Wednesday, 20 March 2013


An icon of Britain and probably the most famous timepiece in the world, Big Ben towers over that infinitely less reliable institution and seat of British Government, the Houses of Parliament. Famously regulated by the adding or taking away of pennies to its mechanism Big Ben is used all over the world as a symbol for marking the new year.

The British economy is likewise watched the world over and regulated by the adding and taking away of pennies. Once a year the press gets into a lather of speculation and the public into a stupor of indifference whilst those MPs not too inebriated to leave the duty free commons bar trundle into the chamber with all the exuberance of a gang of stockbrokers visiting a strip club.

The Budget is presented by the Chancellor of the day live on national television with all the gimmicks and showmanship he can muster. The MPs harrumph and guffaw appropriately, the heavyweights of the government squeeze in around him cosily and a jolly old time is had by all.

It is of course a total sham. The Chancellor is picked for his maleabilty capabilities and has as little knowledge of how the economy actually works as a sea cucumber does of quantum physics. The average MP doesn't know his GDP from his RPI and the whole thing is cobbled together from stolen school maths exam papers and whatever can be retrieved from the hard drives of rusty old Civil Service computers after the vice squad have finished with them.

The penny slapped on a pint of beer and the penny "slashed!" from the litre of petrol will make the next day's tabloid headlines and the obscure, barely mumbled "reform" of XYZ duty that will actually crap all over the average person's disposable income will not be discovered or unscrambled until the weekend Budget Special pull-outs. By which time England will have been thrashed at a sports event and some celebrity will have climbed out of a car with no knickers on, commending the budget to the dustbin.

The whole event is really just a chance for those who can be bothered, to watch their local MPs reacting in the glow of publicity radiating around the Chancellor; raising a querulous eyebrow, frowning speculatively, looking outraged and generally hamming it up whenever a camera comes in range. This is in stark contrast to everyday parliament "live" on television which consists usually of some obscure geriatric backbencher droning away interminably surrounded by a "doughnut" of wannabes, the remaining half a dozen MPs sleeping off last nights excesses on the plush green benches.

The Budget is like a cut-away window to the intricate inner workings of a stately grandfather clock - the glitter of wheels whirring away conveniently disguising the fact that the rest of the case is just a pretty empty box filled with a old rope and swinging lead.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Monet, Monet, Monet - its a rich man's world...

As the winter drags on and the coins freeze together in people's pockets, Ryepress is having to make some radical financial decisions! High street shops are having a pretty tough time of it and, galleries, being bottom of the food chain get the spiky end of the stick. Sitting huddled over the halogen heater in the studio it has been like a Kamikazi pilot's reunion supper - very few turn up!
So, not to be left behind in the dust and chip wrappers by John Lewis and all those big chains who enjoyed bumper christmas profits flogging sparkly touchscreen gizmos I have laid my paints, pencils and prints aside for a while and have been instead punching the pad and pushing pixels. The Ryepress website has been given a thorough going over and I have been exploring new ways to eke a living out of the ether. 

An interesting article on affiliate marketing from the Guardian caught my attention and I have joined several programmes namely Amazon Associates and Affiliate Window and have been experimenting with adding links etc to my various sites. The idea is you incorporate ads or links from your site to stuff they do or sell and if anyone buys anything you get a commission.

It may not make me rich quick but it might make me poor slow!

Thursday, 21 February 2013

B*** me! its now nearly five years since I posted anything on this site! Well... dust off the cobwebs and the pigeon crap. I'm back! Since that last post I have done buckets load of new work including a load of Nudes  - (that'll wake a few of you up!) Starting with this one,,,,

Fallen Angel ....(Red)

It has been a while since I wrote anything but my partner has just started up a blog  and I thought it was about time I re-surected this one! My Information site about Printmaking is going great guns and the new gallery is ... hanging on so its about time I filed you all in!

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Demi Moore and Demi Johns

Not to be confused with...

Ok so this is nothing to do with with Demi Moore,but what the hell! it makes a good blog title and has probably caught your attention! By the way I adore Demi Moore (she makes me want to Roger Moore - but I digress...)

Have just purchased 5 ltrs of Dutch Mordant and in desperate need to decant it from its plastic bottle to something less corrode able I dug out a couple of traditional old glass Demi Johns . These are still available from home brewing suppliers on the internet although they are dying out. Holding a Gallon (the meaty UK version) This will at a pinch hold 5 litres - I added any surplus to my old supply to give it a bit of oomph.

I would NOT recommend using a rubber of cork bung in this as the will crumble away in a relatively short time. Glass decanter stoppers can be found at most junk shops - the decanter breaks easily and the stoppers are usually solid enough to take a few knocks - and pretty enough to be kept. A chip or too won't matter and wrapping the stopper in an old plastic carrier bag should insure it is airtight enough.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Ryepress Gallery and Etching studio

Ryepress has now opened in the centre of Hastings old town. Situated in the well known Retro shop in Hastings High street this new print studio and gallery joins a growing collection of galleries in what is fast becoming East Sussex’s newest centre for the arts.

With the eponymous Rye press now installed, the studio will soon be featuring periodic etching demonstrations, with a unique opportunity to see the process in action and buy Colin Bailey's limited edition prints of Hastings, Rye and the East Sussex coast straight from the press.

Colin will be holding printing demonstrations in the etching studio throughout the summer. Please watch this space for details.

The Ryepress Gallery and etching studio will be officially opening on 21st June and from then on will be open

THU - MON from 12.00 - 6.00

Monday, 12 May 2008

DO try this at home! 2nd Bite: ACID!

The scariest part of etching is undoubtedly the acid! Endless films featuring bubbling, steaming bottles and beakers brandished by babbling mad scientists has given acid a bad image. YES! it is dangerous and should definitely be handled with care, especially at the mixing stage. NEVER add water to acid to dilute it - it will heat rapidly, probably spit and possibly explode. ALWAYS dilute acid by adding it slowly to cold water and ALWAYS in a well ventilated room with running water at hand in case of spills.

Nitric acid, which when diluted 1 part acid to 7 parts water gives a perfectly adequate bath for either copper or zinc ( do not use for both as the fumes can be dangerous) is a fast working solution, ideal for beginners, classes and experimental work. It bites vigorously and aggressively and can quickly lose its potency. It also tends to undercut and move sideways making close fine lines and hatching difficult to bite deeply. It tires quickly and timing can be difficult.

Dutch Mordant is an ideal mixture for Copper and can be used for zinc. It bites evenly and slowly, straight down and is very controllable. It slowly turns a bright turquoise with successive use and this can be accurately used to gauge its age and therefore strength.

Ferric Chloride is used for copper. This bizarre solution is, I believe, more of a salt than an acid (I'm actually not too hot on the chemistry of all this!). Looking suspiciously like Worcester sauce it corrodes the plate, leaving a sediment which can impede its action on fine lines unless the plate is suspended upside down in the solution. It will stain anything it comes in contact with a rusty yellow and a few unnoticed spills can reduce anything metal to a crumbly biscuit texture in a frighteningly short time (I have lost a metal bath this way!)

Biting Times

This is the area where the experience bit kicks in. How long should you leave a plate in the acid? The only real way of finding out whether a plate has been properly bitten is actually to clean it off and print it! I have seen many students ruin days of elaborate drawing by removing the plates too early and discovering their etching is a mere spidery faint ghost of what they wanted, or too late and finding that the subtly rendered tones they were hoping for have merged into one muddy, turgid black mess. Overbiting a plate will not just simply make it darker; in some cases fine, close hatching will merge and the resulting open area will have no texture to hold the ink - resulting in pale dusty looking "bald" areas with hard black edges.

How quickly, and deeply the acid bites is a matrix of several different variables:

Age of the acid - Fresh acid will have a relatively aggressive initial phase. Older acid will have a more sustained but slower bite

Room temperature - Acid reacts quicker the warmer it is and in doing so will heat up even more. Allow anything up to 25% longer for cold acid.

Area of metal exposed - An evenly distributed and elaborate drawing will bite quicker and more evenly than a drawing with heavily worked areas and large unexposed areas; the acid will also be "attracted" to the heavily worked areas in preference to individual lines or details.

How long the plate has been worked on - No-one works in a sterile environment and so the older exposed lines will have been in contact with the air for longer. They will have oxidised or have attracted grease from the air or hand. This will mean recently drawn areas will bite quicker and deeper. A solution of vinegar and salt carefully dabbed over the plate with a cotton wool ball will freshen the older lines somewhat.

A formula for achieving an set number of evenly spaced tones:
I used to have a spreadsheet which I am currently trying to resurrect which worked out the exact timings for an adjustable number of tones. I will make it available eventually! (I am presently trying to convert a spreadsheet on my old Psion3a to Excel.... aaargh!!)

In the meantime here is the timing I generally use. In principal it adopts the same mathematical progression as camera shutter speeds or f stops.

1a Initial sketch with simple tones ; SOFT GROUND, Dutch Mordant on Copper - 30 minutes and remove ground

2aSecondary drawing with shadows and more detailed mid tones : SOFT GROUND, Dutch Mordant on Copper - 1 hour and remove ground

Apply coating of hard ground, smoke and do not remove between bites.
HARD GROUND, Dutch Mordant on Copper working from darkest black downwards:

1b First Bite Black - 2 Hr (Total 4 Hr)
2b Then: Darker shadows - 1 hr (Total 2 Hr)
3b Shadows - 30 min (Total 1 Hr)
4b Mid - 15 min (Total 30 min)
5b Light - 8 min (Total 15 min)
6b Light 4 min (Total 8 min)
7b Lightest 4 min (Total 4 min)
8b White

Giving a total of 8 tones including White with a total of 4 Hours biting time
Each tone is double/half the time of the next
Hatching can be "interlaced" to create intermediate tones

Whilst the initial bite and lightest bites may seem extremely separated, remember that as you complete each succesive tone, more and more of the plate is exposed, effectively accelerating the action of the acid.

I always think of acid as working like a group of hungry kids being let loose on an empty sweet shop; swarming around the brightest and stickiest sweets available and devouring them ravernously until too full to move!