4.2.2; Polyfilla Block

I felt the Polyfilla Block was more successful than the Collage Block which went some way to confirming my suspicion that these were too deep to print effectively. I also rather more enjoyed the process of making marks in the paste before it dried, it felt more expressive than using found objects but I guess this is down to personal preference.

DSCF5723Since the plate was flatter it was much easier to print, I was still thwarted by the recessed areas which stubbornly remained white.

DSCF5632One real draw back of using Polyfilla was the way the plate curled as it dried. This wasn’t as evident the first time I printed with it but moisture in the ink reawakened the filler and caused this distortion. The plate probably couldn’t be reused now without cracking. The reason this happened was I that I used card as the base, possibly a thicker ply, MDF, plastic or metal would have been more durable. Coating the card with PVA might also have helped but I was concerned the Polyfilla wouldn’t adhere well to the shiny surface.

This brings me to the question of coating plates with PVA before inking them. I skipped this stage not wanting to adulterate the textural marks I had created. This really got me thinking about the process of constructing a collatype plate. Many artists I read about had their own techniques and recipes for sealing the plates before printing. For example: Lesley Davy and Ellen Graubart use PVA; Ursula Leach and Tonia Matthews use a shellac mix. I found myself most drawn to Clare Nash’s technique which I will discuss in my next post (LINK*****)

 

 

 

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4.2.1; Collage Block

I recall feeling more than a little peeved by my first Collatype plate! It did very little to alleviate my concerns about the process (see previous post) but I took some consolation from the fact my prints looked a bit like the one in the course-notes handbook.

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It took quite a few attempts to produce a successful print; I found that I was glad we were asked to produce a sample plate before tackling an image. I had assumed that all I would learn was what each material or found object looked once it was printed, which seemed pretty obvious to me. However, I found that there was a lot more too it than I expected: I learned a lot!

An early attempt using Block Print Ink failed because it took me so long to cover the whole plate it was beginning to dry out before I was ready to print. Discussion with Course-mates Inger and Julie persuaded me it was time to switch to a more specific ink. I felt I had come along way using acrylic paint and cheap Block Printing Ink, it seemed a shame to now have to invest in more expensive materials but I ordered a starter set of Akua Speedball Intaglio just to complete the final exercises. (I will definitely be reflecting on my material choices in my Written Reflection at the end of Part 4, it was very important! *LINK TO FOLLOW*)

Akua ink is a great product but I found it tricky to adapt to because I am a messy worker! The product information on their webpage and their tutorials on youtube were especially helpful (search: akua printshop). It was also interesting to note that the developer of the ink, Susan Rostow was the artist behind the ‘Really Big Monotype’ project that inspired my BIG idea (see here).

Even though the Ink was high quality and fit for purpose I still had problems. I experimented with different weights of paper both wet and dry but still found it difficult to transfer all areas of the plate. I had several thoughts about the cause:

  • Too ambitious? Having read how Brenda Hartill inks her plates- in the recesses, then a rub over the uppermost areas. I thought I would be able to achieve similar results, the photograph below shows I couldn’t! WHY? Is it because I lack her experience?

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  • Objects and materials applied to the plate too deeply? I was obtaining excellent embossed detail (when the paper didn’t tear!) but I wondered if the recesses were just too deep for the paper to stretch down into?DSCF5598
  • Pressure? Without having access to a professional press I was relying on the amount of pressure I could physically apply. I gave this a lot of thought. I considered using my truck or the hydraulic tyre press at my husbands work but these both had issues. He made me some large flat sheets of wood which I was able to pad and stand on but this made little difference.

I felt disappointed at not being able to produce the results I wanted but pondered these problems as I moved on to 4.2.2.

 

 

4.2; Collatypes

If I’m totally honest, I wasn’t looking forward to making Collatype Prints. Sometimes I feel a bit like an imposter on this Mixed Media Unit, the things I feel I should get excited about just don’t ‘do’ it for me.

I spent some time looking at the work of contemporary collatype printers, particularly Laurie Rudling and I read the book Collagraphs and Mixed Media Printmaking by Brenda Hartill and Richard Clarke¹ paying close attention to the processes of the featured artists. I found the work appealed to me much more than I thought it would. I was forced to pause and reflect on why I hadn’t expected to like this technique.

I concluded, that I came to the exercise with preconceived perceptions of what to expect. Sometimes I still have to fight the voice inside that asks: ‘Why use crap off the floor, when I could draw it properly?’ I have many years of experience working in an Early Years setting, with five year olds, where we routinely play with sand, rice, glue and the like. I think I was expecting Collatypes to be similarly novice and amateurish. I certainly wasn’t expecting to discover anything new or produce anything sophisticated.

Research gave me the impetus to put my snobbery (?) to one side and approach this Project with an open mind. After all, PVA and Polyfilla are inexpensive, I had nothing to lose but was gaining the opportunity to play with textures and materials.

¹ HARTILL & CLARKE> Collagraphs and Mixed Media Printmaking (2005) BLOOMSBURY

4.1; Adding dimension

After performing the task of editing my prints from project one down to a manageable number, I felt some areas were not as strong as they could be. Following my Ruth Issett research and the Paisley prints that explored colour theory, I decided to consider my tutor Cari’s Pointer for the Next Assignment: ‘As the process in Pt4 gets more 2D, can you use processes from Pt1 to create surface relief or a sense of 3d?’ This became a really inspirational starting point for some new prints. I noticed how pleasing the build up of paint had become on this corrugated surface, it reminded me of the pleating exercise in Part 1.DSCF5602

I used a very simple stencil to overprint baby wipes saved from cleaning the plate and then experimented with pleating techniques explored in Part 1. I found as well as creating a relief surface the image has been distorted. In some ways the samples remind me of Anne Kyyro Quinn’s wall coverings, they share a similar tactile quality that is created by undulations that add depth and shadow.

The alternative to pleating a printed substrate was to first fold the paper or fabric and then print it. I found this quite exciting, realising that actually printing doesn’t have to be done on a flat surface. This could be a good avenue to explore later on.

During Part 1, I had an idea about unfolding shadows, I used this premise to create the pattern below left. The piece is now flat but the mark-making records the shape the paper had when it was pleated. The primary triad was chosen to add a feeling of simplicity that belies the complexity of the idea.

Another useful discovery was that pleated paper makes a really good mark making tool. I revisited the subtractive method learned in 4.1.1, removing paint randomly with the folded paper and printing it over a discarded stencil print. This is so much more bold and dynamic than what I did originally.

DSCF5613I stated at the beginning of Part 4, that I had reservations about layering, I used the more dynamic prints I produced at this stage to really force myself out of my comfort zone. Previously I would have been content to leave the three prints below intact but I decided to cut into them and use them as raised collage surfaces.

The print below left exploits the translucency of abaca tissue, Mod Podge was used to overlay the prints. I decide to include part of the newspaper cutting that inspired the colour choices, the motif pulls the composition together both by its placement and its shape (a sun that the colour and the word ice-cream suggests).

Below right, I used knowledge gained from the Cutting Holes exercise in Part 1 to reveal different parts of the composition at different heights (although this can’t really be appreciated in the photograph).

Finally, inspired by the Crumpling technique from Part 1, I tried printing with Brusho. I applied the dye to a crumpled sheet of tracing paper that I used as a printing plate. Brusho produced totally different effects to acrylic or ink, much softer and more organic.

I used damp paper to lift the Brusho, an interesting discovery was that adding washing up liquid changed the way the dye dispersed. At the moment I am not sure what to do with these sheets, I think they would be great for Back Printing or for collage.

In conclusion, I feel happier about the work produced for Project One. Exploring the three-dimensional potential of printing forced me to look back on work produced in Part 1 in a totally new light. It gave those early exercises a sense of purpose that I think I missed as I worked through them. I also think I have been a lot more confident in my ability to collage, which will be useful as I progress to Collatype Printing in Project Two.

A4; The Selection Process (What NOT to Include?)

There were practical reasons for beginning the Selection Process at the end of Project One, rather than waiting until the end of the unit:

  • as usual I went totally overboard with the quantity I produced. I had stacks of prints to sort and quite frankly they were driving me crazy!
  • I needed some clarity regarding what I had done and what I needed to do next.
  • I found during Part 3, when I thought I had finished, sorting the work inspired further pieces that I felt were amongst my strongest.
  • I was waiting for Collagraph plate to dray and for Akua ink to arrive.

The process felt very different this time, maybe more physical? I found myself actively involved in shifting and sorting the prints. In some regards it was easier, I felt quite detached and emotionless as I rejected some prints. Others were harder to part with.

This post discusses how I decided what NOT to select

Some were clearly not good, they were easily dispatched.

Some I liked but were more reflective of the ‘old me’, they were tricky not to include!

Some were multiples (I totally over did 4.1.1 and 4.1.2) I had to find a balance between showing the learning, representing the effort and not boring everyone to tears with sunflower after sunflower! No one wants to see this:

Sometimes it was very hard to chose between similar prints. The Emin inspired back-drawings for example contained interesting elements but there was no clear front runner.

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I found it hard not to include any of the knitted stitch prints, I wanted to, simply because I liked the idea. In the end I decided no matter how good the idea was the prints just didn’t do anything for me, I found them a bit bland and safe.

Another difficulty was rejecting a print that represented a lot of work on my part. I tried long and hard to resolve back-drawing on stencil prints producing muddy images. In the detail below you can see that it was beginning to work but a poor choice of substrate (copy paper) had led to buckling. I mounted the print below, but ended up removing it.

This was also the case for the oil paint/brusho back-drawing experiments. They just don’t work, I think the reason lie in the original sketch and/or the subject. The focus of the drawing was the pattern made by the ivy leaves, yet the darkest most dominant part of the composition was the space between them. Had I used it as a negative space exercise I might have had more success. There are also colour issues with the blue/green both with the falsely intense brusho and synthetic looking straight-from-the-tube oil paint.

I really enjoyed 4.1.3 and totally threw myself into it but actually produced very little that I could use, my resolution to this was to include a lot of it in my sketchbook. I found that I used my sketchbook very differently during this unit. It was much harder to keep it chronological, my ideas became rather scattered amongst the pages. I discussed this issue with course-mate Inger, I was extremely tempted to cut it up and re-work it into some sort of order but we both agreed this would not be time well spent. In the end I decided to ‘go with the flow’ and stick things in thematically. I prefer my organised layouts in the A3 sketchbook but I think this one will show the same level of learning- in a rather more organic (chaotic) fashion- it is a working document after all.

 

4.1.4; More Stencils

I wasn’t happy with my first series of prints made using stencils. At first I thought it was simply colour that was the problem, there were a lot of rather dark, muddy images, particularly when I tried to incorporate back-drawing. I was very grateful to fellow course-mate Julie for her comment that:

“the offset Paisley print is really lively and quirky, I think allowing this kind of ‘accident’ into print making is very effective – otherwise I think prints in general can be rather over-controlled and therefore static”

Julie’s observation helped me to identify that I was actually being too tight and controlling. When selecting the prints for submission I really had to fight myself not to include these:

but actually these as I find them much less ‘static’:

RESEARCH: RUTH ISSETT

To help remedy the issues I was having with colour, I looked at the work of Ruth Issett, in her book Print Pattern and Colour. What I noticed was the clarity of her prints, despite the multiple layers.

Isset uses a broad spectrum of highly saturated colours, each colour seems to have it’s own punch. There are no thick black outlines to define the shapes nor does she typically leave areas of white to allow the colours to float and interact. I think what she does so cleverly, involves layering complementary colours and exploiting the relationships between neighbouring values. She obviously has an excellent grasp of colour theory.

I decided to be more conscious of the colours I was selecting, building on what I learned in Part 3 of ATV. I think intuitively I tend to err toward more analogous colour selections, this is ok if the colours are partially blended within the same layer of the print.

I also picked up a useful tip about creating the stencils from freezer paper, which means they can be ironed directly to the fabric rather than applied to the plate. I found this made registration so much easier and resolved the problem of the mask sticking to the plate.

I printed this freezer paper mask over one of my clean up cloths, the complementary pairing of red/green has been utilised to define the edges. A black outline is not required as the warm red motif stands proud of the cool receding green.

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A limited palette of red/gold has been combined with black and white, feels like quite a sophisticated choice of colours for such a loose composition. I experimented with combining a range of techniques tearing, cutting, collage, overprinting and back-drawing to avoid a static image.

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A double triad of complementary colours yellow/purple-orange/blue has been successfully combined. Both sharp and diffuse edges are apparent. Watercolour and found objects were applied to add detail.

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Finally, a full spectrum of highly saturated colours has been balanced by considering the relationships between them. The motifs were applied using freezer paper directly onto fabric to ease placement. Small stitches were added for interest and too address the similar scale of the printed marks. I tried to avoid ‘outlining’ each motif, allowing the colour to do the work.

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ISSETT R. Print, Pattern and Colour. (2007) BATSFORD

 

A3; Response to Tutor Feedback

I have been thinking about this post for a while. By concentrating my efforts on my tutor’s Pointers for the Next Assignment from Assignment 2 feedback, I seemed to make good progress during Part 3.

Pointers for the next assignment (A2)

  • Explore the broadest potential of the materials and processes you’re exploring – be experimental with structure, scale, shape and volume, as well as pattern, texture, colour and decorative elements.
  • Push yourself to keep exploring imperfection and irregularity.
  • Avoid considering outcomes/products, focus on generating a wide range of samples which exploit the creative potential of both process and materials.
  • Emphasise experimentation over refinement

I am pleased that Cari acknowledged the range of approaches I used as I explored the potential of different moulding and casting materials. I tried really hard to break the habit of pre-planning outcomes, allowing the materials to determine what I did instead and Cari recognised this:

“The process of experimentation was thorough and logical but you’ve allowed yourself room to play.”

I did gain a much greater appreciation of the importance of being playful, which was an important lesson to learn. I find my previous hesitancy to ‘play’ quite ironic as in my day job I work in a Reception class (4-5year olds) where we are constantly extolling the virtues of learning through play! This brought to mind a quote by Kleon:

“A day job puts you in the path of other human beings. Learn from them, steal from them. I’ve tried to take jobs where I can learn things I can use in my work later- my library  job taught me how to do research, my Web design job taught me how to build websites, and my copywriting job taught me how to sell things with words.”¹

In other words we work with what we know, I do actually know how to play- I do it to make a living, I just hadn’t made the connection to my art work before!

For me, Part 3 was about the shift in my perspective, I feel that I changed considerably as I forced myself to challenge my preconceived notions of perfection: ‘By being less precious about the need for things to be correct or perfect, you’ve generated a really enthusiastic body of work.’ Searching for ‘imperfection and irregularity’ and indeed ’emphasising experimentation over refinement’ were central to this. I need to continue to work with these values throughout Part 4 (and beyond). Even I can see the benefit this is having on my output.

I wrote a lot! I found the process of reflection really useful and Cari seems to agree: it’s clear the questions have made you think differently about the work’ However she also noted the vast word count: ‘Your entries for part 3 alone total over 12,500 words. If each part was that long, the total for the module would be 60,000+ words.’ I feel the quantity I wrote reflects the period of introspection that ran alongside Part 3, but appreciate that I need to try to be more ‘succinct’ as she puts it.

Cari identified one the questions I asked of myself as interesting: “Am I capturing the texture of another material or am I creating a new one?” She says:

‘This interplay between what is real, what is a copy and what is completely ‘new’ is a really interesting question relating to innovation and the creative process. At what point do two materials combined lose their innate personalities to create something wholly new?’

I find this comment inspiring, I am keen to investigate it further as I progress through Part 4.

One of the things I identified as a potential stumbling block as I began Printmaking was my reluctance to layer. In the past I have often made the excuse “I can’t layer”, what I mean by this is: I can produce ‘something’ but then I don’t know what to do with it. I think this is related to my perfectionism and fear of spoiling what is already there. Cari advised:

‘If you don’t layer, you won’t know if it works or not, so you have to test it! In terms of ‘spoiling’ what you’ve done, that’s already an anxiety inducing moment! Depending on how much you like the original print, and how much time you have, you could always photograph and print out small images of the print onto which you can draw new layers to get a sense of how it might work. At least then you can feel fairly confident that the compositional arrangement will work.’

I like this safety measure, but I am really keen to build on the developments of Part 3,     (seeking out imperfection, irregularity and experimentation) by now addressing this ‘precious’ attitude I seem to have acquired over the years.

All quotes from Tutor Report 15/08/17 by Cari Morton, except ¹ KLEON A. Steal like an artist (2012) WORKMAN PUBLISHING COMPANY. P124