Sandra Woolard – the art of print and discovery

Sandra-Woolard-Workshop-009A week ago I was invited to be a (somewhat noisy and enthusiastic) fly on the wall during one of Sandra Woolard’s highly informative day long workshops exploring printmaking. That morning, Sandra and her group experimented with the monoprinting process. I recall the days at high school where I clambered up onto the art room bench to pound up and down on top of my lino blocks shortly before being reprimanded by my art teacher and marched out into the corridor – this was a far more sophisticated affair. Sandra works with an printing press that provides even pressure to the plates utilizing rollers. There’s something a little nautical about the process. (Perhaps rum and parrots were in order?)

Sandra-Woolard-Workshop-002The combination of ink, perspex plate, dampened paper and pressure produced some surprising results. Ink it appears is a temperamental creature, and just the right combination of pressure and ink density is required to get a successful result. The artist rolls a thin layer of slightly sticky etching ink onto their plate (not too thick and not too thin), removes the parts of their image that they would like to appear white (effectively working in reverse) and then prints the image onto suitable dampened paper using the press. When too little ink is removed, the ink bleeds into the image, and too much – detail is lost.

Sandra-Woolard-Workshop-0135As the day progressed and the group began to understand the nature and the flow of ink and just how rich the potential was for experimentation, things started to heat up.

Some of the attraction to this printing technique lies in it’s unpredictable nature. While the artist has control over content, composition, colour, form etc, the final say in texture and detail is somewhat unpredictable and incredibly appealing. For someone with Sandra’s experience and level of knowledge I don’t think much is left to chance, however there was still a moment of trepidation followed by surprise as each image was peeled from its plate.

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Sandra-Woolard-Workshop-0137

And this was only the monoprinting component! As you will see below, Sandra has many different workshops exploring different printing techniques coming up over the next few months. Disappointingly I couldn’t stay for the entire day – not only was creativity running rife, but the discussion stimulating and interesting, and I was very sad to tear myself away.

Torse Feminin - Colin GosslingBut there is more to this story. Just today, as I was putting this article together, a rather overwhelmed Sandra received this beautiful peice that Colin Gossling had created as a result of the workshop and kindly posted to her. I think this image says it all – a rewarding experience for everyone involved!

Fascinated by Sandra’s work, I threw a few questions her way about her artistic journey, and this is what she had to say:

I grew up being “sensible Sandra” and my analytical thinking made me what they call a left brainer. I discovered art aged “50 something” and have been passionately exploring different visual art medium ever since. Never having had the opportunity to go to University my artistic thirst has been quenched at workshops and in particular “McGregor Summer School” each January.

One ten day workshop I did at McGregor was with Andrew Antoniou – working with charcoal was a first for me. Andrew was instrumental in having me look “inside myself” to find that elusive kernel. I would not be exaggerating to say Andrew’s workshop was an epiphanic experience for me in as much as I then reached inward more with my art.

As I gained confidence in my own work and artistic expression I began teaching classes at my home studio and have immersed my students in “daft moments” to, hopefully, paint, draw and think outside the norm.

I would like to think my art, especially my printmaking, is “edgy” in as much as the images are not what I call “same old-same old”. I take risks and of course those risks bring highs and lows.

As for the challenges? I am not good at putting myself forward and thus am my own worst enemy in getting my art noticed. Mental note to self for 2015 … “get out there”! – Whatever that means!

After doing a printmaking workshop – ten days at McGregor Summer School which was very intense – with Graham Marchant, I bought a printing press. Graham is one of Australia’s most significant printmakers and it was a privilege to learn from him. I love printmaking, it is very physical and relies more heavily on observation and design than watercolour painting for example. I find it a messy business and some students find it challenging to get their heads around the reverse image concept which of course happens as the print is pulled through the press. When printing in my studio I use aluminium – etched with copper sulphate or, matt board for creating collagraphs. Mono printing on Perspex or shellac coated matt board is fast and good fun too.

I belong to Impress Printmakers in Brisbane and have been hung in several of their exhibitions which is always a great pleasure. I am a firm believer in “group energy” and belonging to Impress helps provide stimulation for my art.

I was asked about hiccups along the way! I would suspect that most of the potential audience don’t understand the value of printmaking.

My art can be viewed at my home gallery, 13 Dobell Ave. Paradise Point by appointment.  Contact Sandra.

Editor’s note: With all of this talk of printmaking – I neglected to mention – Sandra is also an exquisite water colour artist– but that’s a story for another day!

Workshops for 2015

Sandra’s workshops are run from her home in Paradise Point, Gold Coast. They are generally from 9.30am to 3.30pm but may vary.

Contact Sandra to confirm dates and book.

  • March: Two day collagraph workshop
  • April: One day drypoint workshop
  • May: One day mono printing workshop
  • June: One day etching with aluminium using copper sulphate workshop

Printing definitions

Collagraphs, generally speaking, are a type of monoprint pulled from collaged plates. Mine utilize matte board to provide a support base for the collage. Shellack protects the plate from the printing ink, and seals in the various media used for the collage, which can include, for example tissue paper, carborundum, or fabric. Sandra’s collagraphs embrace relief and intaglio techniques.

Drypoint – Related to etching, drypoint involves incising an image into a metal or plastic plate with a metal or diamond tipped needle – a scribe. The method creates a burr on the edges of the incisions, which collects a lot of ink, producing a print with soft and dense lines.

Engraving – The process of forming an image through incisions on a flat plate. In printmaking, aluminium, zinc or another metal is commonly used to form the printing plate. Ink collects in the grooves created on the plate, and is transferred to a sheet of paper by a printing press.

Etching – The method of using an acid or similar chemical to form an illustration on a plate. The plate is first prepared with an acid resistant coating – Sandra uses ormonoid – which the artist scratches away to create their image, exposing the unprotected metal. The plate is then dipped into an acid bath to “bite” the image into the metal.

Intaglio – The overall term for printmaking processes that involve the incising of an image onto the surface of a plate or some other flat object. Ink is then applied to the resultant plate, collecting in the incisions. Then the pressure of a printing press transfers an image onto paper. Some forms of intaglio printmaking include drypoint, collagraph, engraving and etching.

Lino Cut – Related to woodcut techniques, this printmaking process involves cutting and scratching a mirror image into a piece of linoleum. The sheet of linoleum is then rollered with ink, and pressed to a sheet of paper. The uncut areas are those which will show through on the printed illustration.

Monoprint – the method of printmaking where an image is drawn or painted onto a non-absorbent plate in ink and then pressed onto paper. A monoprint can also be made by covering an entire surface with ink, and then wiping the ink away with either a brush or rag in areas the artist wishes to appear brighter. It thus generally produces one or at most two prints.

Proofs – Generally this term applies to print impressions made during the creation of an illustration to check the progress of the image on the plate. These may show the early stages of a work, and thus be very different than the final piece. A proof is sometimes a print done before a complete work is sent for a full print run.

Relief Print – An image printed on paper using a process whereby areas of a plate or block are removed where the paper should show through. Relief printmaking techniques include woodcut and metal cut. Relief is the opposite of intaglio printmaking.