Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Elementary School printmaking instruction

I have been active the past month in the role as an arts educator visiting grade five classes in a couple of elementary school classrooms here in the city of Thunder Bay.
This is through the Community Arts and Heritage Education Project or CAHEP. I have been actively getting placements in schools through this program since 2006.
This year the learners have been given the opportunity to learn relief block printmaking. Not only do they get to try a brand new visual arts technique but learn about the principles of design and explore colour theory in the process. This years theme for the program is Thinking Outside the Box.
Here is the Project Overview for the second and most recent venture:

Project Title: Construction

This project uses relief block printmaking as the basis for the creation of hand printed imagery that utilizes several stages of process from start to finish.
Learners were given the opportunity to use two surfaces to create a two colour print on paper.
One surface was left solid and the second surface was carved into using special cutting blades to produce a relief design. Prints were produced by using careful registration of paper and application of ink to both sides of a block in two separate printing sessions.
To begin, the learners were encouraged to think about and share dialogue revolving around the concept of the word structure. Using photo reference they focused on a particular section of either a manmade or nature made structure. They enlarged the chosen area and proceeded to develop it and construct a colour print that would allow it to be viewed in an entirely different way.
This is where adhering to the theme of “thinking outside of the box” came into play.
Learners were also challenged by utilizing the principles of design in their respective works of art. During the project they learned about such important areas such as line, shape, positive and negative space, rhythm, repetition, texture, composition, contrast to name but a few.
Using linoleum cutting tools they were able to carve their images into a soft composite material (softoleum).  Ink was applied to the relief surfaces using brayers and prints were made in two colour combinations on paper using traditional hand printing methods.
An emphasis was made on using complementary and split complementary colour combinations in the prints that would allow for real contrasts and impact in the images.
The students printed a solid colour square first and then the cut side of the block with their design was printed over top in a contrasting colour.

Materials used:
Softoleum blocks, linocutting tools, water based printing inks, soft rubber brayers, registration
boards, subi printmaking paper, rubbing sticks, spray adhesive, white foamcore board panels, spray adhesive

Individual panels contain 6 prints are stacked vertically with an overall measurement 25.4 cm (10 inches) in width by 101.6 cm (40 inches in height).
Each image explores the concept of structure in two colours.

The finished results have been very good. I have put together a display module where an equal number of prints (6) are affixed to a foamboard panel in a vertical format. Four of the panels will be hinged together into a four sided column and set on a table to allow for 360 degree viewing.
The results of these sessions will be presented to the public in a day in Feb. at a Community based Arts Fiesta held annually in our local auditorium. Then the works will continue as a display in a public space such as an art gallery or other public accesible space for a longer duration through the month of March.
Below are some photos that were taken during different stages of the projects.

cutting the softoleum using linocutters
 reference for the drawing on the block is from a colour rough sketch

water based Speedball inks applied to the block using a rubber brayer
that was rolled out onto brayer from plate glass surface

registration of block on simple cardboard with foamboard strip taped on top.
The paper is held in place with push pins and the paper is set over the inked block
and burnished using a plastic rubbing stick using constant pressure in a circular motion.

back to back prints hung to dry on a clothes line.
One of several stations set up for application of different colours of inks to the blocks.

zig zag design - orange printed over top of a solid violet square

detail from square print panel - spiral shell design printed in green over red (complementary colours)

another detail from a print panel
spider web study - yellow over top of a solid red square

four panels each with six prints that will be hinged together to create a four sided column display 
Each  print is 14 x 14.6 cm (5.5 x 5.75 inches) and there are a total of 24 prints in total. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

Overcoming problems in relief printmaking when using water based inks

Recently in the printmaking forum at WetCanvas some artists new to relief printing posted inquiries about problems they had been experiencing. I thought it might be good to share in my blog some of the advice that was given so anyone who might read this journal entry could also use this information to help them.

There seem to be a lot of problems printers experience while working with water soluble inks that are pigment based bound together with gum arabic. I am talking primarily with some brands under names such as Speedball, Daler-Rowley, Ocaldo, Demco (Canadian made). These types of ink can dry very quickly on the inking slab, brayer, block surface if the enviromental conditions are too extreme caused by heat or direct sunlight. Another problem is working with them when the temperature is too cold as they will not behave the way they should for application. The ink will sometimes not grip the brayer surface or apply well to the block surface either.
If it is warm and dry where you are doing your printing you could add a small amount of retarder to your ink. Speedball manufacture such a product and also they make a clear medium extender.
As for working in the cold, your best bet is to print in a space at room temperature.
You may want to make sure that your brayer (roller) is totally free of any residue from past use (especially if it may have seen oil based inks used on it). Water soluble ink picks up best on a clean smooth surface. I personally tend to favor using a soft rubber brayer but to each his own.

Another factor may be the surface of the block itself. Is there any residues on the surface that could act as a resist against water soluble inks?
Might try wiping with soft cotton cloth and denatured alcohol or you could also lightly sand the surface of the block using an extra fine grit paper or sanding sponge.

The ink should be rolled out on your glass into a thin even mass and picked up by the brayer again to allow a thin even coating on your block surface. Ink application is best achieved by rolling it in different directions across the surface. You can tell if there is a even shine across the entire surface but also you shouldn't see marks where heavier and lighter ink layers overlap.

Paper is another important factor to consider. If you are applying hand burnishing to transfer the ink to the paper you want an absorbant paper surface but also the paper should not be too thick.

Here is a list of lighter weight papers that are suitable for printmaking and I have provided links to some of the major retailers online who sell these. GSM refers to the weight of the paper in grams squared). Generally anything higher than 200 gsm might require the use of a press to give you the best results due to the thickness of the paper. The ones listed shouldn't require a great deal of hand pressure. These are also suitable for oil based relief printing off a block surface including those using linoluem, wood, resingrave, styrofoam, softoluem, easykut, speedykut, plaster relief, etc...

Magnani Revere book weight (175 & 120 gsm)

Canson Johannot book weight (120 gsm)

Zerkall Frankfurt (120 gsm)

St. Armand old master (80 gsm)
this mill based in Montreal makes paper in the old world tradition and although I have never tried their Old master drawing paper it is recommended for letterpress and judging by the weight would lend itself to relief printing I suspect?

Arches Text weight (120 gsm)

Somerset text weight (120 gsm)
https://www.graphicchemical.com/shop...et+Text+L aid

Zerkall book vellum (145 gsm)

Zerkall Nideggen (120 gsm)

Somerset book (175 gsm)

Gutenberg (various weights)

Arturo (!20 gsm)

Rives Lightweight Paper 115 gsm

Mohawk Superfine 120 gsm

Velin Arches (Arches text weight) 120 gsm



Masa (77 gsm)

Kitikata (30 gsm)

I will also mention a retailer based in Toronto Canada who have a fairly extensive array of Oriental made papers worth checking out. The Paper Place on Queen St. W are one of the best sources here in Canada I have found. I believe they also ship worldwide.

Another thing to try is a slight misting of the paper before burnishing. Not too much though since you don't want bleeding of the ink to occur. The slight dampness of the paper surface can also aid a better pick up of the ink onto the paper.
When burnishing the back of your print paper you might want to place a sheet of wax paper, acetate or glassine in between the burnishing tool and the paper. This helps to prevent possible damage to the print paper and also helps the movement of the burnishing tool across the block surface located underneath the print paper.