Monday, May 18, 2015

experimentations with miniature plate prints - various approaches to colour application

Conifers, Moon and Aurora
Drypoint with relief roll
varied edition
plate size: 7 cm square (2.75 inches)
paper size: 11.5 x 14 cm (4.5 x 5.5 inches)

I have been inspired the last couple of days to experiment a little more with a couple of small acrylic plate drypoint prints.

Today I threw all caution to the wind and just decided lets play with various things and see what does and doesn't work.

I decided to try a unique approach using the small organic conifer tree shapes (see my previous post) that I had scratched onto a small 7 cm square plate. That is 2.75 inches for my US friends and yes even some Canadians.

I wiped a bit of Caligo Safe Wash carbon black etching ink into the scratched linework on the plate. Once I had the plate surface clean post wipe with yellow pages I applied Akua Intaglio ink rolled onto the surface with a brayer. This was a bit of Pthalo blue mixed with a drop of blending medium to make it a bit more transparent. I then used another roller with a bit of a lightened green and rolled it across the surface of the plate into the blue. Then using a small brush I worked and blended this. Using a cotton swab I removed ink from the lower section of the plate. I then applied a deep violet of Akua intaglio ink using a small synthetic bristle taklon brush. I placed the plate onto the press bed and put a small piece of damp Canson Edition rag over top.
The press bed felts were placed over top and it was passed under the top roller (tightened earlier).

The black ink came out a bit light however the colour background was kinda nice. I cleaned off the plate, once again applied the carbon black ink to the scratched line and cleaned off the surface by wiping with a bit of coated tissue paper. 
I carefully set the small plate on top of the print (it set into the slight embossing created by during the first passing under the roller earlier). I carefully flipped this over so the plate was facing upward and the print on top, once again I set the felts over top and passed this under the roller. This gave me a deep rich black from the scratched lines which contrast nicely against the colour background. The effect I wanted to achieve was that of aurora borealis. You be the judge?

I did a second version of this but placed a small paper circle from a three hole punch between the trees.

I had a another study of a small tiny 5 white petal flower (skunk currant) and for this one I did two approaches. The plate size was again 7 cm square. The first approach was to scratch lines into the plate surface, then wipe some ink into the scratched areas to reveal the linework in black, Using a lightbox I set a piece of tracing paper over top of the plate and traced the outline of the flower shapes using a 6B pencil . I also marked on the tracing paper where the edges of the plate would be. I flipped the tracing and set it over top of a piece of goldish-green thin oriental gampi paper. I then went over the pencil lines once again with a firm lead pencil. This transferred the 6B lead onto the tissue and I used it as a guide to cut the small shapes out with a triangular blade x-acto knife. I then sprinkled a little wheat paste powder on the surface of the paper. 
I set the same size square piece of gampi with the cut away sections over top of the inked plate. I misted it with a fine spray of atomized water (to moisten and activate the wheat paste powder). A piece of a damp rag paper was set over top and again with felts lowered was passed under the top roller of the press. 
Unfortunately something shifted when I placed the rag paper over top so there was a slight off registration of the collage colour paper background.

The second version was made using a relief roll of green akua ink and the white areas of the petals were created by again using a cotton swab to remove the green ink. I applied a bit of golden yellow to the plate surface on the tip of small brush.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Mini print - a mix-media art project for elementary schools

I am commencing a project with a grade 5/6 classroom in a few days time. A few challenges have been presented for this project including the limited amount of time I will have to work with the students and small budget we have for materials.

I proposed an idea to the teacher to have his students create mix-media artwork using a simple intaglio printmaking technique (drypoint) and combining this with collage of thin coloured papers. 

As a multi-discipline visual artist the miniature size is something I have explored in the past and have had a few small prints included in miniature exhibitions both here in Canada and one in Denmark.

hand-coloured photogravure print
plate size: 8 cm
varied open edition

I drew a simple landscape study of organic tree shapes. My idea was to incorporate colours and shapes through the collage application of thin asian colour tissue papers (known as chine-collé). My design is loosely based on a block print I created several years back titled Moon & Forest. 

Moon and Forest
block based relief print
image size: 10 cm x 10 cm

Due to the size of the plate this presented a challenge for incorporating very small pieces of the paper.
However it wasn't impossible and I am pleased with the results I have been getting using this.
Below is a short video I made from the intial simple sketch on paper through the scratching with the result linework in the surface of the plate. You will notice that placing the clear plate against a black background reveals the details rather nicely.


My plate is made from a flexible type of clear thin acrylic plastic that is used in the packaging industry. I was able to place my pencil sketch underneath and view it through the plastic. Using a sharp needle point tool I basically traced my sketch into the surface using scratching strokes.
Akua intaglio carbon black ink was wiped into the scratch marks and then using wiping fabric (a thin web-type material I sourced from a local fabric shop) I removed excess ink from the surface of the plate. A piece of thin paper (old yellow pages from a phone book) was pressed and rubbed using a circular motion to remove additional surface ink. This is the same process many printmakers use when inking a plate (etching) in preparation for printing.

First I made one test print on rag paper using just the black ink to show me how the scratch line would reproduce. Akua intaglio ink was used and I added a little bit of mag-mix (magnesium carbonate powder) to thicken the rather runny ink (which is vegetable oil based).

I used the plate edges as a guide to trim the small pieces of asian paper to the same dimensions as the plate. The tricky part was then to determine where each piece would be placed. I put the plate (ink side) facing upwards on the press bed. I carefully placed the tissue thin paper on top and moved it into place using the point of an x-acto blade. A fine mist of water was sprayed onto the plate surface to slightly dampen the tissue. A fine dusting of wheat paste powder (strained through cheesecloth stretched over the opening of the jar it was in) was applied. 
Finally I set a slightly moist piece of  250 gm rag printmaking paper over top.
A piece of newsprint was put over top and then the three layers of wool felts were carefully lowered over top of everything, I manually turned the press handles and passed the plate, papers and blankets underneath the top roller which I had set earlier to produce a fairly tight squeeze. 

The pressure forced both the tissue thin asian paper on top of the plate and the rag down into the areas holding the ink. This left the ink on the surface of the colour papers and the pressure fused these with the fine layer of adhesive onto the rag paper. It allowed me to incorporate colour and texture through the simple application of collage. So far I have produced 3 test prints. Two of these use the collage application. You will notice in one I carefully cut out a circular shape to allow me to have a moon behind the tree.

This artistic endeavour in the classroom should prove to be both exciting and challenging for the grade five and six students. I will follow up on this post soon with photos of what they have been producing.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Junior primary classroom art activities - monoprints and mix media

Recently I engaged a grade one/two split class at Hyde Park public school here in Thunder Bay in a two part activity that began with the students making basic monoprints onto paper.
A Monoprint is a one of a kind image that is transferred from one surface onto another. 

Wikipedia defines the form as: 
  1. Monoprinting is a form of printmaking that has images or lines that can only be made once, unlike most printmaking, where there are multiple originals. There are many techniques of monoprinting. Examples of standard printmaking techniques which can be used to make monoprints include lithography, woodcut, and etching.
However this activity became more of a mix media project since the use of a paper mask to create negative shapes was implemented. Drawing, colour introduced using markers, pencil crayon and collage (cut/paste) were additional stages that added embellishment to the prints.

To begin students were asked to create shapes from construction paper and cut these out. These would serve as a masks placed over top of paintings to block out shapes that would be left as negative space from the white paper area left without paint covering it. 

painting the modified pigments onto the freezer paper plates and placing cut paper shapes over top

The next phase had each student paint modified acrylic and tempera paint onto a piece of plastic coated freezer paper.
A small amount of Createx monoprinting medium was mixed into the water based pigments and it was painted with brushes onto the plastic barrier surface.

The cut paper shapes were then placed on top of the wet paint. Heavier smooth surface 250 gm rag paper was placed over top and taped down to hold it steady. Students used both soft brayers to roll across the top and gentle pressing using the palms of their hands.

The paper was carefully lifted away from the painted sub-sheet with the paint and was allowed to dry.

For the next stage the students then worked into the open negative space areas with markers to add in elements that included animals, figures, etc.. Some of the young artists were even more adventurous and added in subtle elements of collage using glue and cut paper shapes or transparent tissues.

Teacher Susan Lieske assisting a young artist with his monoprint

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Art in the Public Schools - Grade 5 and 6 drypoint with watercolour addition

I just completed a several visits to 3 classrooms at a local Elementary school through my Ontario Arts Council funded Artist in Education program placements. Students were engaged in a project that had them interpret a photo portrait that was taken of each of them into a drypoint line print on paper. 

This was another version of a You Cube relief project I did at two other schools earlier in the year. However this time around I used intaglio as the basis for creation of the imagery.

Thin packaging plastic was used to achieve this. The plastic is heavier than acetate but thinner  
in density than plexiglass. I fashioned etching needles using darning needles inserted into pre-drilled ends of wood dowel and secured tightly using masking tape rolled around the eye end of the needle.
Akua black intaglio ink was wiped into the scratched images and the surface of each was polished using yellow pages torn from old phone directories.
3 prints were made by each student onto 250 gm rag paper and by manually passing the inked plates, paper and felts underneath the adjusted top roller of my table top etching press. 

We allowed a week for drying of the ink and then the prints were taped onto corrugated plastic boards. I put together individual foam plates with button sizes of 12 hues of tube watercolours and students applied paint into the monochromatic studies.

The final stage of this project had students take the trimmed prints and fasten them using liquid white glue onto 3 sides of a 14 cm (5.5 inch) square corrugated cardboard box.

For public presentation 12 cubes will be stacked in a vertical format (fastened together between top and bottoms of each square using double sided tape. I will place it on a larger cardboard base sheet to help with stablility. We should have around 10 columns that can be viewed from 360 degrees. One side of each box will open like a small door and students will place a handmade clay object they will make that best represents some aspect of themselves.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Teaching art in elementary grade school – mix media and relief print murals (Jr. primary grades)

In the trees
Brodie Resource Library
April 2015
created by grades 1/2 students
Hyde Park Public School
Teacher: Susan Lieske
Art Educator: Brian Holden

I have been giving art instruction to a grade one/two split class at Hyde Park Public School in Thunder Bay. I have been very fortunate to be paired with a highly creative minded teacher, Susan Lieske. These eager and enthusiastic young artists have undertaken a few projects with me since November.

Two projects that were recently completed in this particular classroom are currently on display at the Brodie Resource Library here in the city of Thunder Bay. I was approached by a committee from the library who saw the vision of public and school based art on a few walls in the library system.

Yours truly assisting a student to make a cut paper shape and modified acrylic paint monoprint.

The first project is a series of panels that have the option to be displayed either in a vertical or horizontal presentation. In the first of the 2 art displays I had long open shelf tops available in the venue and  thus arranged the panels in one long panorama style display.
This particular series explores Animal Totems in the theme. Students chose animals indigenous to this region and working from photo references made a sketch onto a thin flat plate made of dense styrofoam. Water based block printing inks were applied to the plate surface using synthetic soft rubber brayers. Prints were made onto pre-cut squares of black mulberry paper. I mounted the prints onto black mat board panels.

I also connected the animals to regional first nation culture and we learned the name of each of the creatures from the Ojibwe language.  The full list of createures are listed on the last panel that is included below.







Black bear





In a related pursuit Susan Lieske had her students research their animals, look at their significance from a first nations connection and put all of this into hand made little accordion fold booklets. These are also available for the public to look at and read just below the panels in a wall pamphlet system.

The second more recent project I have this class was the creation of a mix media collective mural.  It began with me drawing 2 large tree shapes over a 4 x 7 ft arrangement of bristol board pieces into a grid of 4 up by 6 across (for a total of 24 rectangles). I encouraged each student to retain the bare branch shape passing through their rectangles but to bring each part of the tree to life using drawing, painting, relief stamping and collage. The mural is titled In the trees. It is a large colourful mosaic of colours, shapes and textures and also the viewer can make out the tree shapes that define everything when it is assembled. I think that each individual panel is a work of art unto itself.