excitement, frustration, markmaking…


Work from final day of Emily Ball workshop © Mari French 2019Work from final day of Emily Ball workshop © Mari French 2019

My work from final day of Emily Ball workshop © Mari French 2019

I’ve been sadly neglecting my blog posts since December. In my defence I was suffering quite badly from the good old S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder) symptoms along with a bout of creative block, that can plague me (and many people) during the winter months until thankfully, spring seemed to arrive with a flourish in February.

So, now I’m playing at catch up as a lot has happened in the past two months. Because it relates to the previous two posts I’ll tell you first about the Emily Ball markmaking workshop near Cambridge that I attended a couple of weeks ago.

After the boost the previous EB workshop I’d attended in 2017 gave me, I was keen to freshen my markmaking and visual language again. For me art making is a continual learning process and I recognise the need in my own practice for fresh creative input from outside sources occasionally. Emily always gives an intensive, exhausting but very rewarding workshop and this was no exception. We’d had ‘homework’ to do to prepare us and I’d decided to concentrate on Dungeness (see previous two posts) as my subject. So I spent a few weeks producing a series of small experimental studies based on my memories of Dungeness before attending (see image above).

It was great to meet old artist friends and make new ones, and the 12 of us soon filled the art room walls at Linton College, near Cambridge, with a startling variety of large mark-filled sheets of paper. From creating a markmaking ‘alphabet’ of our own marks from our homework studies and exaggerating them in different ways, to ‘blind drawing’ with black and white oil bars, then working on editing complete paintings to ‘get more space in!’, it was full-on, fun and exhilarating. 

By the final day, we’d all experienced highs and lows, whoops of delight and wails of frustration, but all of us had moved on significantly in the development of our own visual language. The image at the start of this post, the last I produced on the workshop (stormy abstract landscape on my easel) thwarted me so much in its development that I hated it for several days. Now, however, I can appreciate the energy, mood and space in it and now I quite like it! Emily must have the patience of a saint, she’s a great tutor and I can highly recommend her workshops.

Selection of the fabulous variety of fresh work made on the workshop. © Karen Stamper 2019.

Selection of the fabulous variety of fresh work. © Karen Stamper 2019.

Special mention to a small selection of the artists from the workshop whose work I admire and you might like to check out (links to the artists’ websites):
Leslie Birch
Sarah Russell
Karen Stamper



pressing on …

I finally started using my own tabletop press yesterday in my studio, to produce the first of what I hope will be a series of collagraph prints. As regular readers will know I recently attended one of Laurie Rudling’s excellent workshops, so it was good to be able to put the experience into practice.

My aim is to sell the successful prints at my exhibitions, starting with ‘Beyond the Surface’ in King’s Lynn in September, giving visitors who like my work the opportunity to purchase an original piece at a price most people can afford.

Inking up

In the inking up photo above, you can see I’d been trying out a burnt sienna ink, but didn’t like the results (see bottom photo).

Below is the preferred result, a diptych abstract plate inked up in cerulean blue with a raw umber ‘rub’ over it. The wide angle camera lens unfortunately gives it a wonky look! The original print is actually quite square. 

Untitled collagraph, Mari French 2013

Untitled collagraph, Mari French 2013

Something I think many people (including many artists) are unaware of, is that the inked up collagraph plate usually gives only one print, plus perhaps a ‘ghost print’ – a second print usually quite a bit fainter than the first, but often of interest in itself. This means that each collagraph print has a unique quality; it may be from the same plate but each is different due to the individual inking process involved.

collagraph plate inked in Burnt Sienna

collagraph plate inked in Burnt Sienna


grit & glue … collagraphs & carborundum

Moonlit lochs © Mari French 2013. Collagraph & carborundum print.

Moonlit lochs, collagraph & carborundum print. © Mari French

I recently attended another two day printmaking workshop, this time on Collagraph and carborundum, with tutor/master printmaker Laurie Rudling. The venue was at Cley on the north Norfolk coast, and was part of the Cley 2013 art festival.

This was the second of Laurie’s printmaking courses I’ve attended, the first being two years ago (see previous post). I needed a refresher because by the time I got a press and a studio to use it in I had lost all confidence in using it on my own (more the technicalities of the press rather than the actual printmaking … stupid, I know).

Basically collagraphs are prints made from collaged ‘plates’ – usually just thick card, layered with many different everyday materials eg. wallpaper, plants, cloth, tissue, string, ad infinitum, glued to the base. The plates are then sealed with several coats of varnish and inked up for printing. The addition of carborundum (a type of grit) enables large areas of denser colour (see the mountain area in the larger print above).

Although some prints, such as linocuts, woodcuts etc, can be obtained by hand pressure to a certain extent, collagraph prints do really require a press due to the complexity of the image and need to force the paper into the gaps between the collaged materials.

The small prints below were created by painting with PVA glue on sandpaper block, as simple as that and yet it is possible to achieve a range of interesting effects. I particularly like the sea area in this one. Overturning the usual notions of colour use in the second inking up gave an interesting result, almost an Arctic night image.

Sandpaper & glue print © Mari French 2013

Sandpaper & glue print © Mari French 2013

Sandpaper & glue print © Mari French 2013

Sandpaper & glue print © Mari French 2013

Anyway, I aim to get my press up and running this week, it would be great to have some prints to put in my solo show at Greyfriars Art Space in King’s Lynn in September alongside my acrylic/mixed media works.

For more detailed information and inspirational images on Collagraph printmaking one of the best books on the subject has to be ‘Collagraphs and mixed media printmaking’ by Brenda Hartill and Richard Clarke.