Initial experiments with different surfaces
After reviewing a number of books regarding relief printmaking I realised that it is possible to use almost any surface as a printmaking substrate. For the first experiments I used watersoluble inks and newsprint paper on a range of surfaces:
This was easy to indent with a range of tools.
I was pleasantly surprised by the effects achieved in this print, there was a dreamlike felt to the print. I was able to get interesting textures by piercing and scoring the card.
This too was surprisingly successful. The writing showed up very clearly and the crumples made lovely organic marks.
Again this worked well; the textured surface of the surface created a canvas-like quality which I thought would work well with the idea of time passing.
An old eraser
This was very small so I had to use my smallest linocutters, I was surprised how easy it was to carve and quite liked the result.
‘Fimo’ modelling clay
I used some small pieces that I had to experiment with.
Rolling them into small shapes they reminded me of the small blocks that are used by wood engravers.
I looked at the work of Hiro Serisa for inspiration and produced a further study.
Further design: Text & memories
I spent some time working with different ideas in my sketchbook. The dying tulip idea was not coming together so I changed tack and thought I could exploit the ability to write on the cardboard as a design element in the next set of prints.
I tend to appreciate the formal qualities of text in art. Looking at the work of Mark Tobey and Cy Twombly was a helpful starting point. I liked the way that they both utilise calligraphic marks that are often obscured or illegible through the layering process, exploiting the formal qualities of the text, whilst the meaning remained hidden. Tobey’s piece ‘City Radiance’ was particularly affecting and I chose to work with using this as a starting point.
Considering my Nan there were a number of poems and also a entry from my journal which have connections to her, which I chose to use. My aim was to produce a print that could incorporate these layers of words to replicate my streams of consciousness and memories.
Initially I thought I would write backwards on the card so that the writing was legible, but then decided that it looked a bit laboured and didn’t have the energy and speed that I needed to communicate my rapid multi-layered thought process. As Tobey’s and Twombley’s writing was indiscernible I felt that it perhaps didn’t matter that it was back to front and perhaps it as better that way. If text within an artwork is too literal, then it can become a distraction, so it is best to keep things oblique anyway.
I created some blocks from Christmas cards, funky foam and old notebooks by writing into them and also distressing them with blades and other tools. The funky foam did not print particularly well the lettering was a little soft but the other two were more successful.
I wondered if it would be possible to overprint some of the less successful Nan reduction prints with a thin transparent layer printed from these blocks. After a quick go on one of the really unsuccessful versions I thought that would definitely be worth a go.
Using various of mixes of magenta, green, white and extender ink I overprinted a number of the Nan prints. I was surprised and pleased with the results. The layer of overprinting created a feel of old photographs which completely fitted with my theme.
The crumpled card had a crease through it which either lay across the eye or the mouth dependent on which way around I printed it. I really liked this distressed effect. It creates a sort of tension for the viewer having part of the image obscured like this. It reminded me of some of the work I have been looking at of Gerhard Richter and Ginny Grayson, where the initial images have been distressed and deconstructed.
From these intial prints I could sense a larger series starting to emerge. I liked how the initial image was beginning to dissipate and transform. I wanted to let this process evolve further and so created 3 more plates based around the same subject.
Initially I did this the wrong way around, but luckily it is a very quick method so was able to repeat the process.
Whilst working, I found it quite a difficult process. I felt that piercing through the image of Nan was initially quite difficult – uncomfortable and destructive.
Funky foam shapes
I cut out some shapes to create a silhouette and then indented them with the apple corer to create a range of interesting marks.
For the background I wanted to use a different method of text. Recent research into Paul Coldwell’s inkjet prints were the source of inspiration and so I decided to manipulate the images of the original text into layers on GIMP (a free photoshop program); playing with transparency and colours, then printed it onto a sheet the right size for the block.
I felt this was quite successful. An empty space filled with words, memories and my associations were quite relevant – emphasizing absence and presence.
I had been reading about the process of etching lino by several artists. Bill Woodrow and Emily Johns had used it to great effect in their work. I liked the painterly quality it gave to their prints and wanted to try it. I found very detailed notes on how to do it here.
I didn’t have any etching stop-out or hard ground so decided to use candle wax for the resist, which I melted and then painted onto the block.
I followed the instructions to make the etch using caustic soda and wallpaper paste and because I wanted a deep etch I decided to leave it overnight.
In hindsight this was perhaps too long because the etch was extremely deep – almost 2 milimetres in places. This meant it was very difficult to print via the hand burnishing method and I didn’t get all of the half tones that I wanted.
The thought of not being able to use this block was too frustrating, so I decided instead to print it over one of the prints from the book cover block. This worked well. I liked the physical and sculptural quality from this print. It was very far away from the original piece and had transformed into something more abstract.
Presentation as a series
Looking at all of the work that I had completed for this project I could see that it was clearly working well as a series. Andy Warhol’s ‘Marilyn Diptych’ came to mind and even though this isn’t absolutely to brief, I decided to use my creativity and take a risk in submitting all of them together. Personally, I feel they work much more successfully as a group of 9 prints, with an underlying narrative rather than if I just chose 3 of them.
I took photos of each and arranged them on my PC into a pleasing composition, when I get to assessment stage I intend to display them onto one sheet of card.
A title came to me that I thought was fitting with my theme of absence and presence: ‘How can you be here…when you are not here?’
What went well?
- Continuing with the theme of Nan and developing the prints further has created a more cohesive working practice. It certainly helped me get more into a creative flow.
- Exploiting the different effects achieved from the different surfaces was largely successful.
- The process of using old pieces of ephemera to make the plates has relevance to the theme of loss and presence. I was tempted to use newsprint for all of the work in reference to Michael Fullerton’s prints but had hesitations about how that may be received. I do however like the fact that I have used a variety of different materials, including pink tissue and fabric for the panels, as they have add various levels of meaning and associations to the work. (i.e. Nan was a dressmaker, pink was her favourite colour etc.)
- It is a risk to send all of these pieces as my tutor has expressed a requirement for me to stick to the numbers of prints as listed in the course material. But I feel strongly that all of the panels are much stronger together, presenting a more successful narrative, as one series than on their own.
What was challenging?
- Etching lino – Using hazardous materials was a source of anxiety, and cleaning up without a specific sink was a bit of a problem.
- I left the solution on for too long so the bite was too deep and the lino had curled through the cleaning process which meant taking a print was quite difficult.
- I would like to etch lino again in the final part of the course and learn from these mistakes.
- When I get to the final part of the course I would like to experiment more with using a number of colours on one block too.