Project 4: Image 4: Chickens

There were many influences that fed into this print. I had been looking at chickens in my sketchbook, which led to images for the masked project. I did not feel that the earlier work was particularly successful or representative of me as an artist and wanted to tackle the subject in a more considered way.

The recent exhibition “Flock Together” was inspiring in the way that they had approached the subject of sheep. Initially using film footage and then taking stills from this alongside gps information to create largescale drawings.

Other artists that I had previously looked at in my visual log were Alan Storey, Nancy Spero and William Turnbull who used movement of the figure in their prints.

print 1I decided that in order to capture the real movement from the animals I would need to use photography as a basis for the work. Two chickens had ‘escaped’ into our garden and I thought it would be an opportune moment to take some shots as they moved about on our patio. 2015-12-27 13.09.25In total I took 153 shots (see sample -left) as they moved about and then decided to trace over each frame to produce a drawing.

From looking at the shapes of the chickens in various poses I produced some plastic positive and negative masks which I thought I could layer up on the gelatin plate with the intention of backdrawing over to create a sense of movement.

• Not yet comfortable with the colour separation process of printing. This meant that I mixed up different colours and in overprinting them they quickly turned black. The ghosts were useful though.
• I thought that I could backdraw white ink over the darker surfaces but this did not work.
• Composition was a difficulty, I was trying to create something leasing to the eye but my efforts were not 100% successful.

I decided to post my efforts onto the student site online crit page here.

I was encouraged to take the initial trace drawing further into the print process and so repeated the gelatine print process.

The lines in the drawing reminded me of the thread that I used in parts of the texture exercises, there are also certain connections between thread and time which I thought would be appropriate to incorporate with the layers of masks. In some I chose not to include the chicken masks also.

After producing a number of prints I decided to backdraw over the back using a enlarged copy of the initial drawing stuck on the back as a guide and alternating between blue and black inked plates.

Exif_JPEG_PICTUREI found that this print in particular was successful.  I was pleased with my use of subtle  colour and how I was starting to get an understanding of creating atmosphere in the printmaking process. I was also pleased with the content behind the image.

Unfortunately because I am using a jig the gelatin plate printed smaller than the Perspex plate so there are plate marks around some of them that impact over the quality of the print.

I am also concerned that I was influenced very heavily by the process from the “Flock Together” exhibition, and wonder whether this is considered ok to do, or whether it is pure mimicry which devalues the work somewhat.

Generally, though I am pleased with the result and feel that this has been a successful end to this part of the course.


Project 4: Image 1: Falling again

Exif_JPEG_PICTUREI felt that I had unfinished business with the falling figure. I don’t feel I had completely managed to express the desired sense of feeling in the pure masked prints. After the recent exercise on backdrawing, and after looking at Tracey Emin’s expressive monoprints and also Rodin’s drawings in my sketchbook, I felt that I could improve upon these by embellishing them.

Exif_JPEG_PICTUREI printed off my mask image as a structure so that the elements would be in the right place when I drew over them on the back of the paper.

I decided to use ghost prints from the masked versions as I thought the line would show up better. In the first, I used a textured ghost from the gelatin plate. The expressive, scratchy line quality was successful in creating a raw sense of emotion, however unfortunately it was clear that the gelatin plate had not been aligned to the same place on the paper as my plate, and so a portion of the figure was missing.

For the second version, I chose to use a ghost from the oil based ink version. This was better because I could align it without a problem. I used two plates one inked with blue and the other black to print the layers. The beauty of my registration jig was that I could keep turning it over and reviewing the effect then placing the paper exactly in the same place to keep working.

Exif_JPEG_PICTUREI personally, feel the effect was quite strong. I can imagine that this print would not be everyone’s cup of tea – due to the lack of technical accuracy. But I feel that this exaggeration of the pose actually adds to the expressive effect I was intending to create.

I also find the way that the lines overlap to be interesting, creating an effect of movement and lack of focus for the eye.

Looking at the work critically, it is a shame about the stronger, darker blue just near the back of the figure because that pulls the viewer’s attention; but generally I am quite pleased with this.


View from a window

As time is an issue I feel that I am just going through the motions of some of these exercises, so that I can move on, so for this exercise I didn’t take much time exploring a subject.

Exif_JPEG_PICTUREMy starting point was a view from the office window. I produced a hurried drawing in my sketchbook – using a viewfinder to frame an ‘interesting’ composition.

For the print I used 2 plates. The first was blue. It was interesting because when I turned the paper over to reveal the print I could see all of the errors in my initial drawing, so then I went over with black ink. I used a range of implements: pens, different hardness of pencils, cotton swabs and also my fingers to create varied marks.

Exif_JPEG_PICTUREThe result was ok. I liked the mix of blue and black ink and it was interesting to have the incorrect marks still visible. The process does not allow for erasing so it would be interesting to exploit this tendency in the future to demonstrate the drawing process.


Exif_JPEG_PICTUREAfter reading about Louise Bourgeois’ drawings and prints I found it intriguing that she used body parts as a subject. I find the subject interesting due to the many connotations that that can convey.

Placing my left hand on the page and drawing around I produced a basic print. It was such a simple process but I quite liked the result. I was particularly taken with the scuffed marks that were created from the pressure of my hands.


I used the same plate as above and the result for this drawing was a very subtle soft mark. I found the atmosphere that this conveyed, very pleasing and conveying the idea of time / life/ energy fading which is an interest of mine.

Various sketches

I decided to have a play drawing from memory, imagination and found images. None of the results were particularly successful here, but I found I am interested by the quality of line that is produced through this method, which is something I would like to consider using in the future.

Adding Texture

Adding materials to a gelatin plate

I felt that using oil based inks for this would be a bit messy so I decided to work with watersoluble inks for this exercise.

I had enjoyed playing around with my circular gelli plate before and wanted to make a large rectangular version. I found a recipe online using gelatine and glycerine. I followed the instructions, my only issue was that our spirit level was clearly faulty and the plate set at an angle. This also meant that I couldn’t wipe the bubbles away from the surface, but considering that I was deliberately trying to create texture it was not a major concern for these experiments.

Initially I used a variety of household items to create patterns in the surface and layered the ink to produce interesting results. I found building up many layers of ink thinned with extender to increase transparency worked better than using thicker more opaque ink. It was a lot easier to get a good transfer with the gelatin plate – hand pressure was all that was needed meaning I could use cheaper cartridge paper for the prints.

I found registration a bit of a problem and the edging was a bit messy so made a frame out of plastic that I could place onto the plate to create cleaner edges. I still was using my eye for registration which was difficult initially but improved with practice.

After Louise Bourgeois

I had been browsing the works of Louise Bourgeois recently – particularly her drawings and used some of these as inspiration for a set of textural prints. The initial print was a plain orange which I then overprinted with black that I had imprinted with different materials, to create various imagined landscapes. Through this process I found that I enjoyed the accidental effects that occurred and were out of my control. I found this preference during the painting 1 course also, naturally I like that freedom and allowing the medium to do the work. My difficulty is getting the composition and structure right in a picture so that it looks like a work of art – this I hope will improve through this printing course as I focus more on the design elements.

Using texture with masks

Finally I wanted to work using my ‘falling’ stencil to build up interesting layers and texture. I had been reading about the artist Alberto Giacometti recently and also the idea of existentialism. Another tendency of mine is to be autobiographical and possibly Freudian in my approach to the art I produce. I am interested in the psychological aspects of art and how very often the work I create reflects what is going on in my life. I believe this figure particularly reflects the imbalances and state of flux that my life is in currently. Due to getting ill then losing my job and career I have suffered a bit of an identity (or “existential”) crisis. The phrase “Who Am I?” seems to be a preoccupation so I decided to use these words as part of this print – and created a stencil using these letters and overlaid these with the text.

I enjoyed this process and I was generally pleased with the result. The writing is oblique and only alludes to the underlying meaning which I think works well. The layering too is successful. On the negative side I am not sure what I think about my colour choices. I do like the colours and I suppose they add a different dimension. I think subconsciously I had images of Gary Hume’s candy colours in my mind – so there is a contemporary reference point, but perhaps these work against the general ideas and mood I am trying to convey. Perhaps the colours soften the blow or perhaps they are too far removed? This is something to consider as I progress.

Using solvents

After researching artists that use texture I wanted to have a little play adding solvent to the plates to see what effects I could produce.

1st attempt: Using watersoluble iExif_JPEG_PICTUREnks on a Perspex plate, water as solvent.

• Not successful – large splodge of ink
• Water dried in some areas and not others, disappointing effect.

2nd attempt: Oil-based ink and using alcohol.

• 1st print – droplets printed darker- wetter
• Ghost: really like the effect. Reminiscent of organic forms growing.
• Have recently been looking at Jean Dubuffet’s “Les Phenomenes” series of lithographs and the ghost print here reminds me of these.
• I find these effects of chance, these happy accidents that occur, very appealing. I am not yet sure how to embrace them and use them in a main piece of art yet but that is something I would like to consider as I develop.


Two-coloured masked prints (final session)

I started the day with more overprinting on previous prints. I was really pleased with how one was progressing, but I was using thinner, finer Japanese paper which resulted in me overburnishing a hole in it, this was very frustrating. Its interesting – I need to change the process dependent on the paper I am using.

I enjoyed building up the layers. I decided it was not necessary to be exact with the placement of the masks or alignment as I found the misalignment added to the feeling of movement. I was pleased with the registration of the plates and felt that these final prints were quite successful.

I then moved on to my final design, which had progressed from a William Blake plate. I kept simplifying the shape until it was something I could work with. I again followed the same process as before – creating a paper cut, then scanning this in and playing with different colours on the PC. In these versions I liked the greyish hues the best, and I thought it would be fun to try and colour match the ink colour through the mixing process.

The soft rubber roller had arrived which improved the process somewhat. I think this could be improved even further with a smaller roller, but this I would not be able to afford for a while so I needed to make do.

I produced a number of prints from this image. I definitely felt I had got the hang of the registration process and applying the ink successfully.

The more textured versions were definitely more appealing to me, although the lack of contrast in terms of ink colour meant that the figure was a little indescript in places, which was entirely what the brief was asking for. This might be something that I can work up with backdrawing in the future.

There was quite a lot of ink left at the end of the session so I had a quick play with back drawing just to experiment. I clearly hadn’t got to grips with it as a lot of ink was coming through onto the paper. I was too tired to keep on with this but when I come back to this process I need to:
• use less ink
• potentially use thicker paper to reduce transfer
• I also want to try with different implements to make different quality of marks.

Two-coloured masks (next session)

I wanted to use the same mask for the next session but with using different colours.

Having a read around other blogs there was one other idea to get a good registration:
Use one plate. Print the negative mask first, then put the mask onto the used plate and ink up over the mask. The instructions stated its better to use a soft rubber roller for this technique, mine hasn’t yet arrived but I had a go.

It was clear that this process would not be possible without the softer roller. Because of the lack of give in the roller that I had it was almost impossible to ink around the mask successfully. I will try this again when my other roller arrives.

The next technique I tried was to make masks out of ver thin plastic cut from plastic polyfolders and then laying this over an already inked up plate. This produced some very interesting textures but it was very hard to get a successful print.

The final technique I tried for this session was to use two plates as I had done the day before. Printing the positive image first, then laying the positive mask over that printed paper and laying the plate over the top. I didn’t have my husband available today so instead I moved the plate and paper to the floor and placed a board over the top then applied foot pressure initially.
Foot pressure wasn’t strong enough to transfer the print completely but it gave enough suction from mask to ink that it allowed me to turn the paper and plate over so that I could hand burnish the rest. And although this approach was a bit cumbersome it worked well in producing good alignment between the two masks.

For the final element of the session I tried overprinting some of the ghosts from the day before. The paper had dried and this resulted in more texture and atmosphere in the final prints.

Further Monoprints from life using oils

Feeling I hadn’t quite got to grips with oil-based inks I wanted to have another go before moving on.

I wanted to improve my use of colour and also produce a better transfer.

After my initial experiments I received some useful advice from the OCA printmaking forum on facebook. The consensus was either to use thinner paper or to slightly dampen it and for burnishing use a range of tools. I also had written to the Caligo ink support and they gave me advice to mix extender with the ink for monotype work as it changed the ink to a slightly looser consistency, making it easier to apply with a brush.

For the first little experiment I chose to keep things simple, just using a single apple. I carefully burnished the paper using a roller, wooden spoon, heavy glass paperweight, and jam jar.

This resulted in a much better transfer and even the ghost came out quite well.

Next I went back to the brief in the handbook this time paying attention to the fact that I needed to use complimentary colours. I used the initial glasses with a piece of lemon for colour variation and then used a violet grey background for contrast. The result was much more successful than the first attempt. I realise that this process also frees up my brushwork and allows me to create a looser representation of the subject, which I think is a positive. I am starting to realise that colour is an important aspect to making a print work.

After these prints I decided I was ready to move on.

Painted monoprint from life: Watersoluble crayons and inks

Caran D’ache neocolor ii

I wanted to draw something from life using these sticks and see if they printed successfully.

A student-led facebook sketch club that I belong to had a topic of reflections to use as a starting point so I chose a glass of water. I knew it would be hard but thought I won’t improve unless I practice. After some quick sketches in my sketchbook I produced a drawing using a indigo blue w/s crayon on mylar plate. After soaking a sheet of HP w/c paper in water I printed. I should have perhaps blotted the paper more thoroughly because the paint did run a little.

Exif_JPEG_PICTUREThis provided a reasonable result and is a very quick and easy way of printing drawings that I will come back to in the future. Perhaps I could use this method as a starting point and then overprint with other types of ink to create a varied layering effect.

Watersoluble inks on Gelli Plate

I masked off part of my round gelli plate using a paper-frame for these prints. I just wanted to play with the materials so didn’t consider too much what I painted.Firstly I continued with the glass theme.

Next I just looked for simple, humble objects that were in the house: waste paper bin, bowl and spoon, and toilet roll. They are not the accurate of drawings but I do like the effect of the ink on the plate.

Using a gelatin plate seems to be a good way of using watersoluble paints and inks and I am frustrated that I bought a round one instead of square – because of this it makes registering the plate, and frame and paper a logistical nightmare to build up layers.

I have read that you can make your own plate from household gelatin and glycerine. I need to look into costs but hopefully this is something I can do as this technique lends itself for easily and quickly building up layers of texture.

Monoprint from life: Oil-based inks

Portrait of Mum

The first attempt of working from life using oil-based ink was a quick sketch of mum in oil inks. This was an impromptu exercise, so I didn’t really consider the composition. She was sat at the opposite end of the room and her feet were hidden behind the table, so they are cut off – which weakens the final print. That aside I quite liked the result – particularly the colours.
The paper I used for this was Fabriano Accademia 120gsm cartridge and I had burnished it with a soup spoon.

Still Life

When I got home I decided to have a go at a monochrome still life with the oil inks. I set up two objects on a table in my front room: a pair of glasses and a bird skull. After producing some quick thumbnails of the composition I decided the skull wasn’t working so then swapped that with an empty pill packet.

I quite liked the effect of the glasses shadow on the surface. I initially used the ink thinly in areas to create a range of tonal values, unfortunately these tonal changes didn’t transfer. I was very disappointed with the first print. I then mixed some greys and added thee for tonal variation. The print pulled better but not as clean as I had liked.
This was a different experience to being at mum’s as the print had transferred quite well there. I was using different paper so thought that was be the problem, which I would need to resolve next session.

Exif_JPEG_PICTUREI wanted to produce a monoprint of the bird skull and so decided to use a reductive technique. I rolled a thin layer of paint over the plate and used various implements: rag, brushes, and cotton buds; to remove the ink. This time I used a sheet of Fabriano Accademia 120gsm and burnished like mad with various implements: brayer, wooden spoon, bottom of a jam jar, and heavy glass candle holder. The result was pretty woolly and not as clean as I would have liked. The ghost didn’t come out at all.

Exif_JPEG_PICTUREThe next print I used an additive process for a self portrait. This time I chose to print onto 80gsm Japanese Simili paper. Again the results were disappointing.

I could not understand why I was not able to replicate the results that I had achieved at Mum’s house. There were a number of factors that I needed to consider:

• Perhaps I used extender mixed with the ink.
• Perhaps the ink was applied more thickly.
• Her house isn’t as drafty as mine.
• I am set up sat down in the sitting room, whereas I was stood over her dining room table to burnish – perhaps this gave me extra force and pressure as I could lean down onto the paper.

Looking forward:
• I plan to set myself up with a higher work table in the spare room and this will give me the ability to lean into the burnishing, it is also less drafty in there.
• I also want to be more focussed and scientific in my approach – take note of how much ink I am using and what mediums I am mixing it with.
• On the facebook forum they mentioned that if I wanted a crisper print, it is a good idea to dampen the paper – this is something I hadn’t really considered through this whole process (other than when working with watercolour / gouache) so that is also something I need to try.
• Other people recommended trying thinner or proper Japanese papers for monoprinting by hand as they tend to absorb more ink. This is something I need to seriously consider.