Tuesday, 13 October 2015

A twist on an oldie...

Remember when we were kids and, to transfer an image, we used to scribble pencil on the back and draw around it? Easy, eh? I was reading Drawn to Stitch by Gwen Hedley the other day and she used a similar kind of thing to make marks on paper.

Instead of a layer of graphite pencil, she uses a layer of light-coloured chalk pastels with another layer of coloured wax crayons over the top. When you lay a fresh sheet of paper on top and draw on the back with pen, colour transfers to the other sheet.

My first attempt was a tree. (What a surprise!)

Here's the pen drawing side...

...and this is the transfer side. The result, if all goes well, is a positive-negative effect.

However, I learnt there are a few tricks involved. First is not to layer the colour too thickly. What happens is you get transfer but you can't see where it's disappeared from the coloured surface.

I also learnt that you need a distinct difference in tonal value between the chalk pastels and the crayons. My second one (above) had colours that were similar in tone, so the result was fairly ordinary. I think the best results come from using very light chalk pastels and stronger coloured wax crayons.

I'm not sure how useful this technique will be for me, since I don't do much on paper. I wonder whether the same technique would work with fabric crayons and cloth. An experiment for another day!

Saturday, 3 October 2015

A serendipitous find...

Just recently, I happened to be in a woodworking shop. Actually, I visit woodworking places reasonably often, but this particular woodworking place had something I'd never seen before.

Aren't they cute? They have some deep and important woodworking-y kind of use, which the very helpful salesperson explained to me. But I saw mark-makers, of the most delicious kind. A couple of weeks ago, I finally got to have a play with them, with my friend Claire.

How interesting! They are quite fragile with all the cut-outs, so we rolled them gently with a smaller diameter dowel inside.

We were using Permaset printing inks and we quickly realised that the stiffness of the media mattered. Too stiff and the roller ran out of ink too quickly, getting noticeably paler on each rotation, as you can see in the top left of the photo above. A runnier medium worked a lot better and we also got interesting results by spritzing the rollers with a spray bottle after inking.

We weren't trying to ensure exact registration or anything - just seeing what kind of marks we could get from these objects. But even without that, we were pretty impressed! These are successive rows with the same roller, to get a overall pattern.

This one was experimenting with different rollers used successively.  That's pretty effective too.

I'd quite like to try using strips of a low-tack tape or other straight edge, to give a consistent width gap between rows. Another day...

All in all, a very worthwhile impulse buy!

Friday, 11 September 2015

Collagraph prints - taking it further

Remember the collagraphs prints I did back here and here?

I ended up with some prints that were pretty ordinary, as one often does. So I decided to use them as experiments for a technique I've wanted to try for a while.

I started with a leaf print:

Yes, it really is a leaf print, though it's pretty unexciting and you'd be hard pressed to say what was there!

I drew on the print with green beeswax crayon and a wax candle. They are resists , of course, so the areas covered by the wax were protected. Those areas were ones I wanted to stay light. I also expected the areas with the printing ink on them would probably resist taking colour, and that was partly true.

Then I put a wash of blue dye over the surface, using the dyes like ink. Then, when it had dried, I repeated the wax treatment and put a wash of yellow dye over the top. Here's the result...

I really like this! The resists weren't complete, of course, so there is some colour bleed but generally the waxed areas didn't take much colour, as long as I wasn't too heavy-handed with the dye.

I did the same with another very ordinary leaf print.

On this one, I added black beeswax crayon for shadows and drew with the wax candle. Then I gave it a pale turquoise dye wash.

Again, when it was dry, I drew more with the wax candle and added a yellow dye wash.

It looks quite pale here but it worked very well.

The third one was one of the prints from the impression plate. A lot of these prints weren't that exciting but some of them had interesting misty effects that I wanted to exploit.

I added shadows with a dark purple beeswax crayon and covered a lot of the white areas with scribbled candlewax to protect the light areas. Then I gave it a wash with the same pale turquoise as the previous one. The resist effect of the original printing inks was more an issue this time, so the shading gave the original blue some depth.

Then I protected some of the blue areas with the candlewax and added a yellow wash.

Don't you love the magic of colour printing?

Friday, 4 September 2015

And yet more trees...

Remember when I did some spray printing with stencils and some screen printing with thickened dye back in April? Like most printing sessions, it generated a lot of prints (not all of which were entirely wonderful).  But often prints are a starting place for something else.

In my journal, I mounted the paper resists I'd used, which had quite a bit of pattern on then because of the resist already on the screen.


I also took one of the prints, that looked like this...

... and worked on it with Inktense pencils until I thought I could do no more.
It's still a funny looking tree but it's better!  


Thursday, 3 September 2015

A few postcards

It just occurred to me that I haven't written here for, literally, years about the fabric postcards I've been making! I am so used to making them that I just don't think to talk about them here. Of course, they appear on the Fibrecircle blog each time. Mostly, anyway!

This rather weird one included some stamped cloth that I made years ago as a sample for another piece of work, inspired by the standing stones at Filitosa in Corsica. I combined it with frayed  cotton fabric on a painted background.

This one was based on a painted background with added colour and stitch.
This one was made with one of the prints from a playday with Claire early this year. We used compressed sponge to create simple shapes to print from. I added colour to one of my prints with Inktense pencils and embellished it with stitch. It's still a pretty weird looking tree..
I like to use the postcards to try out stuff and make something different from whatever I'm working on at the time.  So they generally end up different each time.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Making print plates 5

Yes, they do come to an end, I promise! But it was a very productive day...

This was a different kind of plate again. I took craft foam and stitched a chain stitch with embroidery thread. When I was designing it, I was thinking of the ongoing Fibrecircle journal work on Trees.
I only took two prints from it so far, but I think this has a lot of possibilities. I printed with a spoon and fingers, hence the obvious finger prints. This was an issue because the plate wasn't mounted and ended to want to move during printing. You can really see this in the second print. I think I need to mount the plate before trying again.

I began a second similar plate, but my aim with this one is to create layers of colour, adding more stitch each time, in a sort of reversal of the reduction printing process. I won't start the process until it's mounted.

So yes, somewhere down the track... My priority at present is to finish my main work for the untethered exhibition out of hand in November, so serious printing time has been eaten up by stitching time. It's quite contemplative... but not yet anything I can show.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Making print plates 4

The fourth plate I made was a fairly basic kind of collagraphs, the kind we probably all made as students! I used cardboard, cork sheet and self-adhesive foam letters to make a marine ply plate covered in letters. I wanted to see whether the different surfaces printed in interesting ways. Like many other textile artists, I like including text and lettering in my work, so this plate was made with a specific context in mind.

I did three test prints with Permaset inks on cartridge paper. Although the plate was sealed, the sealing clearly wasn't adequate, so the plate, especially the cardboard, gradually disintegrated. The foam letters were also ink-greedy, as you'd expect.

I actually don't mind the final plate, which I'll seal again for future printing. I like the way there are gaps and partial letters. I may make more partial letters with cork sheet, as I like the speckly texture it gives.
This is one you'll definitely see again!

Monday, 31 August 2015

Making print plates 3

At our playday last month, we were trying out a new medium from Derivan Matisse called Medium 37. This is a high gloss self levelling pouring medium about the consistency of pouring cream. After watching a few videos, I thought we might try using it to create a low-relief print plate by trickling it over the surface of marine ply and allowing it to dry in interesting shapes.

Wet medium
Dry plate
As you can see, it was really a bit too runny for that purpose, though it didn't spread out to cover the whole board.

My only print so far was with acrylic paint. I thought the tackiness of it might work with this fairly slippery surface.

I did get some interesting marks, which make me feel the plate has promise for general patterning on paper. But it was a dry day and, even with retarder added, the acrylics were a bit quick to dry. I was being lazy, not getting out the printing inks, and it shows.

I have some ideas for using this plate, so I expect you'll see it again!

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Making print plates 2

My second and third plates were made without the press, using the same principle. I used foam meat tray instead of foam core, as it's softer, and impressed a leaf into it with the marble rolling pin. It's not a deep impression, as the leaves were fragile and softer than most of the materials I used on the foam core plate.

I printed it with my baren and black Permaset printing inks. Of the four prints, two were pretty ordinary - you may see them later as I do different things with them. But there were two that I liked. The left one was inked and then wiped back heavily; the right one was just a straight print.

I really like these and they're going into my Fibrecircle Trees book.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Making print plates 1

A few weeks ago, I had a playday with my friend Claire, making printing plates of various kinds. She brought along her little press, which was fun to worth with, although we didn't actually get time to print with it. But it didn't go unused!

The first print plates were made using the press. We had some various weights of foam core board to experiment with. The idea was to lay firm items on the foam core and run it through the press to create impressions in the board.

Here's one that Claire did, about to go through the press.

This was my print plate which was made with string, mesh and other disparate objects. I added some drawn elements into the foam core, to emphasise the shapes emerging, which were vaguely reminiscent of a pond scene.
I printed the plate with black Permaset printing inks on cartridge paper, using by turns my baren, a spoon and fingers. This is the best of the half-dozen prints:
Nothing special, huh? I found that the water-based printing inks really didn't much like the shiny surface of the foam core - I think oil-based inks print better but I choose not to use them. It's also pretty clear to me that this kind of print plate really needs a press to work successfully. Better paper would help but I wasn't going to waste my little stash of good paper, if I couldn't get a better test print than this on cartridge paper.
A few days later, I did a second set of prints using my marble rolling pin. I like this method on small prints, as it allows for fairly even pressure over the surface of the plate, akin to small press printing. Sometimes I get really great results.

I deliberately chose some printing ink that was ever so slightly stiff, as I thought that might help with the tack problems on the foam core. It really didn't improve matters so I wasn't getting good coverage on the plate.  But it did give me some interesting results. I quite like this one, as it looks a bit misty. I have a few of these misty ones, so I might experiment with other techniques to work on them further.
I kept experimenting with the tackiness of the medium as I continued printing. I did get some prints with better coverage, although they are paler due to the addition of base medium and water.
After I'd been printing for a while, I went too far with the medium, made it a bit too runny and really over-inked the plate. I did several pulls to clean it. However, that actually worked in my favour. How often have I decided printing really isn't working out today, only to do a couple of final pulls that make it all worthwhile?
This is the second print from the over-inked plate...
... and this is a monotype from the first print from the plate, which looked like a completely blue page, with no details at all. (That's why it's reversed compared to all the others.)
 I really like these as prints. The runny inks have given them a texture and depth that was mostly lacking in the other prints. Not especially like the plate but interesting.
I've done some stuff with some of the other prints from this plate, which I'll post about after I finish talking about the other plates I made.
You can see Claire's much better results on one of her foam core plates, using oil-based inks, on her blog.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Something different with pastels

I've been trying to find a minute to blog about something new I tried recently.

Like many of us, I have a stash of all different kinds of art media. That includes soft pastels and oil pastels. I've never liked using pastels, because they are so incredibly messy, and I get pastel dust everywhere. I never seem to have fixative to hand (I don't use hair spray either) and the results have never been all that satisfactory.

Then recently, I read about a different way to use pastels. First, you lay down soft pastel colour, blending several similar shades. Then you paint over the loose powder with either gesso or gel medium. I used gesso, which softens the colour considerably; apparently gel medium retains the bright colours.

This sounded like fun, so I decided to make my May trees for my journal using this method. I created a background with the soft pastels and gesso, and then used my tree stencils to add more pastel colour and gesso. On some, I raked the loose colour on the stencil from the previous time back onto the next background. I added shadows with dark and highlights with white oil pastels, once the gesso had dried.

It was fun to do and I like the results much better than my previous attempts with pastels of any kind.