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gira hanging out with a chalkboard jelly doodle

The next project I tackled, as I continued to get the hang of my new screenprinting studio set-up, had to be the jellyfish drawing I started working on W-A-Y back in 2015! If you’ve been visiting here for a while (firstly, thanks for sticking around despite an intermittent posting schedule!) you might remember these work-in-progress posts: jellyfish wip [1] and jellyfish wip (2)… cnidaria have been floating about around here for quite some time!

oral arm ‘dummies’ gathering dust on my studio window back in march 2016
(with a little bull-headed shrike from this project :)

I shelved the unfinished drawings for many months in 2016 while studio set-up and other work/life stuff demanded my attention.

(re)tracing tentacle tweaks

But I kept returning to the drawings, trying to get them to where I wanted them to be. (If you’re a drawer/maker of stuff you have no doubt also experienced the disconnect that can sometimes – or often! – occur between what you actually draw/make in the real world and what you imagined it would look like in the magical fantasy world in your head ;-)

Sometimes the drawings and I had effortless fun together…

Sometimes we got caught up in dark, tangled, indecisive ‘to-vectorise-or-not-to-vectorise?’ webs…

And sometimes things just didn’t ‘gel’ and had to be figured out anew…

heeding the edict of my furry overlord helpful input of my studio assistant

But finally I decided it was ready to print! (It still didn’t look like the thing I’d imagined in my head, but sometimes you’ve just gotta move on, right?!)

double vision: film positive and exposed screen on light table

let the printing games begin!: setting up the registration

(finally!) finished print

This project was as much an exercise in perseverance as anything else. I created all sorts of printing headaches for myself by including so much fine detail in the original drawing, but the setbacks and challenges I encountered during the printing process taught me a great deal and hopefully have equipped me to better solve or avoid similar issues in future projects.

finished print: tentacle and oral arm details

Naturally I could not resist incorporating some glow-in-the-dark details…

finished print: patterned jelly bells (and a smattering of marine bioluminescence) glowing in the dark!

The deckle-edged paper I printed on has a lovely knotted watermark which obligingly echoes the tangled tentacles and oral arms of the jellies…

the dutch papermaker’s ‘van gelder zonen’ watermark

This jellyfish print, the third in my ongoing ‘Animal Diorama’ series (remember the owl and the octopus?), is now available to buy in my Etsy shop >

the jellies’ diaphanous qualities enhanced by the late afternoon play of light and (plant) shadows in my studio

two-colour screenprint with hand-coloured details in watercolour & gouache, made in late 2011

I was first bitten by the silkscreen printing bug back in December 2008 when I joined a two-day workshop led by the inspiring Christina Hallström at the Amsterdams Grafisch Atelier (now the AGA LAB). I’ve since been most grateful to have access to the AGA LAB’s facilities to realise various printmaking projects… but I also began to dream about setting up silkscreen printing facilities in my own studio, where I could work more spontaneously, be ready to dive in whenever inspiration struck, and to have the luxury (and there’s no question that’s what it is!) to experiment in my own space and at my own pace.

2016 was the year I finally made this dream a reality!

our ‘stoere jongen‘ guards the shiny new vacuum printing table!

sunsrise and screens… ready for some early morning printing!

Setting up the studio was quite a project in its own right and required plenty of research and careful planning. It was a time-consuming, sometimes tedious (darkroom curtain-rail research & comparison, anyone?), frequently frustrating (did the installation technician really just cut off that impossible to replace power plug!?), always challenging labour of love. Then towards the end of last year it was finally done and high time to get back into the real labour of love… making and printing stuff!

colour mixing

a film positive (for exposing image onto screen) casts an interesting shadow

And that’s what this year-so-far has been about – getting to know the quirks of new equipment, figuring out optimal screen-mesh threadcounts for image detail, printing with different inks, optimising processes…

multitasking bathroom… now doubling up as a screen washout booth

… trialling (& much erroring!) of photo-emulsions & exposure times, step wedge test adventures, and trying not to get (too much) ink on the cat!

aarrgh!… another failed (under)exposure

I’m still learning – there’ve been some hold-my-head-in-my-hands-in-despair moments (see previous pic!) – but it’s also thrilling and exciting and a lot of fun to be working in my own space!

checking ‘off contact’
(to ensure optimal space between screen mesh and printing substrate)

glorious, gloopy ink!

My (furry grey ;-) editor tells me that’s enough words for now… but I’ll return soon with more about some of the print projects I’ve been working on. In the meantime I hope you’ve enjoyed the ‘teasers’ in the process shots illustrating this post.

While I had a screenprinting table booked at the printmaking studio (for the making of owl and octopus prints) I took the opportunity to also work on my annualend of year’ greeting cards (in the middle of October… an unprecedented bit of forward-planning on my part! ;)

Once again I was inspired by kirigami snowflakes (I love the surprise of seeing the final shape revealed as you open up the cut, and I cannot get enough of their pleasing symmetry and infinite variety!). Unlike these cards made a couple of years ago I was determined to keep the process as simple as possible (i.e. less time-consuming, but still very much handmade) so I ‘cut’ my snowflake designs out in Adobe Illustrator…

… to quickly have high quality vectors and a digital file ready to create transparencies for exposure onto the printing screen.

Colour choices were determined, in part, by the large stash of already-mixed inks I have from previous projects (can’t let all that lovely, gloopy ink go to waste!).

I made colour swatches (on the paper I intended to print on)
to better see the available colours…

… and enlisted the help of my colour-savvy studio assistant in making the choices.

I printed on a favourite paper – Oud Hollands (‘Old Dutch’) cards and envelopes. The 300gsm cards have a subtly textured vellum finish surface and four beautiful deckle-edges, and the old-style envelopes are lightly textured with a laid surface (lightly ribbed) and an Old Dutch watermark (“Van Gelder”). Although the paper-making process has been automated to some degree over the past 350 years these cards and envelopes are still made here in Holland with a love and respect for 17th Century Dutch paper-making processes and traditions, and they have a wonderful handmade quality.

I’m very excited about this beautiful paper (can you tell?), and if I wasn’t so busy trying to distract my afore-mentioned studio assistant from voraciously chewing on it I’d probably be tempted to eat it myself (it’s that tasty!)

I’ll be using most of these cards myself but I did make a few extra in all four colours and these are now available in my Etsy shop, as packs of four cards & envelopes (one of each colour), or packs of two cards & envelopes (in a single colour).

I think the ongoing demise of the handwritten letter & the ‘snail mail’ posting of cards or notes to mark occasions (special or otherwise) is rather sad. A txt msg or email will never be a good substitute for receiving an interesting piece of post – you can’t beat the excitement and anticipation of finding an intriguing envelope waiting for you in your letterbox! And what about penmanship?! Do the kids still handwrite… you know, with ink and actual pens?

I love this postcard, found a couple of years ago at the wonderful (but now sadly closed down update: open again! see comments :) Bowne & Co. Stationers in the South Street Seaport area of Lower Manhattan
(postcard © John Derian Company, Inc)

As I appear to be a confirmed (and grumpy!) Luddite when it comes to the ubiquity of digital communications I’m very happy to have some of my work included in the screen printing and papercutting sections of this nifty new book by Charlotte Rivers (published earlier this month):

‘A wolf and a bear in a winter wood’ – screen printed cards

papercut ‘snowflake’ cards

And I’m delighted to find myself sharing its pages with a super-talented friend…

Jesse Breytenbach, Cape Town, South Africa (letterpress & block printing)

… and a whole host of other great, old-school stationery practitioners. The book is divided into eight sections: hand-drawn illustration, screen printing, letterpress printing, block printing, digital illustration, calligraphy, papercutting and collage/3-D/sewn, and includes brief but informative descriptions of each technique followed by inspirational examples from around the globe. Here are some of my favourite discoveries from the book:

MrYen, Leeds, UK (papercutting)

Sesame Letterpress, New York, USA (letterpress printing)

Winged Wheel, Tokyo, Japan (letterpress printing)

Karolin Schnoor, London, UK (hand-drawn illustration)

Katharine Watson, Washington DC, USA (block printing)

If you’re looking for some inspirational stationery eye-candy the book can be found online here (Amazon UK) or here (Amazon US) >

If you’ve just arrived at this ‘Process, part III’ post but would like to start at the beginning you can find ‘Process, part I (drawing)’ here and ‘Process, part II (screenprinting)’ here

watercolour ‘testing’ strips

After printing was complete I hand-coloured additional details on some of the specimens – a wonderful opportunity to get my gouache and watercolour paints out and play some more with colour (which is not so scary after all ;). One of the great things about the screenprinting medium is the ability it gives you to print multiples relatively easily and quickly (once all the elements of the process are in place the difference between pulling one print or ten is negligible). I made more prints than I intended for the final editions so I would have lots of ‘blanks’ to play with while making hand-colouring decisions…

experimenting with different placements of the hand-coloured elements… and intrigued by how this radically (or subtly) affects the look & feel of an image.

testudines / tortoise shell specimen
hand-coloured details added in bronze and copper gouache

beetlemania!
countless candy-coloured coleoptera legs

The hand-colouring part of the process was time-consuming but a lot of fun – it gave me plenty of opportunity to experiment with colour. And I love getting lost in a drawing’s details, to the point where everything else seems to fade away. I find there’s a lucidity that comes from repetition (albeit slightly different each time) – this is no doubt part of the appeal pattern has for us. Hand-colouring piles ‘n piles of prints was therefore a kind of moving meditation for me… very relaxing :)

echinoida / sea urchin

Well, that’s it for these ‘process’ posts – thanks for looking/reading! Next post – the completed print series…

some of my work, available on etsy
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Sketchbook doodling… in search of my lost mojo #creative_block #ugh #sketchbook #doodling #drawing #acrylic_ink #white #anthracite #monochrome #leaves #birch #botanical #pattern #negative_space #design Bold, beautiful brassica #cruciferous #cabbage #leaf #phyllotaxy #purple #green #verdant #fibonacci #pattern #raindrops #roofgarden Gira sez "Eat yer greens!" #good_advice #yum #catgrass #cyperus_zumula #teeth #canines #green #grey #cat #gira #catsofinstagram September is upon us (!) and this is an illustration I made towards the end of last year for @essie_letterpress ‘s 2017 Artist’s Almanac. The almanac is produced in South Africa and the only stipulation for the illustration (apart from colour and sizing guidelines) was that it should fit a Southern hemisphere timeline… September is early springtime in South Africa, when the remarkable fynbos wildflowers begin to bloom and southern right whales migrate through SA’s coastal waters where they can be seen frolicking close to shore.
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The almanac’s cover illustration (partially pictured here) is by the talented @ikronk
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#south_africa #spring #cetacea #eubalaena_australis #baleen #whale #southern_right_whale #tail_sailing through a #garland of #fynbos #flowers #gazania #quaqua #stapelia #pelargonium_incarnatum #ornithogalum #lachenalia #spiloxene #romulea #oncosiphon #euphorbia #lapeirousia #protea #flora #pattern #artistsalmanac #calendar2017 #two_colour #illustration #letterpress Our brave, beautiful boy… happy to be back home after his first cancer treatment @mcvoordieren earlier this week.
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If you’ve got any healing good vibes to spare (I know that’s a big ask in this perennially tough world) please send them Gira’s way ☄💙🐈
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#gira #cat #greeneyes #steady_gaze #inscrutable #manga_eyes #studiomate #best_fur_buddy #positive_energy #healing #lymphoma #enzyme_injections #fuckcancer #catsofinstagram A profoundly pleasing polar bear…
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'Orso’ by Simona Vergani (1998, white Carrara marble, h 350cm) can be found in Amsterdam’s Erasmuspark, and is definitely one of the coolest ❄🐧❄ public sculptures I’ve encountered!
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#polar_bear #ijsbeer #ursus_maritimus #vulnerable #habitat_loss #climate_change #paws #orso #sculpture #carved #white #carrara #marble #blue #summer_sky #amsterdam #erasmuspark

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