Friday, February 2, 2024

tetra-pak for drypoint printmaking

Larger size coffee tetra-pak container 

I have accumulated a good collection of newer tetra-pak coffee containers over the past couple of years. Although I am not a coffee drinker myself my better half consumes several cups of the brew daily and favours a particular brand that is packaged in these large containers. 

I discovered a larger container on the market being used by some supermarket chains to replace plastic or metal coffee tins. These are an ideal source for tetra-pak plates that can give you a slightly larger area than those cut from the containers that are used for liquids.

I figured out a way to dissect the containers after the ground coffee was exhausted so decided to post a photo image tutorial of the process I use to create a range of plate sizes from the foil and paperboard interior surface. It can be a bit tricky as the container has rounded continuous corners. But I was able to dissect the packaging using some simple logic and careful steady cutting.

Tip: do your cutting on a surface that isn't going to be an issue if cut marks show up in it. I used a self-healing cutting mat.

The photos are in sequence and illustrate how to cut plates from this type of container.

1. Using a sharp retractable knife or scissors cut away the pull lid that is attached on the left side. This doesn't have the foil liner for this so you can either use it for other artistic purposes or put into recycle bin. 

2. unfold the curled in edge on the bottom of the container.  

3. Carefully cut and remove the bottom piece (that is lined with foil on the underside). 

This can be used for a small square print plate.

4. cut along the seam on the side of the container

5. Now for the tricky part. This requires a bit of patience and skillful cutting.

Don't apply too much pressure while pushing down on the container as you don't want to inflict creasing into the sections you are intending to use. I cut a section at a time and set each one aside until the entire container has been dissected.

6. Once you have all the sections cut away you can focus on trimming away the pieces where the lid on top and bottom were joined to the container body.

7. I chose to square off all the edges. The single container yielded 2 larger plates, one mid size and a smaller square and 2 narrower rectangular pieces. The largest plate measures 12.5 x 16 cm.

Here are two test prints I made off a couple of the tetra-pak plates. I used an etching needle on both. Akua prussian blue intaglio ink was wiped back on the horizontal plate shown on top in the photo below. The other plate I trimmed the edges in spots to give it more of a free form. Akua pthalo blue and green were wiped into the surface then both plates were printed using an etching press onto Magnani 250 gsm dampened cotton rag paper.

Saturday, December 2, 2023

New magnification lamp and a couple new prints

the work table where I engrave with tools & new magnification lamp 

I recently treated myself to an early Christmas present after doing some online research for a new portable magnification lamp after the older unit I had been using stop working.

Came across this model (attached to my engraving work table in the above photo) in online retailer Amazon 

It met all the criteria I was seeking (those being a minimum 10X magnification, good price point, portability, LED lamp (this one offered 5 types of light settings and these could be dimmed or the brightness intensified depending on the need). It also included free shipping which was a plus. The unit came with an adapter to plug into a conventional wall plug and could also be connected directly into a computer or other USB port to power it.

What a treat it is to work now with 10x magnification through the lens. The older lamp magnifier was only 5X. 

The small engraved wood relief print shown below was created using the new lamp to engrave a block from a drawing that I adapted to a small piece of boxwood end-grain. 

relief print from engraved wood block

sketch using fine point marker pen

tracing on vellum (reverse orientation) & image transfer to block surface 

block, leather sandbag and engraving tools

this photo shows the block size compared
to the size of the palm of my hand

print on paper, block on registration sheet on my press bed.
The white bars (laminated mdf cut offs) are used as runners
that help balance the top roller during printing.
These are very close in height to the boxwood block

Both prints reflect the theme of winter. The first of the two new print images I made (see below) was a linocut. It is a study based on an afternoon of snowshoeing that I participated in several seasons back. Both prints were printed onto Somerset velvet warm white 250 gm rag paper. I used Cranfield safewash black relief printing ink and both images were printed using an etching press roller. 
A special registration set up was made on the press bed that allowed me to use the press usually delegated for intaglio processes but to print both relief based surfaces.

Winter trail

both images are available for purchase through my Etsy shop

Monday, October 2, 2023

continuation with relief based engraving


Wild Blueberries
hand-coloured resingrave relief print

During the summer I had some opportunities to continue adapting some of my small sketches onto both real end-grain wood surface (maple) and some older blocks of synthetic resingrave. 

Wild blueberries was based on my experiences in my region of the world where the mid to late summer these plants native to this region produce a lot of berries that the local fauna and many humans feast on. I also wanted to develop my skills with the engraving tools to create texture, lines and shapes in the composition that would be interesting and have a visual impact.

pencil sketch made on surface of a 6 x 9 cm (2.4 x 3.5 inches) rectangular resingrave block

permanent black marker traced over top of the pencil marks

inked rolled onto block surface to reveal progress while engraving

further engraving progress 

final proof in black oil based relief printing ink made onto 250 gsm white cotton rag paper

I also created three more engravings using 1.27 (1/2 inch) thick maple end-grain blocks that were gifted to me by a master engraver friend.
Two of these became exclusive hand-printed cards for my parents as a gift from me to them in honour of their 65th wedding anniversary. I printed and hand-coloured 10 of each design. The blueberries theme was repeated in a smaller print. I also used a rural landscape sketch made during a previous visit to the region where they reside. The blueberries would remind them of an earlier time in their lives when they met in this region and as a child was an annual tradition to head outdoors in August to pick berries for pies from nearby wilderness locales. 

pencil sketch on maple end-grain. I shaved back the top and right side edge to square the image.

dusting baby powder onto the surface to reveal engraving markings

black oil ink proof on paper

hand-coloured print 

Wellington County hand-coloured engraving 

engraved block progress proof

engraving with hand colouring

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Completing an engraving started in 2009

single colour engraving (from resingrave block)
image size: 4.5 x 6 cm (1 5/8 x 2 3/8 in)

 I was recently organizing some of my artist materials to a more centralized storage system and happened upon a small sized block of resingrave (synthetic coating that is fused in a thin layer to a mdf substrate that makes it type set height). On the surface of the block was a sketch I had made of a sparrow balanced on top of several wildflower branch heads. The block itself measures 4.5 x 6 cm.

At the time I had only progressed to the rough sketch and decided this might be too small for an image to continue. But as fate would have it other things soon took priority and the block was set aside and then put into storage. Last week I was going to begin another new work but when I discovered the block I decided to focus instead on it. I had since that time acquired a good full spectrum combo lamp-5X magnification swing arm unit that allows me to work on blocks that would become small detail engravings.

In the above photo the sketch was traced over using a waterproof fine liner marker. The top area surrounding the bird (sparrow) has been cut away using several engraving blades.

The block is set on a leather sand bag while engraving which allows me to turn both it and block and raises it to a good visible working height under my magnification lamp.. 

block with background cleared
and the early stages of adding details 

print from the open edition with addition
of wash & pigment using a small paint brush

I will print this as an open edition. Some of these will also find a little colour added to them

Sunday, June 11, 2023

Engraving from end-grain maple block


Coastline- Lake Superior
wood engraving/hand-coloured
open editon (varied)

Recently a fellow printmaker (master engraver) who is a good friend I have known for at least 25 yrs sent me with a couple of pieces of end-grain wood he wasn't planning on using. To date I had only engraved into Resingrave (a synthetic hard polymer) and old hard dark brown linoleum. 

I had been wanting to try end-grain but encountered difficulty in sourcing it here in Canada. I was forced to put that earlier idea into the "do that later" mental files. 

My printmaking friend had seen some recent small lino and resingrave work I showed him via email and he decided to help me obtain some traditional end-grain hardwood that he has used throughout his career as wood engraver, artist/illustrator and run a small gallery to showcase his work in his residence. In addition to the section of maple I was also sent an equal size piece of rare old boxwood. 

I had the wood pieces cut to specific smaller size blocks by a local cabinet maker who had the recommended vertical bandsaw to cut with the grain (which is vertical orientation for the almost 3/4" thick blocks. The maple block I was sent is around 1/2" in height.

I was fortunate to have a small tabletop Blick etching press that allows enough clearance between the press bed and bottom of the top roller set at it's max height to accommodate paper and a smooth piece of hard paperboard. 

I chose a landscape to sketch from a photo I had taken a couple of years back taken during a trip east to visit family. This is typical cambrian shield rocky outcrop that borders the north shore of Lake Superior on the Canadian side of the border, One will often find low bush blueberry shrubs, harebell flowers growing out of cracks in the rock. The rock also has a lot of lichens spreading across the ancient granite face. It is one of my favourite things about living here in the region where I do.

Below are a few photos that illustrate the creation of the print. They show a bit of the progression from after I had carved the block surface and through to the final colour version on paper. The first photo is my working set up and I place most of the tools nearby as well as the leather sandbag to help me keep the block stable while it is engraved. I also use a crocker sharpener system with light mineral oil and an arkansas oil stone to keep the tool tips nice and sharp. I will give a particular tool I plan to use a quick pass back and forth across the oil stone and it makes cutting into the wood surface less difficult to cut.

For the hand-colour element again I introduced watercolour with small fine tip watercolour brushes.

Friday, April 28, 2023

Chickadee - relief block engraving (hand-coloured)


Continuing the addition to my small songbirds of the boreal forest series of engraved surfaces that began with a small study of a red-breasted nuthatch click here I have a new work to share.

This time it's a black-capped chickadee.

This particular study like the former print again echoes the bird placement among tree foliage and the inclusion of hand colouring after drying of oil relief ink on paper (printed from the block). 

 The chickadee print is slightly wider but the same height compared to the nuthatch in block size. It is 6.25 x 9 cm (2.5 x 3.5 inches). To date I have printed 10 good images on heavier italian milled cotton rag paper. It will be an open edition so I can print more as needed off the block.

I won't go into written detail about process with a lot of words since it has been described several times in earlier posts found by using the search word engraving. Instead I will show photos of stages of creation that visually describe the process I use.

tracing from a basic soft lead pencil sketch and transfer to block surface

pencil sketch then had black permanent marker over top

a wash of thinned india ink was put over the marker image 
photo shows early stages of engraving using a scorper blade (top) and a spitsticker blade (side). After this photo I decided to cut incidental marks to create foliage

a progress proof on japanese paper

marker pigment removed using acetone

inked block on the press bed with runner bars on either side that paper will set on top

block surface inked and ready to print

adding watercolour wash during hand-colour stage

the final result

nuthatch and chickadee engravings on paper

I was recently gifted some damaged wood pieces by a fellow engraver (boxwood and maple) that I had cut by a local cabinet maker using a bandsaw to yield me a range of smaller blocks that were usable. I just hand sand the block edges to square them since the end-grain is delicate and requires special care for cutting into blocks from larger pieces.