Inspiration and Information- Printmakers Share

Several recent events have seen printmakers from the region generously share their expertise, techniques and inspirations with a broad audience of interested members of the public and other printmakers and artists.

Fiona Dempster at Caloundra Regional Gallery

At Caloundra Regional Gallery on June 8th  Fiona Dempster, Judy Barrass and Tory Richards each gave a 15 minute presentation about their own approach to printmaking. The evening was part of the gallery’s ‘Uncovered’ series of talks with the aim of giving access to a deeper conversation with artists. Tory gave in depth information on her processes of copper etching, Fiona introduced the history and art of letterpress, and Judy looked at new technologies, digital print and beyond. It was an informative night enjoyed by all who attended. Thank you to Caloundra Gallery for hosting the event.

Cholena Hughes talking about her Cyanotype work ‘Intimate Surround’ at University of Sunshine Coast

At the University of Sunshine Coast Gallery on Saturday June 11th twelve artists from the Regional Marks exhibition spoke briefly about their work. In a spirit of enthusiasm and comradery they shared their inspiration, insights into their practice, and their techniques. Sometimes artist talks can be stuffy affairs fluffed up with artspeak and egos, but this was plain, from the heart speaking that inspired other printmakers and filled the audience with admiration. Such generosity of spirit is what being part of the printmaking community is all about.

Tarja Ahokas talks about her acrylic print ‘Flow of Life’


Almost no one could have had their head around the range of techniques and approaches  represented in the exhibition, so there was something for everyone to learn and marvel at and none of us even noticed we’d be standing a long time before the morning was over.

John Drake with his lino prints ‘Remains of the Day’ and ‘Share, Shoe and Shears’

Thank you to all the artists who participated, and to the curator Catherine Money for ably guiding us through the exhibition and introducing each artist. It was a delightful, personal touch to a group exhibition that brought the works into perspective and turned the impersonal wall labels into human stories.

Kevin Greely was generous in explaining his collagraph techniques.
Stephanie McLennan tells the audience how she is inspired by the landscape of Ewan Maddock Dam


The audience concentrating intently as Tory Richards explains her works

Regional Marks continues at the USC Gallery until July 2nd



What is a Printmaker?

‘I’m not a printmaker’ was the opening statement from Maleny artist Noela Mills speaking about her work in the Regional Marks printmaking exhibition at the artist talks last Saturday. It made me wonder what she meant, and I would have liked to follow it up with her later, but the opportunity passed.

Not a printmaker? She was standing beside her lovely monoprints that are featured below the signature title of the exhibition.

Noela Mills’ monoprints in Regional Marks

What do we mean when we say ‘printmaker’. Clearly it means different things to different people, but surely anyone who makes prints as part of their art practice is a ‘printmaker’. How many prints do you have to make to be classed as a ‘printmaker’? Do prints have to be a certain proportion of the works that you produce? Or do you need to have skills across the range of printmaking techinques? Or is a printmaker defined by the equipment they own or use?

Noela’s comments made me remember works I had seen recently in a print exhibition in Pau in France, by artists best known as painters. But they were printmakers too, trying their hand at engraving, etching, mezzotint and relief printing. What struck me in looking at a whole gallery of prints by many of the French Impressionists best known for their paintings, was how their own individual style was as evident in this ‘other’ medium as in their paintings.

Manet, Cezanne, manet
Manet, Cezanne, Manet
Gauguin, Van Gogh, Renoir
Gauguin, Van Gogh, Renoir

Like those artists, and like Noela, most of us belong to that same tradition of artists working across mediums. Our work is not confined to one technique. We are willing to try new or different things and the total body of what we produce becomes a rich tapestry of experiments and techniques. If we are lucky one of those techniques grabs our hearts and our hands and becomes the focus of what we do, but it is rarely at the exclusion of everything else.

I’m happy to call myself a printmaker, amongst other things, but not at the exclusion of other things, and I think Noela is definitely a printmaker too.

(Judy Barrass)


Fiona Dempster- Letterpress Demonstration

Lead type in a type case

Last Saturday, as one of the public programmes around ‘Regional Marks’ at University of Sunshine Coast, Maleny artist Fiona Dempster (ably assisted by fellow artist Barry Smith) treated a small crowd to a demonstration of the process of letterpress. Not for the fainthearted or mechanically challenged, letterpress printmaking requires a great deal of organisation, patience and skill, and if you are going to do public demonstrations,  a strong person to help with some of the lifting.

Letterpress is a method of relief printing originating in the 15th Century, that gradually replaced hand scribes and illuminators, and made the written word available to the masses. Variations of the original letterpress machines were used up until the mid to late 20th century when offset, and then digital printing took over.

Fiona’s short demonstration composition in the chase

Lead or wooden metal type (individual letters – see above) are assembled to compose text and locked into place on a chase. The chase is placed into the press, a machine that transfers ink from the type onto paper.

Fiona holds up a finished chase. Her small proofing press is behind. The round plate has been inked up with blue ink.
Placing the chase into the press.
Beginning the printing process. Each sheet of paper is fed into the proofing press individually.

Since letterpress has become mostly a thing of the past in the printing industry artist printmakers like Fiona are keeping the traditions alive and adding their own interpretations and creative skills to what was once a mundane occupation.

Fiona’s enthusiasm for the equipment and processes was delightful and infectious. It’s hard to fathom why we get so excited about messing around with metal and inks and heavy machines, but we do.

It was an informative and entertaining presentation that gave us deeper insights into Fiona’s letterpress works in the Regional Marks exhibition.  Thanks Fiona.

Fiona’s demonstration is part of the region’s celebrations for the Print Council of Australia’s 50th birthday and Regional Marks.


Jacky and Grace

Photo: Margie Lipscombe

There are so many events and occasions centred around printmaking at the moment that it’s easy to forget that making art is (usually) a contemplative and solitary activity, and that printmaking is about more than the framed print in the exhibition. It’s about the process, the equipment, the smell of ink and the long hours working until the final reveal.

The image above shows Jacky Lowry, one of the exhibiting artists in Regional Marks, in her studio, with her press, which she calls ‘Grace’. Here is Jacky’s story:

‘I lusted for a press for years, and as I was working big at that stage, thought I would never get one.  I couldn’t justify that much family money.
Then I realised that a small bench top press actually could proof a huge plate, even if I would have to hire a large press for final printing.
So I decided I would buy a small press.
Then my mother gave me some money.
And I came into an unexpected, out of the blue, inheritance.
Together they equalled a big press.
The man who made the press wanted a name.
I felt that I had been the recipient of much grace, so the press is called Grace.’

Regional Marks Exhibition Opens

Curator of Regional Marks, Cathy Money, with John Gallagher from co-sponsor Argon Law, and exhibiting artist Tory Richards. (Photo Cheryl Nonmus from On Q Photography)

It’s been a long time in the planning, but ‘Regional Marks – Celebrating 50 Years of Print’,  our showcase event for the Print Council of Australia’s 50th birthday celebrations is finally on show at the University of the Sunshine Coast  Art Gallery.

The opening on Thursday 19 May was a gala event with a packed gallery and much excitement in the air.  In her opening remarks USC Gallery manager, Ms Lou Jaeger, said it’s a coup for the Sunshine Coast to host this milestone event for the art of printmaking in Australia.

Akky Van Ogtrop, President of the Print Council of Australia speaking at the opening (photo Cheryl Nonmus from On Q Photography)
Akky Van Ogtrop, President of the Print Council of Australia speaking at the opening (photo Cheryl Nonmus from On Q Photography)

Akky Van Ogtrop, President of the PCA gave a brief introduction to the role of the PCA and the nationwide events planned for this birthday year, then introduced the guest speaker artist Judy Watson who congratulated all the artists and the curator on the quality of the work on show.

Guest Speaker Judy Watson (photo Cheryl Nonmus from On Q Photography)
Guest Speaker Judy Watson (photo Cheryl Nonmus from On Q Photography)

The exhibition features works by established and emerging printmakers, from the Noosa, Sunshine Coast and Moreton Bay Council regions including USC students. Many of the artists were present at the opening, along with their families and supporters.

Judy Watson with some of the exhibiting artists (photo Cheryl Nonmus from On Q Photography)
Judy Watson with some of the exhibiting artists (photo Cheryl Nonmus from On Q Photography)

All print forms, traditional through to digital on all printable surface mediums, including artist books and sculptural works are included in the exhibition that has been curated by Sunshine Coast artist, educator and curator Cathy Money. In coming weeks Cathy will be blogging here about some of the artists and their works in the exhibition.

A beautiful catalogue of the works on show is available at the University Gallery and Caloundra Regional Gallery for just $5.

A view of part of the exhibition (photo Cheryl Nonmus from On Q Photography)
A view of part of the exhibition (photo Cheryl Nonmus from On Q Photography)

There is also a series of supporting demonstrations and workshops conducted by printmakers as part of the public programs offered in conjunction with the exhibition.  Events still  to come include:

 ‘Make Your Mark’ a mini print workshop at Caloundra Regional Gallery on June 2nd 9.30-12.30 – $10 fee, enrol at the gallery.

Making Your Mark’, three Sunshine Coast printmakers talk about their work at Caloundra Regional Gallery, on June 8th 6-7.30 pm. No booking necessary.

Meet the Artists and letterpress demonstration on June 11th at USC Art Gallery.

Regional Marks is part of the national celebration of print scheduled throughout 2016 and is supported by The Regional Arts Development Fund – a partnership between the Queensland Government and Sunshine Coast Council to support local arts and culture in regional Queensland, the University of the Sunshine Coast and Argon Law.