping particles of zinc and copper, rather than corroding the metal with nasty acid. The positives are great- you can do it at home, you don't lose your fingers, and there are no fumes to harm you. Obviously you won't want to eat the stuff, but there is not much else which can harm you. If you want to take it up there are numerous websites explaining the method. I get all the supplies from HawthornPrintmaker.


The best resist used for copper sulphate etching on zinc is BIG- Baldwin's Intaglio Ground. It is rolled on the zinc plate like lino ink, but in thin layers. You can draw on it, press things into it to take the resist off in patterns, and then heat it to make it hard and tough. Along with other videos you can see it at work here:

Copper sulphate line test- times measured in minutes

Icing sugar aquatint
This has totally revolutionised the way I do aquatint. Rosin is the traditional way, which is very toxic, and has been linked to cancer, so I wanted to stop using it right away. For a very good guide on icing sugar aquatint visit this page:

The aquatint is actually better than any I've done using rosin. Its very reliable, and has an even tone.

Test print of icing sugar aquatint

Coffee Lift
This is usually called Sugar Lift, but I'm using a strong Nescafé and hot water mix. It enables a lovely painterly or ink drawing style to your line. Its a bit like working in reverse- adding to take away. The coffee drawing when dried has BIG carefully rolled on top, then baked to cure into a hard ground. Leave it for an hour to set fully, and then in a bath of comfortably hot water gently stroke with cotton wool. the areas you painted with coffee will float off very quickly. Pat dry and then you can either etch straight away, or add an icing sugar aquatint on top (for lovely dark areas).

Coffee lift plate with icing sugar aquatint laid, ready to etch.

Etched and ready to print. The lighter grey areas were etched at 2mins then covered in a resist to stop bite, then and the darker areas for a further 5mins.

The print

Looking at the lighter tones- they should be darker, and even maybe the same as the darkest. 

A combination of line and aquatint

plate bitten and ready to print

The print. 

The lighter areas at the top is where I didn't cure the BIG enough. Also the white lines show that the ink wasn't pushed into the fine lines enough. I'll have to get an old fashioned dabber to fix this.