I promised to tell you a bit more about the gorgeous antique pictured at the bottom of my last post. During the last six weeks of my contract at Morley College I enrolled on a printmaking course: printmaking is something I’ve long been interested in and I thought, “Why not make the most of my time here and take a course?”
In short, I loved it! I didn’t quite have time for the entire six weeks, but I had a good introduction to techniques such as collagraph, drypoint and linocut. The first two were really about me adjusting to a completely new medium, so don’t expect much in the way of composition! First, the collagraphs. The best way to describe this is as a very low relief sculpture. You can add texture with things like grit, grass, paper and Polyfilla (if you have time to let it dry). The main thing is to not make it more than a few millimetres thick – any thicker and you’ll damage the press. Here, I just wanted to see what would happen:
The one on the left is the very first one – less is more when it comes to ink, a lesson I learnt more than once ;). You can see more subtlety in the materials and more depth on the second print, and if I’d done a third and even fourth, it would’ve made an interesting series. Collagraphs have a way of developing and revealing more about the marks you’ve made with each print. It’s more connected to process art in that regard; the end result is still important, but the series of prints made with each plate and your response to each new development is fascinating. Again, not using too much ink and working into the plate with the scrim (an open weave, rough rag) helps that development process come to life and the results are more satisfactory.
And then the drypoints. I’ve since found out that there are a few methods, but essentially you need to scratch into the surface of an acrylic sheet, formica or something similar to make a sort of line drawing. The ink then sinks into the lines you’ve carved into the sheet or plate. Here I could relate it to line drawing, whereas the collagraph involved more of a mental leap (I went back to the wine glass one, below, after my tutor told me I could work into it a bit more – interesting comparison). Still subtle though:
There were some interesting marks on here, but I think I need more time on drypoint to really see what can be done with it. I suspect there’s a lot more potential than I gave it credit for at the time; it was easier to scratch into the acrylic and pretend I was using pencil and paper than wrap my head around alternative means of mark-making.
Finally, here’s my favourite set: the linocuts. I had so much fun with these! Here’s the process in action:
First, cutting into the lino using a variety of sharp tools. My green plate here is resting on a guard, which protects against injury in case any chips or scrapes go awry. Then, rolling out the ink so that you can dip your roller into the pigment (oil-based here, but water-based is perfectly fine too) before using it to cover your plate.
I suspect I enjoyed linocutting most of all because it’s the most tactile process of the ones I tried out. Using the tools to hack, chip and scrape into the lino came very naturally to me and it was easy to communicate my ideas. Like knitting and crochet, my hands are more directly engaged with the materials, constructing, building and creating something by working right into the medium. I can’t help getting my hands involved: thinking about it, this is probably why I haven’t taken to painting. It feels relatively remote, as if I can’t impress myself onto the canvas. With the linocuts it felt more like an interaction of energy – the kinetic, creative, active energy of my hands meeting the passive, static sheet. Like a ball of wool, I was able to mould it into anything I wanted it to be – and making this connection enabled me to learn something about my own creative nature and its preferred mode of expression. Here are a couple of my plates:
Happily, linocutting is a cheap option if you want to do it at home. Apart from the lino, you need a set of tools, oil based ink, a massive bottle of oil from the cash and carry, cotton rags for cleaning up (less is more when it comes to the ink, all the new folk in my class found this out the hard way and we had a right job getting the ink off!), a roller, a smooth glass or formica surface to roll the ink onto…and from memory, that’s it. Of course there’s the press, but there are places that have open access (Morley included) whereby you pay a fee to access the facilities and do the printing on site. Or, if you have a shed or garage and the patience to hunt for a press of your own, you can do it at home.
I saw many people taking advantage of this opportunity, and of course I marvelled at them going about their work. I observed, made notes, asked questions and openly admired. I can see more printing in my future in one way or another. It’s tempting to go out, get lots of lino offcuts and go outside to work whilst the weather’s warm! (Beats being inside my messy, in-the-throes-of-being-decorated house 😉 )
I was hoping to share printmaking part two, Photoshop for silkscreen printing, but unfortunately the course was cancelled. I’ll keep my eyes peeled for something similar, but until then, I’m going to find out more about letterpress (if Inky Collective will have me) and on that note, visiting St Brides is on the to-do list. Many thanks to Il Magpie for the museum tip! Do visit both these bloggers’ websites if you have a minute and appreciate beautiful handcrafted items – you will be inspired. I was 🙂