Saturday, March 25, 2017

Milk carton printmaking - experimentations

A couple of weeks back I began exploring the possibilities of producing prints from plates that are made from milk cartons. Mainly the inner surface of the cartons which protect the liquid inside be they milk, juice or beverages derived from nuts or seeds.
This all started with a drop-in art activity for children that I volunteered to give at a local art center. I had seen a photo online of a young woman who had taken a printmaking workshop (not sure where or when) and she mentioned they were having fun making prints from milk cartons. This caught my interest. 

Anyhow I had been saving cartons for other uses (making bird feeders, snow scoops for snow sculpture construction) and discovered I had quite a few amassed in my cellar.  These had previously been rinsed out with warm water after their initial purpose was complete. I carefully cut the tops off then slit the sides using a utility blade . Some edges had wrinkles in the surface (perhaps from rough handling when these were put by staff on supermarket shelves or during transport from the shopping cart to my refridgerator) so I had to trim these wrinkled areas off the plate. I ended up with a collection of various square and rectangular plates. 

Here is the plate I  used for the demonstration (middle) and resulting print (left). The other piece (right) is from the front side of the original carton. I made a direct drawing using a drypoint needle right into the surface of the plain white reverse side of the plate.

The young artists who came to the drop-in had a lot of fun drawing on the plates and then scratching over the pencil line using needle tools. They wiped Akua intaglio ink into the lines and wiped the plates using newsprint and tissue paper. 

They got the opportunity to turn the etching press wheel when these were printed and then take their prints and plates home afterwards.
Since the plates were small it was easy to put several on at one time for a pass under the press roller. 

Above photo shows two square plate prints produced by a couple of young male artists (12 y/o). Akua Carbon black and Pthalo blue ink. Printed onto damp 250 Canson Edition white rag. 

I brought my plate home and decided to see what else I could do with it since it was still very printable after my initial demo print at the drop-in.
I once again applied Akua carbon black intaglio ink to the plate and wiped it back with a soft polyester mesh. Then I wiped the surface back with a piece of old yellow pages from an old phone book. I then spot dabbed colours of thinned Akua intaglio (thinned by adding a drop of Akua blending medium). These were carefully wiped using tissue over my pinky finger tip. This method is known as À la poupée.  

I set soaked and blotted Magnani cotton rag paper over top and ran it through my small etching press. 
The result was very favourable. 

I noticed a bit of peeling starting to occur around the line edges on the plate. I carefully lifted the peeling area of the surface and peeled it back making sure it didn't take up any of the elements inside the line. In essence this left slightly raised surface area. The area exposed from peeling was a bit rougher in texture. I again applied ink to the plate and wiped it back. However this time I selectively did a bit more removal of ink with tissue over finger tips and also a bit of strategic highlighting using cotton swabs. And the result came out like this in the photo below.

I have pulled a few more prints from the plate and fear now it is deteriorating fast. I believe that milk carton plates are good really only for small editions of perhaps up to 8 images.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Re-purpose household waste to make prints

Red fox study
drypoint engraving from plastic plate
edition of 11

To learn more how this print was made scroll down through the post

I have been active once again in the studio producing some small and limited edition new work. Only in  this case I am using everyday common materials as surfaces from which the prints originate.
In fact, two materials specifically are being used where drypoint is the printmaking technique being employed.

Method #1 - paper card drypoint

The first material is the thin dense paper card used for the packaging of products such as cereal, pasta, crackers, teas, etc...
I have found that coating this with either several thin layers of shellac or acrylic varnish allows a fairly decent surface that can be scratched (or scribed) into with a sharp pointed tool. It is important that both sides of the plate be coated.

plate cut from cereal box board

reverse non-printed side is used for scribing image into.
Shellac is applied using a soft bristle brush over the surface 
and several layers are applied.

I have several tools available for using to work an image into the plate surface.

tools include traditional drypoint needle (metal tool 2nd from the right), diamond tip scriber (reddish wood handle tool), mechanical pencil holder with compass point inserted (far right)           and a home made needle with a steel darning needle inserted into a light wood dowel (between the diamond tip and metal etching needle).

An image can be drawn directly onto the surface using a dark graphite pencil or fine tip permanent marker or you can trace it on using carbon or graphite or saral transfer paper.

sketch of winter woods

sketch on tracing paper (right) with graphite paper over plate and image traced again over top (left)

Darken the graphite line transfer using a fine tip black permanent marker then scratch into these visible lines

The plate is inked either using Akua Intaglio ink (I modify it with a bit of magnesium carbonate powder to add a bit more stiffness) or Caligo Safewash etching ink (I add just a small amount of easy wipe compound to reduce the stiffness of this ink).

first proof print (right) and the plate positioned on the registration paper

Method #2 - plastic plate drypoint

I up-cycled a clear plastic lid from a seasonal greeting card box cover. I cut it into a couple of rectangular plates using a utility knife and a cork back metal ruler.
First draw the outline on your sketching paper and within the same size rectangle draw in your image. The plate can be placed over top. Draw in your sketch and then using tape secure the plate to the sketch. You will be able to view the sketch through the thin clear plate. Using a drypoint tool you can trace the image into the plate surface.

trace outline of your plate on the sketch paper. This will give you the dimensions of your sketch that will also fit within the plastic plate size.
Much like drawing you can add textural variations using cross-hatch, stipple. scribble. You can also use things like sandpaper or emery board to add rough texture to the plastic surface. The more worked a surface the darker the tone it will produce. 

scribed image in the plastic surface with thinner and denser line

and the resulting print from the plate on paper. The ink was a mix of Akua intaglio carbon black and pthalo blue.

The Hug

thin ink was wiped into the plate surface to reveal the image during the scribing process
plate inked and ready for printing

on the press bed awaiting dampened rag paper to be put over top

detail of print on paper

small edition of 11 drying

Monday, January 9, 2017

Printmaking promotion - free activities for the public

A local art center I have been involved with since their formation recently approached me to see if I would be willing to give printmaking instruction in various techniques in several short duration demo workshops.

These are being offered free of charge for the public to drop in and try their hand at...sort of a sampler session that they can come in, spend an hour or more if they desire and create a small art work they can take home.

The center acquired a used etching press earlier this summer and want to offer printmaking workshops and possible rental of press time to those who might like to learn some of the various techniques or have previous experience.
By offering sampler sessions the idea is that if some are interested in taking it further we can offer long duration more intensive workshops (for a fee so we can cover artist fees, cost of materials).

We kicked off the new year yesterday with the first of the free workshops aimed at all ages. It was an introduction to very basic relief printing that I officiated. Participants were given a small piece of scratch foam printing plate and a pen. They were encouraged to draw an image into the surface. Then colour was applied to the surface of the plate with washable marker inks.
Dampened Japanese kozo paper was set over top and by either pressing with finger tips or rolling a soft rubber brayer across the top the image on plate was transferred to the paper. Where indentation from the ballpoint pen had been made a white line appeared on the print version on paper.

This activity had a lot of young artists in attendance but we also had a couple of adults try it out. Here are some examples of what a few participants created.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Lake Superior shoreline collagraph

It has been a while since my last post and the new collagraph study that was then in progress. The good news is I found some time to add in colour to the print. However before this occurred I took a weekend roadtrip to this spot depicted in the print image to be inspired for my treatment of the sky and landscape. Good fortune smiled on me that weekend with warm and sunny early fall weather conditions.
I returned with quite a number of photos from which the final image shown above emerged.

I applied caligo safewash etching ink to the plate surface with home-made felt dabbers. The plate was wiped back with bunched up tarlatan fabric followed with a good wipe of old yellow pages. I rolled a little ink onto the foreground trees that were raised slightly already. This helped to define them a little more. Soaked and blotted italian milled rag (magnani) was set over top of plate on the press bed.
I used both tube watercolours and washes of liquid acrylic inks to colourize this first of several prints on paper that had been printed in just a single colour.

 detail from left side

I plan to pull a number more prints from the plate soon and get an edition established. There is an opportunity for me to have the color framed study make it's debut in a regional print exhibition here in Thunder Bay starting Oct 15, 2016 at our waterfront Baggage Building Arts Center.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Recent activity in the studio pt 1 - panoramic collagraph

Panoramic plate that will produce a printed image that measures 14 x 55 cm (5.5 x 21.5 inches.)
The plate has been sealed with several layers of clear shellac and now awaits the application of ink, wiping back and passing through the press.

It has been several months since my last post. I was away from home base for nearly an entire month. A few weeks back I was inspired to return to my studio and pursue an idea from several years back which was to create a collagraph print in large scale. 
To date the biggest collagraph from the studio has been (13 x 18 cm) or 5 x 7 inches.

I used a photo I had taken during a visit to the town of Marathon that is located along a section of the rugged shoreline of Lake Superior here in northwestern Ontario. I had spent 8 years of my life living here as a youngster. This region has some of the most dramatic terrain in Canada aside from the coasts that border all coasts of the country. It is also an area where a few members of Canada's famous group of seven artist collective journeyed farther north along Lake Superior from the Algoma region to paint depictions of this region and it's interior coastal areas. These included Lawren Harris, A.Y. Jackson and Frank Johnson.

Harbour in Marathon ON, Carden Cove to the right

Lawren Harris, 
Afternoon Sun, North Shore Lake Superior 
oil, 1924

Lawren Harris
Coldwell Bay, North of Lake Superior 
oil, 1923

A.Y. Jackson
year unknown

A.Y. Jackson
Entrance to Pucasaw Bay
oil, 1930
Collection of Art Gallery of Algoma

My decision was to create a horizontal panoramic print constructed using a variety of media on a heavy paper-board surface. I happened to have a large rectangular frame (blond birch) in storage and this also helped to determine what the actual print image size would be.

pencil sketch on hot press smooth surface paper board 

materials and tools I used to create the plate included: liquid mediums including glue, acrylic gels and pastes. Also dried plant bits and cut paper.

After the sketch was finalized on the board I went over the pencil with a fine point waterproof marker. Then I chose an area to begin cutting. My plan would utilize both subtractive and additive treatments to the surface. Subtractive (removing top layer) would yield a recessed area that would contain rougher surface enabling ink to collect and produce darker definition to that specific element of the image when the plate is printed. 
I brushed on a thin coat of water diluted acrylic glaze over the board surface and let it dry. This would help to make sure when I cut and removed areas through a subtractive process that the paper edges would remove cleanly without too much tearing occurring.
Using a surgical scalpel I cut a shallow line around one of the foreground islands. I then carefully gripped a corner of the cut area and peeled away the paper surface. These peeled areas in the background hills would be defined by a bit darker ink during the printing process. 
However for the hills and islands in front of these I wanted to have a bit more textural definition to show foliage.

For the distant islands and hills more to the front I created texture by using a sharp homemade etching needle where I scored into the exposed layer of paper board in small strokes to work up little linear elements that would recreate small coniferous trees (viewed from a distance.)

To help me see how the textural effect of roughing up the paper board was coming along with my finger I gently wiped a little powder from a dark red colour conte over the area. 

for the mid range hill terrain I stippled the board surface with the point of a proper etching needle. The needle tip created tiny pock marks that would hold ink and would differentiate scale of trees in a slightly smaller size compared to the island in front of it.

The next stage was to create an interesting sky. I really wasn't fond of the heavily clouded sky in the reference photo. Drawing on memory I decided to add in just a few fluffy cloud tops emerging from behind the distant hills plus a few traces of whispy cloud formation higher up. To create the fluffy clouds I used small bristle brush and acrylic gel medium. For the wispy clouds I used modelling paste and wiped it on with a finger tip.

I wiped a little dry powder from conte stick to reveal the texture of the clouds in the sky

The last area to focus on was foreground foliage. I decided a few select trees would be created by cutting into the board surface and peeling away surface layer. Some would be emerge from a collage of both dried plant materials, cut out paper shapes that could be glued on and finally some would be derived from addition of textural medium onto the board surface.

cutting into top layer of the board with a sharp craft blade knife and then removing the paper.
removal of the white smooth surface reveals rougher textured layer below. I then added in small areas of liquid acrylic medium to create small raised areas that will hopefully add a little pos/neg space effect in the trees.

using the smallest pair of scissors I cut out tiny little leaves from thin cereal box packaging for one of the foreground trees. These were glued onto the board surface.

I had a small box of dried plant fibers I had collected during walks. Some of these were adhered to the board with liquid acrylic gel to bond it to the board surface. I pressed down on the bits with a piece of plastic and held it for a minute to allow the adhesive to take hold.

Collected dried bits of mosses indigenous to the forests of the region. These make for interesting texture and shape in a collagraph.

Finally when everything was set I began coating the plate with shellac. I decided to apply three coats on both the front and the back. Using a steady hand and a soft wide synthetic bristle paint brush I applied the shellac starting at the left and moved across in a straight horizontal line to the the right. When the plate was completely coated I allowed each layer to dry for at least 8 hours. This was repeated 3 times.

In my next post I will be inking the plate and pulling my first working proof from it.