Wednesday, 28 February 2018

A year of self-imposed challenges

Mini lino blocks by Toni Hartill for #30daychallenge

Every year since about 2013, when I was able to devote more of my time to my arts practice, I have set myself goals for the coming year to help to direct my creative energies. I always have one key goal that is a catch phrase for the year  that I use whenever I get stuck. Usually its as simple as "build new connections", "experiment and explore", or, when I felt like I needed to reign in my desire to trial every possible printmaking technique: "focus and hone."

Leading up to the new year I mull over what I have achieved in the year gone by and consider what change or improvement I want to make to my current practice. What's working for me and what's not.

"Tears of Rangi -Too late" Detail, monoprint, Toni Hartill 2017.

Last year's goal: "Choose then DO!" 

Last year I created some of my biggest works in print, "boldly" going where I hadn't gone before and had works selected for some key exhibitions which was all well and good. I consciously chose what I would commit to for the year and met all of my chosen deadlines BUT I still spent a lot of energy second guessing, dithering, and coming up with lots of ideas of "great" projects that... are still in sketchbook phase - how many of us have a lifetime's worth of work dreamt up in our sketchbooks that we never get around to creating? Is it because we doubt whether it will work? ...because we are short on time? ...would anyone else be interested????? etc... When I flick back through my sketchbook I have enough work to keep a studio of assistants fully employed for several years! ha! if only!

Moth Plant linocut by Toni Hartill
Start as I mean to go on: printing session Jan 1st 2018!

 This year's goal!

All the same ol' chants of "focus", "just do it" and "follow through" came to mind, again. Refining these ideas in my mind I hit upon the catch phrase "Be Prolific!" My plan is that by being prolific I will be driven to banish some of my procrastination demons and hopefully produce some work I am proud of as well as actioning some of my many ideas AND meeting some deadlines.

And yes, "life" will constantly still get in the way. (Tip: Don't be fooled into thinking that when your children grow up that your role as a parent becomes any less important or less time consuming - the goal posts just move, constantly, and get higher!) So, in the midst of renovating our tired old kitchen and supporting our sons through some big life challenges I feel like I need some way that I can take small bites of creativity to keep the momentum going so that when I get a window of opportunity to hit the studio, I'm ready! To be prolific!

A recommendation:


Incidentally, over the summer I read a very helpful book that was just the right thing at the right time: "Creative Strength Training" by Jane Dunnewold. "Prompts, exercises and personal stories for encouraging artistic genius!" Its a practical guide to getting on with being an artist amidst all the other distractions and excuses, including overcoming stumbling blocks, disbanding the committee, the power of giving yourself limitations, learning to make time, mining for content. etc. I found it to be a very helpful guide as I was planning for the year ahead.

Facebook vs Instagram: 

As a result of reading this book I decided I needed to limit distractions! Namely the likes of online distractions, such as Facebook! If there is ever something that can suck up time its opening facebook and being distracted by the news feed full of random news articles, videos and cute animal stories and everyone's wonderful social lives of lunches out and holidays abroad. Less and less do I see posts that inspire my work or are by other artists I follow. So, fine, I have opened an Instagram account. I follow only artists who's work I am inspired by, and no-one that posts pics of their adorable children/holidays/food/pets.... I now use facebook as I might pick up a well-fingered, slightly out of date magazine in a doctor's waiting room - for a quick flick through every now and then. So I'm probably well behind the eight-ball in online gos' and stories but hey ho, life goes on and I am wasting less of my time for it.

So, how do I take small bites of creativity to keep me primed to pounce? I chanced upon a link on Instagram for an online challenge:

#30daysketchbook2018 - Toni Hartill


Starting on the first of January, and provided with daily prompts, any media, any style, no pressure. I could share online if I wanted to... or not. I had an incomplete sketchbook from starting the 100 day challenge last year and I do hate an unfinished book, so why not? Some days were creative bliss of puddling away for an indiscriminate time, other days were quick fire bursts of randomness. I practiced trying not to overthink what I thought I should do, to convince myself it didn't have to be THE best/cleverest/ most profound... image of whatever the prompt suggested (other perfectionists will understand.) 30 days is easy to keep track of: the date of the month is the clue! And its more finite and reachable than 100 days, which, having done at least three 100 day challenges now, they seem to go on f-o-r-e-v-e-r! I have MANY goals I would like to shoot for and so setting myself the challenge of a 30 day challenge every month of the year seems like an achievable way of tackling a few of them.

Lino print experimentation #30daychallenge - Toni Hartill 

30 days of block printing

February is coming to a close today and I have just completed, well 28 days, being February, of block printing. And what a productive and fun challenge this has been - so much so that I will need to continue this in some form for the  next month! So much more to discover! Working on small sample-sized pieces of lino, using up some of my scraps, I have created many, many wee blocks which I have printed in many combinations, exploring colours, patterns, layering effects, ink applications, embossing... Using these small samplers I have then followed through to create mini editions and a small body of work to use for an upcoming deadline PLUS to inform my ideas for working larger towards a couple of bigger projects for later in the year. "Two birds, one stone" and all that.

Lino print experimentation #30daychallenge - Toni Hartill

Lino print experimentation #30daychallenge - Toni Hartill

 So, what will my next challenge be? 

hmmmm.... mulling it over today to decide...

Follow me on Instagram and or facebook 
(I do still share most, but not all, of my posts to fb) if you are interested. 
You can view the images of my challenges on either of these sites and you don't have to be a member as the profiles are public. 

Join me in a challenge if you like, I'd love to have your company!

BTW I'm also aiming to set myself a few "other" challenges for a bit of "life balance" - February was also a month of.... planking!! hehe, started out straining for 10-15 secs... can now do 2 minutes! Pretty boring though, as far as challenges go...

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Woodcut workshop with Gary Shinfield

PCANZ (Print Council Aotearoa New Zealand) members have recently been lucky enough to participate in a series of workshops tutored by Australian printmaker Gary Shinfield. Workshops were held in Wellington, Hawkes Bay, Kawhia and Auckland. As Auckland rep for PCANZ I was responsible for organising the Auckland workshop, held at Westlake Girls High School for the weekend of Nov 11, 12, 2017. 

Gary Shinfield is a printmaker from the Blue Mountains region in Australia. He is known for his large multi-layered printed works on paper which are inspired by the landscape and environs. His workshops focused on woodcut techniques but also included some caustic etching of lino. We used brush painting onto fine Asian papers as a starting point to generate ideas through mark-making with a nod to the theme of "mountains and valleys".

To see examples of Gary's work please visit his website:

Border Lines, woodcut and photopolymer plate etching on
8 sheets of handmade Thai paper, 150 x 214 cm, unique state print, 2017.

To begin we were treated to a slide show of his work followed by demonstrations of the processes he uses to prepare drawings, techniques to transfer the drawings to the wood and the process of carving away either the positive or negative areas of the image. We were also introduced to his technique for etching lino using caustic soda.

Once we had enough info to be getting on with we were all completely engrossed in our own work. Our first task was to paint freely and spontaneously onto small sheets of our Asian paper. I found this to be an incredibly relaxing and meditative exercise - note to self - do MORE of this as an exercise for loosening up, generating ideas, getting "unstuck", embracing "play"...

Everyone was heads down and engrossed

Clockwise from bottom right: ink drawings, drawing glued to woodblock
and being carved, tools and sharpening strop, lino prepared with wax
for etching with caustic soda.

Gary Shinfield demonstrates inking up.

Gary Shinfield demonstrates his registration process for
multi-colour, mulit-block images.

Lino blocks being etched with caustic soda solution.

Etched lino block, cleaned and ready to print
by Toni Hartill

By the end of the weekend everyone had generated multiple images, experimenting with overlaying images, repeating images using ghost prints and generally playing with the techniques, exploring the many possibilities. As always in a workshop like this I am interested to see how everyone brings their own ideas and ways of working into the mix and how varied and diverse the work produced is.

We finished the weekend with shared nibbles and drinks and welcomed in family and fellow printmakers to see what we had been working on. 
Gary generously gave another brief talk, showing a small selection of his works. 

Gary Shinfield presents examples of his work.

by Gary Shinfield

by Gary Shinfield

by Gary Shinfield

by Gary Shinfield

by Gary Shinfield

So, what did I learn from the workshop?

I approach workshops as an opportunity to learn and trial new processes. I try to avoid the temptation to try to produce finished works and am more interested in exploring and documenting  the processes with a view to taking what I have learnt and working on it further in my own time and space. I think that if you get too hung up on whether what you are creating is "good" or "bad" you may miss the chance to push your skills in new ways. So, nope, I created no masterpieces but I did discover some really interesting combinations and processes I will definitely be adding to my practice. Especially, as you will have seen in my previous post here, I am very interested in exploring a more painterly and experimental approach to my printmaking.

I thoroughly enjoyed the liberating nature of painting with ink. I added colour using dyes, watercolours, gouache and gesso. Working on multiple sheets of paper helps to not be too precious on any one piece.

Ink drawings by T Hartill

I took one of my ink images and used this as a basis for the image I had in mind. In retrospect, having viewed more of Gary's work and watching how others worked in the workshop I would now take a completely different approach in how I approach the layers and the carving however it was good to follow through with my initial ideas to see how the processes would work in general.

Wood block by T Hartill

Etched lino block by T Hartill

Carved lino block by T Hartill

In this image the paper has been stained with loose washes of colour prior to printing.
I had envisaged all along that the etched lino would print in a lighter colour over the other colours. I particularly liked images of Gary's where he had printed white over other layers.

Carved lino + carved wood by T Hartill

Plus etched lino by T Hartill
Nothing spectacular here but little glimpses of deliciousness - the rich colours coming through from underneath, the fine lines apparent from the etched lino, overlapping patterns visible through the layers of ink. I also like the cut lines of the wood block - the wood is like butter to cut and so works wonderfully for "taking a line for a walk" (Paul Klee).

Again this image started with stained paper. I layered the carved lino then the carved wood. The patterns happening at the bottom were interesting but otherwise, not great colour combinations. So, I layered the carved lino back on top using white. I really liked the lines and the patterns that this achieved and could easily see how working more abstractly would create many opportunities for experimentation.

Carved lino + carved wood over stained paper by T Hartill

From this point I experimented with layering and overlapping pattern.

Stained paper, carved lino block, repeated by T Hartill

Stained paper + cut lino block.

Plus ghost print of cut lino block.

While playing around with inks and dyes I began also playing around with over-painting with gesso and acrylic and then printed in white over the top of everything to see the effect on the underlying layers. This created some really interesting tonal patterns and textures which, I think, show potential.

There is definitely a lot to be said for working spontaneously and responsively when using these techniques. Leaving plenty of opportunity for the "happy accident" to occur makes the possibilities very exciting.

by T Hartill

by T Hartill

by T Hartill

Thanks to Gary Shinfield for a great workshop!

Thanks also to Kathy Boyle, (PCANZ President) for making it happen!

Thanks to everyone who took part - 
it was a really fun weekend spent with wonderfully creative, like-minded people.

Monday, 16 October 2017

First Impressions III: National Printmaking Exhibition

Exhibition opened Wednesday 4th October, 2017
On show until Friday 20th October.

This is the third "First Impressions" exhibition and the second time I have taken part. The previous time I entered was in October 2013, when I was very new to printmaking. This time I had two works selected. 

These works were something of a trial to create in that I had decided that I was going to push my comfort boundaries to create works that are bigger than I have previously worked in printmaking, and involved multiple experimental processes. I didn't have a particular image in mind from the start (a very new way for me to work), just a sense of trying to capture a place, (a real place: Karangahake Mountain), from my mind's eye and the accompanying emotion to communicate the message I was seeking to convey. 

This theme came about as a result of another research-based project I have been involved with this year and which I will write about at a later date although this link will provide some context for my inspiration and why it has moved me to create this work. If you would like to add your voice to this very real and current concern, please visit the link to Protect Karangahake.

Working to this size is now possible because I bought a larger press! This one is actually a "real" etching press which allows me to do things I can't do with my mangle - a) because its bigger! and b) because the rollers can be raised or lowered, allowing for finer control of pressure. (This does not mean I will be parting with my beloved mangle any time soon though... just in case you were wondering.)

I worked on 4 prints simultaneously, building layers and responding to the marks as they were appearing. By working on 4 sheets of paper I was more able to be patient and to not overwork one piece for too long in a session. I was stressing the paper progressively by applying multiple layers of inks which needed time to be absorbed by the paper and so needed to dry between layers. As I discovered in a previous trial print, too much ink and the paper would stick to the printing matrix and begin to delaminate! It was a very fine line! It was constantly possible that I could ruin the image for any of a number of reasons, at any time. I worked hard to try to feel the fear and just go for it! Each print went through the press at least a dozen times. 

I used a combination of collograph plates, caustic etched lino plates, lino cut textures and monotype processes. The result is a more painterly approach to printmaking, a direction I have been endeavouring to explore for a while now and which I will continue to develop. I especially enjoy the effects that can be achieved with many layers of translucent inks creating a variety of sheens across the surfaces. They really need to be viewed up close to be able to see all the textures, colours and layers. It was therefore great that this exhibition stipulated for unframed works although photographing the works was a real challenge. As printmakers know, it can be very frustrating  peering at a print under glass, trying to decipher what the processes may include.

Below are my two entries to the exhibition. 
There was a LOT of dithering, (one of my greatest talents)
trying to decide which of the four prints I should enter.

"Tears of Hinemuri - When is enough enough?"
Monotype, collograph, linocut by Toni Hartill, unique.

"Tears of Hinemuri - When is enough enough?"
Monotype, collograph, linocut by Toni Hartill, unique (detail)

"Tears of Hinemuri - When is enough enough?"
Monotype, collograph, linocut by Toni Hartill, unique (detail)

"Tears of Hinemuri - (When) is it too late?"
Monotype, collograph, linocut by Toni Hartill, unique

"Tears of Hinemuri - (When) is it too late?"
Monotype, collograph, linocut by Toni Hartill, unique

"Tears of Hinemuri - (When) is it too late?"
Monotype, collograph, linocut by Toni Hartill, unique

My statement for both works

Ohinemuri is the river, Karangahake is the mountain. The people of Karangahake are fighting for their mountain’s protection from mining, again. This is conservation land that is still recovering from the goldmining of the last century when the government declared the river a “sludge canal”. The river and the mountain are under renewed threat as New Talisman Gold Mines have consent to sample mine and are doing so right now. We do not need to search far to find many rivers and many mountains that are under similar, or worse, stresses.

According to Maori legends many of our nation’s rivers were formed from the tears of ancestors. These tears are joined by the tears of many as our waterways are continually under stress despite the cry that enough is enough.

Inspired by trying to capture the emotion of the tears, these images are built up from many, many layers of texture and colour, each layer responding to the layer before, each layer a risk-taking moment where full control is not possible due to the nature of the processes. How much ink can the paper absorb? How much stress can the paper endure? How do I know when to stop? How much is too much?

When is enough enough? 

(When) is it too late? 

Following are imagesof the exhibition in the two gallery spaces.
Steve Lovett and Emma McLellan were on the selection panel 
and the winning works were judged by Dr Carole Shepheard. 

There were 70 works entered and 49 works exhibited.

Premier Winner: Jacqueline Aust
Merit Award winners: Suzette van Dorsser and Hamish Oakley-Brown.

The exhibition is hosted by Mairangi Arts Centre and runs until Friday October 20th.

                                                                                        Photo supplied by MAC

Below is a video provided by Mairangi Arts Centre. 
It shows an overview of the exhibition.

To hang these works we were required to attach paper tabs to the backs of the works. 
I explain how I did it HERE.

Hmmm, now where to present the other two prints?