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.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting technique I'd like to try as well. Good luck with the students in this project.
    Stay inspired!