Tuesday, October 31, 2017

new work from the studio

Finally found time this year to return to the studio and pursue a few ideas I have been wanting to translate to prints.
Shoreline is a new study that originates from a drawing I did while touring the north shore of Lake Superior. It is a small image that measures 8.5 x 8. 5 cm (3.5 x 3.5 inches). It was originally intended to be a collagraph, but reality struck when I realized the small size would be very difficult to construct a plate especially with the fine details in the rock, trees and island. So a decision was made to interpret it as a drypoint.

I transferred my sketch on matboard plate onto clear acrylic plexiglass (perspex) and using a fine point needle scratched lines into the surface. I wanted additional texture in the foreground rocks and achieved this by applying pressure using the back of a metal spoon rubbed onto the back of a small piece of cut coarse sandpaper. 

Akua intaglio ink (carbon black and a hint of white mixed in) was wiped into the lines and damp cotton rag paper was set over top. I printed about four of these. My plan is to apply hand-colouring to these prints when they are dry. 

The next phase was to combine a monotype on the surface of a second plate (equal size of the drypoint plate). The monotype was made on thin acetate using rolled thinned colours of etching inks onto the surface. I then used cotton swabs, pencil point and bristle of small brushes to remove ink and make marks.

However I had only printed two versions using both plates and noticed off registration occurring in each. I made notes during the process. 


The 3mm key plate had been filed along the edges at a 45 degree angle.

The thinner acetate plate was cut to the same dimensions as the other plate. It did not have a angled edge.

Bristol card was used a bed liner and registration template for the plates. I had anchored the edges of the template with small tabs of painters tape onto the acrylic bed. The plexiglass plate was traced in light pencil on the template. Another light pencil outline as made several inches outside the plate position marks that I could use to line up the print paper. 

I had a piece of thicker plexiglass already set on top of my phenolic press bed. However past experience taught me that setting plastic plates onto a plastic surface did not result in a good outcome.  Many times I had noticed the plate had angled when it was subjected to the high pressure of the roller. Generally taping a piece of paper to set the plate onto usually keeps the plate from shifting. Possible problems:

  • Perhaps shifting was occurring when I passed the plates under the press roller? 
  • Was the coated side of the bristol card not providing enough grip and possibly not creating an indentation in the surface from the plate under pressure? 
  • Should I use another material for a press liner such as mat board? Was the off register being created when the plate was meeting the roller?  
misalignment of plates noticeable on sides

Possible Solutions 

Pass an inkless plexiglass plate through the press with enough pressure to see if it might make an indentatin mark in the Bristol card.

Trim the acetate sheet to fit the inside dimensions of the indentation in the registration sheet. This would allow the bevel edges from the main plate to emboss as a clean edge with no carry over of ink.

Forego the monotype plate. A fellow printmaker from an online community suggested that I try inking/wiping the plate and then applying a relief roll of thinned inks on the surface.

Success with single plate approach

I decided to take the advice and try the relief roll. This time around I used Caligo Safewash etching inks. I applied two colours with small brayers. For the sky I used a blue mixed from a combination of prussian blue with a little white modified with medium. The colour for the foreground rock was a combination of three process colours (magenta, yellow and cyan) with a little white and modifier to make it transparent.

The surface was carefully worked into with cotton swabs (clouds) and using the tip of a pencil to make tiny lines in the blue ink (above the rocks) that created the effect of light on the water surface and the horizon line.

I was pleased with the result when the print on paper was revealed after passing the plate under roller. And also no slipping or angling of my plate as I reversed the bristol template and had used the uncoated side to lay the plate onto.

My lesson learned here was that being patient and having a spirit of adventure can sometimes yield a favourable outcome.


Monday, August 28, 2017

printmaking workshop in Atikokan Ontario August 26 2017

participants at the inking table

This past weekend I traveled 2.5 hours west of my homebase to the town of Atikokan, Ontario (pop. 2700) to deliver a workshop in intaglio (engraving on plastic plate). The workshop originally would have taken place back in July when my Small Wonders The Boreal exhibition was on display at the Pictograph Gallery in Atikokan, but due to my unavailability at the time it was decided to have the workshop happen the late part of August.

Atikokan business district 

Economic Development Offices across the street from Pictograph Gallery where workshop was held

The focus of instruction was engraving into plastic plate. Most of the participants were new to the medium, except for one young woman who is entering her second year of Visual Arts at Lakehead University. She had already been introduced to etching, relief, serigraphy and lithography in the printmaking component for first year students enrolled in the program.

I gave a demo in basic plate engraving techniques using sharp needle tools. I additionally touched on plate effects that incorporate drawing techniques like cross-hatch and stipple, scuffing the plate surface using sanding tools to create areas that will print darker, collage application of thin colour oriental papers (chine-collé), spot inking the plate surface with various colours of ink (à la poupée) and finally introduction of colour to a monochromatic print using either dry media or water based media and brush.

Katy developed her image from a sketch in her artist notebook, Here she was cutting out small pieces of oriental tissue to set on the plate surface for the addition of colour to the print using collage.

reveal of single colour print from plate after passing under small press roller

plate and print on press bed
Keira's study of a wild iris blossom

addition of chine-colle with blue mulberry paper collage

Joan wiping ink into plate with bunched webbing fabric
Joan's plate print of Lady Slipper plants. Watercolour will be used to colourize the image
Lady Slipper print with selective wiping to add plate tone

Katy's cat print with chine-colle

Another version from the plate where the artist wiped the ink à la poupée

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

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.