Margaret Preston (1875-1963) was born in Port Adelaide, South Australia and moved to Sydney in 1885. She showed an early interest in art and began private art classes with William Lister Lister. She went on to study at the National Gallery of Victorian Art School and the School of Design in Adelaide. Preston continued her art studies overseas in Munich and Paris, where she was influenced by the bold geometric work of the European avant-garde. On her return to Sydney in 1919, she became a key figure in the development of Modernist art in Australia. She advocated (worked for) for a distinctive Australian style, based on local landscapes and native flora and was influenced by Modernist, Aboriginal and Asian art.
Preston painted landscapes and portraits, but she is best known for her still life work. Still life allowed her to explore bold designs and dynamic compositions. Additionally, she was a highly creative and inventive printmaker, making woodcuts, linocuts and monotypes, which show her inventive approaches to the Modernist style. She is well known for experimenting with new approaches to printmaking, including printing in black and then hand colouring the image when it was dry. An example of this can be seen (left) in Preston’s woodcut Mosman Bridge, 1927.
Artmaking activity – Hand coloured monotype prints
In this activity, we are going make a black edged monotype print and hand colour it when it is dry. This is a similar technique to Margaret Preston’s hand coloured prints.
Choose an image from a magazine. Tape the image to one side of a pieceof printmaking paper along the top edge.
Use a small amount of printing ink and an ink roller, roll out an even, thin rectangle of ink on the laminate sheet (or laminate surface), roughly the size of your piece of paper. Make sure you leave a clean edge all around the edge of the laminate.
Tape the printmaking paper with the magazine image over the top of the rectangle of ink, with the magazine image facing up.
With a pen or pencil, carefully trace the magazine image.
When you are finished, gently lift up the printmaking paper to see your print.
Remove the magazine image from the back of your printmaking paper and leave your artwork to dry.
Once the ink is dry, use watercolours to hand colour the image.
A4 cartridge paper
Magic tape/acid free sticky tape
Pencil or pen for tracing
Water based ink
Rollers for ink
Laminate surface for inking
Watercolours, brushes and palettes for hand colouring
Image credit: Margaret Preston, Mosman Bridge, 1927, Hand coloured woodcut, Gift of Howard Hinton 1941
This program was funded by the NSW Government.
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