Archive for November 22nd, 2015

T1-MMT-P4-p1-e4 Working with stencils (mostly)

Sample p2-61

Sample p2-61
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Sketch 2015121

Sketch 2015121
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This exercise calls for working with stencils, requiring a simplified shape with no surface detail. I chose the jug previously involved in a series of wrapping experiments (22-July-2015). I traced the outline of a photograph using gimp, adjusting the handle shape to avoid an internal space.

I printed the result a number of times on copy paper, and cut out the jug shape – initially using a scalpel, then one version carefully torn.

All prints in this series were on white A4 copy paper.

Print p4-68

Print p4-68 layer 1

Print p4-68 layer 1
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First I printed in a red mix of akua intaglio inks. The copy paper with a void jug shape was placed over the plate, then a print taken. The print is fine in that the shape is recognisable and there were no issues with tearing on the finer sections of the design. It is very static, and there is a problem in placement that is not apparent in the cropped process image.

To create a second layer I inked the cleaned plate in blue, and used the cut-out jug shape as a mask over the red already printed. Getting the mask and the paper in the right position was tricky!

Print p4-68

Print p4-68

The full image shows the poor placement of the jug in my original stencil preparation, much too high on the page.

I deliberately rolled a solid base of blue for the jug to “sit” on, thinking back to issues with my still-life attempt in print p4-44 (11-November-2015), with light and broken colour in the top two thirds of the page. I think the idea is sound, but the high jug just floats in this attempt.

When printing I pressed through the paper by hand, trying to ensure good transfer of colour around the edges of the stencil. The gap is uneven, suggesting inaccurate placement of the stencil, but there is no actual overlap. Perhaps with crisp, dry paper there isn’t the stretch needed to bend into the corner formed by the thin paper stencil.

Overall this is not satisfactory as a print, but I find some good technical pointers.

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Print p4-69

Print p4-69 layer 1

Print p4-69 layer 1
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This is the ghost of the previous print. The dark outline is the inverse of that little gap around the edge of the stencil. There is not much difference in the colour in the jug shape or the surrounds. Red in the jug area already printed on print p4-68. Red in the surrounds printed onto the paper stencil. Given I used similar pressure over the page as a whole in the initial print, the remainder left for the ghost is similar.

This observation suggests two possibilities – experimenting with the thickness of the stencil material and the resulting gap, distortions etc; and varying pressure in the initial print. There is no need for colour on the stencil, so perhaps I can try to leave more, at least in parts, available to the ghost.

Print p4-69 detail

Print p4-69 detail

Print p4-69

Print p4-69
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It’s not surprising given the reasoning above that the blue ghost is very similar to the red – a strong outline of the stencil shape and similar light colour from both the printed and the masked areas. Registration was slightly off, giving the doubled edge effect. If it was perfect there would be a single purple line. I find the offset more interesting.

There is the same high placement issue with the jug on the page.

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Print p4-70

Print p4-70 layer 1

Print p4-70 layer 1
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Wanting to avoid the placement problem I started this print with the background first. Once again the ink was varied on the plate. In the top two thirds the ink was rolled more thinly and unevenly to create broken colour. Ink was heavier across the bottom third.

When printing I used back drawing to create some broad, flowing wave lines in the bottom third. This was based on my experience with the plastic grouting tools in print p4-66 (21-November-2015). Their flexible plastic was easy to move smoothly across the paper. I dug out a small plastic tool, I think originally sold to help transfer ointments between small pots. Re-purposed, it flexed rather than jerked as the line changed direction. I created three dark lines, then peeked and found them too crisp and stark, so used the stencil brush to get some lighter shading between the lines.

For the second layer, adding colour to the jug, I placed the stencil underneath the plastic printing plate and rolled colour only where needed. Full disclosure – on the first attempt I had the stencil the wrong way around, so had to clean off and re-ink.

To generate more interest I wanted two colours in the jug, and to keep the handle a single colour. Placing the stencil with the jug cut-out on the inked areas of the plate was straight-forward. Putting the print paper down on the plate was once again awkward, but reasonably accurate.

Print p4-70

Print p4-70

I find more to like than to dislike in the final print.

I was successful in correcting the jug placement, although the masks used still had the original problem.
My new tool gave the broad wavy line I’ve been looking for.
Pressing around the stencil by hand in the blue layer gave a darker edge which suggests a shadow and gives just a little depth.
The blending of colours on the jug work, and I particularly like the transition which is quite smooth and not muddy.

Print p4-70 detail

Print p4-70 detail

It’s not a print I would frame and hang, but for once I feel encouraged by my progress.

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Print p4-71

Print p4-71 layer 1

Print p4-71 layer 1
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This is the ghost of the previous print. The first layer shows the impact of the back drawing combined with the masking. I think in drawing the wavy lines I must have used uneven pressure on the jug stencil area. This has left some uneven ink near the base of the jug, which I rather like as suggesting thicker glass at the base.
Print p4-71

Print p4-71

Print p4-71 detail

Print p4-71 detail
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As a result of varying placement of the masks, plus multi-coloured, uneven and incomplete inking of the plate on the second layer, there is a lot of variation in the ghost. Registration could be seen as technically poor, but as mentioned above I like this effect in the ghost and see little value in perfect registration in these matched mask ghosts.

The result is a much more dynamic and interesting print. There is variation in line, colour and value. The jug outline is still central and the blue outline static, but the lighter line in red and green creates movement. The central area of focus is reinforced by the additional colouring. When transferring the jug colours in the previous print pressure was focused on the jug area. In the ghost the jug is lighter than its surrounds, allowing it to stand in front of a slightly darker background.

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Print p4-72
Pleased with the success of my new plastic tool, I wanted to be able to vary the width of my broad lines. I cut a strip from an old plastic membership card, and slightly rounded the corners to avoid a catch point.
Following up the blended colour of the previous prints, I rolled the plate with a combination of the blue, red and green that were on the work area.
I am in the process of researching Paul Klee’s traced prints, and this quick, spontaneous back drawn print shows a slight influence of that.

Print p4-72

Print p4-72

Print p4-72 detail

Print p4-72 detail
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The lines created with my new tool, the whole genesis of this print, can be seen in the lower right corner. The jagged lines on the left used a fine-toothed grouting tool. Birds and bird-house were drawn with a metal skewer – I feel it gave a firmer, finer line than the wooden tools I have tried previously. The clouds were finger-pressed.

As an image it doesn’t quite work. I think you can see I started by experimenting with tools then felt I had to fill some gaps with something. So the composition is clumsy and two of my baby birds seem to be tumbling to the ground.

Still, I like the variation in colour. It gives a simple scene some vitality. I like the variation in lines and texture. The process was free and fun and I think the energy shows.

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Print p4-73
This is the ghost of the previous print.

Print p4-73

Print p4-73

Print p4-73 detail

Print p4-73 detail
Click image for larger view

The colours look fine. The overall composition has similar strengths and weaknesses. The white lines just don’t work for me.

I wonder if this is a candidate for re-working with pen. I could add some extra details, perhaps vary the line or colours. I’m not currently enthused but may come back to it.

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Print p4-74
The earlier jug masks were cut with a scalpel with a clean, smooth line. Thinking back to the tearing exercises of assignment 1 (see for example 26-April-2015), I wondered what impact torn edges would have in a stencil. In this print I used a red background, again with uneven colour. The jug was blue and green still on the work area, mixed on the plate.

Print p4-74

Print p4-74

The registration is quite good. I’d started to take advantage of the see-through print plate, placing it onto the paper and then turning the bundle over to press. The colour mixing is dull and the uneven line isn’t effective to suggest the smooth glass jug. The jug and background colours are too close in value, making the result very flat.

However I feel the line itself has a lot of interest and character – it’s just not suitable for this application. I am mindful of the exhibition of Julie Paterson’s work seen earlier this year (13-September-2015). Paterson frequently uses torn or cut paper stencils with screen printing as part of her design process. I think it could be very productive to use some of my assignment one samples as stencils in print-making.

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Print p4-75

Print p4-75

Print p4-75


The ghost of the previous print. With all its imperfections, it excites me.
Print p4-75 detail

Print p4-75 detail

Print p4-75 wider view

Print p4-75 wider view
Click image for larger view

Here the uneven line, wobbly and provisional, comes into its own. It sits hesitantly on the page, blurred, inconsistent. The two layers are far from aligned, creating a visual vibration. They fill the space well. I struggle to focus, to see what is there, and pick up details that don’t fit together.

I’ve included a thumbnail of the whole page – full disclosure of my messy work. The red lines at the bottom are annoying, but I like the breakout of blue on the right margin. This is a force that is going somewhere.

I can quite understand people seeing this as a messy nothing, a failure. But it speaks to my interest in boundaries, in open possibilities and uncertainty. It isn’t flat. It can’t be taken in at a glance. It has personality.

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Having done the basic monotype exercises I now have the opportunity to mix them up and take my printing explorations a bit further.

  • The course notes suggest looking at Paul Klee, using blocks of colour and quirky back drawing (a touch of that above).
  • I could use some of the assignment 1 samples as stencils, working in a more fluid and spontaneous way.
  • I’ve read up on gell printing plates, and also a home-made version using jelly and glycerin. It seems to support a more textured, informal, layered approach and could be an interesting contrast to the hard plate and surfaces I’ve been using.
  • I’d like to take my jug motif further. There are some interesting surface designs on the original, which could be used as a basis for back drawing and stencil combinations.
  • These aren’t all mutually exclusive. I’ve made working through the exercises, ticking the boxes, a laborious process. I’m hoping to find a mix which makes monotype printing work for me.

    T1-MMT-P4-p1-e4 Working with stencils (mostly)
    Part 4: Mono and collatype printing
    Project 1: Monoprinting
    Exercise 4: Working with stencils
    Working with stencils (mostly)


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