This one-day masterclass was run at the lovely Hazelhurst Gallery & Arts Centre. Vivien Haley, the tutor, studied sculpture and print-making at Art School. Her varied career has included exhibiting as a sculptor, hand block-printing fabrics, and most recently exploring digital printing of her original work.
In this class Vivien showed us the expressive power of some deceptively simple techniques – mono-printing, block-printing, sgraffito. In one way it was a reminder of what I already knew, given the printing assignment of Mixed Media for Textiles, but with the particular materials and tools and techniques I chose, all the textures and marks I made, none produced a printed brushmark. Incredible in hind-sight!After a general introduction of herself and some show-and-tell of some beautiful fabrics (some hand-printed, some digitally printed collages of her hand-printing), Vivien introduced printing in the most simple and direct way – using black acrylic paint, painting onto some xray film or a wooden block, scratching in marks, and printing onto paper. I set off with a wooden block, experimenting with different amounts of paint, scratching, painting on some hessian and printing that by pressing with the wood… a little variety of tones but nothing exciting. At one point I started playing with some colour, printing off a scrap of cardboard. There’s a sense of depth in areas, a little movement contained in the structure of the pattern. What started getting my attention was the mark of the brush itself, more than the shape of print or the scratching into the paint. I returned to this print a number of times over the day, adding layers. It started with a glass printing plate, brushed on paint, and some yarn as a resist. At this point I was deliberately choosing brushes which gave a broken mark. The second layer was red paint on hessian, with a border mask of newspaper to give the overall shape. Finally I wanted more lines at a different scale, so covered some yarn with paint, arranged them on the glass, used a circular mask, and took the print.
As a whole it doesn’t work, but I like the detail of the layering, the different scales of mark and the energy in them. We were using primary school grade acrylic paint, not top artist quality stuff, and for this technique it was wonderful. Rich and creamy, just the right consistency for printing without modification, and quite slow to dry – plenty of time for manipulation on the plate or block.More experimentation with layers and marks. The printing inks I used in my earlier assignment were transparent, so I got interesting layering and mixing of colour. The acrylic paint is basically opaque, with the layering coming from the broken marks. A very different effect. I wonder what could be done with combining the media, playing the different kinds of layering against each other…
The last print I’m showing (we all produced a lot of work) brings together the major ideas that had caught my interest. The energy and the lines in the initial layer reminded me of the movement of water in the harbour, so I played on that in my over-printing using pieces of heavy cardboard as a stamp.The detail photo shows that the acrylic isn’t fully opaque – the layer below can still be seen. There’s a lot happening with very basic materials and tools.
There were 10 or so in the class, everyone working pretty independently and with a variety of approaches.
One worked on fabric (I didn’t get a good shot of that). Quite a range of different marks and use of colour. There’s more to see in Claire’s post.
A sobering aspect of the class was the reason Vivien has turned to digital work – she developed an allergy to the printing ink. A good reminder to be thoughtful in how we use materials and protect ourselves. Vivien had worked for years with the inks, including quite a lot of spraying backgrounds. The positive is that she has been able to make the move to digital – with all sorts of advantages, such as adjusting colours, changing scale, mixing images of different works to create new designs, and flexibility in print runs (shapes and designs). The results can be seen on her website, vivienhaley.com/, and all the work evidences the original handprinting. Vivien works closely with a printing house and gave quite a detailed explanation of the process from a designer’s point of view, but out of scope here.
During the class Vivien came round a few times and made suggestions, asked questions, pointed out possibilities. One was drawing back into a print, bringing out and developing areas. I wasn’t able to turn my mind to that on the day – I was firmly in printing mode – but it’s something to come back to. Writing up this post reminded me of the collage effects she’s working with. I’m not feeling drawn to a digital approach at the moment (I spend enough time at the computer), but I’d like to print up a range of papers and colours and try working with collage.
Vivien also talked about the nature of printing a brushmark. It becomes a memory, a record of something gone. That could add a nice depth of thought in the right context.
The biggest immediate impact for me has been renewing excitement in making marks. The printing process captures, flattens and makes the painted marks more graphic and I want to keep doing that – especially the broken marks that are so expressive. But the impact I mean here is more general. My sketching has been languishing, but now I’m keen.
I’ll write some more in my regular roundup, but here will show the results of a session printing acrylic ink.
These are based on a video on Croquis Cafe (www.onairvideo.com/croquis-cafe.html), and clearly show the available scope for improvement.
Ignoring that – I see a lot of potential in some of the lines and marks. I also now know that not all cheap acrylic paints are created equal. The one I was using dried much too quickly. Even a two-minute pose had dried too much before I could print it.
The important thing is – I’m working on it.