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.