4.1.3; A BIG Idea

My contextual research of contemporary monotypes led me to discover this article about working on a really large scale: Printing Really Big Monotypes by Steamroller, Skateboard and Breaking Dancing. I loved the idea of using machinery and movement to create marks. The final prints remind me work done to music, they have a similar sense of rhythm and repetition. The project transported the process from the print shop (or in my case kitchen table) to an outdoor festival atmosphere, the marks and colours reflect this. The venture presented some difficulties, but interestingly they seemed to be the same problems materials pose no matter what scale one is working at.

I love drawing on a large scale, which is something I have not done during MMT. There is something about having a large space to fill that encourages speed and fluency in mark making… you have to use more than your hand and wrist, the whole arm and upper body become involved. It can feel like dancing, which very much links to the project above.

This was in the back of my mind on holiday, when I happened to notice sea-gull footprints in the sand:


I love the random nature of the pattern made by nature (I can see the link to the Colour of Hair Project, that my tutor directed me to look at also). I wondered if I could ink up some paper and persuade my chickens to perform the mark-making dance for me?

In short, NO, chickens don’t perform. I also tried to involve my dogs, who never fail to stand on my work if I leave it on the floor… typically they didn’t want to cooperate either. Once I finally got them to stand on the prepared paper/plate, I discovered that they actually weren’t heavy enough to leave any trace of a mark (so the chickens wouldn’t have been any good anyway). Re-reading the article Rostow states the steamroller couldn’t apply as much pressure as an etching press, so I don’t know what made me think a chicken could!

(The article was actually helpful in answering another of my problems, in my last post I described how I couldn’t shift the ink from the plate, they used an Akua Release Agent).

It was such a shame to waste the paint/ paper I had prepared, it took two tubes of oil paint to cover the A2 paper so I decided to sketch the sunflowers in my garden:

DSCF5520The first drawing was lovely and soft, the Burnt Umber suits the loose lines and reminds me of Gauguin’s prints. Black would have been too dark and heavy. I am particularly pleased with the composition, I like the way the heads crowd together at the top and the leaves cover such a large area. This is so much more reflective of sunflowers in the garden, than brought from a supermarket in a vase. The sketchy quality also suggests movement of the tall stems in the breeze (which links back to the idea of dance and movement in the Steamroller/skateboard project).

DSCF5524I had a lot of fun with the mark making in the second drawing (again A2), there is a lot of energy but I think my fondness of pattern still shows in the scribbly marks. There is some difference in the thickness of line, afterward I wondered if I had really exploited the scale of the drawing? Could the lines have been even thicker at this size?

DSCF5519A final test showed me I could have been more ambitious with the mark making. It required a lot of pressure to generate lines this thick with a lolly stick, but the broad smudgy lines were worth the effort. Considering the drawings were made in an attempt to salvage the materials from the failed chicken project, I’m not too disappointed!

ARTICLE: By Susan ROSTOW: http://www.akuainks.com/printing-really-big-monotypes-by-steam-roller-skateboard-and-break-dancing



4.1.3; More Back Drawing

After the surprising series of prints I made in response to my Emin research, I turned my focus back to the sunflower, the knitted sample drawing from Pt.3 and the paisley motif that occurred in 4..1.2.

During the first two exercises I was very methodical, making notes of the materials and techniques being trialled. 4.1.3 was different in this respect, I became so engrossed in the work that I often forgot to record the process. I made the leap from one drawing to the next intuitively without planning. It felt really good to work in this way and I am very happy with this set of prints, but it was a bit of a headache trying to remember what I used for each effect afterwards!

The Gelli Plate

I found the Gelli Plate much too soft for the purpose of back drawing. I could not achieve a sharp line because the plate gives under direct pressure (there is also the fear of pushing too hard with a sharp implement and damaging the surface) the plate also seems to draw the paper to it, creating large haloes of unintentional colour.

I tried to make the best of the thick blurry drawing by overprinting in another colour using a different plate. I found the only colour that showed up on the black acrylic was bronze. This has a thick squelchy consistency that created problems of its own.

Glass Plate:

Switching to the hard glass surface meant also changing to Block Printing Ink (acrylic won’t roll out on the smooth slippery surface), this combination was really effective. I enjoyed using back drawing to add outlines and filler patterns to a previous print. The lines are sharp and well defined, now I come to think about it perhaps they are rather too defined? They seem to have lost that characteristic softness and slight burr.

I was able to pull a faint ghost print from the glass onto tissue paper, to which I added more back drawing. I think I was lucky in this instance as generally I found ghost prints very disappointing. It is frustrating that after the initial print, I can see a lovely image remaining on the glass but nothing seems to be able to lift it. I tried more ink, gel and textile medium but the ink is too dry.

I used the same technique to develop the knitted sample drawings, on abaca tissue dyed with brusho  and over an existing ghost print on paper. In both cases I found the ink rather dry and needed to apply a lot of pressure as  I drew.

Plastic Plate:

Block Printing Ink applied to a sheet of plastic (repurposed from a photograph frame) helped to stop the dryness I was experiencing in the previous samples. Ink seems to dry very quickly on glass. The ink in these sketches appears much bolder and darker, I wonder if the improved effect was also due to working faster?

DSCF5508 (2)

Paper ‘Plate’ (water-based ink):

I began to consider how I would usually use back drawing: applying solid colour to reverse of paper with oil pastel or wax crayon, placing over plain paper and transferring that way. This is rather like drawing with a sheet of carbon paper, it means that the resulting print is not reversed but appears the right way round.

The thing I found disappointing was that because the Block Printing Ink is water-based, as I painted on a wash of Brusho the image deteriorated.

Paper ‘Plate’ (oil-based paint):

The reason for switching to oil paint was so that the back drawing could be used as a resist. Colour could be added afterwards (not before like orange sunflower sketches above).

The oil paint was applied to the reverse of cartridge paper for strength, I was able to use a thick watercolour paper to receive the image since I was no longer applying pressure through the recipient paper by the carrier.

I achieved three prints of this Ivy drawing from my holiday sketchbook, from the same sheet of paper. The quality of line and incidental marks are more like what I observed in Gauguin and Klee’s prints. I think this is due to the choice of materials- oil-based paint and paper with a rougher surface.

At the bottom right is the carrier sheet, filthy with graphite, oil soaked though from the reverse and distorted by the pressure of the drawing implements, even though it smells a bit like a chip shop I am rather keen on it’s density of marks!

Once these prints are fully dry I can discover whether enough oil has been transferred to act as a resist for a water-based wash.






4.1.3; Back Drawing

I knew I was going to love Back Drawing before I even started this exercise! I have used a similar process in the past, drawing on the reverse of a sheet that I have covered with oil pastel or wax crayon. I like the quality of line that is transferred to the paper beneath, I have also found that the process has the effect of loosening the drawing rather like a non-dominant hand exercise.

I thought I knew what to expect but I surprised myself; what I learned from my investigations is the versatility of this technique.

I began by looking at the works of Gauguin, Klee and Emin. It was actually Emin’s monotypes that elicited the strongest response from me. Once again I had to grit my teeth and consider art work that is not pretty, doesn’t make me feel good but is very powerful. I intended to write up my research in an academic manner on the blog but considering my tutor’s comments about how wordy my last assignment was, I decided to do something different. This is my response to Tracey Emin’s monotype “Something’s Wrong”:


Mimicking Emin, I wrote my thoughts backward and forward onto a sheet of glass and printed the result. I had a bit of difficulty with the ink being far to thick at the beginning, so I was actually able to create a whole series by pressing papers together. It was hard to decide which print was the most successful, so I photographed them together. This made me realise their strength lay in them being a collection. The hidden benefit of producing a multiple was that the relationship between the text being the right or wrong way around was more fully exploited.

Aesthetically the monoprints were not at all what I expected because the backgrounds feature so heavily. Usually the motif in a monoprint is suspended in unprinted space, with only incidental marks being present.

The patchwork of linear patterns showcases the text that appears haloed in ink. I decided to reference more of Emin’s work (the neon signs) by overpainting with vibrant colour:


Whilst I am pleased with how my prints look and with the concept of responding via art work instead of a formal analysis, I felt drained by this whole process. Emin’s shock tactics make me feel irrationally angry. It was sort of cathartic working on the prints trying to decide why. I seethed and hated as I printed-It took a lot of energy and actually I felt like I had crossed over to a darker place. When I looked at them the next day, I felt almost hungover with embarrassment about them. (And no, I hadn’t been drinking.) This was a strange new way to work for me- very raw and uncomfortable.

The prints I made surprised and shocked even myself! I was in two minds whether or not to share this experience, no offence is meant by it! All power to Emin who has consistently provoked reaction from the public throughout her career. Brave!