Blogging as reflective practice

You are reading a blog that started off about art practice-based research charting
the journey of doing a phd. It explores alternative ways of using hand held devices
to create print-based interactive artworks using graphical tagging such as QR-codes.
Art, design, technology and craft were the main themes in writing. But life gets in the
way, and over this journey the story takes unexpected happy twists along the paths
of having a baby, going on a UK Digital Economy Sandpit, meeting fanstastic people,
and subsequent group success in funding for a large multidisciplinary research
project called TOTeM.

Entries in printmaking (11)

Impact 8 Conference

I’ve had an academic paper accepted for the IMPACT8 printmaking conference happening here in Dundee in August this year, so another thing to keep me busy! If you head over to the abstracts section of my website, you can see what I’ll be presenting about this time round in my paper A Medium in the Liminal Zone: Exploring New Territories for Printmaking. Last time the conference was in Melbourne and I mostly enjoyed it – save the war rationing approach to catering. I’m looking forward to seeing what this conference brings and especially seeing the artworks that will be exhibited about the town.

Posted on Tuesday, February 26, 2013 at 03:05PM by Registered CommenterSimone O'Callaghan in , , , , | Comments1 Comment

Starting to breathe a sigh of relief

The thing about creating works that are bi-partite, in that they are prints attached to media content, is that you can edit the media content right up to the minute before the exhibition opens. Although the prints on the wall can be ready a long time in advance, the works might not actually be finished, and this is the way things were went I sent my prints off to Australia.

This weird co-presence of me, my works and the prints – for now the physical artworks are in an Australian capital city, yet here I am working on them from my wee village in Scotland. The temptation to edit and change the online media content throughout the exhibition period is so very great as the potential for subversion could provide lots of fun! If it weren’t for the fact that I have to present 3 conference papers, be mother to a 2 year old, & travel back and forth between Scotland, Turkey and Australia during the exhibition, I might well be playing with the media and my audiences minds during the exhibition. As it is, I actually think I need to slow down and do a little bit less if I want to retain my health and sanity.

The logistical realities of creating such works while being split across time, geographical  and online spaces has actually been major stress :  When the works were sent out to Australia I still felt a bit like a fake. It was like some of the works I was sending were empty vessels, knowing that not all of them were complete. This morning I edited the last sound file and uploaded the last bit of html. What a huge weight off my shoulders! Now I feel like I won’t let anyone down. The works are in Melbourne, the online content is up – the last piece of the equation is for my brother (based in Melbourne) to drop of the Android handsets, and for the gallery to connect them to their wifi and away we go! Well hopefully at least, and with days to spare before the exhibition opens.

And, you know, if asked whether I would do to all again, I’d have to answer yes!

Posted on Friday, September 2, 2011 at 10:52AM by Registered CommenterSimone O'Callaghan in , , , , | CommentsPost a Comment

Tumbling Hills 

And now for something completely different. I’ve had my head in tech for a few days while I sort out QR code issues in my work and battle with messy directory structures set up by wordpress on my server. I’ve also been trying to work out matching audio up with source cyanotype imagery and how to display the works with QR codes that will be successful not only as prototypes in an exhibition that is opening in a month’s time, but also to follow through with for my exhibition in Australia at Victoria University’s Foyer Gallery as part of Australia’s Month on Print in September.

It all got me thinking about what other people are doing with cyanotypes, so did an image search and came across the blog Tumbling Hills by artist Angie Rogers. Lots of synergies with my work but freer because she doesn’t seem so strapped in by academia. There are times when the whole phd process and having to think like a researcher are so restricting, focusing on one area for such a long time can get rather tiring and there are times when I just want to go off and explore other art ideas, just get into the studio and make without having to post rationalise or intellectualise what I am doing and how it answers my research questions. Anyway, Angie’s blog has reminded me that there is life after a phd, and these sort of explorations are what I could have to look forward to.

Posted on Tuesday, May 10, 2011 at 10:04AM by Registered CommenterSimone O'Callaghan in , , | Comments2 Comments

The trouble with… 

The trouble with my grand idea of making print based artworks that link via qr codes to digital mobile media is that I need to keep jumping constantly between skill sets. What’s more, the combination of skills needed is quite diverse, and it really doesn't bode well for me encouraging other artists to work in this field. You see, I was hoping that I could forge ahead and show a path to others that wasn’t so scary for artists whose primary medium is not digital one. Now I’m not so sure that is possible… I’m not giving up hope, its just getting tricky.

I can’t say what my primary medium is because really I work whatever medium is appropriate for the artwork I am making at the time and that I have the skills for. This week I’ve been working in the studio creating a few more source cyanotypes; working out domain hosting so that the urls for the codes don't change, getting my head into fantastico (which is a shite interface for installing various things onto servers); been trying to improve some really ugly wordpress templates by editing the CSS files; and re-learning Premiere Pro after not touching it for about 5 years, in which time it feels like 10 new versions have been released and my skills were sorely out of date. Actually the Premiere stuff wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be and thank god for youtube! I learn so much faster watching videos (even ones in Italian!) that I do religiously ploughing through my Adobe Classroom in a Book lessons (even if they are in English!). In less than a day I’ve reclaimed all the old Premiere skills and integrated them into CS5 so feel much better about things. 

Now to tackle learning Sound Booth, which I have never done, but I need to, because some of my prints will only be accompanied by audio. First nightmare I have to unravel is that my audio files are .wma (thanx Olympus!) and I am on a mac and they are unsupported in the Adobe SC5 suite for a mac… aarrrgghh! Nothing can be straightforward can it?

So, I’ve made a rod for my own back trying to be fantastic in very traditional art making processes as well as being at the cutting edge of emerging media/ mobile practices. Not sure I can pull off the fantastic bit, but I’ll try as hard as I can. The actual need for all the different skills is not the hardest thing, it's the mental leaps that one has to make when one is working in different media. For example, things not lasting and degenerating over time in an online world is not such a big issue, comes with the territory, but this type of thinking in a printmaking world is absolutely heinous! One of the joys of print is its archival stability (relatively speaking), and that it is permanent, and I’ve come to think like a printmaker in terms of my own art. How do I resolve the mental spaces of two very different ways of thinking? 

I think that the comment on one of my previous posts about making works with paper that also dissolves over time is an excellent solution conceptually, but as an artist and someone who invests so much energy into things, I’m not sure how to, or even if I have the courage let go like that.

Posted on Tuesday, March 29, 2011 at 07:32PM by Registered CommenterSimone O'Callaghan in , , , , , , | CommentsPost a Comment

A much better day

Today I ditched the process colours and just used colours I liked. I decided that the cyan plate was just far too heavy with far too much detail, so didn’t use it at all, and just used three plates instead. So for in the yellow plate I used a mint green, on the magenta plate I used a sky blue and on the black plate I used a deep purple and I was much happier with the results. I also did a bit of experimentation with just using 2 colour plates as well.

For most of the day I still had troubles registering, until I realise that of course! I had worked out my registration on one side of the my sheet and then turned it over so that the registration marks wouldn’t appear on my print, so the purple (black) plate that was mis-registering because I had forgotten to take into consideration that I had flipped things over. Once I realised, things registered much better. I’m hoping that my run of things-going-wrong has changed to things-going-right.

Posted on Tuesday, November 16, 2010 at 09:42PM by Registered CommenterSimone O'Callaghan in , , | CommentsPost a Comment

Not quite right

My day in the studio creating my 4 colour works was a long one, and at the end of it all I only produced 2 whole prints, neither of which I am happy with. The 4 colour process print is, in a word, horrible! Too much yellow and too much magenta, so very heavy, and not so bluey, greeny, indigo as I had hoped. In fact, after  creating that print, I  hate yellow even more than I already do, because the tones that did go purple then clashed with the horrid yellow. Words can not describe how visually jarring I find that print. I would destroy it only it is part of my phd so the best I can do is hide it away in a drawer and not look at it again. I wouldn’t be surprised if the horrid thing turned me to stone if I dared glimpse at it once more it is that ugly!

Oh yes, and the registration of the 4 colours was also a nightmare and both prints are misregisered. One of the problems was because the press was wound too tightly, and then the masking tape holding my registration sheet to the press bed got caught onto the blanket and pulled the sheet, tangling the sheet and blanket up in the press, and totally mangling my registration sheet and embossing all the creases in the sheet onto the prints, so overall not the best start to multiple plate printing.

The other print I created was not quite as bad, but hideous in its own special way. I’d worked in photoshop to see what things looked like without printing the cyan, and on screen it looked lovely. Not so true in print though - it  looks terrible and makes me feel rather thirsty. Again its that blasted yellow. I just hate yellow so much! The magenta also was a bit strong too.

4 colour & 3 colour prints, plus single process colour prints to check the platesI can knock back the magenta and yellow by mixing ink extender to make them more transparent, but I suspect the plates for each also have too much detail and will grab far more ink of each colour than I would like to see on the final prints. So I am going to experiment with printing the actual colours rather than using the process plates, just to see what happens. Surely if I work with colours that work well together nothing could be quite so hideous as what I made the other day. I’ll also try 3 colour prints just working with tonal ranges for each cololur, rather  than process colours. Though I am getting conscious of the fact that I have been workingin the studio making prints when I should also be getting on creating the digital artefacts which go with the prints, and I also should be writing my paper for the Impact Conference… Tis hard when all I want to do is work in the studio and get to the bottom of how I can convey this sense of luminence.


The recent work that I have been doing in the studio I have felt has been a bit lacking in what I Am trying to achieve in terms of the image quality. I want there to be a luminescence to the imagery. This may be a little impossible because I am sure that what I have in my head, that I am trying to recreate on paper has been tainted by looking at images on screen. In particular I have been seduced by my iphone and how handy it is to show people on the fly photos of the work I am currently doing. I am getting used to seeing my work with a light source behind it.

I know I could easily  go down the path of making works which have light boxes embedded but going back to the materiality of the works, I don’t really want to create, for this series anyway, works which are not paper based. I don’t want to lose the tactile quality of paper, or the relationship that ink has with the paper. Nor do I want to create heavy cumbersome light boxes which in a few years time will become junk. I like the simplicity of a printed artwork without all the electrical gubbins that come with digital works.

So to achieve luminance I  have decided that I need to work with more colours, rather than my current practice in photoetching of just working with one colour. Yesterday I worked in the studio creating 4 plates for a work, though I am not sure how it will all go. I am a bit concerned about registration of the plates, and the fact that no matter how hard I try to keep things clean I get etching ink over everything. One colour is challenging for me in the cleanliness stakes so I suspect I am slightly mad tackling 4 colours. I could have decided to do the works as screen prints, but I decided not to because I can’t get the richness of tone from a screenprint that I can get from photoetching.  Its also the relationship of the ink with the paper. In screenprinting the ink seems to sit on top of the paper, whilst in etching it becomes a part of the paper. I like that,

Anyway, I am just now working up the courage to go and print the 4 plates I made yesterday, and I am so hoping it isn’t a disaster.

4 miraclon plates for next work - CMYK                                                                                                     

Cutting Codes

qr code cut into linoI've been working with the laser cutter in the print studio to see about creating other ways to print codes. I’m still getting used to the laser cutter, and I think it will take me a while before I properly bonded with the beast. I don’t think I have all the settings right yet, and in a print studio I know we are really pushing it to its limits with the odd things we’re throwing into it. So far I’ve been pretty tame and just cut onto 2 types of lino and Japanese ply which is used for woodblock printing. The codes I cut into the lino don’t scan, so I doubt that the prints will, but the woodblock does scan. This is great considering I inversed it so that it would print properly when inked up. This does follow the thinking that since a qr code is really just zeros and ones it doesn’t matter which is dark and which is light as long as one is consistent and there is enough contrast between the two.

Posted on Monday, August 16, 2010 at 11:54AM by Registered CommenterSimone O'Callaghan in , , , , | CommentsPost a Comment
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