Tag Archives: Organising Arts Practice

The Art of ‘Creative Art-Thinking’ – designing linocuts

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.


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’.


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!


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.


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!


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

Studio Spaces – Print Studio and Working Studio

I am very fortunate to have two studio spaces I can work in.

I didn’t always have the luxury of these two studio spaces to work, but as the family has been slowly been getting smaller I have been able to spread out a bit. Even the outside shed for printing is relatively recent – previously I took over a section of the garage with my print table and press. This was very difficult trying to keep clean – one of the aspects of getting spot free printing is to have clean surfaces and surroundings so dirt and dust is not getting onto linoblocks, tables and ink surfaces. But you make do with the best you can, aim to get some space – even if small where you can work. The best places are simply somewhere you can leave your work out if at all possible so that you don’t have to constantly get it out to work and put it away when you finish, that is the best thing about having these two spaces – the freedom to come and go whilst working.

My print studio is now outside in a shed, as printing can be messy and smelly with the oil based inks I use, somewhere with good ventilation is the best way to go if you can find a space like that – like I said before even the corner of a garage is a place to start – but as I say ‘every girl needs a shed’!

Above is my Print Studio which I recently painted and re-organised.…some shelving, repainted old cupboards including laminex ones with a product that allows water-based enamel paint over oil based, and general cleaning and re-ordering. You can see above my long print table with extra shelving for storage. It has two large windows above the print table that allows for lots of lovely natural light to work with.

…All lovely crisp white and sea blue…

I have a small filing cabinet – so I have somewhere to keep any paperwork. The small cupboard on the left is a general purpose one for storage but the one on the right is a print drying cupboard.


This is what the inside of the print cupboard looks like with prints laying flat to dry.

It is also where obviously my small bookpress is for printing. With its own designated steel legged table as it is although small, very heavy.

My other studio space you can see below is a room attached to the back our house and was previously the ‘family room’.

I can work and still interact with the family here – so I can carve, draw etc there. This has its positives and negatives as I would probably get more work done if I could simply hide in the outside studio shed but not so good on the family front.

I am fortunate that this room has two large walls of windows that open into my garden and it is light and airy.

I have re-arranged it recently so I have large bookcases with all my reference books, a bookcase with all my photo file boxes, a lovely drawing table and chair as well as my carving table. Most importantly I can set up my computer here and music!

Copyright – Lynette Weir

Developing Systems to keep things filed and ordered

Systems can be very useful – not the kind of obsessive ones but just relevant and ordered so you can at least find what you are looking for – well mostly….

Every so often I re-order my studios – I do have a tendency to just put things in the general space or direction of where they should be so need to come back and sort them out every so often – this includes CD’s and books.


I have taken the time to clean out all the saved pieces of paper of interest that I have taken out of various magazines – from recipes to gardening – and shredded all the unwanted pieces. I have refiled them and labeled them – so what was an open shelf of chaos is now neatly ordered.

Where I need to be more vigilant is with my photographic images – digital and processed.

I have hundreds of filed photos for reference for my work in photo boxes and a database of images that I use to find what I need.

Basically I have filed the photos in alphabetical latin names for the flora and common names for the fauna. I have then made a database file in excel where I have cross-referenced latin and common names. This makes it so much easier – especially when my tired brain can only remember the alternate filed latin or common name and refuses to recall it as I have it filed!!

Copyright – Lynette Weir

Filing … Paper and Digital Photo Database

I take all my own source photos for my work but there is the question – how do I get this to work so they are quickly and easily accessible?

My solution is to use photo boxes. I make cardboard dividers on which I put the botanical name, common name, distribution & flowering information plus anything else I think may be particularly relevant to that particular species. I have also generated a photo database using excel which I have a hard copy at hand with all the records of this information with cross references for botanical and common names so if I forget one I can still usually find it using the other! This all takes a fair bit of time like all filing but it makes life so much easier. I have the actual negatives filed in folders with names on each.

These days with digital photos they are all filed on the computer with back-up hard-drive and try to make cd/dvd backup disks as well. My fear is that with this digital phase we may actually end up losing many photos and not have all those wonderful ‘old’ historical photos I love looking at from years gone by.

I need to generate a new excel file with all of those digital photos yet but maybe on another wet weekend!

I think the biggest challenge is to keep up to date with the filing   thought that keeping computer files saves time but my experience is that you still have to take the time to keep things in order. As I know you all have been told a thousand times – always back up – your computer dies, or a hardrive and you lose everything. Best of intentions we all mean to do and we all make mistakes and think we’ll just fix that tomorrow.

Copyright – Lynette Weir