Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Lake Superior shoreline collagraph

It has been a while since my last post and the new collagraph study that was then in progress. The good news is I found some time to add in colour to the print. However before this occurred I took a weekend roadtrip to this spot depicted in the print image to be inspired for my treatment of the sky and landscape. Good fortune smiled on me that weekend with warm and sunny early fall weather conditions.
I returned with quite a number of photos from which the final image shown above emerged.

I applied caligo safewash etching ink to the plate surface with home-made felt dabbers. The plate was wiped back with bunched up tarlatan fabric followed with a good wipe of old yellow pages. I rolled a little ink onto the foreground trees that were raised slightly already. This helped to define them a little more. Soaked and blotted italian milled rag (magnani) was set over top of plate on the press bed.
I used both tube watercolours and washes of liquid acrylic inks to colourize this first of several prints on paper that had been printed in just a single colour.

detail from left side

I plan to pull a number more prints from the plate soon and get an edition established. There is an opportunity for me to have the color framed study make it's debut in a regional print exhibition here in Thunder Bay starting Oct 15, 2016 at our waterfront Baggage Building Arts Center.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Recent activity in the studio pt 1 - panoramic collagraph

Panoramic plate that will produce a printed image that measures 14 x 55 cm (5.5 x 21.5 inches.)
The plate has been sealed with several layers of clear shellac and now awaits the application of ink, wiping back and passing through the press.

It has been several months since my last post. I was away from home base for nearly an entire month. A few weeks back I was inspired to return to my studio and pursue an idea from several years back which was to create a collagraph print in large scale. 
To date the biggest collagraph from the studio has been (13 x 18 cm) or 5 x 7 inches.

I used a photo I had taken during a visit to the town of Marathon that is located along a section of the rugged shoreline of Lake Superior here in northwestern Ontario. I had spent 8 years of my life living here as a youngster. This region has some of the most dramatic terrain in Canada aside from the coasts that border all coasts of the country. It is also an area where a few members of Canada's famous group of seven artist collective journeyed farther north along Lake Superior from the Algoma region to paint depictions of this region and it's interior coastal areas. These included Lawren Harris, A.Y. Jackson and Frank Johnson.

Harbour in Marathon ON, Carden Cove to the right

Lawren Harris, 
Afternoon Sun, North Shore Lake Superior 
oil, 1924

Lawren Harris
Coldwell Bay, North of Lake Superior 
oil, 1923

A.Y. Jackson
year unknown

A.Y. Jackson
Entrance to Pucasaw Bay
oil, 1930
Collection of Art Gallery of Algoma

My decision was to create a horizontal panoramic print constructed using a variety of media on a heavy paper-board surface. I happened to have a large rectangular frame (blond birch) in storage and this also helped to determine what the actual print image size would be.

pencil sketch on hot press smooth surface paper board 

materials and tools I used to create the plate included: liquid mediums including glue, acrylic gels and pastes. Also dried plant bits and cut paper.

After the sketch was finalized on the board I went over the pencil with a fine point waterproof marker. Then I chose an area to begin cutting. My plan would utilize both subtractive and additive treatments to the surface. Subtractive (removing top layer) would yield a recessed area that would contain rougher surface enabling ink to collect and produce darker definition to that specific element of the image when the plate is printed. 
I brushed on a thin coat of water diluted acrylic glaze over the board surface and let it dry. This would help to make sure when I cut and removed areas through a subtractive process that the paper edges would remove cleanly without too much tearing occurring.
Using a surgical scalpel I cut a shallow line around one of the foreground islands. I then carefully gripped a corner of the cut area and peeled away the paper surface. These peeled areas in the background hills would be defined by a bit darker ink during the printing process. 
However for the hills and islands in front of these I wanted to have a bit more textural definition to show foliage.

For the distant islands and hills more to the front I created texture by using a sharp homemade etching needle where I scored into the exposed layer of paper board in small strokes to work up little linear elements that would recreate small coniferous trees (viewed from a distance.)

To help me see how the textural effect of roughing up the paper board was coming along with my finger I gently wiped a little powder from a dark red colour conte over the area. 

for the mid range hill terrain I stippled the board surface with the point of a proper etching needle. The needle tip created tiny pock marks that would hold ink and would differentiate scale of trees in a slightly smaller size compared to the island in front of it.

The next stage was to create an interesting sky. I really wasn't fond of the heavily clouded sky in the reference photo. Drawing on memory I decided to add in just a few fluffy cloud tops emerging from behind the distant hills plus a few traces of whispy cloud formation higher up. To create the fluffy clouds I used small bristle brush and acrylic gel medium. For the wispy clouds I used modelling paste and wiped it on with a finger tip.

I wiped a little dry powder from conte stick to reveal the texture of the clouds in the sky

The last area to focus on was foreground foliage. I decided a few select trees would be created by cutting into the board surface and peeling away surface layer. Some would be emerge from a collage of both dried plant materials, cut out paper shapes that could be glued on and finally some would be derived from addition of textural medium onto the board surface.

removal of the white smooth surface reveals rougher textured layer below. I then added in small areas of liquid acrylic medium to create small raised areas that will hopefully add a little pos/neg space effect in the trees.

using the smallest pair of scissors I cut out tiny little leaves from thin cereal box packaging for one of the foreground trees. These were glued onto the board surface.

I had a small box of dried plant fibers I had collected during walks. Some of these were adhered to the board with liquid acrylic gel to bond it to the board surface. I pressed down on the bits with a piece of plastic and held it for a minute to allow the adhesive to take hold.

In my next post I will be inking the plate and pulling my first working proof from it.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

miniature etchings from photopolymer plates - a how to photo tutorial

Sleeping Giant
I have been developing a series of small landscape studies that feature key locales along the shore of Lake Superior on the Canadian side of the great lake. The studies will all be the same in overall dimension size and all are horizontal. To date I have created plates for three studies. 
These are printed using a warm black Caligo safewash etching ink. Hand colouring is added to each once they have dried. No one single image off the same plate is therefore identical. 
I hope to have upwards eventually of up to 10 studies that will span locations all the way from Sault Ste. Marie Ontario west to Thunder Bay and then south down to the Minnesota border. 

Late afternoon kayak paddle - a Step by Step Photo Tutorial

The beginning stages of artwork being created on film of a new study that will feature the driftwood laden shoreline of Pukaskwa National Park and a small figure in a kayak in the water off the sandy beach. It started as a pencil sketch. I overlayed a sheet of clear wet media acetate film and added in details and textures using a refillable technical pen and then washes of tusche with brush.

 Duralar Wet media film


I created the artwork and then scanned both the landscape and the kayaker at 600 dpi using a flatbed scanner on my inkjet printer unit. Once the images were imported into my photo-editing program (Corel Photopaint) I imported the saved kayaker scan and merged it into the landscape through a copy and paste application. I then saved the file. This was then resized (scaled down) to the dimensions of the polymer plate I planned to use (2 x 3.5 inches or 5 x 8 cm). I set the printer for grayscale printout and black ink only option. An A2 size of inkjet transparency sheet was placed into the paper drawer and the saved image was printed out. This served as my film positive which I exposed onto the light sensitive coated plate using UV lightsource. You can learn more about this process by visiting this post.

The image was burned into the polymer surface by a chemical reaction to the UV and then I developed the plate using tepid water and scrubbing with an old toothbrush.  The plate was then exposed a second time to UV light to harden the polymer making the etch permanent.

positive with both landscape and kayaker on inkjet tranparency

below: developed plate with ink wiped into the etched image

detail of etch or pitted area of the plate surface. The duration of the exposure determines the depth of the etch. I also pre-expose the plate to a fine dot aquatint screen for 1 min before I expose the artwork positive. This creates a micro halftone dot pattern that will allow for tonal variations and also help keep the etch from becoming too deep.

ink application area of studio. Vegetable oil on the left for cleaning up. I also use detergent and water for cleaning off plates afterwards.

magnetic sheet to hold the stainless steel base plate steady when applying and wiping ink

tempered plate glass square which I use to mix my ink. 
Top left: rolled felt material with tape handle that I use to apply ink to the plate (dabber). Top right: ink spreader. Bottom left: wiping fabric (polyester interfacing) Bottom right: Caligo Safewash oil base ink - Carbon black and a tube containing a bit of caligo easywipe compound. I add a tiny amount of this to the oil ink to make it less tacky and spreadable.

small etching press with compressed polyester and styrene sheet bed. I place a paper template under the plexiglass which is the exact size of the paper the print will be made onto. I center the plate on template sheet and trace the outline in pencil. The inked plate can be set over top of this (as it is easily viewed through the clear acrylic sheet.) The white rectangle to the left in the photo is the cotton rag paper onto which a print will be made when it is registered with the template underneath and placed over top of the plate.

In lieu of soaking the cotton rag paper I spray it first on both sides with water. This is a little atomizer is repurposed from a throat spray. When the bottle was empty I cut a not into the plastic area that fit around the top of the glass bottle. This allowed me to remove it and set it back on the glass bottle. The little flip up wand is where the water is pumped into and it delivers a very fine spray when deployed.

after I mist the paper I quickly blot it between two pieces of newsprint. It is lightly surface dampened. As the polymer plate is quite thin I find that the inked plate won't distress the fibers of the paper as that of a thicker zinc plate might. I also don't worry about bevel of edges for the polymer plate either. I just run a burnishing tool along the outer edge of the plate to smooth any rough metal down.

setting the slightly dampened 250 gm cotton rag paper over top of the plate and lining it up with the template under the plexiglass top.

next step: I am placing a piece of newsprint over top of the cotton rag print paper

 lowering three layers of wool felts over the paper and plate.

The top roller is set to a fairly tight squeeze using the gauge levers (on top with the repurposed wine cork handle grips). I then pull the handles of the press (three spoke type of gear mechanism) and this propels the press bed forward and passes the plate, paper and blankets under the metal roller and out the opposite side.

lifting the felts on the opposite side once the bed has moved and the plate and paper have cleared the metal roller
making sure my hands are clean of any ink I then start lifting the print paper away from the plate.The moment of truth when the transferred image from  the plate appears embedded in the cotton rag print paper.

close up of the print on paper after it was removed from the press bed
 allowing prints to air dry...may take a while and then I will be able to apply colour to each through the introduction of wet media with brush
detail of kayaker from a print. The tiny dots in the water were created from the aquatint screen (tiny halftone dots) that the plate was pre-exposed to before the positive artwork.