Part 4, Stage 2, Project 1, Exercise 2. Drawing on the Printing Plate

This was frustrating because the results were so random, I wanted to simply paint and draw directly onto my surface so I could control the image; but that isn’t the point of these exercises.

We are asked to choose a simple composition from our sketchbooks and translate the image in ink on the printing plate, keeping things simple.  We are asked to use some of the mark making techniques we have learned to make texture in the ink.  So I practised crumpling piece of paper, cutting styrofoam etc and putting them on the printing plate.

I chose to make a landscape, because the shapes would not necessarily look inaccurate.  I took an image of a drystone wall from a previous sketchbook (Textiles 1, ACA) and simplified it to make blocks of shapes.  Below is the drawing, visible under the printing plate glass.  Masking tape was applied to the edges, to give myself a distinct border.  Acrylic paint with added retarder (to stop it drying out quickly) was applied to the printing plate.

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The painted printing plate.  We were asked to fill in all the negative spaces, so white paint was added, thus avoiding white paper showing through!

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Not a brilliant result.  White paper is showing through on the wall, and that’s the best bit, albeit unintended.  My “blocky”, monotonal painting habit looks good as a painting but poor as a print.  I think light and shade need to be properly defined in a print.  I didn’t put much texture onto the printing plate either, simply some bobbles on the hedges and relying on brush strokes for everything else.  It just doesn’t work.  Meanwhile, I am aching to paint or sew this image, now it’s in my mind – but need to get on with understanding the print process.

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I really do want to conquer this image, but will leave it to the last minute, before Assignment hand-in, so I can sit down, relax and really work out how to do this.  In the meantime, in order to fulfil the requirement of making five to seven images using a variety of tools, marks and print materials, I’ve tried a few more quick ones.

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This print works much better because there is more definition.  Instead of blocking in colour, and filling in the negative spaces, I drew a few rapid lines on the plate to represent a fish.  The eye was added with a blob of black ink placed on my little finger.  This was printed onto a piece of polycotton sheet which, I find, takes up the outlines much better than paper (when no printing press used).

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Further work – to explore the images of Wilhelmina Barns Graham who made some striking abstract prints towards the end of her career.  Although these are mostly linocut and screenprints, I think these abstract shapes could also be successfully produced with monprint techniques.  Wilhelmina Barns Graham Trust webpage, accessed 15th January 2017.  I visited an exhibition of her work at the Penlee Gallery, Penzance last Summer (2016) Link here and very much enjoyed her abstract paintings for their simplicity and striking colour.  Warm Up, Cool Down, 1979, Acrylic on Canvas in particular; I haven’t found a reproduction which reflects the incredible variations in colour that you see in the live painting.  How did she go about placing the red squares, was it a mathematical plan or did she just experiment?  I can make a similar effect using digital means, by enlarging a section of image until the individual pixels are visible, often in surprising shades.  However, I am in awe of artists who can achieve a satisfying abstract image without the helpful tools we have today.  The very simple techniques we have been using during Part 4 would be great for trying out such images.  Do more.

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