Monday, 3 September 2012

A "Yay!" for Printmaker Prue MacDougall

New Zealand Printmakers: A MiniPrint Winner from NZ! Woohoo!: A big congratulations to Prue MacDougall for being one of the winners at the international MiniPrint competition 2012 which was award...

Monday, 6 August 2012

A Work Remembering Hiroshima

Hibakusha/Survivor - Indian Ink Painting 2010

There is an earlier, one-off drypoint version of this composition. I did a lot of post-print painting on it, and was really proud of the finished piece. I made the background a deep blood-red, it had the Genbaku Dome (the Hiroshima Peace Memorial) and a bare tree, faintly in the background. Enola Gay, the plane that dropped the bomb, is fleeing the scene, and I embossed a circle in the centre referencing the Japanese flag. Another embossing of a 1945 NZ coin at the bottom acknowledged the aid given by the NZ J-Force, post war. I wasn't expecting the original to sell, so didn't bother to take photos. Alas, it sold. I missed it, so I made this! 

Moral of the story: Take photos!

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Sunday, 29 July 2012


Our talented crew of twelve team mates from the Museum are currently exhibited at David Lloyd's Gallery (see details below).

This is the piece I'm showing...

Bloodlines Diptych - Drypoint on canvas/Mixed media - Steph Chalmers - 2012

I worked from a stunning portrait of my paternal grandmother to create this diptych. I haven't managed to capture her, but somehow that becomes part of the work. She's always been an enigma to me.
In the drypoint (left) her face looks off kilter as it's a mirror-image.
The red piece is a pin and thread drawing, and even though it's abstracted, it looks more like her.
There must be more of a resemblance between us than I thought because many people at the exhibition opening assumed that it was a self-portrait.

Bloodlines Diptych - Steph Chalmers - 2012
Exhibition Details

Friday, 15 June 2012

Very Early Work

I have a memory of painting a kiwi on brown paper at kindy. I remember standing back and looking at the finished painting with the teacher, and her asking, "tell me about what you have painted?" and I thought, "what do you mean, can't you see that it's a kiwi?"

I did the painting below at age three. Clearly a tree, a kiwi and Santa... thanks to the labelling by a helpful adult.

Tree Kiwi Santa - Steph Chalmers - Aged 3 - c.1982
Mum held on to a good collection of my early work. There are quite a few kiwi.
Here's one tidy specimen sniffing a tree:

The Kiwi is Sniffing the Tree - Steph Chalmers - Aged 3 - c.1982
There are so many gems on newsprint in the box of artwork that Mum kept for me - I could post one a week for several years. Thanks Mum.

Studio Progress

Intaglio Printmaking Press - made by my uncle Martin
We had expert help to help move our press into the studio - thanks so much Marty.

We're still building and organising storage. Emily's framing moulding will soon be off the floor and safely housed in an upright store infront of the small wall on the left side.

Studio in progress - June 2012

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Oliver Jeffers at the Writers and Readers Festival 12th May 2012

First page of my freshly signed copy of The Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers
Oliver Jeffers did a fantastic job of tailoring his presentation to suit the audience, which was full of adorable, wide-eyed children. He was very entertaining and spoke with refreshing candor about his work and about making picture books. From the drawing demonstrations to the making of paper planes, every minute was engaging.
I'm looking forward to his next book, This Moose Belongs to Me, which he laughingly described as "a thinly veiled platform for my political rantings." Love it.

Afterwards at the Book Signing
Em and I stood patiently in line debating which books we should get signed... we had all of them with us but it seemed rude to present him with a pile! I decided on The Heart and the Bottle (above) and The Great Paper Caper.

Oliver Jeffers: Can I make these out to someone?
Me (star-struck): Hi. Um. Nah, that's okay, thanks.
Oliver Jeffers: Will probably be worth a bit more on eBay that way, aye?
Me (in my head): Doh, oh no! That wasn't what I meant! Ah!
Me (out loud): No, they absolutely won't be going anywhere! I promise.

It's hard meeting your heroes. He was so cool. And I was so not.
Writers and Readers Festival

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Brooch Appreciation

I do like a good brooch.

Appreciating our small collection

Left to Right, Top to Bottom:
1. Felt, silk and thread in oval silver ring - by Karen Michaud.
   This one pretty-much guarantees me an admiring comment from a stranger.
2. Anatomical Heart - by Mamas Little Babies bought at The Vault, Wellington.
3. Runaway Girl Medal - by Karen Walker Jewellery
4. Moth - by Lisa West
5. Brooch found in an antique store in Napier.
    It has an odd little house with a fence. The perspective of the engraved image is very disconcerting.
    If anyone knows anything about this kind of brooch, I'm eager to know more.
    Admirers always find this one odd and confusing.
6. By me. Painted plywood. Have not worn this yet.
7. Tiny red butterfly - (not sure of maker) from ArtsPost, Hamilton.
8. Green Caravan - by Lindsay Park. Most popular comment = "cute!"
9. Printed leaf brooch - by Emily.
10. Speechless - by Genevieve Packer
     (the bubble should be empty to show the fabric of the garment it is pinned to... Emily made sweet little printed inserts to go with it).
     We saw Genevieve speak at a Design Symposium a few years back and we've loved her work ever since.
     Loads of great products on her website!
11. Matchstick - by David Mcleod, bought at the Quadrant Gallery, Dunedin.
12. Queerbird - by John Z. Robinson, work available at Quoil, Wellington.
     Em loves to wear this one.

The Broach of the Month Club in association with Masterworks Gallery is an excellent idea.
This project brings together 12 brooch-makers with 12 brooch-wearers.
Wearing an unusual brooch undoubtedly invites people to comment. Broach of the Month Club latches onto this phenomenon, getting wearers to document, and share, their wearing experiences.
The main reason I think this project is so cool, is that it records a life of the artwork, providing valuable feedback for the artists.
We artists are intimately engaged with the things we create, then we let our creations go with a high likely hood that we'll never see, or hear, of them again.
As a curatorial device, this idea adds a level of interactivity and story telling that makes the exhibition more interesting and the individual brooches more desirable. Winning formula!
Oh, and I like the play on words brooch/broach.

Friday, 4 May 2012

I want I WANT MY HAT BACK print

Just wandering around on the internet, I found where you can buy prints from I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen (and many more from other artists)
This is my pick:


That is all.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Table: After Photos

Click link to see 'Before' and 'During' photos

'Plan A' was to restore this table to it's former (wood veneer) glory.. but alas, when I stripped the paint, I discovered the veneer had been damaged quite badly. So, I painted it with Resene Alabaster (Lustacryl Low Sheen). Then, the rest of 'Plan B' was to find some patterned paper to cover the drawers. I hunted for a suitable paper... but nothing seemed right. *Eureka!* I had no plans with that ink drawing from a few weeks back: problem solved!

It's always fiddly to glue this kind of thing, especially when the handles are not removable. I cut the paper over size, cut holes with darts for the handles, and stuck the paper with PVA. Once it was adhered, I trimmed the edges with a sharp blade and coated it with Estapol Clear (waterborne). 

The most difficult thing, by far, was having the patience to mask the black and white areas of the handles. Lots of huffing and sighing happened during that part. Thankfully, Em's pin-striping masking tape saved the day. 

Building Benches

BEFORE - 4th October 2011
AFTER - 14th April 2012

AFTER - 14th April 2012
For most of Easter weekend we were making benches and storage either side of our sink unit in the studio.
The big drawer (right) pulls all the way out so it can be used as a tray to transport art supplies. The panel that covers the hot water cylinder is attached with split battens as we won't have to access it much, and  it was a small way to save on hardware. Our two handles are up-cycled parts from old locks... another hardware saving. 
It took us a-stupid-amount-of-time to suss out exactly how to fit the cupboard hinges, so when we fitted them perfectly the first time I was chuffed!
We used diluted black paint to stain the bench top and sealed it with a couple of clear coats. The finish is exactly what we hoped we'd achieve.

The left side is yet to be completed. We're going to do another small drawer at the top, and we'll make a box on wheels to fit into the cavity below.

Splash-back and above bench storage/shelving also still to be done.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Getting out of town...

 Fresh sea air. Fush 'n Chups. Setting sun. Beautiful day.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Delicious Degustation Dinner

This week, the artistic activity at our house was all about food and party hosting. 
Em had been mulling over the idea of doing a degustation menu for a while, and a double family birthday celebration was a great opportunity to go for it. Happy Birthday Petrina and Lex!


degust verb
taste (something) carefully, so as to appreciate it fully.

degustation noun
ORIGIN early 17th cent.: from Latin degustare, from de- ‘completely’ + gustare ‘to taste.’

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

All Prepped Up...

My current work space - ready to go...
It looked so nice, I thought it was worth a photo.

The paper is Fabriano Tiepolo. I soaked it for five minutes then laid it on plywood, and taped the edges with water-activated gummed paper tape (available from Gordon Harris). This should withstand a good splashing of water, ink and paint while remaining beautifully flat. Will post results soon...

Ooh, have to share... I just won a second folding chair (like the one above) on on TradeMe, for six dollars! I've seen them for around $160 at vintage stores. Score!

Friday, 23 March 2012

Oliver Jeffers: Lost and Found

Images from Lost and Found - Oliver Jeffers - 2006
This book always makes me smile. So adorable. I love Oliver Jeffers. 
I am looking forward to seeing him draw live at the

The boy and the penguin feature in a sequel called Up and Down
Here's a fun trailer for the book: Up and Down on

Lost and Found has been adapted for an animated short film - which is quite an extension of the book and equally adorable. Here is the trailer on

Jeffers' website is worth a visit. He has a shop - I want the Four Dimensional Glasses print.

Shaun Tan: The Bird King and Other Sketches

Front Cover - The Bird King and Other Sketches - Shaun Tan - 2010

Detail of a page from The Bird King and Other Sketches - Shaun Tan - 2010
Shaun Tan is one of my heroes. I've collected his books for many years and was lucky enough to see him speak at the Storylines Festival back in 2007.  
The Bird King and Other Sketches, published in 2010, is a collection of drawings, doodles, observations and trials, straight from the pages of Tan's sketchbooks.
Revealing process and writing about one's approach is a sensitive matter for most artists, let alone opening up the pages of your workbook for all to see! Tan writes openly about his practice and refers to Paul Klee's concept of "taking a line for a walk."
Reading that Tan can feel "utterly uninspired and unreceptive" when staring at a blank piece of paper made me feel so much better!

"There is only one thing to do: just start drawing."

See more at
If you visit, do read his account of learning that he had achieved the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award 2011. It's on the news page. Heartwarming story. A well-deserved honor for a great artist.

Link for this book on

Friday, 16 March 2012

A Birthday Card

A birthday card for Hillary
I made this late at night and the control I lost through my inability to keep a steady hand, I think, made for a better result.
I thought I had dried the indian ink well enough with the hair drier, but alas, it was too thick in places and when I washed over the water soluble pencil the ink bled.
In all the murkiness the lettering didn't stand out, so I added white gesso with a tiny brush.
Maybe not the greatest card ever... but always better than a bought one!
Happy Birthday Hillary.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

The Unlikeness: Another drypoint on cushioned vinyl

The Unlikeness - Drypoint on cushioned vinyl - Steph Chalmers - 2009

I made this work after I saw the Rita Angus exhibition at Te Papa. I had never felt compelled to do a self-portrait but seeing the variety of ways Rita represented herself made me want to complete at least one. I think I got it out of my system.

This work was selected for the National Painting and Printmaking Award 2009.

Detail The Unlikeness - Drypoint on cushioned vinyl - Steph Chalmers - 2009

The ink drawing continues...

Ink drawing in progress - Steph Chalmers - 2012
I don't think it's quite finished yet...

Oh Dear: A drypoint printed on cushioned vinyl

Oh Dear - Drypoint on cushioned vinyl - Steph Chalmers - 2007
This work was selected for the National Painting and Printmaking Award 2007.
The child is based on Jody from the 1946 film The Yearling.

I liked the way the cushioned vinyl responded to the ink... but I have reservations about using it much more because it's a synthetic material. Printing on paper or canvas just feels better. 

I've made several other works to use up my stock of vinyl... which I will find and post soon.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Idiom Work: Stumped.

Stumped. - Drypoint and pen - Steph Chalmers - 2010
I was short on ideas when I made this.

This is another work where I cut the plate to shape - see image below.
The mark making was done with my Dremel. 
After I printed the plate, I did the lettering by hand using a Zig Millenium ink pen.

I'm glad I added the full stop. Definitive.

Drypoint plate for Stumped. - Steph Chalmers - 2010

Idiom Work: An Albatross Around Her Neck Too

Plate for An Albatross... too - Steph Chalmers 2011
Another work using cut-out plates. The girl is teeny tiny. 
I don't know what took longer, cutting out the tiny girl or tying the fine thread around the albatross' neck. 
The albatross looks like a big duck. I think I should have made it white.

An Albatross Around Her Neck Too - Drypoint and thread on paper - Steph Chalmers - 2011

Idiom Works: An Albatross Around Her Neck

Plate for An Albatross Around Her Neck - Steph Chalmers 2011
I cut this plate to shape with a craft knife, it was tricky and threatened to break several times. My Dremel and sandpaper came in handy to clean up the edges. 

After I printed the plate, I flicked the tiny specks of paint on with an old toothbrush.

An Albatross Around Her Neck - Drypoint and watercolour - Steph Chalmers - 2011

Monday, 5 March 2012

Idiom Work: A Fly on the Wall

A Fly on the Wall - Painting on Wallpaper - Steph Chalmers - 2010

Idiom Work: Caught Red-handed

Caught Red-handed - Hand-coloured drypoint with embossing - Steph Chalmers - 2010

Idiom Work: Sitting on the Fence

Detail Sitting on the Fence - Hand-coloured drypoint on paper - Steph Chalmers - 2010

Idiom Work: Letting the Cat out of the Bag

Letting the Cat out of the Bag - Hand-coloured drypoint with embossing - Steph Chalmers - 2010

Idiom Work: Keeping an Ear to the Ground

Keeping an Ear to the Ground - Hand-coloured drypoint with embossing - Steph Chalmers - 2010
A literal illustration of a common idiom.
Nine works exploring idioms were exhibited, along with nine pieces by Emily Rumney, in an exhibition named Cloud Nine, at the La Mezz Gallery in July 2010.

Detail of Cloud One - Acrylic and ink on paper - Emily Rumney - 2010