Project 14: Investigating Combination Printmaking and Incorporating Chine Colle Collages – Part Two

26/09 – 11/10/17

Project 14: Investigating Combination Printmaking and Incorporating Chine Colle Collages – Part Two

In this project you will continue with your investigation into combination printmaking by selecting your own mixture of techniques to create a print series.

First of all – hands up to a three-week break through illness and am now finding myself with a pretty tight deadline for two projects. It sounds feasible, yet when developing ideas, deciding which techniques to use and drying times it all starts to crowd in. This may have influenced my decision to be looser in my designs, however, I am also very aware of how long I take to develop an idea and then how restrictive this can be. This time, I plan to be more abstract and more experimental during the process.

Themes

I finally came up with an idea by observing the effect of a round shaving mirror in early morning light, it’s reflective qualities both in image and light, together with the shadow also cast. This made me think of circles in relation to extremes ie extreme heat and cold can both burn, so instead of a straight line with extremes at each end, they form a circle and come together – therefore opposites attract. There is also the eternity of never-ending circles.  As for colours, I was drawn to earthy colours of ochres, siennas pushing towards red ochre/oranges and their complementary of blue to give contrast. To balance circles, we need lines, I thought of parallel lines – things starting and finishing, following a similar path but never meet. Back to balance and that I believe we need balance in all things. These are not heavy political themes but things I sometimes contemplate but have never thought of trying to illustrate before. Of course these are loose symbols and not necessarily obvious to those that think differently to me, this is where I could use text to help explain. I tried not to be too obvious and I wanted to only use two words per image, words that stand alone and together to hint at what I was visualising. I researched some idioms per image of extremes, balance, parallels and eternity – I decided on:

Opposites Attract

Balancing Act

Parallel Lives

Never Ending

Development of ideas in sketchbook 1

Development of ideas in sketchbook 1

Development of ideas in sketchbook 2

Development of ideas in sketchbook 2

 

 

 

 

 

Process and Techniques

First print called Opposites Attract work in progress, several experiments on the theme:

The Never Ending theme was approached in much the same way. Below are the collagraph blocks for the Parallel Lives and Balancing Act themes.

Once I came this far, it was the process that became the challenge. I couldn’t really see lino cuts being the best way forward, particularly for the circles. I decided on using monoprinting masks to build layers of circles in and without squares ie both positive and negative masks.

My main issues became apparent when trying to incorporate the chine colle collage. I decided to use a combination of PVA and glue stick (Pritt Stick as suggested by my tutor). The glue stick was very usable for thicker paper as long as it wasn’t left too long before being stuck down. The PVA was used for thinner papers such as tissue and this was more tricky. I had to keep the application thin and away from the edges to avoid squelching (not sure if that’s a technical term or not?), plus when using masks, it  became obvious that the glue would stick both ways because of the porous nature of the paper. I’m afraid I had to divide the process by sticking the thinner papers down first.

Another problem occurred with subsequent print layers where the paper had dried out. This stopped the ink being taken up so well and was a particular problem with the text masks. Often the entire word would not be successfully printed. I tried re-pressing the print which resulted in smudged lettering, I tried adding more collage and reprinting but had to think of a way to make the ink fill the cut-out text. I then discovered a small water spray bottle, this was a revelation and saved me many times as long as I only partially lifted the print paper to check the result and replaced it exactly. I had one mishap with this where I over-sprayed the paper and it pulled the top layer of the print paper off. Using masks and chine colle took an enormous amount of patience and care, however, I am fairly pleased with the results of the best  prints.

Regarding the “line” based prints, I decided to use collagraph blocks. For straight lines I used a combination of dried spaghetti and thread secured at each end with brass paper fasteners which allowed me to pull the thread tight and straight. For the balance print, the few small circles in the design were cut from thicker paper and stuck down.  As I have mentioned before, proper PVA glue is not available on the island so I use a respectable alternative called Alkyd Sellador. This is very similar, however, it does retain some tackiness, which again, caused a few issues with the collage. I had to ensure that the glue on the print paper side was stickier than the Sellador on the print block side. Often I had to carefully lift the print from the block and use a scalpel to prise the edges of the collage paper from the block, all without smudge the print! All in all, not withstanding the tacky print block, it was more successful to use the collagraph block than the mono print masks. I did return to masks for the text  though. I note that in my sketch book, I had considered using the back drawing/writing technique for the text, however, the text masks worked pretty well.

Below are the prints discarded for various reasons stated in the captions:

Opposites Attract - dislodged print block on registration

Opposites Attract – dislodged print block on registration

 

This was a ghost print of a previous attempt, which looked promising until the block dislodged on registration. I carried on and printed a ghost print of the text after I’d realised, just to experiment. It’s a shame but it still wouldn’t have been the one I chose.

 

 

 

 

 

Opposites Attract - Reprint of text misaligned

Opposites Attract – Reprint of text misaligned

 

This was a contender even with the misaligned text down the edge. In the tradition of going with happy accidents, I pasted some collage paper over the initial text print and then reprinted the word “attract”. This came out a little misaligned, however, it gave the impression of 3D letters, which I liked. I continued and added the blue tissue and copper leaf circles, however, I felt the colours and tones were too similar.

 

 

 

Opposites Attract - Unsure how to proceed

Opposites Attract – Unsure how to proceed

 

This one I still like. The yellow hand-made paper over the entire printed layers of circles, gave it subtly. When I came to print the text, it did not print very clearly so I ran it through the press again, which gave it a blurred effect. I found some lighter hand-made paper and pasted this over the text but this sent the lettering back a little too much. To counteract this, I added the printed dark blue circles. I was pleased with it except it needed something else in contrast and I wasn’t sure what to do next. This one is in limbo.

 

 

Never Ending - smudged ink

Never Ending – smudged ink

 

I was very disappointed when this went wrong. I had carefully added the collage aspects and printed on top successfully. I then saw that it needed a contrast and used the yellow ink to mask in some circular pattern, however, when pulling away the print, I realised that because the previous print ink was still too wet, it had smudged. I did consider continuing with it and using a window mount up to the print but I felt this would be unsatisfactory.

 

 

 

Parallel Lives - collage paper ripped

Parallel Lives – collage paper ripped

 

I was pleased with the outcome of this apart from a novice error with the press.  Forgetting that the collagraph block was thicker than the  perspex mono print block previously used, I omitted to adjust the pressure on the press. I tried to do this mid print but it wasn’t having any of it and on pulling away the print paper, I found that the tissue collage paper had ripped. I tried to tell myself that it added more texture but it wouldn’t wash. I also considered that there was too much dark for the text to print over, so recreated the block with slight adjustments and it worked better.

 

 

Four Prints in a Series

Series of Four Prints

Series of Four Prints

Once the prints are thoroughly dry, I will separate them with newsprint and weight them down to flatten them.  I think on the whole they have been successful and sit well together. I tried to keep the colours consistent although a couple of contrasting elements have helped each be individual but still work together.

Project 14: Investigating Combination Printmaking and Incorporating Chine Colle Collages – Part One

26/09 – 11/10/17

Project 14: Investigating Combination Printmaking and Incorporating Chine Colle Collages – Part One

In this project you will continue with your investigation into combination printmaking by selecting your own mixture of techniques to create a print series.

I had never come across Chine Colle printing before that I was aware of, so it took a bit of sinking in to my brain to get it! I had to read up quite a lot to understand the technique and order of process, because of this, I decided to practice with a simple birthday card design for a friend. I have to admit it never quite made it to delivery as I forgot how long oil based inks take to dry but the thought was there.

I had some small cards and envelopes and lino blocks, so the print was about 10 x 12.5cm on a 12.5cm square card. I also received, for my birthday, a small dye cut machine, called the XCut that can be used as a small printing press for up to A4 size.  This was the first time I had used it and it was great fun and so much easier.

I had already decided to colour the tongue with red ink by hand and I was really pleased with the results for a first attempt.

 

Final print with tongue hand coloured redFinal print with tongue hand coloured red

Final print with tongue hand coloured red

 

After this minor success, I looked out a previously made lino block from the course and made a simple reprint on coloured paper and used gold tissue for the sun. It was simple yet effective. I now felt ready to try to create a new series of print using chine colle – See Part Two.

Montana Roja on red paper with gold tissue sun

Montana Roja on red paper with gold tissue sun

 

Project 11: Making a Test Collage Block

Project 11: Making a Test Collage Block

19-26/04/17

To make your test collage block  you will be using a different material in each of the 16 sections you have marked out. 

My first challenge was to source PVA glue on the island – from the blank faces it was evident that this does not exist here. Luckily, during my abstract classes, we create collages as “sketchbook” work and we use a rough equivalent called Alkyd Sellador which is sold in DIY shops here. It is an acrylic sealant for walls etc but can be used neat as a glue or diluted and tinted as a glaze etc. It pretty much smells like PVA and is perfect for my purpose.

I have already collected many bits and bobs for collage although, I haven’t used many in anger as yet. I also noted that items such as pins and nails had been used in the course book example so went on the hunt for more everyday items to include.

Using a piece of mount board, (the natural wastage of the aperture centre from mounting paintings) as my block, I marked out 16 sections and covered it with Sellador. To make the sections obvious I placed strips of string to demarcate the borders. The items I decided to use as my textures were:

  1. Double stripped fabric trim
  2. Textured knitting yarn
  3. Wide gauge embroidery mesh
  4. Gauze bandage
  5. Ribbon
  6. Bubble wrap
  7. Netting from supermarket fruit
  8. Torn handmade paper with frayed edges
  9. Random buttons
  10. Dress making pins
  11. Strips of dried spaghetti
  12. Porridge oats
  13. Long grain rice
  14. Florists’ Winter Fauna
  15. Gardeners’ potting grit
  16. Broken egg shells

Once these were stuck down in the sections, I applied two coats of sealant (diluted Sellador) and left it to thoroughly dry.

I used heavy weight, hot pressed water-colour paper, torn to size, soaked and blotted as my print paper. Having already decided to try both relief and intaglio type printing from researching contemporary printmakers such as Ruth Barrett-Danes, I made two prints of each kind in both monotone and multi colour ways.

 

The first set of four prints, were taken with black oil based ink (Sakura Oil Printing Colour), two as a relief print and the other two with the block inked all over and wiping off most of the ink from raised collage.

 

The second set of prints was taken after cleaning off the most of the black ink, letting the remainder dry and then resealing. These prints were multi-coloured. The first was mainly different colours on each section with a couple having a mixture and was a combination of relief and intaglio. With the second, I reused the same block and ink but tried to unify the entire block by dabbing a dark blue wavy line of ink across all sections. The third print, again reused the previous inking with an additional lighter blue, but unfortunately, the paper moved during printing and a “double vision” effect occurred. With the fourth print, most of the previous ink was wiped off and then stripes of different colours were dabbed horizontally across the entire block to again unify the sections and return to a relief type print.

 

With the use of the same test block, many different looking prints have been produced by rollering, wiping, dab printing and using black and coloured inks in different ways. This has been a fun and informative exercise for future projects.  The hardest part for me, was having the patience to wait between layers of sealant and glue to dry but this was rewarded by the results. I am looking forward to more experimentation and applying what I have learnt to finished piece of work.

When it comes to submitting my assignment, I think I would choose the following two prints to put forward – at the moment!

The print where the block has a deeper covering of ink with it wiped off from the collage items appears to have more tone and depth and, to me, is more solid.

Second attempt at intaglio printing with the test block thoroughly inked and wiped - sharper print

Second attempt at intaglio printing with the test block thoroughly inked and wiped – sharper print

 

The coloured print, where each section is separated, is cleaner and has a mixture of relief and wiped methods, therefore, I think it shows more of the versatility of the process. It was a tough decision though, as I did like the attempts at unifying the sections with colour too.

Mix of relief and intaglio printing in multi colours from test block

Mix of relief and intaglio printing in multi colours from test block

 

Assignment 3: Developing Relief Prints

25/02/17

Assignment 3: Developing Relief Prints

Task 1 (Project 8)

CRITICAL STATEMENT

In this task I feel I have made progress with understanding the meaning of the phrase Personal Voice. I found a subject that is extremely personal to me and one that, I’m sure, is not uncommon but rarely discussed.  The purpose of this is to raise awareness, understanding and empathy, not to be judgemental or critical.

Process:
My process began with brain storming ideas of the theme of my image. This developed from words to symbols, both generally recognised and personally created to represent feelings and events. As I worked with thumbnail sketches, a common shape emerged that could be applied to both aspects of the theme, simply put, illustrating the positive and the negative views. I made decisions based on the importance of my subject rather than purely on the technique of the print. For example, I felt a diptych was relevant and I needed to include text regardless of the complexity.

Challenges:
Making the registration jig went smoothly, until I realised that I’d matched the lino blocks (I had measured and also drawn around each block to cut the apertures), the wrong way round, forgetting that the two images would be reversed. I thought this would have minimal effect as the measurements were the same but some discrepancies were evident during registration.

The early and light layers of ink printed really well and I was excited to press on with the bolder colours. Unfortunately, the blue and red printed inconsistently and I am unsure as to why. The ink was applied evenly, as was the pressure on the paper. There was an instance where I buckled the paper slightly and lifted it from the block in a small patch, and for some reason I could not get the ink to adhere in this area again.

I also failed to notice, after each clean down, that the hessian fibre on the reverse of the lino had frayed in one spot and this picked up some ink on the next print cycle. Another opportunity for picking up ink smudges came from the cardboard jig itself. The border between the two apertures had a slight crease in it, which also printed on subsequent pulls. Consequently, I was unable to find a truly clean print among any of the attempts.

Registration, which previously had been successful, became more hit and miss however careful I tried to be. The minute differences mentioned above regarding the apertures being the wrong way round, along with some slightly misaligned placing of the paper became exaggerated as a combination.

What went right:
Although the end results were disappointing, I am very happy with the development of the idea in this project. The thumbnail sketches suggested previously by my tutor were invaluable. The method of developing the images on separate sheets of paper and then joining them together helped enormously too. I could see the progression in one go, rather that having to turn the pages of the sketchbook and seeing them in isolation.

The research of recognised symbols inspired shapes and direction and also helped me develop elements to illustrate my own journey in a way that related well between the two facets.

The actual reduction method of cutting and printing went surprisingly well, by carefully considering depth of colour and layers of the image, each cutting stage was documented as a guide in my sketchbook.

I got the text the right way round!

Overall

My disappointment with the final results are centred on the lack of clean prints and the inconsistency of printing the bolder colours. However, the design and development of the images, along with the message I was trying to convey, I think, have worked well. This was a difficult subject for me, and may make others feel a little uncomfortable, if not defensive, yet looking at the design again, I feel it has an aesthetic appeal in its own right outside of that. I hope that with further experience in these techniques, that my results will eventually measure up to the message it represents.

Sample print from an edition of eight

Sample print from an edition of nine

 

Task 2 (Project 9)

CRITICAL STATEMENT

Tools and Implements Used for Experimental Mark Making Test Linocut

Selection of implements for mark making on lino

Selection of implements for mark making on lino

I gathered a wide variety of implements from both tool shed and kitchen. Several of the results were surprising, where some tools, I would have thought should have made more of a definite impression than they did. Observations of each implement’s impression results are below:

  1. Small flat head screwdriver – Most marks were very straight, even if I tried to force a curve the line became angular as there was no flexibility in the blade. It wasn’t possible to make a mark with the flat end of the tool as it wasn’t sharp enough, most marks were made with the corner of the “blade”. Wiggling the screw driver from side to side gave the most interesting pattern.
  2. Tile saw blade – as it is a straight blade, I had to bend it into a curve to be able to make any marks. The blade itself is a fine cylindrical shape with an abrasive texture in order to grind/cut ceramic tiles. It is not sharp as such. By using the  blade curved, it widened the surface area and the tiny abrasive teeth made a set of lines or scratches that could be varied by applying differing pressure. No deep cuts could be made.
  3. Stanley knife – Although the blade is sharp and clean cuts were possible, it was very unwieldy to use. I became aware that it cut better by pulling the knife towards me rather than away – a little disconcerting safety-wise. I thought it would cut out shapes easily but I was unable to gouge out the centre of them and the lines were very fine, with varying the thickness of the lines not possible. It was also too easy to cut right through the lino accidentally.
  4. Dinner fork – This was more interesting to use. I could make the more obvious straight set of marks with the prongs, however, by adding pressure and twisting the fork into the lino, it produced the most successful curves so far. It was difficult to achieve a complete circle but was effective none the less.Thickness of line could be varied also by using the fork flat on or sideways. By twisting the end prong into the lino, nice but small, circular holes could be made.
  5. Assortment of keys – I had what appeared to be padlock keys – like small Yale lock type. These made some scraping marks but did not cut deep. Other keys may have been for bicycle locks, being stubby and cylindrical with a small notch at the end. These made some interesting, circular marks, particularly where the end notches cut into the surface, by pressing and twisting them into the lino. Neither type of key made a deep impression.
  6. Pastry cutter wheel – Strangely, this being the tool that I thought would make some of the most effective marks, made barely any impact on the lino’s surface. Although the faint marks were attractive, I doubted they would actually print at all.
  7. Smaller flat head screwdriver – This was a little sharper than the first screwdriver I tried and made lovely wiggly marks. As this was a little smaller than the first, it was easier to handle. I tried using it as if drawing rather than cutting and it could be useful for textural effects.
  8. Small pair of scissors – Using the tips of the blades and actually “scissoring” the lino made strong impressions that were, surprisingly, not at all symmetrical. I also used one blade only and “drew” with it – slightly curved lines were possible. I also managed to gouge small circles with a single blade.
  9. 7cm long brass screw – I thought I’d be able to draw  and make lines with the pointed end, but it wouldn’t move well in the lino. It was also very uncomfortable to hold as when exerting pressure on the surface the spiral of the screw cut into my fingers. It did, however, make good stabbing marks on its point and at an angle. The screw head also failed to make an impression in the surface.
  10. Zester – After the pastry cutter failed, I didn’t hold out much hope for this. Yet it was very successful and had the best gouging capabilities of all the implements, although I think it blunted quite quickly. It could make light marks similar to fret work patterns, or, by exerting more pressure, make deeper ones albeit for not such a long mark. It could also be dug in and turned to give a set of curves. Using it sideways gave fairly ordinary faint lines in comparison.

Further observations on the results and subsequent use of the more successful tools are noted in my sketchbook, along with some experimental printed images.

Task 3 (Project 10)

CRITICAL STATEMENT

Process:

This time the process began with experimentation of both a variety of surfaces as printing blocks and wood cutting chisels. Effects achieved through this experimentation were revisited after developing the image to be printed, then choices were made of surfaces and tools that were appropriate.

Developing the theme for this print was more of a journey that started with an unknown destination. A dark path was followed for a time until I introduced a song and its lyrics as inspiration. I decided to continue along my original personal voice subject, however, moving in a more positive direction as I realised this is more akin to resolving issues rather than wallowing in negativity.

The use of thumbnails again informed my design development. There were many re-thinks during the process, of which most were tested before being applied to the print run. This was enforced after making a colour choice error on the first print of four. This then became the “printer’s draft” for the rest of the series. Off-cuts of the same types of paper were used to test the more unknown effects before committing to the image itself.

This was by far the most experimental print process I have attempted so far. Three different surfaces were used as printing blocks, both woodcutting and linocutting tools, multi-block and reductive printing, and some rollered, some dabbed ink application techniques were employed. Two different print papers were also used, being heavy weight cartridge and heavy weight, slightly textured Somerset printing paper.

Challenges

Taking into account the lessons learnt from Project 8, the registration jig was constructed with care and the paper size was also carefully measured and marked around the aperture with pencil lines. My challenge with registration this time was the torn edges of the print paper making it difficult to line it up with the pencil line. The registration was generally improved but still not perfect.

I had a mental block with achieving the wispy, meandering lines I wanted, which on reflection, was complicated by the use of the background polystyrene printing block. I tried to create the effect with dab printing, however, this made the lines heavy and clumsy, the opposite of my intention.

I also struggled with the colours of the textured “flock of birds” in the print. This was a shame as the actual effect of the cutting was beautiful, again, I made this too heavy and dominant. This was also hindered due to the poor choice of background.

What went right:

The textures achieved with the foam rubber tile and wood cutting tools were very successful regardless of my wrong colour and printing choices.

Most of the planet shapes and details were effective and I am happy with the colours here.

I also decided, after completing the print run, to use the excess ink and print from the foam tile in a less constrained way and made a couple of prints in brighter colours using a roller only. These were more successful and the texture effects were much sharper. By doing this, it informed how my image could be significantly improved if re-done.

I enjoyed using the Somerset printing paper and would like to use it again.

Lessons Learnt

From the extra couple of prints taken from the foam rubber tile, it suddenly occurred to me that the effect I wanted, could have been achieved by discarding the polystyrene tile and just rolling the ink straight onto the foam tile and taking the print from there. The meandering lines would then have been in place and been lighter and fresher in style. The “flock of birds” could then have been added to by dab printing to increase tone using the same or toning colour, which again would have made the effect lighter and more dream like.

Regarding the registration, this would be improved if I used physical guides of cardboard or off-cut lino to place the paper each time.

Overall

Interestingly, the prints looked more successful in photographs rather than in life. The theme of freedom of thought was entirely lost due to the treatment of the dab printing and the wrong colour choices. The impression is of a dark cloud of despair rather than the uplifting song lyrics I was alluding to. I am pleased that I tried different techniques, surfaces and tools, however, I got carried away and stopped seeing with an objective eye. Once the veil had lifted, it was so obvious where I had gone wrong. I will attempt this again, aiming for significant improvement in the results, before moving on to the next section.

Final print 4 of 4 on heavy slightly textured Somerset paper

Final print 4 of 4 on heavy slightly textured Somerset paper 

 

Additional Comments – 09/05/17

From my tutor’s feedback, I now feel that I was too close to the print result to really assess it clearly. The feedback was positive on the paper used and how it helped the inks work better. Regarding the image itself, it was interesting to see that the elements I perceived as “wrong” or not working were the elements that worked better for my tutor, with the planet shapes considered possibly being too obvious. I actually see that myself now and as I review the prints, I am more positive about them. Instead of re-working for this assignment, I think I will leave this as a moment in time and return to the subject in another project. My tutor is keen for me to explore more text and words in my work and I think this would be an interesting route to explore further.

Reflection

Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills:
I think I had an element of beginners luck with the early projects of this course. With the increased complexity of technique, I have made some basic errors which I think are due to lack of experience. This is particularly prevalent with registration of my prints, I have found that I can struggle with the many aspects involved, ie placing of the print paper, keeping hands and paper clean, thinking through the order of tasks etc. I had to make myself slow down and double-check everything before committing to print, mistakes were often made as I pushed myself to do a little bit more before taking a break. I also had struggles with consistency of the printing of the inks, strangely, this was more obvious when I used my oil based inks. I have found a limitation in the availability of materials on the island, so have had to become more experimental and use paint to print with. I have found a block printing medium that can be mixed with acrylic paint that has vastly increased my palette of colours. The technicalities of different inks and papers are something I need to learn and this, I feel, can only be done by making observations and mistakes. I am learning as I go and although I can become despondent and disappointed with my results at the time, later, I often notice valuable lessons that inform my subsequent attempts. I am becoming more comfortable with designing my prints, trying to think in layers, sequencing my cutting and printing carefully, and fully exploring the composition until I am satisfied with it. I am not a natural colourist and this requires more practice. I am currently attending a locally tutored course in abstract painting and we focus on colour, its relationships and importance of place. I struggle with this, however, it is very helpful and gradually, I hope to improve this skill.

Quality of Outcome:
I feel that I present my work coherently and to the best of my ability at the time. That said, I feel very much a novice in the technicalities of printmaking at present and this can only improve with practice. The actual physical presentation and realisation of my ideas from a skill point of view are disappointing to me, however, I am constantly reviewing and learning from my mistakes. I hope to improve against this criteria in time and with experience.

Demonstration of Creativity:
I believe my sketchbook work is crucial to achieving good results in quality of outcome. I begin with a vague idea, brainstorm from the idea, discarding nothing to start and then bringing the dominant themes together, narrowing down my selections. I make judgements all along this process, making choices, re-thinking shapes and colours, experimenting and making drafts before I settle on the “thing”. Even then, I try to keep my mind open for accidental and evolving ideas that may improve the outcome. Some things may not be appropriate for that specific project but are noted for future ones. With regards to my personal voice, I feel confident that I have had an epiphany – with project 8, for example, the emotive subject matter was extremely personal to me. I also found, once I’d got into my subject, that the ideas and symbolism I required to illustrate the concept flowed easily. I was able to recognise evolving elements that connected with each other and clearly related to my subject. It was a cathartic and therapeutic experience that I am convinced is the beginning of a personal journey.

Context:
I feel that I am strong in personal reflective learning and that I can express myself well in that regard. Being self-critical and analysing my progress informs my choices and judgements for progression.  I enjoy researching other artists and now printmakers, and learning from their working practices and processes. From where I may have made cursory reviews of others’ work, I now look more deeply into how they express themselves and their message, as well as techniques and materials used.

In general, although feeling out of my depth regarding printmaking skills, I think I have grown in other ways that have improved my capacity for creating ideas and implementing concepts overall. I am feeling positive and am looking forward to learning more.

Project 10: Experimental Relief Prints

Project 10: Experimental Relief Prints

30/01 – 23/02/17

By now you will have gained experience in making relief prints in one, or several colours, and in the multi-block or reduction methods. You have also used linocutting tools and experimented with mark making from other implements and tools. With this experience in mind you now have the opportunity to develop an experimental relief series.

Experimental Surfaces

I struggled at first for what to use, however, when floor tiles were mentioned in the course notes I knew we had some surplus black foam rubber type tiles that are used for gym floors etc. The upper surface had a checker-plate raised design so I used the underneath which was fairly smooth considering it had been previously used.

Foam rubber floor tile upper surface

Foam rubber floor tile upper surface

Foam rubber floor tile under surface

Foam rubber floor tile under surface

 

 

 

 

 

I then found some cheap and cheerful polystyrene sheets in various sizes and shapes. I was also keen to try a wood cut, however I couldn’t find anything suitable. I then found an old lino block that had been stuck to a block of MDF, so I used the reverse of that.

A4 size polystyrene sheet

A4 size polystyrene sheet

MDF block 5 x 4"

MDF block 5 x 4″

 

 

 

 

 

Cutting Tools

This was also a bit of a challenge. There are a couple of art shops on the island, I’ve only found one so far. They had a good selection painting and drawing materials but printmaking was a step too far. As I was after, in my fantasy, some wood carving chisels, I tried local DIY stores but they only sold “big boy” chisels. Despairing I ventured into a huge Chinese bazaar which had anything and everything you didn’t know you needed, including some wood carving chisels in a set of ten. Admittedly not top quality but I grabbed two sets anyway in case of breakages. These I numbered for easy identification.

Woodcutting chisels of various sizes and shapes numbered 1-10

Woodcutting chisels of various sizes and shapes numbered 1-10

 

 

 

 

 

Experimental Mark Making and Test Prints

Not wanting to blunt my lino cutting tools, I decided to stick with the wood chisels on the various blocks I had chosen. I also thought it would be interesting to see what the same tools would do with different surfaces.

My full notes on this exercise on are page 37 of my sketchbook, however, below are photos of the test prints and results I observed.

Foam rubber tile:

Results: Pleasantly surprised, the ink printed consistently from the tile, the marks were clear and had a pleasing softness at their edges. A good and wide variety of marks – will use again I think.

Polystyrene sheet:

Results: This was surprisingly effective too. However, there was minimal control over the cutting due to the nature of the polystyrene being made up of particles that would shed easily and unpredictably. This may be useful as a first layer in a light colour to introduce a textured ground.

MDF block:

Results: The block resisted the ink a little, so it was important to ensure good coverage before applying the print paper. Although it was virtually impossible to see the  marks made before applying the ink, they actually printed well and clearly. If I was using MDF again, it may be useful to colour the surface before cutting to fully see what marks are being made.

Development of Image

Development of ideas for experimental relief image Sketchbook page 38

Development of ideas for experimental relief image
Sketchbook page 38

I followed quite a journey before deciding on my theme for the image of my experimental relief print. I returned to my thoughts on female misogyny and batted around a few ideas in my sketchbook. In the current political climate, there were many examples for inspiration, particularly in the US. There, on one hand, it is one of the most forward thinking cultures in the western world and on the other, is so archaic it is almost comical, if it was not so terrifying.

 

 

Development of ideas for experimental relief image Sketchbook page 39

Development of ideas for experimental relief image
Sketchbook page 39

One thought I tried to stick with, was to avoid being overly representational. This would just be too obvious, I needed to think of shapes and images that symbolised my thoughts. I metaphorically travelled around the world, considering differing cultures and their attitudes to women and back again. I began to settle on the life followed by men and women, considering circles and curved lines to denote the feminine and squares and straight lines for the masculine (thumbnails page 39 of sketchbook).

 

 

Development of ideas for experimental relief image Sketchbook page 40

Development of ideas for experimental relief image
Sketchbook page 40

I touched on the perception that men have shaped the world for centuries and by that very fact have also influenced how some women perceive others of their sex. Some still consider the indoctrination they have been brought up with as the way forward and others want to push these barriers over and create, construct and manage their own futures. From this huge subject, I tried to narrow down a concept as a beginning for my explorations, which could easily last a lifetime! My ideas followed along the lines of freedom of thought as distinct from freedom of speech – what one says does not necessarily reflect one’s thoughts. Freedom itself, is I concluded, the basis of all of this. Freedom to be who one wants to be, if not physically possible (because of culture, upbringing, limitations of wealth or education etc), then freedom to dream. There are perceptions of freedom and it can mean different things to different people. Following from my earlier thumbnails I morphed into illustrating these perceptions as different “worlds” or virtual planets that are loosely connected to each other. I also thought of the song “Feeling Good” (A Newley/L Bricusse 1965) and my favourite performance by Nina Simone – I played this and honed in on the lyrics:

Development of ideas for experimental relief image Sketchbook page 41

Development of ideas for experimental relief image
Sketchbook page 41

“Birds flying high,
You know how I feel
Sun in the sky,
You know how I feel
Breeze drifting on by
You know how I feel
It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day
It’s a new life for me
and I’m feeling good.”

From this uplift in mood, I decided to try to concentrate on positives within my concept – it would be easy to drag myself down by focusing on how bad things could be. This will not improve anything, positive thoughts create solutions not problems. This is how I feel I should take this forward into my ideas.

There were many revisions during the development stages, deciding on scale and sizes, positioning etc plus the order of printing.

Printing Process

I began with my basic ideas of using two printing blocks initially:

1 polystyrene to make a ground with texture marks from its natural surface

2 foam rubber tile to create a representation of linking the planets and a flock of birds flying freely

As I worked, I realised that I needed a separate print block for the planets themselves that would give me a stable surface to cut the spheres and the details within them. I decided to return to lino and lino cutting tools for this, using a reductive technique to build the design.

Even during printing, there were re-thinks and revisions along the way that have been documented and dated in my sketchbook. I made several print dabbers to build the tones and marks rather than relying on rollering on the inks. I also wanted to make each print more individual by using the dabbers as this appealed to me after my recent research into contemporary printmakers. I decided on a small print run of 4 as the method was becoming more complex and I wanted to reduce the margin for error.

Due to my recent difficulties with registration, I created a jig from cardboard and was meticulous with my measurements for the aperture and all three printing blocks. I also carefully measured my printing paper, of which I decided to try two different types. Two prints were on thick cartridge paper and two were on thick, slightly textured Somerset printing paper. I had not used the Somerset before, and was interested in the outcome. After cutting all the paper to size to allow a margin of 6cm each side and 6.5cm top and bottom, I had off-cuts that I intended to use to test pieces for the various effects I was attempting.

I also decided to use water-soluble inks that I had, in conjunction with acrylic paint mixed with acrylic block printing medium. As this was supposed to be experimental, I thought “nothing ventured, nothing gained”.

As shown in the above gallery, I changed my mind from having merging red/blue interconnecting lines between the planets after my first print. This effectively made the first print obsolete, however, it still had a valuable role as a test bed for subsequent prints and I continued to take it through all the printing stages, making evaluations and changes as it progressed.

After completing the images, which as intended, were slightly unique from each other, my initial reaction was disappointment. Having had the theme of freedom of thought as inspiration, I felt that the final results looked far from free. I didn’t like the black/grey of the bird flock and the interconnecting lines were too heavy rather than loose links between worlds.

Due to my despondency regarding the final prints, I decided to finish up by running off a couple of prints from the foam block using the left over inks and bit of ready-made copper colour. This was a reaction to very considered way I had worked and was actually very freeing as intended. I used rollers in a haphazard fashion to make blocks of colour, after applying a base of yellow ink across the entire block. Having rollered the inks on this time, I found that the paper adhered well to the ink and peeled off the block with a little resistance that felt good and secure – a satisfying feeling!

I enjoyed this experimental play and it proved invaluable in a way that I will cover in my assignment self critique.