Friday, December 6, 2019

Absence from my blog since the spring

Hatty Cove - Pukaskwa National Park
Lake Superior Shoreline study


To those of you who follow this blog, you will have noticed an absence of posts since the spring of this year. This has been due to ongoing health issues and learning what these allow me to accomplish in terms of my creative pursuits.

With some idea now of what I am dealing with plus encouragement from partner, family & friends I have been able to adapt somewhat and engage in less strenuous endeavours in the studio.                                
Unfortunately anything printmaking related took a bit of a back seat to painting for the past several months. However I noticed I began to really miss working in mediums like relief printing. I am currently working on completing a few watercolour studies and hope to make time after New Year's to return to some of the print techniques I really enjoy. I decided that linocut would be a logical choice and believe I should be able to take my time and carve/print some new blocks.  Seated activities like this seem to be a much more comfortable and although a bit more time might elapse to achieve the finished goal it is reaching that final goal of a new print on paper that drives me.

I would like to take this opportunity to give a sincere heartfelt Thank You to those followers who have been patient and understanding during my absence. 

I wish all of you a merry holiday season and all the best in your lives and pursuits in the New Year!

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Part 2 - Metal plate drypoint - reusing a failed polymer plate

detail from print before hand-colouring application.

this is the second part of a two part post.

A smaller plate was cut from the piece of larger plate I had salvaged in the previous post. A sketch on paper was created that was sized to the plate dimensions of 5 x 8.25 cm (2 x 3.25 in). 

One side of the stainless steel plate was then coated in black using a Sharpie permanent chisel tip marker. When it dried I taped a piece of Saral white transfer paper over top of the plate. A scan had been made from the drawing and it was printed in reverse on a piece of paper using an inkjet printer. I cut the paper leaving a .5 inch beyond the drawing edge so I could tuck and secure it with green masking tape to the underside of the plate. Using a 2H pencil I followed the main lines of my sketch and this transferred the image in white line onto the marker coated plate.

I found that a diamond tip drypoint needle gave the best results for working on a stainless steel surface (due to the hardness of the metal). With metal you will get a deposit of small metal along both sides of the scratched line (this is known as the "burr".) It will create a bit of a fuzzy like quality when ink is wiped onto the plate and printed. As this was a small image a swing-arm magnification lamp was used and with the needle I worked into the plate surface using drawing like movements (like those used when drawing with pen & ink.)
The black marker was then removed by wiping a bit of pure acetone on an old piece of rag over the plate surface.

Then I wiped a some etching ink into the lines to reveal the work better against the shiny metal. I then set a scrap of cotton rag (soaked + blotted) over top, put the paper and plate on the press bed and made a test proof by passing all under the blankets and beneath the roller of an etching press.

The proof revealed that more depth would be required in some areas to produce darker lines.

Lines were deepened with the diamond tip and some more minor details were added.

Once I felt that the surface was ready I re-inked the plate with oil based etching ink and put a piece of  soaked & blotted Magnani 250 gm rag over top then through the press.

After the ink dried I applied colour into the print with washes of diluted acrylic inks.

Part 1 - Metal plate drypoint - reusing a failed polymer plate

metal plate drypoint with hand-colouring

Recently I did a bit of re-organizing of some boxes of items for use in my print studio. One item that I came across was a small box of printing plates (polymer coated) that had failed either during exposure of artwork onto the surface or the image did not wash out successfully during developing of plates in water. I had decided at the times when failure occurred to hold on to the plates and see if I could salvage them for another use.

During the process of cleaning off some old ink I noticed that rinsing the plate in hot water caused the hardened polymer on the plate surface to soften. I wondered if it might be possible to remove the polymer altogether so made it a mission to figure out how this might be achieved.

I thought perhaps applying heat with a hair dryer might work, and unfortunately it didn't provide the heat required.  I also didn't have an electric paint stripping gun which might have produced the temperature to soften the coating. 

As hot water had worked initially I decided why not immerse the plate into boiling hot water and let it sit for a few minutes. 

I thought maybe the polymer might remove easily with a fine steel wool. Instead it lifted off a gummy mess which fused into the steel wool bundle as the temperature of the coating cooled.

What did appear to work was scraping off the coating with a thin steel scraper tool that I use for removal of paint off windows.
However when the plate was removed from the boiling water I only had less than five minutes before the polymer would start to re-harden making it difficult to scrape and release off the plate. What I had to do was re-immerse the plate into boiling water and then continue.  The good news is this method worked and I successfully stripped all the coating from the thin stainless steel plate surface.

After scraping all the coating off I took some fine grade sandpaper and gave the surface a sanding using first up and down strokes with the paper then rotating the plate sideways and going across the metal at 90 degrees. I followed this with extra fine sanding sponge (same direction) and then a wipe with a clean rag.

Next post you can read about and view photos of a small new work that began as a drawing onto the metal and then worked into using a drypoint needle.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

new plate - new series and edition based on an earlier work

It has been a couple of years since I did a small edition from an  image that was scratched with drypoint tools into the surface of a thin plastic plate from repurposed waste packaging.

I was able to print 15 from the plate before the image deteriorated (after 15 the image became barely visible from repeated passes under a tight press roller.) The small fox study sold well once I put them out for purchase. Recently a couple of interested parties asked if there might still some of these prints around they could purchase. 

With this motivation I made a decision to create and print another plate with this image, but to do that I had to take a high resolution scan (originally made from one of that first edition) and using an inkjet printer and transparency film replicate the image onto a small polymer plate. 

Before  exposing the artwork on film to the plate I made some minor additions to the image on the film using latex based ink and quill pen.

The plate was post exposed after the initial image exposure/development of etch to harden the polymer permanently. Some lines that came out a little light was worked into with a fine needle tip to deepen them and these would hold just a bit more etching ink.

So far the first half dozen prints from the new plate have all produced a clean readable ink image on the cotton rag paper. I am not sure what the plate will yield but have read that polymer can produce hundreds of prints before showing deterioration. 

As I did the first time around I plan to again add hand-colouring to each print once the etching ink is dry.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

miniature mix media prints - landscapes

Near Rossport
polymer plate etching with hand colour
print image size: 4 x 7 cm (1.5 x 2.75 inches)

You might notice that the image at the beginning of this blog entry bears a similarity to a work featured in my last blog entry. That previous image was a colour linoleum block print. You would be right because it is very similar in fact. I adapted the same view and composition using a different printmaking methodology. It is also  about 1/10th scale in size and is therefore officially a miniature.  It also incorporates hand colouring to become an original mix media work on paper. (intaglio print & painting).

The sketch I made for my lino was scanned and reduced in size. I then printed it using black inkjet ink onto clear film. This was then exposed using a fine dot aquatint screen and UV light onto a small pre-cut piece of polymer plate (solar plate) that I had rounded the corners using a metal file. 

The image was etched into the plate surface by exposure to the light. Gentle scrubbing with a toothbrush and using tepid water removed surface area to reveal the image. I exposed the plate again (without the film) to UV to harden the polymer for good.

Black oil based etching ink (cranfield safewash) was wiped into the shallow recessed etched areas and I then put 250 gm weight cotton rag paper over the plate. A lot of pressure was applied by running it under the roller of a small etching press which transferred the image to the paper. The printed image is then secured to a board using moistened paper tape (also used for watercolour painting) and set aside in a warm space to dry (up to a week or more duration) 

print on paper and the plate from which it originates. Notice how the image is in reverse on the plate.

Once the etching ink dries I apply colour into the print using washes of thinned liquid acrylic inks with synthetic taklon brushes. The paper is then cut to size with the bottom leaving a deckle tear edge created by folding over a special ruler with a rough tooth.

The resulting print with colour. Each print on paper is different because of differences produced during the painting application. 

My plan is to continue with this same format in a series of miniature prints that are based on landscapes found around the region where I live.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

First new artwork in a while - rework of an older piece

Near Rossport along Lake Superior - 2019
four block relief print (7 colours)
image size: 15 x 20 cm ( 6 x 8 inches)

                                      My apologies to followers of this blog. It has been nearly six months since my last blog entry. I am still dealing with health related challenges and there are limitations in the scope of what I am able to do and for what length of time. However my creativity has not been stifled and I am making it a point to keep the proverbial creative fires stoked.

One way was to return to an old image and produce from it again with slightly different elements. I found an older block of mine that was carved back in 2007. The small edition six colour print originated from one carved linoleum block (key image) and three thin pieces of stryofoam mounted onto mat board plates. The shapes were drawn into, cut and mounted carefully on their supports. 
Prints were made by passing the blocks and paper under a roller (with set pressure) on my small tabletop etching press. However over time from multiple passings the styrofoam quicky deteriorated and cracked.

progress proof before some minor additions

I decided that a new version could be printed this time around by replacing the styrofoam with carved raised linoleum elements. There have been some changes in terms of water, and a mid background landform.
This was also an opportunity to use Graphic Chemical water based relief printing ink. The ink is very sticky (but keeps open on the glass slab for a day or two). It is not oil based ink but the base that suspends the colour pigments is derived from plant sources. Once printed onto an absorbent paper surface it dries quickly (a few hours in the right studio conditions.)

Tempered glass inking plate with Graphic Chemical water based relief printing inks and two sizes of rubber brayers.

Four blocks in total were used. Two blocks had separate pieces of lino cut apart that were glued onto an equal size substrate. Since some elements had separation between them I was able to use one block to print 3 colour elements in a single pass. Small brayers allowed me to apply ink to the raised lino shapes. The first block that created the water and sky used a blend of inks rolled out on the glass. I put two small dollops of different tones of blue and then a bit of white ink beside the lighter blue.

A registration board system was used that had a 3 hole punch to hold the paper in place and also an area that the blocks of equal size could be held steady and would line up when printed in layers.

progression from block #1 - blend of blues and white followed by the layer of ink from block #2 far dusty blue-teal landform

Monday, August 6, 2018

Health issues affecting my abilities & significantly reduced studio time

hand-coloured polymer plate print
varied open edition
image size: 5 x 9 cm (2 x 3.5 inches)

It is the first week in August and you might have noticed that I hadn't posted any new blog entries since May.
I have been dealing with two problems involving my health and that have been affecting creative pursuits.

About 13 months back I started to display some mobility issues with my right shoulder accompanied by noticeable pain in the rotator cuff. I was referred for physio-therapy and did this for several months usually once a week. However there really didn't seem to be much improvement occurring.

By mid winter I noticed real discomfort occurring while using my right arm that forced me to limit the amount of time and type of physical work being done ie. creating plates. It was especially difficult when I was using a press (the manual rotation movements required for turning press gear handles).
The inflammation and accompanying pain would require me to take a couple of days of rest before I could resume anything. The exception was low impact activity like painting small work, as the arm and shoulder joint weren't as taxed. But this also required shorter duration periods of rest between applications.

In the spring I was referred to an orthopedic doctor. Back in the late fall I underwent ultrasound imaging. In April I had more detailed imaging which confirmed I have a sizable calcific formation located between the bursa muscle and the joint in my right shoulder rotator cuff region. The recommendation of the surgeon was for me to undergo an ultrasound guided lavage (needling). This procedure has a syringe tip puncture a protective barrier that surrounds the calcification, fracture the deposit and allow the calcium to leach from the area and absorb back into the body. After a lengthy wait I finally underwent the procedure last week. I am presently keeping the arm and shoulder moderately active during recovery but not subjecting it yet to turning press gears. It has lifted my spirits a bit too and there are a few projects I am anxious to return to asap.

The other major health issue is still unresolved and has proved to be a bit of a mystery. I was experiencing digestive issues back in the fall and early winter (some discomfort after eating but also some other things like fatigue, sensitive spots around the body.)  I altered my diet to reduce fats as I believed there might be a link.  After undergoing a number of imaging procedures (colonoscopy, endoscope, barium xrays and CT scan) nothing proved to be a problem with the digestive tract. Some guesses were made about it being gastritis. Conditions like irritable bowel were not looked at though. The restricted diet caused my body weight to drop over a a period of 2 - 3 months by 20 lbs. The problem of the last month or so has been trying to regain weight...I am finding this to be very difficult. Have made some slight improvement (a couple of pounds over the last 4 weeks) by really increasing daily calories. (referring to info i obtained after doing some online research for healthy sources of calories). 

I have still been experiencing short periods of discomfort after consuming some foods that contain fat (although I have made it a point to consume low to moderate fat in the diet...after all we do need some facts for body function). And I am mindful of daily physical activity so as to not burn too many calories. Unfortunately some of my favourite activities during the warmer months have not been possible ie. hiking, kayaking and even working on home renovation projects. It is just something I have made peace with for the moment. Hope the slow gain in weight will eventually have me back to a normal life down the road. 

For the meantime I am working with health care providers (and a dietitian) to explore possible issues with my metabolism, thyroid problems and also other organs like the gall bladder, pancreas and liver to see if we can determine what is the root cause. (CT scan didn't reveal anything out of the ordinary and the doctor told me that the dreaded "c" word was not detected.)

To keep my spirits up and also keep my creative juices going have been hand-colouring some small prints from the storage drawers. I also have been working on a small acrylic painting or two. These activities are not really painful on my arm and shoulder.

Last but not sign my rotator cuff is improving is I can put my arm behind my back without too much pain. Couldn't do this since last July. It may be the benefit from a shot of cortisone that was also injected at the end of the lavage needling. Will have the shoulder area imaged in about 6 weeks time to determine if the lavage has succeeded.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

print from a single plate that combines three techniques

Back in October of last year I posted about a print I had made from using a single clear acrylic plate.

This combined colour relief roll, monotype and drypoint. I had only made a couple of prints at that time. The plate was put into a safe place and I became involved with other projects   

Over the past couple of days I decided to return once again to printing a small edition off of this plate. I took photos during the process which I believe may explain better how I achieved each print on paper from the plate. I am hoping to print an additional 6 for a total of 20 over the next day or two. To date I have printed 13.

I am printing these using Caligo Safewash etching inks. The etching ink is also used for the relief/monotype stage.

Each print is made onto Somerset satin white rag. Using moisture activated butchers tape I affix each print onto a thin mdf panel where they are allowed to dry. The tape also keeps the slightly damp paper from buckling. 

The plexiglass (aka perspex) plate. Here the surface scratched line is revealed by applying and wiping black etching ink across the surface.

The plate showing colour relief roll of ink on the surface and the beginning stages of subtractive monotype. I create a colour blend for the blue on another larger piece of acrylic using a soft rubber brayer. I achieve this by applying prussian blue with a little white to establish the darkest hue at the top. I set a little white a couple of inches beside this and by rolling the ink with the brayer forward many times the two intermix until a nice blend from dark to light occurs. I then carefully transfer this from the roller onto the plate surface.
The light biege ink on the bottom foreground rock was applied with an even smaller width rubber brayer. This is achieved by first determining by eye where to start the brayer to meet at the line of blue and moving it across the surface to deposit the ink and not touch the wet blue ink. It requires a bit of skill and steady hand co-ordination.

Here you can see where I have removed ink using various tools (cotton swabs, rolled tissue, tip of a bamboo skewer) that will print as negative space.

Result of the printing of the colour relief roll and monotype for the first stage. 
The plate was set onto the press bed inked side facing upwards. I used a registration sheet underneath with markings made in light pencil to center the plate and also indicate where the corners of the paper should be. Soaked and blotted Somerset satin 250 gm rag was set over top. A piece of clean newsprint was set over the somerset and then the three wool felts were placed over all of this. The plate had a 45 degree bevel filed along the edges earlier. The pressure of the roller created an embossed mark around the print edges during printing. This will assist in positioning the plate a second time (ink side facing down) for the drypoint.

The colour ink residue was cleaned off the plate surface (using a rag and vegetable oil). I wiped carbon black etching ink into the recessed lines that were scratched on the plate earlier (the drypoint component). 
So now came the really tricky part. Carefully using a combination of steady hand and eye coordination I positioned the plate ink side facing down and set it over top of the colour print. The emboss from the bevel helped me to set it into place. 
I then set my clean hand over the plate. I placed my other hand underneath the paper and with a bit of slight pressure set it under the area where I had the plate pinned to the paper with the other hand on the opposite side. 
I slowly flipped it over so that the plate was underneath. I set this down on the press bed at a 45 degree angle and as the plate was lowered into a horizontal position I removed my hand slowly from underneath but made sure my hand over top of the paper and plate was pushing and making sure the plate wasn't slipping out of position underneath. I could tell once the paper was down flat as the raised shape of the plate from the previous printing held the plate in position. 
Clean newsprint was set over the back of the paper and once the felts were lowered. This time I set the hand that wasn't turning the press gears on top of the felts over the plate and paper area to hold in place until it was caught by the edge of the roller as the bed was moved under the roller.
When I lifted the paper after it had cleared the roller on the other side I saw that the drypoint element had printed nicely where it should be and the colour underprint was also in alignment.

Prints drying in a warm room. I use both sides of the boards to attach prints so angle them slightly out from the wall to allow for airflow on both sides during the drying process.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

collagraph - printing plate made from recycled material

collagraph print progress proof (shoreline study) made from a thin plate cut from beverage carton - colour not yet added

Recently I was organizing a collection of materials that originate from everyday household products. I saw potential use of finding another use for some of these things that would either end up in the recycling container or worse a landfill if they were tossed into the garbage. I was saving boxes worth to use in possible art projects with young artists either in classrooms or in workshops at community art centers.

One item that is common in this household are 1 litre and 2 litre beverage containers that dairy and milk alternatives (like almond, soy, cashew, etc.) are sold in at the local supermarket. A couple of years back I discovered that these containers worked very well for simple printmaking applications. The paper card is coated on the both the outside and inside of the container with a thin layer of plastic fused over top making them waterproof. It is thin enough to cut using scissors or utility blade box cutters.

Below is a link to an earlier blog post where I used a carton based plate to create a simple drypoint print.

Once a week I wash out the inside of the collected empty cartons and then cut 4 panels from each carton.

I have amassed a lot of cartons over the past year and a half that have yielded nearly a shoe-box worth of panels. 

Here are instructions how I achieve getting panels from a beverage carton (if you are wanting to try this for yourself). Tutorial follows photos in rows across then down to next row.


Row #1 across 
a. Using a box cutter knife lay carton on it's side. b. About 1 mm in from where the angled area of the top of the carton meets the straight portion insert cutter blade into an an area and start cutting following the edge. c. Turn the carton as you cut across each side. 

Row #2  d. Repeat using the same method to remove the bottom of the carton. e. cut in about 1 mm from the bottom. f. interior of the carton. One side has an overlap join that has been glued during manufacturing. 

Row #3 g. Stand the hollow carton on it's end and cut down side corner where the paper join is inside. h. Fold out the four panels. i. using metal cork back ruler edge trim each remaining panel away from corner edges by about 1 mm. (this removes the raised edges). I cut my panels on a plastic cutting mat. 

Row #4 j, k & l show trimming of individual panels.

( Note: Some cartons have little embossed markings in a bit from the bottom of the carton. I generally trim this area away.) 

the small panel I cut from a milk carton to use for creating a collagraph print. Plate size is 8.25 x 14 cm ( 3.25 x 5.5 inches). The text on the printed side is in both english and french. Canada is a bilingual nation.

Motivation for this recent project was landscapes from my region. I decided to construct a plate that would print as a collagraph. At present I have only done one plate to date and pulled a couple of progress proofs on rag paper. I am deciding whether to incorporate an additional plate or two or add colour elements to the print image through hand tinting of the printed image.

Stages of the collagraph plate

I started by first tracing an outline of the panel cut from the carton on scrap paper. Then I made a basic sketch of the landscape within the borders of the rectangle. This image was then traced onto thin vellum using a 6B graphite pencil.

tracing in 6B graphite made on tracing vellum

vellum is flipped over and by re-tracing over the visible drawing (that was done in 6B graphite on the backside) the image is transferred to the panel plate surface. The image on the plate would then be as a mirror image. 

graphite is visible on the plate surface. Darker areas would be achieved with recessed areas holding ink. I cut using a scalpel and carefully peeled back surface. Exposed paper fibre is rough in texture.

detail of where I cut and peeled away surface layer to reveal rougher paper underneath. I began adding in small details along the top edge that would hopefully read as a tiny treeline

Since the plate was small and I was working with aging eyes that don't focus as well on small things I used a swing-arm magnifying lamp to enlarge my view while working on the plate

to help reveal the small marks I made in the surface and cut away areas a little charcoal powder was gently brushed over this areas. I then ran some tissue across the surface to remove excess powder.

after working on below surface elements I concentrated on the addition of low relief surface textures. I used a couple of mediums to achieve these.

small amount of acrylic modeling paste was applied to create the foliage of a small shrub.  I used a very small brush tip and also the end of an embossing tool to work the medium on the surface.

I also applied thin areas of acrylic based micaceous oxide with a brush. The very fine particle in the charcoal hued medium would print as small mid tone on the rock surface.

I sealed the plate with clear shellac when all the textural mediums were dry to touch. 
Black Caligo safewash etching ink was mixed with a small amount of easy wipe medium. I applied this to the plate surface with a  tightly rolled crafting felt dabber. Surface ink was removed by wiping with a fine mesh polyester wiping fabric (quilt interfacing from a fabric shop) followed by a few swipes with the barrier glove covered palm of my hand and a piece of old telephone book page.
The plate was set inked side facing up on my etching press bed and slightly damp Somerset rag was set over top. A piece of newsprint was laid over this followed by three wool felt blankets. I adjusted the press roller gauge to a fairly tight pressure and turning the gears passed the plate/paper/felts under the roller. After I removed the print on paper from the press bed it was fastened to a smooth thin wood particle board for drying using gum adhesive butcher's tape.

My next blog entry will most likely show the introduction of  colour into this image.