Over 10 years ago I worked on an Australia Fauna Alphabet but over the years my artwork, style & designs have developed & so a few years ago I decided to revisit the idea of producing a new Australian Wildlife Alphabet.
Alongside this I wanted to also develop an Australian Wildflower Alphabet.
When I produced the original alphabet & exhibited it I had a lot of feedback about how it would be great for posters or friezes.
My artwork has always had a focus on Australian wildflowers & wildlife – growing up in Sydney surrounded by the bush was a defining aspect of my life & it is my love of the bushland – both its flora & fauna – that has underpinned my artwork. I have always been drawn to exploring representations of wildflowers & wildlife whether that be drawings, illustration, photography or relief printing all my life. I love to draw others into this world through my artwork to explore the colour & vibrancy of the natural world that surrounds us in Australia.
So about 5 years ago I started to develop these projects, starting in my usual way of working – the idea/concept with small thumbnail sketches of ideas.
I am constantly taking photos & although I have always loved photography – recording events, including family – but I also underpin all my artwork with my photography. I like to look at everything that I draw & to take photos that capture all different aspects including not only the ‘structures’ of the objects/wildflower etc, but also light, colour & design possibilities. I have thousands of photos both digital & printed – and filed!
This image incorporates kind of how I think in this phase of working from the idea into more concrete images.
Photos, sketches, notes contribute to working through all my different ideas.
I have lots of these small sketchbooks – I usually carry one with me so if I get an idea for something I can quickly note it down.
I began my first designs with the wildlife alphabet & explored ways to represent both the particular species & the alphabet.
I finally settled on the underlying idea of rather than using the actual letter, I would take the basic shape of the letter & explore how I could represent the particular species around this construct. I also made the decision to create 26 individual 10cm x 10cm printed images with both a header & a footer.
The next step was to look at each ‘letter’ & particular species that could be used. Sometimes I would work on a couple of different drawings for a letter & some like these caterpillars never made it to the final artwork but who knows where or if they will be revisited for something later.
I really enjoy this phase of experimenting with ideas & concepts & just the process of drawing is always lovely.
In choosing which images I would use I needed to look at not only the individual designs but also the whole end product – trying to get a cross-section of birds, insects, mammals, marsupials etc alongside colour & design considerations.
Once I had the basic drawings & designs worked out I again inked in each ‘letter’ & looked at the alphabet as a whole. Again changes in individual designs as well as the overall piece as a whole was worked on & developed.
Here are a couple of quick ‘timelines’ showing the evolution of the Hercules Moth & the Echidna.
Then to the carving, printing & finally the handcolouring.
For the Australian Wildflower Alphabet – I decided to simply represent each wildflower within the 10cm x 10cm format I had chosen rather than use the alphabet lettering shapes I had started with for the wildlife.
In between all of this I have been a Carer for my elderly family members & my sons for about the past 10 years in particular, but at the beginning of this year we became ’empty nesters’ which meant I had a lot more time to actually spend getting back to my artwork!
Over this time I had also developed real difficulties with my shoulder/neck that was significantly impacting my capacity to not only carve Lino but to work generally. In July 2012 I finally had shoulder surgery & set about the slow & steady recovery.
When I was invited by Ingrid Hedgcock to exhibit at the Northern Rivers Community Gallery early this year, it provided the impetus to not only restart my arts practice which had been limping along for the last few years, but to finally complete some of the projects I have had on the very slow burn. This included this long-standing project of the set of Australian Alphabets.
Although I had completed all the individual linocuts for these posters some time ago, I had become stuck on how to develop these onto a poster format & to find funding to actually complete the project.
After discussing a couple of different ideas that I was thinking about – you can see a couple of these below, Joanna worked on the final concept design & completed all the pre-press work for production printers.
The linocut ‘Blue Mountains Wildflowers’ is really a step back in time for me on many levels from the design inspirations to my memories of this region. As I’ve spoken about before I love the Blue Mountains region west of Sydney, it has such a rugged beauty & the flora & fauna is integral to the whole region. The Blue Mountains has a strong Art Deco influence in architecture and design & examples of that can found throughout the small villages along the ridges leading all the way to Katoomba & beyond. The area really had its ‘heyday’ in the 1900-1960’s and in particular the 1930’s. This linocut art piece is also grounded in family experiences & an inheritance of sorts.
I guess this artwork had its beginnings with family. Both my family & my husband’s family have been keen visitors to the Blue Mountains for many years. When thinking about the Blue Mountains region I found I had so many stories & photos of that time from my mother-in-law & her family in particular, many of whom still live in the Blue Mountains. From honeymoons to day trips and in fact, it is where my husband & I had our honeymoon. It was also somewhere we took our kids for day trips, holidays & to visit family & friends as well.
The wildflowers of this region are truly spectacular. The waratahs & flannel flowers are two of the iconic Australian wildflowers found here & of course I could not go past the ‘Mountain Devils’ – Lambertia formosa – which I have childhood memories of the seedpods dressed up with tulle on sticks like cupie dolls but there are some more vivid examples of these dolls in this newspaper article! I actually still have a couple of my mother-in-law’s tulle simple versions in an old china cabinet from her ‘nic-nacs’ which I just haven’t been able to part with. So the central panel of this work for me just had to be these three wildflowers.
A lot of research goes into investigating the species of an area, then I always take my own photographs & drawings of each of the species. This helps me to understand the structure of each plant & flower & increases the draftsmanship & design of the piece. There are usually so many I then have plenty to choose for the design.
So a little gallery in of inspirational wildflowers for Blue Mountains Wildflowers.
When my mother in law passed away a few years ago we inherited an old Art Deco style mirror. Looking a little shabby & worse for wear it does however have such an interesting shape. So I started with the mirror’s shape then developed that to create the overall structure of the design. It is then a matter of putting together all the research & developing that into the design. I spend a lot of time drawing, I think it is one of my favourite parts of the process. I have always loved drawing.
I see the linocuts as an extension of that & a way to push my vision & drawing further – the art of creative-art thinking. There is the ‘practical’ aspect of what can actually be carved out of lino but then there is the creative side of shapes & patterns. After I have finished the drawing of the design I then photocopy it several times & start to work on the actual linocut design. I use black felt pens to work on the designs, often photocopying, pasting & then using white out to work on this side of the designing. I guess I am still ‘old school’ in that I love to work with the physicality of paper, pen, pencil & ink but I do sometimes ‘dabble’ with computers & photoshop. I can spend weeks refining the images into exactly what I am happy with in the design & which I am able to produce in the medium.
Then to the carving of the design in lino. I have talked about different type of lino previously but I am pretty settled with the grey Silkcut & even managed to visit their gallery & workshop in Melbourne when I was there last time. I love my new Pfeil linocutting tools as they have made the carving just so much easier reducing the strain on my shoulder. There are actually 12 different blades in my set & I think so far I have only used half of them! Like a painter may use different brushes a Fine Art linocut artist uses their carving tools to create different effect within the surface of the lino. Some use it to create rough textural pieces but mine is a more methodical approach. I see my linocuts as botanical in nature so I try to represent the wildflowers as close to their essence as I can and this includes within the carving to create the images.
An interesting aspect to my work is the ‘uneven’ edges. I do not feel limited by the square or rectangular shapes that lino is usually presented to us from the art shop. I have always sought to move outside these shop bought restrictions. In order to do that I need to carefully cut back the edges. I start by making several strong cuts into the from surface of the lino. I then very carefully split the lino edge I want to remove & fold it towards the hessian back. Then I turn the lino over & cut along the hessian backing with a sharp bladed knife.
Often there can be a rough edge which is not something I want to be on my print. So I carefully remove the rough edges until I have a clean smooth cut. You need to take care especially around pieces with more ‘organic’ lines rather than the straight edges within this particular design.
Then to the printing of the linoblock. I have talked printing previously so here is just a little gallery for ‘Blue Mountains Wildflowers’
Then the handcolouring. I print with oil-based ink & handcolour with watercolour. I like that I can sue multiple layers & colours within each section to create the overall vibrancy of the wildflowers. You will see on the first ‘handcolour proof’ patches of colour & notes on which colour mixes I used. Although the aim is to paint each one the same you can appreciate that each one is actually individually painted & there are always variations.
Here is a little video from photos about this whole process of creating Blue Mountains Wildflowers. For those who don’t want to read explanations & learn better through images rather than words, you can now watch it in a little video format.
The centrepiece artwork for an exhibition at the Northern Rivers Art Gallery was a new linocut – Seaside Wildflowers.
Back in February I was approached by the Northern Rivers Art Gallery Director Ingrid Hedgcock, to exhibit alongside an exhibition of the Master Woods Craftsman & his students. For me it came at a time when recently becoming an ’empty nester’ & my shoulder was looking like it was going to recover after surgery & allow me to work – carve – again. It was also when I really need to get my arts practice back on track after a few years of life being too hectic to gain a consistent approach to my work.
I made the decision that I would work on finally completing many works I had been developing over many years as well as creating the centrepiece for the exhibition a work based around the Wildflowers synonymous with Ballina.
I will talk more about the other works in the exhibition in future posts but will start with the Seaside Wildflowers & where it all began.
In the process of creating this work I took some video footage & sill photographs with the idea of creating an education video showing my process from the inspiration through to the completion of the artwork.
I have always loved the seaside – the beach, the rock formations, the sea, the wildlife & of course the Wildflowers or flora. Even though I grew up in Sydney we spent every holidays by the sea at my grandparents in Yamba. Woody Head was another favourite place where my great uncle & Aunt lived, it is a truly beautiful natural place. We also spent a lot of time over where I now live on the ‘plateau’ region behind Ballina with my other grandparents – not that far from the seaside. As kids we would spend many hours going to the beach but also exploring the surrounding landscapes. So I know this region really well.
I start this particular genre of my work with research – some of this is ‘formal’ – flora studies of regions, plant identification lists but also I go & spend some time wherever possible wandering around the region taking photos. I like to see the flora/Wildflowers I am going to be drawing & document that in my own photos. By taking my own photos it also give me the opportunity to explore the process of visualising each wildflower or plant & how & where that might be represented within the initial concept of the artwork exploring different images of the particular plant. I look at things like the structure, colour & overall impression of each.
As I have talked about before, my work starts with ‘flashes’ of ideas scribbled into small sketchbooks, on post it notes or on scraps of paper.
For Seaside Wildflowers it began as a quick sketch on a post it note which I have now stuck into one of my small sketchbooks with additional notes & ideas. For this artwork I have drawn on the flora lists of the region, the council guides for flora in the Ballina Shire, books of flora of the region, my own explorations of the Ballina seaside region, my own photographs of specific species & finally my memories of childhood holidays alongside living in this region for over 20 years.
One of my abiding memories of the flora or Wildflowers of this area is the stunning Pandanus – Pandanus tectorius or Screwpine.
These strong ‘structural’ small trees are integral to my childhood memories & they are such a strong presence along the seaside of this region. The fruit which starts as a small green ‘ball-like’ structure & slowly moves to yellow tones & finally a vibrant orange colour is the aspect most people would recognise. For me the depiction of the pandanus would need to include the fruit. Less obvious for many people are the flowers – many would not be aware of the flowers. So I made the decision to make the ‘wildflower’ front & centre for this piece. The flower starts as cream bracts inside which the flower heads develop but the slowly the whole long spike of flowers emerge with the female flowers ending in long spikes of cream flowers & bracts.
The long strap like leaves emerge in a spiral from a central point & form a cluster on the end of the rather tortuous trunk & limbs. I think the pandanus reflects the very nature of growing by the season it’s tough ‘wildness’ & so it was for me to become the pivotal image for this artwork.
I started with many possible flora species I could incorporate into the piece, more than I could actually use & so this is where after setting out the pandanus I explore the size, structure, colours etc of all the possibilities. I see this is the fine art aspect of developing my Linocuts – this is where my training, skill & inspiration as an artist rather than a craftsperson comes into being. I bring my drawing & compositional skills to this process & it can be both the most frustrating as well as enjoyable part of the developing of my artwork.
Once I finish the detailed drawing I work through further developing this drawing into a form that can be carved in Lino which is my chosen medium for this piece.
For me this involves inking the design into shape & spaces.
I then carve this into Lino to be printed. For me these two further processes again involve choices & changes in the translations from drawing to final artwork.
Once the Lino is finished being carved I then print it in black ink & handcolour with watercolour the final artwork.
The hand colouring is not simply a ‘fill in the spaces’ it involves again skill & training in watercolour as a medium including colour, contrast, tone etc alongside the application of the paint.
I have taken some video footage of the processes which is a quick look at the whole process and it is now on youtube.
Music – ‘The Temperature of the Air on the Bow of the Kaleetan’
by Chris Zabriskie
Used with Permission
Image Use Inquiries
All inquiries seeking permission for the use of Lynette Weir’s artwork are most welcome.
Lynette’s work is at times available under license for particular projects of a commercial nature.
Lynette supports many non-profit organisations by allowing them permission to use her artwork, but you do still need to seek permission.
Lynette Weir requires the disclosure, if applicable, of any affiliations to any other organisations the requesting person may have. Lynette Weir does not want her artwork used to promote organisations that have or have had, links to other organisations with a social/political agenda whose views she does not support.
Any use of Lynette Weir’s artwork by an organisation or individual without her permission should not be seen as supportive of them, nor any views expressed within that organisation.
I believe it is important in developing your arts practice to use art diaries/journals/sketchbooks/notebooks even online blogs to keep track of your ideas, thoughts, sketches, make notes of things that interest or are important to you as an artist. These are useful to look back on and in developing your own ‘voice’ or style of art or providing technical notes of how to do things. These can also provide valuable back up for you as an artist and establishing copyright of your work.
In trying to represent the idea we have in our mind and then take that idea in our chosen media, we can have feelings that range from frustrating to ecstatic (when it actually works!). By keeping track of these things you can always backtrack and find them. If your filing system is good – mine is average – you could simply keep a catalogue of your sketchbooks and find them instantly!
Many, many times things just do not go well for a variety of reasons and as frustrating or disappointing it may be ‘starting again’, backtracking a little or even discarding the whole idea is also part of the process of creating artworks.
The most important aspect of all of this is the process of learning and developing your arts practice – even if the work is discarded it is important to note ‘why’ and perhaps ‘how’ you’d do it differently – this is the most important aspect!
I was told many times in art college – keep all your drawings so you can see the developments. This becomes impractical but I do actually still have ‘selected’ drawings from that time – just to remind me.
The development of art diaries, journals or sketchbooks are extremely important and are a more ‘contained’ way of keeping track in developing your arts practice – it also gives insights into the thinking and working behind your works. It also gives you the opportunity to document mistakes, the learning and hopefully moving forward in ability.
It was said to me 10 years ago by an experienced and well-known artist that “if you continue in your arts practice, you will look back in 10 years and you will be able to do so much more than you could back then and be able to see your development”. This is just so true! It is clearly illustrated by my HSC major works from 27 years ago…and my more recent initial new work in the field of pen and ink illustration.
These are my old HSC Drawing Major Works from *cough* years ago…(1981). They are a mixture of watercolour pencils, coloured pencil and (rotring) pen and ink. I must say looking back some were more successful than others…and I kind of itch to just ‘fix’ some of them or in the case of the seal – get rid of it!
The illustrations using pen and watercolour washes below were completed around 2009/10 – a definite development and improvement I would hope!!
Processing, thinking, practicing and even making mistakes can at times be even more important than producing the artwork…
Copyright – Lynette Weir
In describing some of the processes I that go through in designing my linocuts I have not talked a lot about the ‘art-thinking’ processes. This is probably because they are often complex and hard to describe.
FRAMEWORKS FOR ARTWORKS
For this piece and many of my pieces I will often start with the idea of a ‘framework’ – of working within/without of a particular shape – rectangular, square, circle etc. Starting with the framework – drawing up thumbnail sketches of different shapes, sizes, ideas – some people hold their hands up together to create a picture frame to limit their vision and provide a frame to work within for designing the edges of the artwork and what they want in it. It narrows the visual field and helps an artist ‘art-think’ what they are trying to achieve/include within an artwork.
A framework can also be suggested by the actual subject matter. So the first step in working in this way is to consider the subject matter – in this case I look at my extensive file of photographs that I have taken. But for me this process means taking one step back again – it begins with the plant/flower ‘in the flesh’.
SOURCE MATERIAL AND ‘CREATIVE ART-THINKING’
I take the photos I work from, so for me my designing starts with ‘seeing’ and photographing, for me a lifelong interest and passion of seeing and representing through taking photographs and filing and preserving family photographs. So in the case of the above design I look at the plant and take numerous photos (thank goodness for digital it is a lot less expensive these days).
The designing and looking is part of the photographing process for me – I was taught a long time ago about the importance of ‘seeing’ through your lens as you take the photo instead of ‘cropping’ later. Not to say I don’t crop but I try to ‘frame’ the photograph in the lens these days. I consider the shape, size and special features of the flowers, buds, leaves, stalks, overall ‘effect’ of the plant. These can be quite quick and spontaneous images – even at this stage I am considering the artwork and what information I may need from the source plant. If I have time I sketch the plant or do quick sketches of ideas to refer back to. Somehow for me it involves a different ‘vision’ and thinking – that for the process of this tutorial I am calling ‘art-thinking’. It is like I go to another place that is entirely visual and yet pragmatic about collecting all the info I need, or producing the image/design I want. I am often unaware at this stage of much going on outside this little ‘visual world’ – ask my family who now seem to know that taking a good book and ensuring a coffee shop ‘sanctuary’ is nearby to disappear from their ‘weird wife/mother’ who is off in another head space, and often gets quite excited about a particular plant flowering!
PROCESSING TO CREATE ARTWORK AND DESIGNS
Even before I get the photos I need printed I am often already ‘art-thinking’ – processing visual ideas often making a number of quick thumbnail sketches of my ‘art-thinking’, making notes of ideas in my journals or even on a scrap of paper that I later stick int my journal. These can lay around for even years – I have many in sketchbooks and will often flip back through and find these sketches. They are a rich source of inspiration even years later and often I can then flip back to the process of taking the photos and remember the time and what was significant about the image. Sometimes it feels like a ‘visual memory filing cabinet’ and the actual physical photos (catalogued and filed) help provide finer details and trigger more visual memories that I can use.
DESIGN ART – EMBLEMS – BREAKDOWN OF THE PROCESS OF DESIGN
In designing a piece like the DESIGN ART – Emblems – it is quite complex in the amount of visual material I am wanting to include within the overall design. This means it will be overall quite a ‘busy’ design unlike the DESIGN ART Waratah which is a simple single graphic image relying on this for visual impact.
However in creating the overall design for the Emblems I needed to bring some sort of order to the ‘busyness’. I have done this by providing the top central waratah echoed by the Sturt desert pea below. The golden wattle flowers/leaves and kangaroo paw provide framing and visual movement around the design with the Tasmanian gum blossom leaves stabilising the image at the bottom. The other plants of heath (at top either side of waratah), Sturt desert rose on right and Cooktown orchid on left are all pink shaded flowers and seem natural to provide a circular movement around the work.
Whilst drawing all of this into a design I can revise the overall and minor details of the plan as I go along. This includes spending often large amounts of time ‘art-thinking’ visually assessing over and over what I am doing and where I am placing the elements within the design. I stick photocopies of the images on the walls – even in the bedroom so I can look at when I first wake up. Often I do nothing but look at the progress, source material, or framework and do nothing – it is all in this process of creative ‘art-thinking’. This includes the inking in of the design – again it is returning to this visual head space where I don’t like to be interrupted – it is like switching my brain into another space. It can be frustrating when I cannot get into this zone and things just don’t work – best to go and do something different. Equally it can be extremely frustrating to have this background zone sitting there with ideas and not the time to actually get it happening!
‘ART-THINKING’ VS ‘DOING’ OR USING BOTH!
Not everyone understands the process of stepping back and thinking through things – of sorting through ideas, images, assessing, re-assessing and thinking of alternatives and possibilities. Many people are ‘doers’ and impulsive and many artists work this way and create amazing works. I work more spontaneously in the initial stages of thumbnail sketches but then I get tend to move into this more detailed way of working. Funny my house can be disorganised, messy and spontaneous but my artwork processes are often detailed organised and ordered.
Copyright – Lynette Weir
Designing linocuts or any artwork can be a very individual process depending on many factors including the nature of the artist and the media they work in, the style of work and can even come down to the space/time available.
Many artists work in a highly intuitive and spontaneous manner, particularly in the contemporary arts practice and produce the most wonderful inspirational work.
Other artists spend a long time researching background information, drawing individual aspects of the design or idea, sampling colours and producing smaller works either in total or parts of the final artwork. This method has been a time-honoured tradition so that we have artists workbooks/journals/sketchbooks from great artists like Leonardo Da Vinci – it is through these that we can get a better sense of what the artist was thinking and how they went about producing their artworks.
It is interesting that in art education in high schools now the “journal” or process is an integral part of the curriculum with students needing to show how they came to the end product – their artwork. The NSW HSC requires the use of the “artist journal” as part of the marking and assessment processes.
Copyright – Lynette Weir
I thought I would work through the process I have used to design the Banksia serrata – Old Man Banksia linocut and the process of its development.
Over some time I had been looking at banksias and in particular Banksia serrata in my garden outside my studio window. I have been photographing this plant for a while but also looking at design ideas on small scraps of paper etc. I have used Banksia serrata – Saw Banksia previously for a linocut but this was a very long time ago. I also completed an illustration and after working from the plant and then photographs I did a drawing of one of the Banksia serrata flowers with their lovely serrated leaves. I love the sweep of leaves down and across.
The thought – ‘this might make s nice linocut’ occurred to me so photocopied the drawing, so I inked in the black areas for the design
‘Mmmmmm…a bit lonely by itself and I REALLY like the Banksia serrata seed pods…and there’s those lovely serrated leaves again…’
‘Perhaps I should look at adding to the DESIGNART series‘ with something a bit different – Banksia serrata, seed pod and leaves.
So I started back with my live plant, a dried seed pod, numerous photos, a new template in the DESIGNART range, and a starting point of my one banksia.
…Part 2 coming next…