Sunday, February 22, 2009

relief print part III

I've been working on creating a couple of additional blocks that will add colour elements into the new study with the stream and sand bar.
A few different relief surfaces are being implemented. A couple of the blocks are cut from pieces of battleship linoleum, two more are derived from carving out shapes from easy to cut vinyl and finally a couple more are from Scratchfoam (thin dense styrofoam sheet product) which I am affixing with spray adhesive on the underside to a thin pressboard base. The foam surface can be indented with instruments like ball point pen, pencil tip or end of a sharp wood stick. Ink is rolled on the raised flat surface with a brayer so indented areas do not retain ink and will appear as white or negative space on the paper. It can also have textures pressed into the surface and retain the impression to transfer onto the paper. When I create a block with this material I remove areas of unwanted foam by cutting away with xacto blade (pointed tip) and lifting off the baseboard with the aid of a pair of tweezers.

Images which involve the layering of colours from multiple block surfaces can present their own unique sets of problems. I have learned that registration is one of those challenges that a printmaker has to use their brain to figure out a good method for achieving a good end result.

A solution was shown to me by fellow wetcanvas member Printmakerguy who uses the ingenious method of a low level three hole punch that is attached to a plexiglass base. The paper is held in place by the three pins of this punch when the holes are punched out. I secure my blocks by making a brace created from cutting out an equal to block size hole in a piece of matboard, this is held in place with masking tape around the edges. You also want to allow for an extra inch of paper length at the top for the pin holes (this can be trimmed off after the last colour block has been printed.)
The whole works including the inked block and paper can pass under the raised top roller of a press to stop just short of where the pins are positioned (stop here so not to damage the roller). An even coverage of ink can be obtained with the constant pressure of the roller much more than hand burnishing with a baren.

Here is a step by step explanation of printing with my registration board system.
1 and 2. the basic set up for the block placement,  the block is inserted into the cut out depression in the matboard brace (equal size...tight fit). The block relief surface is slightly higher than the mat board surface.
3. Paper is secured onto the three pins of the punch and the safety flap is lowered. The underside of the paper is where the ink from the surface of the block will transfer in reverse when pressure is applied on top of the pressure (in this case from a press roller).
4. Another thin piece of cardboard is set on top of the paper and by turning the handles the bed of press carries the works underneath the roller. I stop short of the metal flange located at the head of the registration board so not to pass this portion under the roller and possibly damage both it and the three hole punch unit.
 The cardboard piece on top is removed and the paper carefully lifted back to reveal the print.

Help for registering each block is achieved by first printing the key block (black) image using water soluble Speedball (acrylic) block printing ink onto one side of a transparent sheet of acetate or drafting film. (see fig. 1 & 2). Using masking tape I join a 2.5 cm (one inch) piece of heavy paper at the top to the acetate and punch the holes through this with the pins of the punch. The pins also act to secure the paper in the same position every time a different block is printed. Blocks are set it into the brace depression well and then the transparent key image overlay is placed over top to check if the block underneath registers in line with the image on the acetate.

fig. 1

fig. 2

I had an interesting challenge for the sky and water when I cut out a section of the easy to cut (a smooth surface vinyl type) material. The center of the block was totally cut back to a lower depth, so when the roller came across it during printing it would depress down into the hollow and cause wrinkling of the print paper. To overcome this problem I first cut away sections of vinyl from the block (located on the sides in the area where I do not want ink to print, then I ink the block and insert removable strips of fresh vinyl. These act as runners to allow the r0ller to span this lower area without dropping down into the depression during printing. (figs. 3 & 4)

fig. 3

fig. 4
To add the colour green to the print (which will appear through the small cuts in the foliage area and in the reflected treeline of the key block I have created a block using scratchfoam. I first lay a piece of drafting film over my black key image and mark off the corners of the block on the film. Since I can see through areas in pencil are marked where I want to have the green printed. Since this will be covered by black ink and the green will appear through the small cut marks I can establish these areas for the green as broad oval shapes. Then I lay the drawing on drafting film over a precut piece of matboard and line the corner marks on the film with the block corners visible underneath. I carefully insert a piece of carbon or graphite paper and applying firmer pressure with a pencil point re-trace over the pencil lines. I then trace the pencil marks on the drafting film onto the scratch foam (with carbon paper on top of the foam). I can then cut the traced shapes out of the foam sheet and spray adhesive on the underside. The pieces are then carefully set into place on the baseboard using the traced outline from the carbon paper on that surface as a guide. You will notice the ballpoint pen marks I have made into the surface, these act like a knife cut and will leave white areas on the paper just as a cut into a linoleum surface would (fig. 5).

fig. 5
In fig. 6 the blue was printed first and then the green block followed.
fig. 6
My next entry will focus on the continuation of adding more colours and the final key block printed in black to define the image.

Friday, February 20, 2009

relief print part II

I have cut a second block that will define the sky and reflection of sky in the foreground pool.
For this I decided to use a product called "easy to cut linoleum" which is actually more like a smooth vinyl type material and about the same thickness as battleship or golden cut lino.
This product gets an ok rating from yours truly, but it came to my attention that that shaving bits had a tendency to stay attached at the end of cut. so it really works best if you use sharp cutting blade tips. There was an immediate improvement when I sharpened the blade of the v-gouge and U-gouge knives and it helped to curve the blade upward and out at the end of the cut stroke.

You will notice in the photo below (block on the left side) that areas were cut away where I did not want blue ink to remain like the sandbar and some small ripples in water towards the middle area of the block. Small wispy cloud shapes were added in the sky and also in the bottom where there would be the reflection.

Fig.1 shows a test proof of the blue (printed using Speedball water based ink) printed onto a piece of Printmaster paper. The three holes you see at the top are from my registration board which has a flat three-hole punch attached at one end. This keeps the paper in position each time the inked block and paper are run through the printing press (fig. 2). The block itself is set into a hole cut into matboard (created by first tracing around the block perimeter in pencil and then carefully cutting with xacto blade and removing the piece. I trimmed this cardboard brace so that the outer dimensions are the same size as the sheet of printing paper. The block which is set back into the depression will be slightly higher than the brace surface and when paper is set over top and another thin piece of cardboard placed on top it is run under the rollers of the press, which produce a gentle pressure onto the cardboard which creates a good even contact between the inked block and the paper.

Fig. 1

Fig. 2

The next stage was to print the black keyblock over the blue to check for accurate registration of blocks. The black image should line up exactly with the edges of the blue print.

Decided at this point to remove more from the surface of the keyblock to allow for an indication of foliage. For this stage I used my magnifying swing arm lens and a couple of wood engraving gouges. The size of these cuts would be considered pock marks when viewed at actual size but they appear to create an interesting indication of leaves (second photo below is a blow up of a small section). The next few stages will involve creating one block to print a colour for the background foliage and a block for adding colour into the sand bar and pool in the centre of the print.

Here is the block being cut with a wood engraving tool tip.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Relief print from linoleum surface

Todays entry features a new study in development. It is the beginnings of a relief print that will incorporate several cut block surfaces to produce a multiple colour image on paper.

The process I am using differs significantly from making a intaglio print as the surface of the matrix is used as the transfer vehicle to deliver ink onto the paper. It also involves a bit of carving skill to remove areas of block surface material where I do not want ink to print on the paper.
The printing stage also does not require the tremendous pressure of my press rollers that is needed to make an intaglio print. I could in fact hand burnish the back of the paper with a baren if so desired to make the print, however I do like the impression left by passing through a press with just a little pressure.

In fig. 1 I darkened the surface of the golden colour linoleum first using a chisel tip black waterproof marker - Sharpie brand and when that dried I sketched areas to be cut in silver ink gel marker (which reads well on the black surface. (You could also coat the surface with black waterproof india ink). When the white guide marks are cut away the golden colour is revealed. This contrast on the block will give you some idea of how the image will print when the surface is inked and transferred to a paper surface. I am working on cutting away the block in sections so decided that the top part was a good place to begin and work my way downward as I progress.

fig. 1
I found that working hunched over a table was not helping my neck and back so I constructed a portable 45 degree table top angled slant surface. This is covered with shelf liner material (non-slip) that is held in place with thumb tacks at the top and sides. I also have a swing arm magnifying lamp attached to the table which allows me to viewed enlarged areas while I am cutting. This particular block is not large in size and the fine details I want to achieve can really only be created using the aid of the magnifying lens.

For cutting I will use a variety of tools including speedball nibs and handles (fig. 2), a higher end wooden handle set of cutting tools (fig. 3) and finally a few very small fine point wood engraving tools from E.C. Lyons (fig. 4) which can also cut into linoleum and give fine marks in the surface of the hard linseed based material.

If you heat up the linoleum (sun exposure, hair dryer or setting on a warming plate or in the overn for a few minutes at low temp.) it is much easier to cut. For fine surface details it doesn't require the depth as broader cut areas so generally I leave it unheated to do these specific markings.

fig. 2

fig. 3

fig. 4

The sharp tip of a eliptic tint wood engraving tool. Notice the size compared to my finger tip.

Here I am making cuts to the linoleum surface using the Speedball small v shape nib. This is followed by the removal of larger area of material using a bit larger U shape nib.

Here is a closeup of the detail I have cut from the block. Notice the scale of size. The pock marks were created using the end of the a eliptic tint engraving tool.

I set a piece of printmaster paper over the inked section of block and rubbed with a smooth plastic handle rubbing stick. This shows me how the cuts will print and where I can cut away more areas in the sky (which I do not want to print). Notice how the image prints in reverse. This is an important fact to keep in mind, especially if type is being used in the image.

Here is the stage where the block has more cut from it and is now ready to become my black "key block". I have printed another proof to show how it will print on paper. My plan now is to cut a few more individual blocks that will print transparent inks on top of the black to create tinted hues. The exception will the block I cut to create a blue background for the sky and water which will be printed first and then the black key block.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

serigraph print (silkscreen)

The following are a few examples of studies that employ the technique of serigraphy or more commonly known as silkscreen printing. These are from a project titled Northern Ontario Waterways. The series illustrates the influence of water in the geography of the region where I dwell and also observations of nature as directly impacted by water.
The prints are made by passing acrylic inks through multiple stencils that are affixed to the surface of individual tightly woven mesh polyester screens. A sharp edge vinyl blade (squeegee) is used as a tool to pull ink across the surface of the screen and push it through open areas of the stencil to deposit in a thin layer on paper underneath. The screens are secured in positions so there is exact registration of the stencils onto the paper underneath for each of the ink colours.

Lake near Terrace Bay

Waterlily - Offshore

water strider

Thursday, February 12, 2009

etching on polymer plate created from a drawing

Pukaskwa: Ancient Rock
Polymer Intaglio

I have a new print derived from a pencil sketch on paper. It is a study of a section of rocky shoreline found while exploring Pukaskwa National Park on Lake Superior.

This rock is over a million years old and has unique striation, textures and colours in it. The linework of the original sketch developed quite nicely into the surface of my solar plate (polymer based). My plan is to add some mineral pigment watercolour into the rock and also bring out pools of water with reflected sky and a few potentilla and blueberry shrubs that are not as visible in the black and white version.

I scanned the drawing, lightened the image a bit and saved it as a file on my pc. Then it was printed onto an inkjet transparency sheet through my Epson inkjet printer (by activating the black ink only setting in the grayscale option). A few more details were added onto the dried transparency with a fine point black sharpie marker. (fig. 1)

fig. 1
The polymer plate (solar plate) was exposed to UV light in my exposure unit first with an aquatint screen for 2.5 min and then that was removed. The positive transparency then was set on and exposed for 2.5 min. I immersed the plate in water bath and gently scrubbed the surface using a soft bristle tooth brush for around 2 min. The plate was blotted with newsprint and then warm air blown on it's surface from a portable hand held hair dryer to evaporate the remaining moisture. You want to ensure that no water marks remain as they will affect the print quality.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Photopolymer prints

I am posting a few recent prints to illustrate what is currently being printed or has already been created in my studio of recent.
These images are from a larger body of works revolving around the theme Wilderness .

The goal is to create a number of prints for display in a solo show based on the theme.

The series will utilize a variety of printmaking techniques that include serigraphy (silkscreen), block relief surface, intaglio (etching and drypoint) and photographic image etchings using polymer plate technology (a new safe etching process).

Black Fox Lake
polymer plate print with hand colouring

This print started out as a photo taken with my digital camera while on a wilderness excursion in Northern Ontario in late September of 2008. I you scroll down there is a fairly detailed description of the process I use to create these types of prints.
Black Fox Lake is a variable edition of 20 hand tinted photopolymer intaglio prints on Stonehenge 90 lb. acid free white paper.

Fig. 2 shows a mixture of prussian blue and black ink


Process description: Photo polymer plate printing

In this demonstration a photo is printed out as a high resolution grayscale positive on a transparency sheet using a good high resolution dot inkjet printer (like Epson). This is exposed to a UV light source (either natural sunlight or an artificial source) onto the surface of a light sensitive thin polymer coated metal plate. To help create areas in the polymer that will hold more ink for dark shading and also for good tonal variations in the image the process involves first exposing the plate surface to a fine dot aquatint screen. This is followed by exposure of the positive. This is called a double exposure technique.

Note: If using sunlight for exposing of plates the process works best on a clear day with no or little clouds. Generally best results are achieved using mid day direct sunlight. UV rays can vary depending in which part of the world you reside and also the time of year. For example where I live in the Northern Hemisphere the UV light during the winter months would be greatly reduced in comparison to the summer season, so exposure using this method would require a greater increase in exposure time.

You could make a single exposure of the artwork but really that works best for achieving high contrast images and prints where tonal variation is not an issue.

It all begins by make sure your artwork is properly set flush against the plate surface. For this one must use a flat even piece of board, set a piece of foam or black felt on top of this, then the plate. The opaque artwork can be on a surface that will allow light through such as a transparency, acetate, frosted drafting film, glass, etc...). This is then set on top of the plate and a piece of clean glass is spring clamped to the board to create a tight bond for exposure purposes. Once an exposure is made the plate is developed by immersing into lukewarm water and gently scrubbing away the polymer with a soft bristle brush. Only the areas that were opaque will wash out leaving open channels in the polymer surface in which ink can be contained. The plate is then blotted dry and exposed as is one more time to UV light to harden (cure) the polymer. Ink can then be applied and wiped to the surface in the same manner as a traditional acid bit plate that would inked. The plate is then ready to have a sheet of damp printmaking paper plus three layers of wood felt blankets placed over top and passed through the rollers of an etching press, thereby transferring the inked plate impression into the paper.

photo 1

Photo 2

Photo #1 shows my home-made UV exposure box. It is composed of 4 banks of blue bulb blacklights and reflector ballasts (photo #3). These were purchased from Walmart for around $65 CDN. The wood and screws plus the power bar ran me around another $25 CDN so was able to build the entire unit for well under $100. To purchase a premade unit from Dick Blick or will run you around $350 USD plus your shipping.

My home made exposure box will allow for plate size up to 28 cm x 35.5 cm (11 x 14 inches). So far my exposures have been very good using it. No more waiting for sunny days outdoors.
This unit seems to work quite well and the bulbs emit the proper wave length of UV (around 360 nm) which is comprable to natural sunlight UV spectrum.

In photo #2 you will notice that holes have been drilled in the lid on one end to allow for the power cords from each unit.
Each ballast is suspended (secured with wood screws) to the underside of the lid (photo #3). The box itself sits on four wooden tea boxes for corner legs about 7.6 cm (3 inches) above the table surface. This combined with the distance of the bulbs underneath the box will give a height ratio of maybe 11 - 12.5 cm (4.5 - 5 inches ) above the plate when it is exposing. I generally set a piece black paper underneath the unit first and then tape sections of black blockout paper (bristol board) around the perimeter of the unit when I expose a plate.

photo 3

A plate is usually exposed for 3 - 4 minutes each for the aquatint screen and positive and then developed in the water tray.

Photo #4 shows the plate being cured after the washout developing of the image. Notice how the UV causes the orange polymer to glow like gold. This thin polymer surface is fused onto a support base of thin steel. The plate can be cut to different sizes by using a sharp paper cutter blade or by running several passes of a sharp utility knife blade along the edge of a cork backed metal ruler. You cut through the coating and into the metal and then snap the plate off by bending it down and up using the edge of a counter or tabletop.

photo 4

Here is a colour digital photo I took of a section of fallen old growth white pine. (photo #5)

photo 5
Photo #6 shows the result of the exposure of the grayscale transparency version of this photo with an aquatint. The plate was exposed using the double exposure technique at 4 min for the aquatint screen and 4 min for the positive. Then it was immersed and scrubbed in water, dried with warm air and cured with an additonal 10 min. UV exposure.

photo 6

Photo #7 shows a print on paper (in sepia) taken off the plate after it has ink wiped into the recessed line and the surface polished with tissue paper.

photo 7

Photo #8 is another example of a photo image exposed onto a solar plate.

photo 8

Photo #9 is the resulting print on paper from that plate.

photo 9

First entry

The Sleeping Giant - Thunder Bay Ontario Canada

Downy Woodpecker
drypoint with hand colouring

I have taken the plunge and decided it is time to start up an online blog to journal my thoughts as well share my experiences with others with regards to my artistic endeavours.
I am a visual artist who resides currently in the port city of Thunder Bay at the head of Lake Superior located in the province of Ontario, Canada.
I have been learning and growing as a visual artist for pretty much most of my life, and have focused attention towards exploration of the hand printed image on paper.
My interest in printmaking started in Grade 12 art while attending secondary school in Orangeville, ON. I was taught silkscreen printing (serigraphy) by Gary Cook, and my interest in this type of technique led me to the point where I found myself printing my own t-shirts and finding some occasional employment by the student council to produce posters for upcoming school events.
After graduation from secondary school in the late 70's I attended Sheridan College in Brampton ON and studied visual art fundamentals for a year and another half year of interpretive illustration. In 1980 I entered into other avenues of earning a living from employment in hotel/restaurant related jobs, retail sales and custodial work. But my true calling has always pervaded so several years back made a decision to challenge myself and make a full time living as an artist. Fortunately I have also been able to earn some supplemental income from temporary placements into local and provincial school classrooms as an arts educator.
One of the ways to reach a wider audience and potential market with my art was to create a website. This was officially launched in 2006.
This year that site will be getting a brand new look and focus, but in the meantime the existing site is still up and running plus a good place to visit to see what I have accomplished as an artist.

Presently I am involved in completing three visual arts based projects courtesy of funding by the Ontario Arts Council. Two of my projects are studio based creation of new works and the third is a school based classroom project through the Artist in Education program.

You will also find a great deal in regards to printmaking and other artistic media at the following link:

When the webpage opens look under the logo on the top left hand side as you will see a channels option immediately under the blue tools bar, click on the arrow and open the alphabetically ordered list and scroll down until you find Printmaking. Click on this is to access this resource where you can view posts and learn about printmaking techniques, post your own work if you are a printmaker, get advice and exchange info. By the way my member name in Wetcanvas is Bridog, you can easily view all of my posts and contributions in the forums.