4.1.2; Painting on the Printing Plate

Aims: To discover the difference between painting an image onto the plate, rather than strategically removing paint or ink.

Discovery: The biggest difference between the additive and subtractive processes for me was the inclusion of directed colour. It felt easier, perhaps more familiar, to apply the paint, than to remove it although I did miss the subtlety of the wiped marks. I found that combining the two methods worked best for me.

Block Printing Ink on the Gelli Plate:

I was so enthused to try ink instead of acrylic paint I didn’t actually stop to engage my brain, my poor gelli plate is now permanently stained with the image of a sunflower. Had the print been successful, this might have softened the blow but I found the ink really sticky and hard to manipulate on the gelatinous surface. The second photograph shows some interesting brush marks that could be developed into some sort of hatching by changing their orientation.

Acrylic Paint on the Gelli Plate: 

Acrylic paint is much more suitable for the gelli plate (and it doesn’t stain!), I applied it with a variety of tools, keeping the mark-making loose.

This series of prints shows how each time I reworked the image I was able to pick up slightly more paint. I actually think the first print is the most successful. I like the lightness created by the inclusion of so much white, which allows the afterimage of the colours to flare making it very bright. The incidental marks and simplified shapes are rather like a lino cut.

This print was quite a shock after the more stylistic versions above. Applying acrylic gloss gel medium to the painted plate with a brayer, disturbed the colour more than I expected. It has created a mottled effect in more realistic colours. Unfortunately the blurriness means the sunflower has lost definition and sinks too deeply into the background.

I rectified the problem with the background by painting it blue. The next series were printed on calico, cartridge paper and organza; together they form a sort of catalogue of possibility.  I am encouraged by the thought that stitch could somehow be used to improve them?

I am conscious of a fine line between abstraction and child-like painting. I am hoping the interesting textures created by using a variety of application methods stops these from being too naïve. I am going with the word ‘painterly’!

Block Printing Ink on Glass:

The motif from a piece of scrap material was applied to glass (repurposed from an old photograph frame) using a cotton bud. I really enjoyed the tactile experience of smearing the ink onto the glass, it’s increased tack creates a wonderful push and pull sensation. Applied too thickly, the ink spreads out into blobs. When I look at the imperfections of the image below once again I am reminded of how much my aesthetic has changed! (previously this would have driven me into a frenzy!)

I considered that perhaps ink would be more effectively picked up using damp paper, which resulted in the blurry prints below, they have a ceratin softness but to me they just look dirty. When I was using acrylic on the gelli plate I found I could usually pull one or two ghost prints. This does not seem to be the case with ink/glass, the second pull is probably unusable.

I tried a combination of painting on and removing ink from the plate, again the second pull was disappointing. Even though the sunflower heads are smudged I like the potential of this method, it seems to suggest movement, like a soft breeze across the field. I think I would like to add some definition though?

My favourite ‘print’ was created by accident (I’m sensing a theme here!). This is the scrap sheet of copy paper I was using to remove excess paint from brayer. I started painting my sketch of knitted texture onto it with a cotton bud but found I was removing layers, creating an impasto effect. The colour palette was really unplanned and unexpected, it works by combining the primary triad- this is what happens when you play!

In my feedback, my tutor challenged:

“As the process in Pt4 gets more 2D, can you use processes from Pt1 to create a surface relief or sense of 3D?”

I think I have found a way: scratching into layers, provides surface relief.

Another print I particularly liked was this:


It hasn’t quite worked… which seems to be it’s charm. The fractured image reminds me of pieces of mummy cloth that you see reconstructed in tatters in museums, if only I’d printed this one on muslin…

What do I want to do next?

There are several prints from 4.1.2 that I would like to try adding to. My initial thoughts were to develop them with stitching but perhaps back-drawing would be more appropriate?