Saturday, March 25, 2017

Milk carton printmaking - experimentations

A couple of weeks back I began exploring the possibilities of producing prints from plates that are made from milk cartons. Mainly the inner surface of the cartons which protect the liquid inside be they milk, juice or beverages derived from nuts or seeds.
This all started with a drop-in art activity for children that I volunteered to give at a local art center. I had seen a photo online of a young woman who had taken a printmaking workshop (not sure where or when) and she mentioned they were having fun making prints from milk cartons. This caught my interest. 

Anyhow I had been saving cartons for other uses (making bird feeders, snow scoops for snow sculpture construction) and discovered I had quite a few amassed in my cellar.  These had previously been rinsed out with warm water after their initial purpose was complete. I carefully cut the tops off then slit the sides using a utility blade . Some edges had wrinkles in the surface (perhaps from rough handling when these were put by staff on supermarket shelves or during transport from the shopping cart to my refridgerator) so I had to trim these wrinkled areas off the plate. I ended up with a collection of various square and rectangular plates. 


Here is the plate I  used for the demonstration (middle) and resulting print (left). The other piece (right) is from the front side of the original carton. I made a direct drawing using a drypoint needle right into the surface of the plain white reverse side of the plate.

The young artists who came to the drop-in had a lot of fun drawing on the plates and then scratching over the pencil line using needle tools. They wiped Akua intaglio ink into the lines and wiped the plates using newsprint and tissue paper. 


They got the opportunity to turn the etching press wheel when these were printed and then take their prints and plates home afterwards.
Since the plates were small it was easy to put several on at one time for a pass under the press roller. 




Above photo shows two square plate prints produced by a couple of young male artists (12 y/o). Akua Carbon black and Pthalo blue ink. Printed onto damp 250 Canson Edition white rag. 

I brought my plate home and decided to see what else I could do with it since it was still very printable after my initial demo print at the drop-in.
I once again applied Akua carbon black intaglio ink to the plate and wiped it back with a soft polyester mesh. Then I wiped the surface back with a piece of old yellow pages from an old phone book. I then spot dabbed colours of thinned Akua intaglio (thinned by adding a drop of Akua blending medium). These were carefully wiped using tissue over my pinky finger tip. This method is known as À la poupée.  

I set soaked and blotted Magnani cotton rag paper over top and ran it through my small etching press. 
The result was very favourable. 



I noticed a bit of peeling starting to occur around the line edges on the plate. I carefully lifted the peeling area of the surface and peeled it back making sure it didn't take up any of the elements inside the line. In essence this left slightly raised surface area. The area exposed from peeling was a bit rougher in texture. I again applied ink to the plate and wiped it back. However this time I selectively did a bit more removal of ink with tissue over finger tips and also a bit of strategic highlighting using cotton swabs. And the result came out like this in the photo below.
































































I have pulled a few more prints from the plate and fear now it is deteriorating fast. I believe that milk carton plates are good really only for small editions of perhaps up to 8 images.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Re-purpose household waste to make prints














Red fox study
drypoint engraving from plastic plate
edition of 11
2017





























To learn more how this print was made scroll down through the post


I have been active once again in the studio producing some small and limited edition new work. Only in  this case I am using everyday common materials as surfaces from which the prints originate.
In fact, two materials specifically are being used where drypoint is the printmaking technique being employed.


Method #1 - paper card drypoint

The first material is the thin dense paper card used for the packaging of products such as cereal, pasta, crackers, teas, etc...
I have found that coating this with either several thin layers of shellac or acrylic varnish allows a fairly decent surface that can be scratched (or scribed) into with a sharp pointed tool. It is important that both sides of the plate be coated.


plate cut from cereal box board

reverse non-printed side is used for scribing image into.
Shellac is applied using a soft bristle brush over the surface 
and several layers are applied.

I have several tools available for using to work an image into the plate surface.


tools include traditional drypoint needle (metal tool 2nd from the right), diamond tip scriber (reddish wood handle tool), mechanical pencil holder with compass point inserted (far right)           and a home made needle with a steel darning needle inserted into a light wood dowel (between the diamond tip and metal etching needle).

An image can be drawn directly onto the surface using a dark graphite pencil or fine tip permanent marker or you can trace it on using carbon or graphite or saral transfer paper.


sketch of winter woods


sketch on tracing paper (right) with graphite paper over plate and image traced again over top (left)

Darken the graphite line transfer using a fine tip black permanent marker then scratch into these visible lines

The plate is inked either using Akua Intaglio ink (I modify it with a bit of magnesium carbonate powder to add a bit more stiffness) or Caligo Safewash etching ink (I add just a small amount of easy wipe compound to reduce the stiffness of this ink).


first proof print (right) and the plate positioned on the registration paper



Method #2 - plastic plate drypoint

I up-cycled a clear plastic lid from a seasonal greeting card box cover. I cut it into a couple of rectangular plates using a utility knife and a cork back metal ruler.
First draw the outline on your sketching paper and within the same size rectangle draw in your image. The plate can be placed over top. Draw in your sketch and then using tape secure the plate to the sketch. You will be able to view the sketch through the thin clear plate. Using a drypoint tool you can trace the image into the plate surface.

trace outline of your plate on the sketch paper. This will give you the dimensions of your sketch that will also fit within the plastic plate size.
Much like drawing you can add textural variations using cross-hatch, stipple. scribble. You can also use things like sandpaper or emery board to add rough texture to the plastic surface. The more worked a surface the darker the tone it will produce. 


scribed image in the plastic surface with thinner and denser line

and the resulting print from the plate on paper. The ink was a mix of Akua intaglio carbon black and pthalo blue.


The Hug


thin ink was wiped into the plate surface to reveal the image during the scribing process
plate inked and ready for printing


on the press bed awaiting dampened rag paper to be put over top

detail of print on paper


small edition of 11 drying

Monday, January 9, 2017

Printmaking promotion - free activities for the public














A local art center I have been involved with since their formation recently approached me to see if I would be willing to give printmaking instruction in various techniques in several short duration demo workshops.


These are being offered free of charge for the public to drop in and try their hand at...sort of a sampler session that they can come in, spend an hour or more if they desire and create a small art work they can take home.

The center acquired a used etching press earlier this summer and want to offer printmaking workshops and possible rental of press time to those who might like to learn some of the various techniques or have previous experience.
By offering sampler sessions the idea is that if some are interested in taking it further we can offer long duration more intensive workshops (for a fee so we can cover artist fees, cost of materials).

We kicked off the new year yesterday with the first of the free workshops aimed at all ages. It was an introduction to very basic relief printing that I officiated. Participants were given a small piece of scratch foam printing plate and a pen. They were encouraged to draw an image into the surface. Then colour was applied to the surface of the plate with washable marker inks.
Dampened Japanese kozo paper was set over top and by either pressing with finger tips or rolling a soft rubber brayer across the top the image on plate was transferred to the paper. Where indentation from the ballpoint pen had been made a white line appeared on the print version on paper.

This activity had a lot of young artists in attendance but we also had a couple of adults try it out. Here are some examples of what a few participants created.