2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 17,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

My most popular posts were ‘Making a Collagraph’ and ‘Monotype Floral.’ Most of my visitors came from the UK and the USA with South Africa and Australia following on closely behind. Most of them came via Interesting and Facebook.

Thank you all for stopping by

New website finally launched

People …. trumpets blaring, whistles blowing … it is FINALLY here! My new website – www.carolnunan.co.uk. If you are landing on this page to see my blog posts from now on you will find my new blog … and my new e-commerce ONLINE SHOP on my new website. Come visit.

Workshops planned for the spring

20141029_085849Once again it’s been touch and go with my second block of evening classes ‘Introduction to Collagraphs’ at our local high school.

At the nth hour the class went from being unviable to fully booked thanks to one Jane Waitt managing to drum up a further batch of friends willing to give collagraphs a go.

Consequently, I have now submitted course outlines for two further blocks of evening classes for the spring term (Monotype in 3 Colours & Puzzle Piece Collagraphs). Each of block of evening classes aims to build on the skill levels of the autumn block returning students. At the same time the classes will easily accommodate complete novices or anyone wanting to refresh their skills and maybe learn something new along the way.

What’s come to light since I began offering  evening classes again, after a break of many years, is some people are only interested in night classes. The winter nights are long; they don’t necessarily want to veg out in front of the telly; their weekends are full with family and other commitments.

Then there are those who can’t attend an evening class. There are plenty of valid reasons for this; distance, timing, small children to get to bed, amongst many. For these people a Saturday or weekend workshop suits them down to the ground. It’s their time for them to do something creative and relaxing to shake off the stresses of the week.

And then there are those who straddle both camps. They like attending an evening class but love the opportunity to have more time to explore and play with what they have learnt.

I’m therefore toying with the idea of adding two masterclasses to the end of each block of evening classes that would take place on a Saturday or Sunday (or both days) from my own studio. Such masterclasses would be open to any of the afore mentioned groups; those who would only ever come on a weekend as well as those who’ve attended my evening classes and want more time to play.

In order to really get a feel for what will and won’t work I’ve put together this questionnaire. If you think you might be interested in printmaking or other creative workshops that I could offer in 2015 I’d really appreciate your input. The questionnaire will take less than 5 minutes to complete.


As an additional incentive to complete the survey, everyone who does complete it will be entered into a prize draw to win a 20cm (diameter) x 25cm (height) lampshade of your choice from my existing library of prints worth £69. You will need to email me at carol@carolnunan.co.uk to confirm you have completed the questionnaire. If you share or retweet this blog post this will give you additional chances of winning. Thank you.



Painting with Collagraph

I’m struggling with a title for this post. Perhaps by the end of this post you have a better suggestion, let me know.

The thing is, and I’m sure many other printmakers who work with collagraphs come across the same thing, many people have often remarked that collagraph plates are a work of art in themselves – print or no print taken from them …. well, not strictly true. The plate does need to be broken in with ink … but … once inked up and printed, the addition of colour changes the perception of the plate.

So … not long ago, a fellow Australian printmaker, Jennifer Nieuewenhof posted a video by another artist who makes textured paintings using what are essentially the same techniques I use to make a collagraph plate … except … he doesn’t print from his creations, he paints them using acrylics.

I started experimenting. I made some new collagraph plates, but not for printing. This time I followed the artist’s painting techniques with some success. When I was in Dublin this last week I gave my mother a demonstration – she does a lot of textural painting. Here is the result.


Textured painting? Collagraph?

It is no huge work of art but it was only meant to be a demonstration piece using a variety of materials to test their properties.

Let’s take a closer look …

Collagraph plate

Heavy moulding pastes with netting, muslin and seed head

In this corner of the plate I used Daler Rowney Heavy Modelling Gel into which I pushed netting (of the type you get your citrus fruit in) and to stick a head of seeds to the plate.

Lower down I used another type of heavy paste made by Liquitext to push and manipulate a small piece of muslin and some dry brushing to create random brush strokes.

Collagraph plate

Texture paste with leaf and muslin impressions

The next image shows the bottom right hand corner where I used decorators filler (Pollyfilla) that I spread out with a palette knife and then pressed leaves into it while it was still wet as well as some muslin (but this time I removed them so only the impression was left), oh and I found some kind of pastry cutter to press into the paste.

Collagraph plates

Wood filler with dry brushing, impressions and drawing


Wood filler with tissue paper impression and fern frond pasted onto the plate

The next two images show how I used wood filler. This one was particularly gritty and heavy, not all of them are. I pressed another seed head into it and removed it, drew into it, pressed bubble wrap into it and dry brushed the surface of the first one.

On the second one I pressed tissue paper and lifted it and pressed a fern frond into it and left it there.

Once everything was dry I gave the whole ‘plate’ two coats of gesso to make the whole surface white. For this stage in the process I used a hair dryer to speed things up as I didn’t have a huge amount of time. It wasn’t entirely successful for the Daler Rowney and Liquitex pastes but I’ll go into that later.

Once the gesso was dry I gave the surface a coat of varnish to seal it before applying the first colour. I started with yellow and yellow ochre, a small blob of each and lots of water rubbing it in across the surface. once the surface was completely covered in colour I took a rag and wiped it back, dried it and then sealed it again.

I then repeated the process with the addition of a couple of reds and then blue and purple, Each layer of colour is sealed with varnish according to the way the artist (whose name escapes me just now) showed in his video.

I didn’t adhere to that sealing part very strictly due to time constraints on this occasion and previous occasions and as a consequence the surface did have a tendency to get a bit sticky so I do intend to do this more slowly over a period of days rather then hours.

I finished off with a layer of gold and copper. I really like the use of iridescent media so I want to explore this further.

The whole process is exactly the same process as that for collagraphs except that instead of applying ink to the plate, paint is used with layers of varnish in between each application so to me it is half collagraph and half painting. What would you call this?

I was busy last week in Dublin …

NCAD Thomas Street Dublin 8

Some of you may know already I’m Irish by birth. I still have close family in Dublin, my mother and brothers,  so I try to go over to Dublin as often as I can.

Back in 2011 I met up with several of my former art college friends to celebrate a significant anniversary for us all since we  graduated from NCAD, The National College of Art & Design.I won’t say how many years, but too many for any of our liking. However, what was great about the reunion was that after so many years it felt like only yesterday that we last saw each other give or take a few grey hairs or lack thereof!!

Anyway … on Tuesday I braved torrential rain, a rain bouncing off the pavements kind of day, to pop in at Ed McGinley’s invitation to see The Distillers Press, a fantastic letterpress and print facility, the only one in third level education left in Ireland, that is now based in the Design faculty of NCAD. It was too good an opportunity to miss and I wasn’t disappointed.

Distillers Press

A small section of the Distillers Press print room

Ed introduced me to Seán Sills who is in charge of the facility. He has made it what it is today. I got the story behind how trays and trays of metal and wooden type became a labour of love and dedication that took years to sort and catalogue. It is simply fantastic that students even now are getting an opportunity to get hands on time with skills that the digital world simply cannot substitute. Working in this way brings a whole different level of creativity to type and print.

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Seán Sills

The work Seán does with the students combines primarily linocut and woodcut with typography, an area of design I have always loved. They work to create a limited edition and work produced at the NCAD workshop is purchased by the Rare Books Department of Trinity College Dublin and the National Library of Ireland. Sadly I had just missed an exhibition in the NCAD gallery of a project the students had worked on combining image with text working with some of Ireland’s contemporary poets.

However the next exhibition, which I will also miss, is starting next week showcasing the best of the School of Design’s work for Design Week. If you get a chance you should definitely go and have a look.

My visit ended with a meeting of yet another old college friend for lunch which we took in the college café. Let me tell you, this is Dublin’s best kept secret. The food was absolutely DEL-I-CIOUS! Extremely reasonable! I did not succumb to the cakes but it was HARD! The café has large refectory type tables complete with mood lighting in the college basement and reminiscent of the days when we used to go and eat in The Buttery at Trinity College (now known by the fancy pantsy name of ‘The Buttery Food Court’). In our day Vis.Comm was based down in almost derelict buildings on the Quays with no eating facilities and even when we moved to Thomas Street, (a converted whiskey distillery -can you see why the print facility is called The Distillers Press – I’ve only just made the connection) we used to go to The Clock for cheese sandwiches and coffee or a pint of Guinness. Anyway, I digress.

I’d love to do a summer school, perhaps next summer before Seán retires. I wonder if I could incorporate the way I work in collagraphs and monoprint with text? That would be worth exploring!

It was certainly a very good day!