Saturday, 19 March 2016

Printmaking #1

This year seems to be flying past, without me finding/making time to blog about what I'm doing. I have a long list of things to blog about!

First, some practical stuff. I'm always interested in finding new ways to make marks on fabric, so I've been really interested the prints that some artists are getting, using PVC foam board as their printing plate. Most aren't printing on fabric, though, and I think many are using oil-based printing media.

So I wanted to see how well a foam board printing plate would print with my water-based medium, and how it printed on fabric.

First, what am I actually talking about? It's not foam core, which has a paper surface (though I did call it that when I first used it back here). It's not polystyrene sheet, like you get in packaging around large appliances or in fruit and vegetable boxes. This is compressed PVC sheet, which is quite a rigid sheet. It's gradually replacing corflute in advertising signs and it's also used as an insulating sheet in buildings. These days, you can buy it in fine thicknesses and small sizes at art shops, as it's often used in mounting work, but that's the expensive method. I bought mine as a 1200 x 600 x 6mm sheet from a hardware chain, after a lot of walking to and fro and asking people. Sometimes it's with MDF board, sometimes with corflute, sometimes off by itself in a dark corner. I think that size should be plenty for sampling, don't you?

Why use this medium? It carves nicely but blunts tools in short order, so be prepared to sharpen and resharpen, if you plan to cut it like lino. However, it impresses beautifully, so I use different tools completely. My favourite is a set of tools for working polymer clay..

...supplemented by a set of ball point scribers.

If you wanted to keep it cheap, you could probably begin with an old biro or two, maybe with thicker and finer points.

My first plate was a little reference sheet for the first set of tools - only about 15cm x 7.5cm (6in x 3in). I won't show you the samples, but I wanted to see what kinds of lines I could get from each kind of tool and how useful it was for this process. Then I turned the plate over and drew a freehand design on the back, using the different tools in the ways I thought would be most effective.

My first prints were simple relief ones; basically just inking the plate with a roller and Permaset inks and printing onto dry cartridge paper with my baren.

I was happy with these - there's some good detail and reasonably good coverage.

Some of the lines on the plate were very deep, and over time ink built up in those incisions. As I needed to clean the plate anyway, I wondered if I could lift out that colour by changing the medium's texture. I sprayed the plate with water and printed the results.

All are really ghost prints, as I didn't add any more medium.

How interesting! This is a different look entirely. I was still using my baren and this is much better results than I've ever had from this technique without a press.

I experimented with damp paper but the results weren't markedly different. I think it would probably make a difference if I added more colour in a thicker medium over the top, as spritzing the plate tends to make relief prints spotty.

I always print while I'm cleaning the plate because I usually get interesting results. This time, the results blew me away.

This looks almost like a watercolour painting.

I wondered, can I add colour more specifically, rubbing it into the plate, wiping back and adding more colour, spritzing and then printing?
Yes, it looks like I can have a lot of control  over colour. The trade-off is in loss of fine detail and colour intensity.

Hmm, I think this approach offers a lot of possibilities!

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