T1-MMT-P4-p1 Initial experimentation in printing

In parallel with researching artists using monoprinting I’ve been researching techniques and materials. There’s a lot on the internet, but I’ve found some videos by Scott Kolbo of Seattle Pacific university (eg https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BvwtAeWIwVM) particularly helpful, as well as visiting the blogs of OCA printmaking 1 students.

During the week I went into the art supply store confident I knew the oil based inks I wanted, and after a long session with their print guru came out with something quite different – Akua Intaglio Ink. With a range of modifiers to adjust the consistency they seem very flexible. They are soy and water based but not water soluble – clean up is soap and water, no solvents. They don’t contain dryers, so you get a long working time. They don’t form a skin in the jar so much reduced waste. The inks were developed with a major focus on safety. There’s lots more on their website, including yet more video demos – http://www.akuainks.com/akua-intaglio.

This weekend was an extended “getting to know you” session. I used white 110 gsm cartridge paper (A4) and really just wanted to get colour onto the paper. The printing plate is a piece of etching plastic, about 15 x 24 cm.

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Print p4-1

Print p4-1

Print p4-1
Violet with a couple of drops of blending medium.
A quick sketch of my desk lamp using the end of a paintbrush. Some wiping with paper towel to create highlights on the lamp, and blotting with crumpled towel around the top for general texture. Rubbed by hand to print.

Light and blotchy. I need to be careful of dust and fluff in my work area.
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print p4-2

print p4-2

Print p4-2
Violet with a small amount of blending medium. Rolled a few more times than the previous print, looking for more colour.
A print of my hand (wearing a glove). Used a small brayer to print.
Still splotchy in the background and I think there are roller marks. Still some fluff as well. Given I’m looking for textural interest rather than a “good print” per se these flaws aren’t critical, but I would like to develop some control.
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print p4-3

print p4-3

Print p4-3
Violet, around 50% transparent base and more blending medium than previously.
Marked using a paintbrush end, fingers, paper wipes dabbed and rubbed.
I used the Ezicut craft roller to print. This doesn’t have a height adjustment – the rollers are a fixed distance apart, so I’ve been playing with different base boards and number of layers of wool quilt interfacing (my “print blanket”). There is a definite plate mark on this.
The colour is a bit more even. There’s a kind of pooling effect in the top right corner where I wiped with my finger and pushed ink into thicker splodges. There are a few fluff blotches and the paper around the print is very messy and smudged. I need to work more neatly.
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print p4-4

print p4-4

print p4-4 detail

print p4-4 detail
Click image for larger view

Print p4-4
This is linen, the printed area around 37 x 29 cm.
According to their website, “Akua Intaglio Ink dries by absorbing into the fibers of the printmaking paper”. So I used the area where I’d been rolling out the inks to try printing on linen. It was pre-washed, so no sizing or spinning oils. The spun fibres might be less absorbent than cotton fibres in rag paper, but worth trying.
Three days after printing the ink felt dry, but easily rubbed away on to my fingers. I ironed it between sheets of baking paper, and there was minor rub-off of the ink onto the paper. Rinsing in cold water produced a small amount of colour run off, and hand washing in hot soapy water turned the water purple. However the hot and cold rinse water was clear and there was no sign of rub off when I ironed the fabric dry. There is no perceptible colour transfer onto my hands even when I rub quite hard.
My working theory is that not all the ink was absorbed. Unabsorbed ink rubbed off easily, and came away from the fabric in soap and water (the recommended clean-up for akua inks). Now the unabsorbed ink has been removed the colour is more stable.
I cut the fabric in two before ironing and washing. In the main photograph above the untreated fabric is on the left. The colour is definitely darker than the washed fabric. In the detail photo you can easily see the marks I made in the ink before printing.
At this stage I don’t intend to use printed fabric like this in washable items such as clothing. However any rub off would restrict other use of printed fabric, staining tools, transferring where it wasn’t wanted and so on. This test suggests I will be able to use the inks on natural fabrics for general (non-washable) creative works.
Allowing longer absorption times could well reduce the problem and the need for washing. I will try to remember to retest the untreated side of the linen in a few weeks.
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print p4-5

print p4-5

Print p4-5
Crimson red, with some of my best rolling.
There’s scratching (chopstick?) and lower down a small strip of hessian was pressed into the ink and removed before printing. Top right a piece of lacey ribbon was left on the plate as it was pressed.
I’ve continued experimenting with the precise sandwich of materials to go through the press. Here it was too heavy, and the lace was embossed almost to the point of cutting through the paper. Areas I didn’t texture are almost flat in colour, so my technique is improving. On the other hand there is smudging around the edges, including a hint of blue on the lower right edge where I hadn’t cleaned the plate thoroughly.
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print p4-6

print p4-6

Print p4-6
This is a full A4 page, picking up the area where I rolled my ink. The background suggests I need to keep working on my ink rolling technique – were those improvements wishful thinking?
I like a lot of the marks on this page. There’s a lot of energy there. I used a hard bristle paint brush, chopstick, cocktail stick, cotton bud, stencil brush twisted to create a circle, possibly a little paper towel.
I like the variety, for example in scale of lines, thin to quite thick.
This is the sort of thing I am looking for.
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print p4-7

print p4-7

Print p4-7
Hansa yellow
A new combination of similar tools, still trying to fine-tune a base method.
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print p4-8

print p4-8

Print p4-8
A first attempt at colour mixing – hansa yellow and violet, which sounds like tempting mud but I find generally a really attractive mix.
First I rolled over the entire plate in yellow. Then a tiny amount of violet was mixed into the yellow ink and rolled around 80% of the way up the plate. It looked a little chunky so I changed track. Instead of mixing before rolling I decided to mix colours on the plate.
The bottom part of the plate was wiped clean, then more uneven wiping moving up the bottom third of the plate. Violet was rolled on, covering the lower part of the plate and then encroaching unevenly on the yellow.
I cleared spots with swirls of the stencil brush and noticed the colour being picked up on the brush, so I tried moving colours between zones. I also used a chopstick to create lines up the plate.
I really like the colour work and the overall feel of this plate. The chopstick carried violet up and deposited it unevenly, on the curves like a river silting up. I would prefer a cleaner look. There’s an interesting effect towards the bottom where spots of yellow have a little border of heavier violet around them. Perhaps there’s a viscosity type thing working, where the yellow actually pushes the violet around a little. I’ll need to watch for similar in the future and see if I can exploit it.
Altogether this is one of my favourite plates. Three simple ideas – colour mix, swirls and lines – create interest, variety and movement without the frenzied mish-mash of some of the other experiments.
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print p4-9

print p4-9

Print p4-9
This is the ghost of the previous print. That is, the same plate was printed again without adding more ink. It’s faint – most of the ink was picked up in the original print – but the diffused, misty look could be just what is needed in the right context.
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print p4-10

print p4-10

Print p4-10
Ultramarine blue.
The mark-making was influenced by my research on Rebecca Jewell (18-October-2015), using feathers.
Top left the “feather” marks were made using a small bristle brush. The middle feather was using a chop stick. The third shape was an actual feather, left on the plate during printing. It acted as a resist and the large white area unbalances the page. I left it like this because I really like the wispy tendrils towards the bottom and wanted to remember them.
Lower left I had some pieces of plastic fruit bag. Even though the holes in the mesh bag were quite large the ink didn’t print through when pressed through the ezi cut machine. Seeing this when I peeped in at the corner before removing the paper from the place, I took out the mesh and pressed again on that corner this time with a round bamboo brayer, getting the patterning you see here.
The plate shows poor rolling of ink, however I like the different marks made. I’m also pleased to be manipulating the print during the process, gaining more confidence and control.
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print p4-11

print p4-11

Print p4-11
This is the ghost image of the previous print, however this time I rolled on the special release agent sold by Akua. The resulting ghost has more ink and a watery effect. I was hoping to get more of the paintbrush marks, but they are very faint. The overall effect is rather flat and uninteresting.
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print p4-12

print p4-12

Print p4-12
This is a ghost of the ghost and is actually more interesting. There is more variation, giving interest. The lower feather has some great detail and the heavy outline pops. The ink has broken up and looks made up of small dots, reminiscent of a pointillist painting. Perhaps it’s the feather, but I think of Seurat’s Young woman powdering herself.
This is a great effect, and potentially very useful if I can replicate it.
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print p4-13

print p4-13

Print p4-13
All these prints are from the same one feather, with no ink added since it was used as a resist in p4-10. It did have some release agent rolled onto it. There are also a few prints from the fruit mesh.
I like the sense of depth created by the different strengths of print. I also like the lines of the feather, the way space is broken up.
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print p4-14

print p4-14

Print p4-14
This was me trying to be edgy. My work area for messy things is a lean-to garage which happens to have a very roughly troweled concrete floor. I used my smaller, older roller to lay on the ink and a bamboo baren to take the print.
I was disappointed at first, as it’s much more speckledy than I’d hoped, but it’s grown on me. I get a sense of not-quite-chaos, of lines that you can only see from the corner of your eye.
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print p4-15

print p4-15

Print p4-15
Having accidentally dropped a dirty glove in the ink rolling area, I was intrigued by the sharp patterning where the folded plastic picked up ink. Naturally I dropped the glove a few more times and took a print using the bamboo baren.
The texture produced is interesting. It reminds me of a thin sheet of ice breaking up. This could be useful, although I might want to cut up the glove first as it’s quite a distinctive shape.
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print p4-16

print p4-16

Print p4-16
The very last of the ink was rolled out and patterned using a plastic palette knife.
This is quite a good pattern as it stands. I’d also like to try using the marks in a line like a path, almost a series of arrows showing the way.
I’m quite pleased by all the incidental prints. They arose from a frugal mindset, but it’s good to break out of the rectangular bounds of the plate. Other ways would be to ink and lay on another element that goes over and off the plate, or just to cut a new plastic plate in a different shape. Multiple concurrent plates – would there be any point in that?
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Reviewing this introduction I would like much more control over the amount of ink I use and how I roll it on. I’d like a base, reliable rolling system that I can vary as I want. There’s also a lot of experimentation to be done with the transparent and blending mediums, gaining control of the colours I print. Plus of course colour mixing. I only have the inks shown above, but there are more in the range if there’s something I just can’t mix.
I’m getting cleaner in my work methods, but there’s plenty of room for improvement.
All that, without even considering the mark-making or any kind of composition.
I’ve focused on the akua inks, and the current intention is that they will play the major role in this assignment, however I do want to venture into other media at least a little.
Overall I’d rate it adequate – good enough to move on to the actual project exercises, but wonderful scope for improvement.
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T1-MMT-P4-p1 Initial experimentation in printing
Part 4: Mono and collatype printing
Project 1: Monoprinting
Initial experimentation in printing

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Fabulous figure sculpting workshop with Kassandra Bossell!

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