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2021 : A fresh new year


The Uk entered lockdown 3 at the start of January, Uni went online; the Art House print workshop was closed and actual life drawing seemed like a distant memory. Iwas initially  de-motivated, however I decided to give on-line life drawing a second chance. My first encounter with this had been less than satisfactory!  I did some research and after rejecting lots of gimmicky looking sessions I decided to try out the Scottish Borders life drawing group, and I'm so pleased I did. . . .

Its on at a suitable time, not expensive, untutored, very well organised by artist Derek Henley, with professional models from all around the world, varied poses, camera angles and ideas. It is almost like the real thing, the only strange thing is that all the participants are drawing exactly the same view of the model instead of being arranged around a real one. There are usually around 100+ participants  from different countries, the thing that drew me (sorry) to this group was their Facebook page, the participants are encouraged to share their drawings and there was some excellent, varied work.

After a few sessions I feel that I have got my life drawing mojo back!

I initially set aside 3 weeks to focus on drawing and image making or abstracting the drawings before moving on to plate making. I found I was enjoying developing the drawings especially the ones which I developed into acrylic paintings, so I spent a bit longer on this stage. 

I am working in a sketchbook, and annotating and reflecting on my work more than previously.


Drawing of 'Ice Men' in response to artist Nele Azevedo who makes ice sculptures which are left to melt, they are placed in public spaces to draw attention to climate change issues.

Love his idea, love the shapes.

Life drawing week 1  . . . Alejandro, dancer,  (Geneva)


This drawing on the left was done on a very large piece of 330gm printing paper on a rapidly painted acrylic background, there are numerous quick drawings overlaid in different colours of inktense pencil, then water was added to turn the pencil to paint.

I decided that there were 3 compositions within it and cut it up.

I was enjoying picking out the abstract shapes and eventually developed the drawings into the 3 acrylic paintings below . . .


Whilst working on these I was researching and thinking about line and composition and creating busy areas of interest juxtaposed with calm areas, I have veiled out some of the detail. Abstraction developed more naturally in two of the compositions, however Alejandro's torso re-emerged in the third!  This was not entirely deliberate, I was just responding to the patterns and shapes from the life drawing.


Life drawing week 2,   . . . Anna (Tokyo)


I drew Anna in ink and wash and I did some mono-printing which is not something I am very experienced with.

I like the top left image, cropped from a group, as it looks Japanese to me, but I am not sure how to develop it effectively into a print.

Whilst researching drawing ideas and styles I found the idea of filling in ink  drawings with pattern, which I thought would work well in collagraph, so.... the drawing on the left is a cropped ink drawing of Anna's back with patterns added, I have turned this into a tetra-pac plate (see right) ready for a future printing session.


Life drawing week 3 . . .   Sarah-Jane  (Dublin)


Although I enjoyed this session, and have been playing with abstracting the drawings in my sketchbook, I have not chosen any of the drawings to develop into printing plates. The black and orange drawing is the most abstract and the one I can most imagine as a print, possibly in the landscape format.


February (my least favourite month) is underway, we are still in lockdown and the weather is dismal, either rain or soooo cold!  At least with not going out I am getting plenty of work done! The plan for February is to start plate making, experimenting with different processes . . . Then somewhere towards the end of the month have a big messy printing session to create artist proofs of them all.

With that in mind I did another life drawing session, making some sketches directly onto mount-board  so they could easily be turned into collograph plates, hopefully without losing any of their energy .

Life drawing week 4 . . . Mariano, modelovivo, mime artist,  (Buenos Aires, Argentina)

Well that filled up my sketchbook! The 3 drawings below were called 'body-scapes' with the model posed near to the camera,  Ideal for online drawing and in 'real life drawing this could be achieved by using a view finder.

Platemaking. .  .  .

I am open to all the different methods and materials of collograph plate making, no restrictions!  what I have seen from tuition with 3 different practitioners, each has their own unique take on it and has their own little tricks and quirks.

I looked through all my drawings; chose the ones I thought would make successful prints and planned the type of plate I would make.

This is my workspace, lots of clutter is essential!


The first plate is from a drawing of Anna,  I traced my image, it is a tetrapak dry-point. the inside of a re-cycled carton cut with a drypoint needle and peeled. Its a nice easy method and good for graphic shapes and lines. I like the folds of the carton to impact the image.


I made 2 plates from my 'ice men' drawings. I cut the mount board long and narrow to give space to accentuate the melting ice They will just fit in my my small home press, but be fiddly as they are really too long for it, this will allow mw to print them in lock-down.

I tore away to get darker areas, and added glue for highlights, I dribbled the Pva, letting it run down the plate to show the ice melting. I used carborundum grit to add some very intense dark areas. Previous experimentation has shown me how to work with tones, but its not an exact science and especially the highlights often need re-working.


Again this plate was created directly at the life drawing session with Mariano. There are 2 overlaid quick intense sketches. I simply cut away the negative space to make the background dartk and the figures stand forward, then I added the drawing lines, some of the construction lines and hatched the shaded areas with a drypoint needle, quite roughly. 


My favourite work so far is my acrylic drawing /painting of Alejandro's torso, It went from, quickly observed, to abstract and back to being recognisable again, its got a life of its own! This is the biggest and most ambitious plate approx A3 and I won't be able to print it until I get to a proper press. I will also experiment with printing it with a second plate to give a varied background colour.

In all the other plates I have created dark backgrounds with lighter figures, which I know works well: In this one I have used aluminium sheet to which will give a light background which I will be able to ink up light or mid-tone. The body was traced in more detail than I usually do to be exactly like the painting, I even reversed it so that it will be the same orientation as the painting . Creating the tones on the body is a work in progress.

Printing (artist proofs)

I'm pleased with this print, happy with the abstraction, and the patterns and the colour , (like willow pattern?)  you have to look hard to see the body, my brother could not tell what it was at all.

I like this technique, it is easy to ink up and gives good sharp prints

The folds in the carton are visible, I could find out if tetrapak boards are available to buy, however, then I would not be re-cycling. It is possible to make around 10 prints before the plate starts to fall apart.


I am very pleased with this print, I will use this process again, drawing the plate directly from the model.

I like that it looks like 2 men sat waiting in their dance session. The colours are sepia and blue added directly to the plate in patches, I find dark colours have more identity than using black.

In future plates I will think more about my mark making when hatching the shaded areas, and although the highlights do show up, they would be better a bit lighter.



I also proofed the ice men, I am not happy with the definition or the composition of these. I have since cut down the larger plate into 2 smaller ones, and I am in the process of improving the smaller plate to re-print. I will alter the colour to a more ice-berg blue when I print again . . .watch this space!

Life drawing.  . . .  Kat Malone: (South Carolina USA)

A very long limbed model this week meant I had to really concentrate on the foreshortening shapes and contours, I did some sketches on the inside of cardboard boxes, which I have developed into a collage and then printing plate.

I was taken with the idea of being shut in, trapped in the box, as we all currently are but the poses on the whole did not lend themselves to the idea. I collaged together some of Kat's yoga-like stretches which look like she is still trapped in the box, but ready to break out and break free.



 I  reviewed my work and  decided to focus on three pieces of work which experiment with different ideas and aspects of my practice and take each one through to a variable edition of at least 6 prints.

1.   Alejandro.    The process . . .

  • life drawing, overlaying multiple images, in inktense pencil over acrylic background on A1 sheet.

  • Select and crop the preferred image.

  • Add water to inktense and develop into acrylic painting.

  • Trace image carefully, reverse it and add to card plate.

  • Develop plate by scoring, peeling, adding foil, tape, glue, carborundum for tones.

  • Create a complimentary, bur simpler base plate to enable printing in two colours.

Ideas involved . . . developing print from life drawing; abstract or figurative?; tracing and reversing, are these necessary?


2.  Ice men/ 'lets talk about climate change'.   The process 

  • In response to the ice sculptures of Nele Azevedo I drew the melting men as photographed in the Guardian. Not my usual source material, but I was taken with both the concept and the organic shapes of the melting ice.

  • Select the images and copy onto card.

  • Produce collograph plate drawing tonally, allowing  pva to trickle like the melting water.

  • Proof print and re- made the plates with more thought on the composition.

Ideas involved. . .working not from life drawing; looking outwards at global issues; reflecting life around me; using material properties in plate making.


3. Moving outwards.  The process . . .

  • Cut up and re-arange life drawing into a collage, arrange the sections so that some of the lines flow from one section to another.

  • Photograph and print out the image at a smaller size to fit the A4 X-cut press.

  • Stick image to plate and work into it with cut, tear, tape, aluminium foil, glues etc interpreting the tonal values from the drawings.

Ideas involved . . .abstraction where the figure is lost; how far is too far? Pattern and texture; printing with a plain back plate.

This series of prints is now bound into a book.

  • For the next  diary updates,  go to ... Capturing Movement, Spring 2021      

  • For something a bit different , go to... Northumberland Adventure, April 2021

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