My Favourite Source of Inspiration

garden border in summer
Morning light in the garden

I’ve always loved gardens. Early morning in summer is the best time in mine. It’s still peaceful then, and the demands of the day can be ignored for a little while.

Part of what makes it feel so special to me is the quality of the light at that time of day. It hasn’t yet got the bright glare that it will have later on. Instead, the light slants into the garden, picking out the textures of soft, feathery grass heads and glowing through the translucent petals of flowers. It brings a feeling of joy.

I’m certainly not an expert gardener, so it feels like a small miracle when plants grow well. (Especially if they haven’t had the care they should!) Self-seeded ”babies” are an excitement and sometimes a mystery…

sweet pea and aster flowers
Sweet peas and asters grown for a photograph

There are failures too, and there are always plenty of weeds, but somehow the garden always feels like a place of hope.

From childhood, I’ve been attracted by the look of plants. Not just for their colours, but for their textures and their structures too. (Think of the velvety petals of a petunia or of almost metallic-looking Allium christophii flowers.)

As I’ve grown older, my interest has widened to include the history of plants, the folklore, the stories told about them. (In general the relationship between man and plants. Probably because, for me, it represents the link between ourselves and nature. Because we are a part of nature too.)

There you have it – I’m a plant nut! (And always will be.) And yes, you may have found me out – photographing plants makes an excellent excuse for buying more!

clematis flower close-up
One of my favourites – a clematis

Combining Photography With Printmaking (An Experiment)

passionflower print
A photograph and an intaglio print of a passionflower digitally combined

Photography has always been my main creative pursuit. However, when my husband and I moved from Scotland to Suffolk, I was delighted to discover that our new home was near a rather wonderful printmakers’ workshop.

The workshop is part of Gainsborough’s House, a museum and art gallery which celebrates the life of painter Thomas Gainsborough. It offers courses in all kinds of printmaking and there is a well-equipped studio for the use of its members. I’ve learned the basics of several printmaking techniques there and I’ve wondered about combining them with photography.

The picture at the top of this post is a digital mix of a photograph of a passionflower and an intaglio print of the same image.

For the intaglio print, I used ImagOn printmaking film, which allows a printmaking plate to be made from photo-generated imagery. In short, this film is adhered to a plate (which can be metal or plastic) before being exposed to UV light with the artwork/photopositive and then being developed.

This process is very similar to photographic darkroom work and has the same need for making test pieces to work out the correct exposure and development times. (If, like me, you’ve been through the ‘old’ days of film and black and white printing, you could feel quite at home with this.)

Photograph of a passionflower
The original passionflower photograph

To create the image for the ”photopositive”, I used Photoshop. First, I converted the photograph to monochrome and then I adjusted the contrast so that the tones were either solid black or white. This image was printed on very thin paper, which was made more translucent by coating it thinly with vegetable oil. A slightly messy process! But it gave a good image to expose onto the printmaking plate.

The processed plate was a little tricky to print from because the lines of the image were quite wide and the depth of film on the plate was shallow. This meant that the ‘grooves’ on the plate didn’t retain ink well when the excess ink was wiped from the plate. Very frustrating! It took quite a few attempts before I managed to get enough ink to stay in the grooves to make the print.

Intaglio print of a passionflower
The intaglio print

The scanned intaglio print was combined with the original photograph by stacking the images together in Photoshop. A bit of work was needed to remove the background of the intaglio print and to make adjustments to exposure, colour and saturation to get the two images to blend well.

I enjoyed my experiment and I reckon that I’ll be trying more combinations like this. The results are quite different from either either photography or printmaking and it feels as if there are all sorts of possibilities.

You can find out more about ImagOn printmaking film here.

If you would like to read about Gainsborough’s House Print Workshop, you can find their site here.

Have you experimented with combining photography and printmaking? I’d love to hear about it in the comments…