Sunday, May 4, 2014

Elementary School art - Drypoint and wet media application

 drypoint hand-coloured with watercolour

the Sleeping Giant

nightmarish landscape

urban landscape

 aquatic landscape

 I recently worked with a grade six class and the first of two print based projects we undertook was creating images from acrylic plates using a method known simply as drypoint. To further enhance the prints watercolour was added after the ink used for the prints was allowed to dry. The best way to introduce any technique is to give an actual hands on demo. I also give students tiny sample pieces of plates and blocks. This way they become familiar with the tools and surface ahead of progressing to the main project. We also usually take some time to discuss the project and break potential subject matter for studies into the form of sub-categories from a chosen theme.

Step #1 - drawing 

Students drew a rough sketch on paper to the plate size. Because the thin acrylic plates are clear the sketch can be set underneath and used as a guide for scoring line into the plastic surface using an etching needle.

sketch and plate secured over top using pieces of masking tape

Students were given a preliminary lesson first on drawing techniques and composition. I demonstrate a few ways to incorporate textural elements to their plates including spacing of linear elements, stipple, cross-hatch, lightly roughing the surface with sand paper. The idea was first to produce line of different weight and depth into the plate. This would translate as thin light or heavy dark when ink was applied and the plate was printed. The same would apply for texture depending on the amount of texture added. 

Step #2 - scoring the plate using the sketch as the guide

scoring the surface by scratching with a sharp needle point.
The tools were constructed by drilling a small hole into the end of a 1/4 inch wood dowel. I then inserted a stainless steel darning needle (a bit of masking tape was wrapped around the end to stabilize the needle.)

this technique requires patience and frequent rest breaks from the scratching process

setting a piece of dark paper between the sketch and the plate 
helps to reveal what has been scratched into the plate surface.

Step #3 - application of ink and printing

For this project vegetable based Akua intaglio inks were used. These are non-toxic and stay workable and open like traditional oil but without the odor. But the real bonus is that they clean up easily with detergent and warm water.
Students apply the ink using old used soft bristle toothbrushes to get the ink down into the lower recessed line in the plate surface. This is followed by wiping the surface of the plate using a mesh type interfacing material (found at most fabric shops). Then a final polish of the plate surface is made using clean tissue type paper and the palm of ones hand (the type of tissue that used for examination tables in medical clinics).

Pre-moistened rag paper is set over top of the plate which is placed on top of a press bed. Newsprint is set over top of the paper and then the wool felts are placed over this. The press handles are turned which in effect passes the plate, paper and blankets under the large metal press roller (preset for a specific height and tightness beforehand). When the bed is on the opposite side the blankets are lifted and the paper is very carefully lifted to reveal the print on paper. The extreme pressure has forced the softened fibers of the paper (from the dampening beforehand) down into the lower scored inked areas which effectively transfers this to the paper. The plate also leaves a slight embossment in the paper around the edges. 

plate and paper after passing through the roller of the press

the moment of truth

paint application

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