Friday, 27 July 2012

A lull, and then print-making

Back after a long absence!  Once my Foundation Course finished, I found myself in rather an odd state of listlessness for a week or two, not quite knowing what to do with myself, and probably also just rather tired.  It felt so odd not to have a project to work at, and deadlines to meet.  But at last I have found my energy levels again, and begun to  focus on print-making, as a precursor to starting the MA course at the end of September.  It seemed like a good idea to give myself a refresher course in simple print-making techniques, using materials to hand at home, and without recourse to any specialist equipment.  In reality, I haven't done a great deal of printing this past year, so it has felt like starting from scratch, working initially with relief prints, i.e. lino and collagraphs which I can print using relief methods.  I've been helped and inspired by several books, including ......

I have a slight problem with lino-cutting - a war-wound from too may years spent hunched over a keyboard has left me with a touch of RSI in my right wrist, and I have trouble if I put too much sustained pressure on my hand.  I've discovered that using proper lino is often too stiff and hard, and gives me a lot of pain,  but I have less trouble with the more flexible, and softer, vinyl mat which I can buy at Scrapstore Kids' Art shop in St Werburghs.  I've been using, so far, basic water-washable block printing inks, cheap and cheerful and designed for school use, also from Scrapstore.   

I began with a really simple design to get used to using the tools again.

Which printed out like this...

 I then tried cutting a relief block from card, using scraps of mount-board (also from Scrapstore) which i sit and then sealed with shellac (knotting fluid) to make them waterproof against the ink. The design was from a very simple drawing of my current favourite shoes.

The print came out like this ...
I found that cutting into mount board was a lot less trying on my wrist, and also that it would print reasonably well this way (I have previously used card as the base for collagraphs, but always using an etching press, and had not released they would work in relief mode).  So I went a little crazy, and made a whole set of small card blocks, playing around with textures, with using the peeled-off top layer as a relief on another piece of card, rough side up, and smooth side up.  I tried cutting fine lines, and also removing relatively large sections of the surface.  I wanted to create a kind of sampler of surfaces and techniques, as the basis for more considered designs later on.

All the blocks were sealed with shellac, most with two coats, one or two with more.  Again, I hoped this would help test out the best mix of cutting and sealing, for use as relief blocks.

The heatwave this week has been helpful in making sure shellac dried almost instantly, but ti was less helpful yesterday web I had a mammoth printing session.  The ink was drying much too quickly, both on the ink-slab and on the blocks.  So I added some fluid designed to delay the drying on screen printing screens, and it seemed to help.

Here are some images of my print table in use, and the blocks themselves.

I used a laundry rack from IKEA for drying the prints.  £20 - perfectly serviceable - and brilliant compared with the phenomenal price of "proper" print drying racks from specialist art suppliers, which can cost hundreds of pounds.  It worked perfectly, and folds up neatly when not in use (and could also, of course, be useful for the laundry).

More images soon of the finished prints.

I was fairly pleased with this first effort, although I think the ink was the weakest part, and it will be wroth investing quite quickly in some better quality relief inks.  I have quite a lot of fabric printing ink, so I may also try printing onto textiles with these simple blocks.

Next steps will include making a series of blocks to try two and three colour prating, which will also require proper registration and careful preparation of the design.