Archive for the 'Printing' Category

A mist-enveloped tangle

The aim: “I want to bring this back into the realm of learning to read; expanding and enriching reading; making the work of reading visible.” (21-Mar-2020)

A byproduct:

The intention was attentive and active reading of Lines by Tim Ingold. To me, fascinating stuff. For example: “Apprehending words as they are seen on paper, both motionless and open to prolonged inspection, we readily perceive them as objects with an existence and meaning quite apart from their sounding in acts of speech.” While for those in a culture of ‘primary orality’, where writing is unknown: “For them words are their sounds, not things conveyed by sounds.” Interested in sculpture|objects, in the material expression of abstract ideas, in understanding the poetic… Ingold seemed to be speaking to all of this.

Except that large chunks were absolutely incomprehensible to me. I tried to read a bit wider, to backfill knowledge, get some context. Sauserre, linguistics, semiotics, literary theory …  in them a vortex of words I thought I knew swirling and multiplying, morphing into strange, fabulous, disturbing forms that meant nothing to me.

So – time for active reading. I took a page of Ingold’s text, swirled and distorted it in gimp, took the printout and folded it to create a structured, visually readable form.

Let’s look again, this time with some light showing through.

Sadly, I was not enlightened.

Maybe up close.

It doesn’t help. Still nothing. Still straining to read … something.

The folding was fun. It took me back to OCA folding exercises. Could it be an additional transformation in reading Anne Carson’s Candor? Within that reading so far there had been printmaking (25-Feb-2020) and manipulation (1-Mar-2020).

The same simple fold could suggest a well, a cocoon or cage, a cuff or choker (do I mean jewellery?), the domestic cup of tea…

And while doing this, I lost my bearings. Ingold remained enticing and impenetrable.

I was trying to change how I read, and learnt  the act of reading has changed fundamentally over time, changing the way people think of, understand, and interact with the world. “For readers of medieval times, the text was like a world one inhabits, and the surface of the page like a country in which one finds one’s way about, following the letters and words as the traveller follows footsteps or waymarkers in the terrain. For modern readers, by contrast, the text appears imprinted upon the blank page much as the world appears imprinted upon the paper surface of a cartographic map, ready-made and complete. To follow the plot is like navigating with the map.” Ingold quotes Leclerq: – “One was expected to read a text, … ‘with one’s whole being: with the body, since the mouth pronounced it, with the memory that fixes it, with the intelligence that understands its meaning and with the will which desires to put it into practice’. Thus reading was, at one and the same time, both an ‘acting out’ and a ‘taking in’.”

Other writers added new paths in the labyrinth.

  • Michael Taussig in I swear I saw this: “In this threshold situation, language opens up such that sound and image, image and sound, intepenetrated with automatic precision and such facility that no chink was left for the penny-in-the-slot called ‘meaning’.” Taussig explores at length the use of drawing in addition to / companion to writing in his field notebook. If I understand correctly, he finds writing acts to erase memory. In re-reading, it is drawings and the spaces of what is not written that triggers recall.
  • Jane Hirshfield, Ten Windows, brings in the body and emotion of the moment. “Poetry’s words can be ink- and sound-stored stably, then, but the poem itself cannot. It is the score to a music for which we are instrument and audience both, held in the procedures of its making.” Snatched phrases among much more that is relevant, “… cognition’s own beginnings, in the construction and discernment of patterns” and “Resonant, fragrant, traveling more than one direction at a time, poetic speech escapes narrowing abstraction and reification as richly as does life itself.”
  • In an essay by John Berger: “The repeated lines of words and music are like paths.”
  • Via TS Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral and Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad I was taken to the chorus. For a while I was carefully differentiating, then realised the Greek chorus often included movement and repetition, so not far from the dancing chorus line or the structure and repetition of a song chorus.
  • Italo Calvino in Six memos for the next millenium contributed “…Hermes/Mercury, god of communication and mediation, who under the name of Thoth invented writing, and who as the ‘Spirit of Mercury’ also represents… the principle of individuation.” I saw something like that elsewhere – that moving from the primarily external stimulus of orality to the private internal world of reading allowed a sense of the individual self to develop. (which comes first – the need, the technology, the response/change???) Calvino also provided a quote from Galileo – “to praise the greatest human invention, the alphabet.”
  • In Eros: the bittersweet, Anne Carson: “Oral cultures and literate cultures do not think, perceive, or fall in love in the same way.” Carson sees a common thread: “The archaic age was in general a time of change, unrest and reordering. In politics with the rise of the polis, in economics with the invention of coinage, in poetics with the study by lyric poets of precise moments in personal life, and in communications technology with the introduction of the Phoenician alphabet to Greece.” A breaking down into units that could be used building something larger and more general.
  • Jen Bervin, speaking of her work Silk Poems in a video by Charlotte Legarde: “One thing that was very important in the development of the poem itself was the lineage of Islamic textiles and manuscripts and within Islam you have a restriction on the use of the image so the letter and the word has a lot of responsibility to bear in communicating complex ideas and one thing that informed the poem a great deal is that collapse of scale, how you’ll see a large letter but it’s actually composed of smaller letters. That definitely comes from Islam.”
  • From the snippets in Walter Benjamin’s Archive, of visual attack on the senses of advertisements, signage, posters. The use of text:
    “Deposited in the letters of the metal or enameled signboards is a precipitate of all the forms of writing that have ever been used in the West.” “…broadsheets… which squander dozens of different alphabets in disguising an open invitation.” “Still color, the first drops of a shower of letters ran down the walls of houses (today it pours unremittingly, and and night, on the big cities) and was greeted like the plagues of Egypt.”
  • In all this movement there is also the extravagant use of language by authors. Umberto Eco (on literature) of James Joyce: “the language of all peoples, ground down to a vortex of free-floating fragments, are put together again and then deconstructed once more in a whirlwind of new lexical monstrosities, which coagulate for a second only to dissolve once more…”
  • In this cacophony I tried to get an overview using the dense fabric of wikipedia – entries on Orality, Writing Systems, Print Culture, quite a few others – before taking a desperate step back when I risked being mired in theory and academia.

Thinking of writing as technology feels new to me. The cultural changes that caused and/or responded to changes in communication technology – from primary orality, through the introduction of the alphabet and script, the printing press, electronic media… the movement from song and sound to sounded reading to silent reading… the shapes of letters and lines…

I have all of the books quoted above. I think I’ve finished one of them. Attempting to contain detail, to get a coherent view of all I have been reading and thinking about led to a major redevelopment of my notetaking and blogging practice. Not a story for today, but it is that collation and adding of metadata that has allowed me to get even this far in the tangle.

I had to hack away the undergrowth, the twining, strangling, enticing vines. I need to find my waymakers, make my path.

What do I return to, what gives me energy, arouses my curiosity? What in all this (and all I didn’t include above) do I want to explore further?

  • The poetic
  • The line
  • Pattern 
  • Balance | boundary | threshold | provisional | uncertainty
  • Materiality – objects, ideas (???)
  • How I work – in particular lately:
    * reading
    * notebook 
    * data viz and literacy

If the history of communication technology can be described as

Orality | Script | Print | Electronic

and in each mode there is/was a correspondence to different ways to think, feel and see, what could happen if I treat chronology and concepts of “progress” as irrelevant? Instead at least some aspects of each could be seen as tools or techniques, ways of living, with different strengths and weaknesses. Then can I pick and choose between modes? Prise ideas and assumptions open by switching modes?

Add to that the toolsets or modes I was already trying to move between

Reading | Writing | Drawing | Data viz | Making

Deliberately tangling up modes, using them in different ways, eg printmaking
– as reading [tool to aid comprehension]
– as exploring ideas [technique to extend out]

If all this seems confused, verbose, self-indulgent… I’m not disagreeing. But it feels good to have said something out loud. I have a mud-map of a terrain. Good enough for now.

Reading Candor

Reading||Making has continued. Again I visited Candor, Anne Carson’s text, looking for guidance in transformation of the monoprints (25-Feb-2020). “If you are not the free person you want to be, you must find a place to tell the truth about that… You could whisper down a well. You could write a letter and keep it in a drawer.” Jane, wife of HG Wells, made faint pencil marks on the letter of sympathy she received from her husband’s mistress. Jane – born Amy Catherine – fulfilling her husband’s domestic expectations.

A square of one print became a folded envelope. It is named – “Jane”. Bound by net, by woolen skein, by the trappings of domesticity, by the stones of the well. Inside, hidden, her name – scratched, mis-written (my oops), torn.

I like this little object very much… except that in the end it is so literal. As I worked at reading the text I found it more and more full of imagery, of the material, the specific.

Playing with printed card, finding shapes, became more abstract.

As reading the process has worked. There is familiarity, and I still find more. Slow. Attentive. Absorbing and making connections. Can I claim that in these photographs the work of reading is made visible???

Printmaking as reading

There have been a few more preparatory/practice steps.
* moving away from square in paper woven baskets.


I particularly like the deep edge turnover, which stands out from the base creating some lovely shadow. Less effective was the life drawing sketch on craftpaper used for weavers. The drawing is not just broken up by the weaving, it is entirely dominated by the colourful texture of the cartridge paper print.

* Another brief print experiment using acrylic paint – this time with retarder added, hoping to get thinner layers to allow more detail in the texture pickup. The paint still dried too quickly on the plate.


I love the colours and the texture (both to eye and to touch) these paints give me. The stamp used is quite large, made in polystyrene foam using a soldering iron (from memory – it was during classes with Marion Boyling, over a decade ago). I just haven’t achieved fine detail.

* The old gelatin plate was melted and reset. Version 2 is thinner and softer. In a later print session (see below) the surface was slow to spring back after pressure, becoming uneven. I’ll probably make version 3 with all new ingredients and cut up version 2 for stamping and specific shapes.

Enough preamble. Time to attempt printmaking as reading.

From when I received the readings for the first Intensive Creative Research session last year, I have been trying to improve, to get more value from, my reading. My daily schedule changed to dedicate time to reading. I’ve tried different locations – around the house, coffee shops, libraries… I sit, I stand, I pace, I read aloud, I gesticulate. I sketch and colour and knit word by word and record times that I weave into textile data visualisations. I argue with the author, follow up points on the internet, buy more books referenced in the footnotes. I want to read slowly, attentively, to take in ideas and make them part of my mental toolkit, to make connections with other authors and ideas and my own experience. I imagine little tendrils reaching out in my brain, curling around each other, becoming more and more dense, building (there’s definitely felt-making in my near future!). I’ve experimented with repeated passes of reading – first to get a sense of the author’s message, with only brief notes to capture any ideas that pop; then again, more closely, with more extensive note-taking; then possibly stepping back to look at structure, at the how of what has been written.

At heart a Maker, I wanted to get more making into how I read. The knitting worked well, but quite slow and addressed a specific issue (ie I couldn’t bear to read the text any other way). The weaving was very slow and at one remove from the reading – it recorded the activity but didn’t progress it. This time around I’m hoping for a process that can be deployed quite frequently and in an intuitive, responsive, supporting plus extending, way.

First attempt
* text. Anne Carson, Candor, part of the collection of writing in Float.
This is one of the texts we’ll be discussing in the first 2020 Creative Research meetup in a few weeks. A good starting point, being quite short, and I didn’t complicate by combining external ideas (other texts, experience…).

* image generation. After reading the text a few times I looked for specific clues that could be translated into print – materiality, imagery, text, colour, texture, pattern, …

* print preparation. This step could be quite flexible. Weaving and skeins are strong images in Candor, so as potential stamps or stencils I made a couple more squares on the Weave-it (one in wool, the other kitchen string), and loosely tied a skein of wool. Red is a dominant colour in the text, so should be dominant in the print. I wanted some delicacy, an attention to detail, so chose akua inks and pigments rather than the acrylic paint. I turned through stencils and stamps I’ve made in the past. Ideas of the domestic, the home, are important in the text, so I selected some of the stencils based on a family jug – developed in April-2012 as part of the OCA Textiles: A Creative Approach course.

All this plus much more was laid out in my printing area, together with a photocopy of the original text and my image generation notes.

* mono-printing. I didn’t refer back to text or notes – they were effectively internalised. Most of the mark-making tools sat untouched. Just an hour of focused play and experimentation.

I’m not claiming any of these are great prints. I do feel much closer, more involved with, the original text (which I was keen to re-read when I came in from the print-station / garage). Plus I’m planning further transformations. Some folding, or weaving, perhaps collage-ing (either on to the print or part of the print onto something else).

More back and forward

A quick and excited post – after yesterday‘s ambivalence, today I’m definitely moving forward.

Overnight I remembered the very first project of Mixed Media for Textiles – Folding and crumpling.

Two A4 pages from yesterday’s printmaking have moved into three dimensions.

The first has a few strategic cuts, but remains a single, connected, piece of paper – nothing added nothing removed. The photos show it rearranged a few times.

The second was folded and crumpled, with one spot of glue added. It’s quite stable – the photos are different angles of the same form.

So we have:
* bringing forward what I’ve done before (mine-ing my history)
* data viz potential, with folding and interlacing in three dimensions making concrete a humanist view of non-linear time
* a path towards small sculpture
* an intuitive, experimental work process
* I’m sure there’s more, but I have brain fizz

Printmaking: x steps forward + y steps back

= ?
I’m not sure where that leaves me, especially given “progress” is not a helpful concept and art-making is not a two dimensional space.

page overview

While trawling the net I found a method for transferring black and white photographs onto paper – multiple steps involving glue, patience, … Then I realised I’m already printing onto my prints. Why not photographs? After sampling the printout of different manipulations (the original colour, posterized, threshold, various methods to get grey scale), I selected a photo of burnt bushland from near Mount Borrodaile (29-Aug-2013), and computer printed onto a monoprint and text related to our recent bushfires (detail shown in post 10-Feb-2020). It didn’t print properly across the whole page, but an interesting result. Detail below.

A couple of the “waste” prints from 10-Feb-2020 went through a paper shredder and were woven based on learning from a class with Alice Spittle (3-Dec-2018), although substantially modified given the different materials.
They are around 10 and 18 cm high, quite quick and fun to make, and I think very pretty. There are lots of places with potential to vary the form – something to explore further.

I’ve also finished a little vessel that has been languishing since December. I had planned to print or stamp onto woven paper yarn, but while making decided the proportions demanded a smaller woven area. The base is a box from a mobile phone, 13.5 cm wide, and it’s more delicate in person – the scrunched wires look very heavy in the photograph.

Next to new print-making – and this is where things start going backwards. Over a week or two I drew up a list of experiments, based around using my new acrylic paints with my gelatin plate (rather than my “standard” akua inks):
* Wax crayon resist (gelli arts video). I prepared some cardboard with 7 different waxy crayons and pencils. Neocolour soluble crayons were the only ones to work. More experimentation needed.

* Stamping onto a small woven paper basket, made when I first experimented with the technique. Shown here is the basket before I made a horrible painty mess of it.

* Printing onto a square of paper yarn and wire, made on a weave-it frame as a substitute for little black and white number shown further up this post.

Didn’t even attempt it. I was realising that the change to acrylics was a bigger step than anticipated. A number of ideas just got dumped – effects of vaseline on stencils (link); printing onto interfacing (link); printing on tissue paper (Carolyn Dube video).

I tried using one of the paper stencils cut in the class with Tianli Zu (16-Feb-2020). Using medium weight paper was always going to be a stretch and I didn’t help by letting the painty stencil dry while trying to ghost stamp (is that a thing?) with it. On the other hand, the bits of green paper left on the print are quite interesting – a sort of poor woman’s chine-collé perhaps.

By this time I was wheeling fast and loose. Both sides of paper, planned/improvised/random… I now understand why many people on the internet videos work through a stack of already printed paper. My Akua inks are beautiful and transparent, and I think would need careful planning to use many layers. With acrylics you can keep working on a page, layer after layer, trying for a better result. A selection of my outcomes:


All the above were on A4 110gsm cartridge paper. Can you believe they were the better ones of the bunch???

I did one print on 200 gsm watercolour paper, and got much richer colour. I wasn’t conscious of using more paint, though I can’t rule it out.

Quite a few of the prints included at least some element of “waste not” brayer and stencil cleaning. One of my more favoured results of the day was the single A3 page of cartridge paper that was entirely waste not leavings.

Some of the above may join others not shown on the overprint pile. I suspect paper weaving is in the future of others.

Separate to all this I am getting clearer ideas on how I want to use print-making as an ongoing element of my practice. My theory is that it will make me a better reader, but I have to get better at the basic technique first.

More print and text

The recent interest in print-making, text, and paint continues.

Session 1
First up was a day with Claire, who showed me a neat textural technique using layers of acrylic paint, sprayed water, and a plastic card to move all around. Some interesting effects, with lots of possibilities around number of layers, ordering (when to use light or dark), waiting time between actions etc. All was on watercolour paper – cartridge paper just disintegrated in the pooled water.

Claire had a specific future purpose, and while fun this technique didn’t fill the need. We branched out with different experiments. I focused on creating texture in acrylics using various rollers and scraping tools.

Later I came up with a new variation in my quest for text on prints.
* stylus on bamboo tablet to get a very crisp, clean piece of handwritten text into gimp – white text on a black background.
* in gimp opened an image of the orange and blue texture print shown at the top of this post.
* used the text as a layer mask of the texture image. From the snip of the gimp screen you can see that this gave an image that was transparent except for textured colour in the shape of the handwritten letters.
* Used techniques developed previously (22-Jan-2020, session 1, first text attempt) to size and position the coloured text on a fairly gently coloured sheet of watercolour paper that Claire created in our print session. A detail of the result:

Very happy to have this in my toolbox of text techniques.

Session 2
In the previous session I used some old and close to empty tubes of cheap acrylic that were loitering in a drawer. Claire had some luscious Matisse flow paints, and looking at the gorgeous colours of creamy, pigment laden paint, there was definitely some materials-envy going on. Imagine that old movie technique of a calendar flipping over, and we come to session 2, with me the happy owner of … new paints. Derivan/Matisse have a big range of colours. I decided to treat myself to two of their “sets” – Australian Colours and Primaries. This session was all about experimenting with the Australian Colours.
First the spray and layer technique to create a background, with other colour laid on with the side of a plastic card.

A couple of texture experiments provided the base for more computer text printing. I don’t have a clear vision of where I’m going with these text experiments. Somehow I want to play with legibility – by overlapping, using handwriting, breaking the text up in some way…

All the oddments of paint went onto a few pages of A3 cartridge paper. Waste not, of course, plus I suspect collage will pop up sometime.

Session 3
Short and focused, a first look at the split primary mixing set, which also includes black and white. I made a simple colour wheel of primary and secondary colours (not shown), got some tones with black, and made a spray and layer colour sampler.

Session 4
This was inspired by a video from Dan Tirels (https://www.dantirels.co.uk/videos). So far I’ve only watched Monoprinting Abstract with acrylic paint on stretched canvas, but checking now see there’s lots more. Dan spreads paint on a piece of thin plastic (like the single-use plastic shopping bags recently phased out). He puts this paint side down on his canvas or paper, using hands and various tools to transfer the paint and create various textures and marks. It reminded me of carbon paper (for those of you who remember typewriters). So naturally, I had to try it for text. Some purple Akua intaglio ink, some red and blue acrylic. Some on a hard surface, some on a padding of newspaper. The ghost can be nice, and on one I shifted the plastic part way through to break up the lines of text. This was all on plain white cartridge paper. There are a lot of incidental marks, but if this was fragments of text over (or under) other elements I think it could work very well.



I was hoping to get more inspiration, in inspiring company, in a monoprinting class. Sadly they didn’t get the numbers and it was cancelled. So the next step is TBD.

Mono printing and text

Attentive reading, complete with careful note-taking, isn’t enough. Heresy? A simple recognition of my truth – which has taken me a while.

This isn’t cramming for an exam without a care for the info drop-out in the following week. It’s not skimming around, pulling together some facts and figures, some quotes and ideas, for an assignment. I’m reading to produce knowledge in me. It takes time – new ideas need to be tried out, connections made, existing knowledge reconsidered.

Making – moving from thought to materiality with knitting, weaving, paper, … – gives space and time for a different sort thinking. Critically, I have found that making which in some way responds to my reading becomes a form of knowledge production in its own right. It’s not just a distraction or filling in the time or simply another part of life – each project has allowed me deeper understanding of what I am reading, and to discover more about how I work and what is attracting my interest. However those earlier projects were all quite time and labour intensive. I wanted to mix it up with something a bit quicker, a bit more responsive to the moment.

Project outline
Monoprinting. It’s quick, versatile, responsive. Plus it’s something I’ve done a fair amount of before (blog search results), so building on skills.

Imagery – build on reading, so glyphs, experiment with what a humanist data viz could look with, plus continue to mine my history with stamps, stencils etc from previous work.

Text – the new element. A curiosity about “poetic” has been growing (see for example the reading scarf project (7-Jan-2020) and recent threads (18-Jan-2020)). I’ve been attempting to write poetic snippets, based on a reference in Jane Hirshfield. All very cringe-worthy, but I feel attempting it myself might make it easier to see and understand what people who know what they are doing are actually doing. I’ve never been successful with getting text into a monoprint.

Session 1: cobweb removal, first text idea
* Akua liquid pigments
* gelatin plate
* glyph stencils cut in paper
* general approach based on Linda Germain video (this link goes to a page on her website, with a mini-course for the price of your contact details).
* computer printed text on monoprint

Results: Space made, tools and materials found, cobwebs disturbed.
A selection:

First text attempt: chose one of the lighter monoprints, scanned it, and opened in gimp. Used image to decide size, font, colour and placement of text. Using the text layer only, printed the result onto the original monoprint.

I’m quite happy with this result – quick and accurate. However I’m not convinced by the regularity of the font on a very informal print.

Second text attempt: Scanned in a monoprint. Hand wrote one of my snippets and scanned that in. In an attempt to integrate text and print I added a faint extra layer, an enlarged and distorted version of the text. I printed the full image – the scan of the monoprint and both layers of text. This means the original monoprint is unchanged.

The result is … alright. I don’t have strong feelings about it. Perhaps the approach could be useful in some future application.

Session 2: Introduction to monoprinting workshop with Kirtika Kain
This workshop was in the studio of Gallery Lane Cove – Kirtika’s work was on exhibit upstairs at the time (20-Jan-2020). Kirtika was very ambitious for a three hour course. To help us build concepts and ideas, we started with 20 minutes of stream of consciousness writing, then some time mind-mapping, exploring words and themes that resonated. We all made monoprints using an A5 piece of acetate as a plate, backdrawing, and printing using barren and press. Next came making and use of stencils, plus other objects as a mask. Running short of time, Kirtika demonstrated drypoint etching on the acetate, and both intaglio and relief printing, then a final burst attempting chine-collé. It was full-on, and I don’t know how the other four students, all I think quite new to print-making, coped. For me it was great as a refresher and energizer.

My “designs” were based on thoughts of humanist data viz and the distorted grid. Messy and unclear, but there’s an energy I like.
A selection:

My first backdrawing included some overall scratching with fingers, and produced a cloudy jumble. The second attempt I tried hard to keep clean, pressing only with the pencil while backdrawing. I love that line! Of course the y-axis is wrong, I need to mirror that… and so,

I needed to try mirror writing!

Session 3: mirror writing on acetate
* Akua intaglio ink
* acetate and gelatin plates
* mirror writing (mostly)

Outcomes:
Backwriting with biro (that had run out of ink), acetate plate

Ghost print

Akua intaglio on acetate; writing into inked surface with wooden skewer (direct, not mirror writing); stamped onto gelatin plate; printed off onto paper using brayer

I made the gelatin plate over four years ago. It has been used repeatedly, and between times sat in the garage with minimal protection. The clearer white dots above are pocks on the plate, not a product of the method. I think there’s some potential here (assuming I melt and reset the plate) – especially given the freedom of being able to write directly.

Not shown: Mirror backwriting, gelatin plate. Did not work.

Acetate plate, mirror writing into ink using a wooden skewer.

Session 4: extending
* Attempt longer text
* Think about page placement
* Combine text and other effects – some in this print session, some by using pages from previous sessions
* An additional method for monoprinted text
* Using yupo paper stencils as both stencil and as pre-inked stamp
* Acetate and gelatin plates

Some results:
Mirror backwriting on acetate plate.

In the print above, the ink of the biro used in backwriting shows through the paper and the transparent yellow plate ink. It assists legibility. However the ghost below is basically unreadable. The only point of interest is that I printed on what was intended to be the back of the page. Excluding the workshop prints, all of the work in this post is on paper originally used in the life drawing workshop with David Briggs last year (16-Feb-2019). Odd here, but could be something to play with… And now I look at the ghost again, it might work to write or paint (watercolour) the text into the blanks of the yellow…

A more complete attempt. More legible. Plus improving on placement (I’m edging towards an A5 booklet idea). The text is based on childhood memories of storms at the end of hot summer days. The infinity shape is my glyph for memory, the stamping is intended to suggest storms.

Experimenting with another text method – writing in printing ink onto acetate. Stamping that onto the gelatin plate, then printing off. Squelchy. I’d need to find a better way of managing the amount of ink in the writing.

Finally some general play.

I’m pretty happy with my results overall – not the individual pages, but in the options I now have to work responsively and relatively intuitively as a support to and extension of my other creative activity.

Reference
Jane Hirshfield Ten Windows, page 41

Design exercises

Encouraged by Claire at Tactual Textiles, I’ve been playing with some design exercises based on a book we both own. See Claire’s posts at https://tactualtextiles.wordpress.com/tag/design-experiments/. I see my approach as slightly different. Rather than building a resource to use directly, I’m hoping to train my eye to recognise and enhance potential, exciting things happening, when I am building sculpture in a playful and “instinctive” way. Muscle building exercises for instincts?

Rules are made to be broken, but so far I have two. First, use forms that have already captured my interest (particularly sculpturally) as a base. Second, make this primarily a physical exercise, not too computer-based (for muscle memory?).

So far my base forms have been sculpture play following the workshop with Matt Bromhead, incorporating a piece from Marion Gaemer’s class (4-Aug-2018), sketching based on that work (some seen 5-Aug-2018), and a painting by Rodchenko that excited me in the MoMA exhibition (15-Sep-2018).

Exercise 1 – splitting shapes
This started focused on one of the plaster bases, and only really came to life when I added vertical elements based on the wires in the sculpture. I had trouble getting enthused on this exercise, avoiding actual collage by moving the pieces around then taking a photo. I wanted to get my hands dirty.

Exercise 2 – Cutting stamps
This is meant to be 30 days of cutting stamps, with 30 stamps produced. I’ve made just three, and haven’t decided whether to continue.
First was in ezi carve, based on the black-covered wire form. Then string on cardboard for Rodchenko’s descending row of lines, and some looping in paper-covered wire mounted on cardboard from the sketch and my sculptural component making. They had been used before I thought to take a photo.

Attempts to print onto cartridge paper using acrylic ink were mixed. Some I used the stamps to stamp, some I used them more like a printing plate, putting cartridge paper on top and using a brayer.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Then I got out the gelatin plate I made for OCA (first post way back – 7-Dec-2015! that thing has lasted well). Below is a selection of my favourites. The dark|light ones had the plate inked on one half. The stamp went into the inked side, then was “cleaned” by pressing it into the un-inked side.

Have I learnt anything so far? I’ve been reminded of things I done and enjoyed in the past. I’ve played, explored, made.

Good.

Workshop: Vivien Haley The Mono Printed Brushmark: Experimental printing techniques

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!

Print 1

Print 1

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.

Print 2

Print 2

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.

Print 3

Print 3

Print 3 detail

Print 3 detail

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.

Print 4

Print 4

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…

VivienHaleyClass05The 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.

Print 5 detail

Print 5 detail

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.

Project 5 Stage 3 Part 3

Printing and painting on fabric.

I posted about my first group of work here. I was pretty happy with my results – some experimentation, some development of my chosen designs, lots of room for further work. The second round of work is here and I was super excited. I’d had an idea, worked towards it, and got results that exceeded my expectations with a strong development of the design and lots of future potential.

Most of the work to this stage used textile printing ink. For my final experiment I wanted to use dyes on silk – using a fibre I love and trying to keep the hand and sheen. I’ve done some silk painting in the past, so was looking for something different. Some internet searching on monoprinting led me to Linda Germain’s blog printing without a press. She prints using gelatine – it’s definitely worth watching her video here to see the amazing results she gets.

My plan was to make a gelatin plate. Instead of a commercial printing ink I would thicken some Lanaset dyes with DR33 (a modified guar gum I got a few weeks ago from Batik Oetoro). Lanaset dyes work at a pH of 4.5 – 5.0. I decided to soak the silk in an acidic solution, then dry and iron the pieces ready for printing, in the hope that steamed after printing and drying the conditions would be roughly the right pH.

It all went horribly wrong. For some bizarre reason I decided to use a rusty old baking pan to hold the gelatin while it set in the fridge. I had trouble getting the set gelatine out of the the pan, so held it “briefly” in a larger pan of hot water to loosen it – which actually melted a large amount of it.

To go with my lumpy, bumpy, sticky gelatin plate I made up some DR33. I’d found a variety of “recipes” on the internet and actually came up with something that looked roughly the consistency of the textile printing ink. Very roughly – the big problem being it was gloopy. It stuck to itself. If it deigned to attach to my foam paint roller, it attached in a big blob all in one spot. Somehow the roller couldn’t get any traction, so skidded over the gloop instead of spreading it nicely. I tried lots of ways to spread dye gloop onto melting gelatin gloop. Occasionally something would end up on the fabric – blobs that ran down the fabric as it hung to dry.

I attempted printing with my bird polystyrene stamp. It wouldn’t be accurate to call it a total failure, but only just.

On the plus side, when dried and steamed the dye fixed and very little came out in the wash. Unfortunately some of the gloop also didn’t come out and the silk has completely lost its drape. With the wonders of hindsight, I’d set myself up for failure. Too many new techniques at once, too many approximations and make-dos on ingredients and equipment.

This all happened almost three weekends ago. Mulling it over I decided the two main problems were: 1) experimenting with both the gelatin plate and the dye thickener at once; 2) the surface tension of the thickened dye was too great, so it clung to itself and wouldn’t spread out or stick to other things (like stamps) nicely.

Last weekend I tried again, experimenting with adding albegal set and orvus paste to help with the surface tension problem. Albegal set is a surfactant used as an auxiliary with Lanaset dyes. Orvus is a detergent, sodium lauryl sulphate, that is good for washing silk. I learnt about both of these from Karren Brito’s book Shibori: Creating color & texture on silk (my go-to place on dyeing silk), but this use was definitely off script. I thought both had properties that could reduce the surface tension and help the paste to spread nicely.

The learning curve continued – for instance adding a little albegal set can make the DR33 paste a bit thinner, adding rather more can turn the paste to liquid. Also take time about stirring the DR33 into a small volume of liquid and make a nice smooth paste. Trying to stir out lumps later is …(pause to find nice words)… unpleasant and time-consuming.

Ultimately my printing paste was much better, but I still couldn’t get decent, even coverage on a stamp. I bought a small silkscreen and squeegee a month or two ago – still in the shop’s bag because I realised I was trying to do too many new things at once. Out that came, and I was able to squeeze the paste through with a paper doily underneath. It worked! This was my absolute first-ever time screen printing and it got pretty messy – but I was getting imagery onto fabric.

I tried the paper jug cutout (used in the orange/black squiggle), and after the print picked off the paper, put the screen on some more fabric and used a brayer to get off the remaining colour.

Next was some grasses and (weed) flowers under the screen and got an image. I used a brayer to get the remaining colour, but this time put an acetate sheet between it and the screen so I didn’t cause paint movement and smudging. This left some paste on the acetate, so I tried to print that off.

At some stage I had the idea of screen printing onto stamps to get a spread of colour on them, so I was finally able to do some stamping too. There was a flurry of activity while I tried the two versions of the Tutankhamen stamps, getting images off the stamps and the screen. In the first photo below, top right are the original two stamps. Top left is the image taken from the paste remaining on the screen. That led me to create the bottom two rows of stamping, trying to apply the paste to the stamp through a different area of the screen each time. The second photo below is the print resulting from the screen – fabric on a printing pad of old newspaper, then the inky silkscreen, then a sheet of acetate, then roll a brayer over the acetate to get off as much colour as possible. Some paste gets onto the acetate in the process, and the third photo below is the print from that.

I also put a stencil under the screen, and did the same idea of a series to use up all the colour.

One thing that didn’t work so well was using the perspex squares. The idea was to get colour on them through the screen, then play around removing colour with a stamp and using both the stamp and the perspex to print. The paste went onto the perspex nicely, and dragging through the paint with a brush left an indistinct pattern, but it was very difficult to use a stamp – it kept sliding around on the pasted-up perspex, messing up the image, plus I wasn’t able to get enough colour onto the stamp.

Another disappointment was screen printing onto the thick loose-woven raw silk, using a stencil developed earlier in the course from a Tutankhamen design. The result is just uninteresting, with no interesting variation in the colour and losing the character of the fabric. I was hoping this would be the basis of the larger work required in the final stage of the project, but it’s not exciting me.

That was last Saturday and on Sunday I couldn’t wait (I usually leave a couple of days between each step when dyeing). I steamed the dried fabric, let it cool, washed it out in orvus paste and ironed it dry. There was virtually no run-off of colour. There is a slight stiffness in some of the thicker fabrics – a bit more patience in the washing could resolve that. The thinner fabrics have hand and sheen unchanged! The colour is grey not black – I could use more dye next time, but in fact I find the variation in tone very attractive.

With some finetuning I think there are possibilities for some very interesting, complex imagery with a nice mix of control vs serendipity. I’ve been thinking about themes of ageing and memory, and some of the partial, combined, changed, overlapping elements could work very well with that. In this final photo I’ve laid the last printoff of the tutankhamen stamp (on a light georgette) over the stamping on a Honan pongee tussah. I find the result complex and intriguing – definitely potential.

I’ve decided to call this “enough” for this stage of the project. The last batch of work was more focused on getting a technique that worked than developing my chosen design ideas, which isn’t ideal. Even so, it’s time to move on to the final stage of the project (and assignment), which is a larger sample.

 

Brito, K. (2002) Shibori: creating color & texture on silk, New York: Watson-Guptil Publications.


Calendar of Posts

July 2020
M T W T F S S
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031  

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Archives

Categories