round like a circle …

I’ve noticed I use the circle quite often in my artworks. Recently I’ve been playing around with mixed media – tissue, acrylic, inks – without specific subject matter in mind, as a sort of midwinter exercise. It’s good to take the pressure off, when deadlines permit. 

Anyway, although these are possibly still works in progress, while pondering them I started to muse on the nature of my marks and, as I said, the prevalence of circles in them (see also the present header image) …

Untitled, mixed media on board. Mari French.

Untitled, mixed media on board. Mari French. 

Some of mine fairly obviously represent the sun and moon, especially as many of my paintings are inspired by the landscape; also ponds (circular ponds are prevalent in my local agricultural landscape); mine stacks (aerial view) or holes in the ground in my Cornish works. 

But aside from literal interpretations, it can be interesting to see what alternative meanings the circle might represent … the more abstract connotations. Look up ‘circle as symbol’ online and of course there are a multitude of entries. I’ve quoted just a few here which I find worth considering. I particularly like ‘the cycle of time’ ‘the great rhythm of the Universe’ ‘potential’ and ‘infinity’ …

The circle is a universal symbol with extensive meaning. It represents the notions of totality, wholeness, original perfection, the Self, the infinite, eternity, timelessness, all cyclic movement, God (‘God is a circle whose centre is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere’ (Hermes Trismegistus)). As the sun, it is masculine power; as the soul and as encircling waters, it is the feminine maternal principle. “It implies an idea of movement, and symbolizes the cycle of time, the perpetual motion of everything that moves, the planets’ journey around the sun (the circle of the zodiac), the great rhythm of the universe. The circle is also zero in our system of numbering, and symbolizes potential, or the embryo. … http://www.umich.edu/~umfandsf/symbolismproject/symbolism.html/C/circle.html

The Circle is the most common and universal signs, found in all cultures. It is the symbol of the sun in its limitless or boundless aspect. It has no beginning or end, and no divisions, making it the perfect symbol of completeness, eternity, and the soul: The circle is also the symbol of boundary and enclosure, of completion, and returning cycles… http://symboldictionary.net/?p=1914

Circles commonly represent unity, wholeness, and infinity. Without beginning or end, without sides or corners, the circle is also associated with the number one…

Protection. Circles are often seen as protective symbols. Standing within a circle shields a person from supernatural dangers or influences outside of the circle. Conversely, a circle can also be containing, keeping that which is inside from been released.

Sun Symbols. Circles are frequently used as sun symbols, as well as representing things associated with the sun. The astrological symbol of the sun is a circle with a dot in the middle. The same symbol is often used to represent gold, which is strongly associated with the sun.

The Element of Spirit. The element of spirit, seen as an element equal or superior to the physical elements of fire, air, water and earth, is commonly represented by a circle.  http://altreligion.about.com/od/symbols/ig/Geometric-Shapes/Circles.htm

Untitled, acrylic/mixed media on art board. Mari French.

Untitled, acrylic/mixed media on art board. Mari French.

 

Collagraph print, Mari French.

Collagraph print, Mari French.

 

pressing matters…

Harvest moon 2 (collagraph) © Mari French 2011

Harvest moon 2 (collagraph) © Mari French 2011

Last weekend I enjoyed the most inspiring and creative weekend collagraph printmaking workshop with Laurie Rudling at Salthouse, north Norfolk. The workshop was incredibly good value for money, being heavily subsidised as part of the Salthouse 11 art project. Laurie is an incredibly professional printmaker and effectively passes on his knowledge in an enthusiastic, instructive and effective way, packing a lot into the two day workshop.

Collagraph workshop with Laurie Rudling (© Mari French)

Collagraph workshop with Laurie Rudling (© Mari French)

Collagraphs are a method of (intaglio) printmaking created by collaging materials of a similar thickness, eg bits of sandpaper, wallpaper samples, muslin cloth etc, onto a simple (in this case cardboard) plate, creating textures and shapes that will show up when inked and passed through a press. The ‘plate’ is then varnished to make it more durable for inking and printing. Approx 15 to 25 prints are possible from such a plate.

Collagraph printmaking can also be kinder to the environment too, in that it uses no harsh chemicals such as acid, it makes use of scrap materials and the oil-based ink can be efficiently cleaned with simple vegetable oil.

Below you can see the basic collagraph plate from which I produced the ‘Harvest moon’ prints in this post. What I found most fascinating is that the most humble and unpromising materials can result in really interesting textures in the resulting print. The sky on this plate is sandpaper, the lower ‘field’ textures are scraps of B&Q wallpaper samples.

basic collagraph plate - 'Harvest moon', Mari French

basic collagraph plate - 'Harvest moon', Mari French

Once inked up the ink is forced into the indentations and textures of the plate, as opposed to relief printmaking (such as linocuts), where the ink sits on top of the raised areas. To oversimplify, colours are added by either sweeping a contrasting ink colour over the first or by diligently inking up individual areas in different colours.

'Harvest moon 3' collagraph print © Mari French 2011

Harvest moon 3 (collagraph) © Mari French 2011

The method of building up overlapping layers, creating further shapes, is an alternative method of collagraph platemaking shown in the second ‘Arches’ plate below left.

simple layered collagraph plate (Arches © Mari French)

simple layered collagraph plate (Arches © Mari French)

I found it fascinating that by ‘playing’ around like schoolchildren with bits of paper, glue and scissors, it was possible to produce such creative prints.

Although most of the students on the workshop were artists or had some creative experience, none of them had made collagraphs before. Yet as you can see from the photos of some of their work further down this post, they produced some stunning collagraph prints.

Much of this was due to the encouragement, patience and experience of our tutor. Laurie Rudling also holds workshops at the Broadland Arts Centre at Dilham near North Walsham in Norfolk.

Arches (collagraph) © Mari French 2011

Arches (collagraph) © Mari French 2011

Poppy collagraph prints produced by fellow student Dee (photo © Mari French)

Poppy collagraph prints produced by fellow student Dee (photo © Mari French)

Collagraph workshop - students' work (photo © Mari French 2011

Collagraph workshop - students' work (photo © Mari French 2011)