Research Point: Experimental Relief Prints

25 & 27/01/17

Research Point: Experimental Relief Prints

Take a look at some contemporary printmakers who use experimental methods to make their prints. What have you found of interest? What new techniques and ideas have arisen in this investigation?

As suggested I accessed the Printmakerscouncil.com website to research and discover some contemporary practitioners and their techniques. There were all sorts of print styles, techniques and forms available to see and was quite overwhelming, so after a few forays I decided to concentrate on the Relief Printing category.

Christina Frances-Crews

Although etching rather than linocuts, the process of developing an idea is relevant. The stages that Christina appeared to follow were:

Theme => Recurrent Elements => Drawing => Collage => Inventive Techniques & Experimentation (not elaborated on) => Printing Process

She says she responds to the unknown element rather than controls results from start to finish, which is a liberating way of thinking.

Sinclair Ashman

Sinclair uses collograph type printing that I have yet to explore. I am attracted by his preference of single, original prints rather that traditional editions. I like the idea of working on a piece of work to bring out its depth and texture rather than faithfully reproducing a number of the same image. This appeals for the freedom of expression it could give.

Jess Buglerjessbugler.co.uk

Jess creates reductive linocuts in very limited editions. Themes of exploring the modern world in its intensity by limiting the editions stops the message or narrative being diluted. Her Syria series is beautiful in its horror, composition and detail. Jess’ Nightwatch series was very interesting in its technique. When I saw the prints I though they looked like hand formed clay heads with the pulling and stretching of the clay to form the shapes. Reading the commentary, that was exactly what Jess had done. She had sculpted and moulded the heads of the Militia Men in Rambrandt’s Nightwatch painting in clay, then photographed them in bright light and created her linocuts from the tonal and textural images. Genius idea.

Her colour palette is limited too and ranges from monochrome to 2 or 3 contrasting colours or tones to give the most impact to each subject as it suits.

Ruth Barrett-Danes2d3dsouth.com

Ruth uses the landscape and nature themes from around her environment. She uses both intaglio and relief methods on limited print editions as the inking up process can not guarantee exact replication across a large edition. Luckily as I didn’t really know the process of intaglio printing, Ruth has put a nice description of her process on her website: The cut plate is inked to include the cut away areas, excess ink is carefully wiped away and then the plate is re-inked for relief printing, this is then printed on to 300gsm damp paper. She says this gives more depth and richness to the print. I am keen to try this method. Ruth often combines mono and linocut techniques too, depending on the effect and image.

These may or may not be particular original ideas and processes but they have given me inspiration to be a little more free spirited with my attempts.

 

Research Point: Advanced and Experimental Relief Prints

06 & 09/01/17

Research Point: Advanced and Experimental Relief Prints

Now look at the work of Clare Curtis or Mark Hearld, both contemporary printmakers, and look closely at how their prints are created. What makes them work? Are there any techniques you could re-use? 

I had a look at both printmakers suggested and had intended to concentrate on Mark Hearld, however, I had another look at Clare Curtis’ work and decided to consider both of them.

Initially, they both use nature predominantly in their work, taking inspiration from the environment around them, although Clare appears to lean towards more of a narrative. Her prints have included a human element with bringing in the suburban and some figurative subjects.

I had a look through the internet searches, however, a lot if not most of her work is recorded on her website. I noticed that there appears to be overlaid transparent colour and almost inconsequential  marks that add interest and liveliness to a scene as a whole. One print I particularly liked, (it is on the page that opens on the previous link), is “Coppicing”. It has a simplification of objects yet a complex composition. Structures in the print pull your eye around it and has many places for it to rest and contemplate as any good image should. The colours are complementary with black/grey dramatic shapes pulling them all together – I see more each time I look at it. Elements are repeated in other prints, once an object is part of a composition it is not discarded but re-used in other scenes e.g. the tree trunk in “Coppicing” appears again in “Woodland” but in reverse, in other colour-ways. One is a linocut, the other is a lithograph. I like the flow of ideas from one technique to another and she says that she often combines techniques within the same image. Colour is used to great effect, particularly complementary colours, which are sometimes muted for subtlety yet still give drama by their juxtaposition. I particularly liked this in the oranges and blues of “Wordsworth’s House” and the pinks and sage greens of “Aeonium”.

From looking at these works of Clare Curtis, I am struck by the mark making, use of apparently unrelated shapes and the simple colour choices that add depth and complexity to the image. Comparing these with my efforts, even with all the planning of Project 8, my images are far too simplistic. I need to make more of the elements of my images with a variety of marks, and also consider the use of less colours. I should make fewer colours work harder for me by overlaying transparent colour and considering which goes next to another. I have also noticed that I tend to avoid the addition of black in my colour images – why is that? I have previously mentioned that I like the outlining in other research and the way that black is used to denote tone, yet I haven’t taken advantage of it myself. Maybe I think too much in flat colour, I should draw on my painting and tonal work to incorporate the black hatching and mark making. I am thinking back to the Monoprinting assignment, where I used templates of vases in different sizes and orientations, overlaying them to make interesting abstract images. I need to bring all these things I have previously learnt to the table and not think in isolation. As they say, I need to mix it up a bit!

Final Print for Project 4

Final Print for Project 4

I also watched a few YouTube videos of Mark Hearld’s work and processes. He, like Clare, uses nature as his inspiration and builds images and designs from motifs he finds around him on his walks in the countryside. Whereas Clare often follows a narrative and has many book illustrations to her credit, Mark has followed a path into design, fabric design being most prevalent.

I found this short film interesting as an insight into Mark’s thought processes and journey. I watched this last Friday and tried, over the weekend, to assimilate the content of this and other films that I viewed. Of course, there are many similar aspects from most printmakers, however, I found it interesting that both Mark and Clare were advocates and practitioners of collage. I haven’t tried much collage myself, apart from at school many years ago, it did however, make sense that these two media would inform each other by the overlaying of shapes, colours and textures. Mark says that he thinks in layers, which I now realise is key to producing interesting prints. Printed images are of course created in layers. Is this why my print images are flat and simplistic, I wonder? Layers create depth and interest – if I think of the flat finished article before I even begin, this must ignore many aspects I could explore to create interest! Maybe I could use collage as a tool to work through ideas rather than just relying on drawing. It is an extension of the back, mid and foreground of any painting composition.

Techniques to Consider

  • Introduce black as a tool for outline, texture and tone
  • Consider keeping elements of an image simple, yet introduce complexity in the composition
  • Draw on previous experience such as drawing, painting and monoprinting to bring interest to a composition
  • Use less colours but make them work harder by overlaying, considering juxtaposition and texture
  • Explore non representational mark making to add life
  • Consider using collage when working through ideas
  • Think in layers rather than a flat image to incorporate depth in an image
  • Let things happen!