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.


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’:


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.


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.


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.


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.



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


4.1.4; Working with Stencils

I had a bit of trouble with this exercise. To begin with I think my ideas for the stencils themselves were rather too ambitious, once I began working with them I realised a need to simplify my designs.

I began on the Gelli Plate and produced crisp prints of the positive and the negative motif. I particularly like the texture of the acrylic in the petal areas:

I was quite surprised by the method described in the course-notes, inking the plate and then masking the motif did not seem the most obvious way to stencil. I found on the Gelli Plate it is easier to lay the stencil down, apply the paint, remove the stencil and then pull the print.


The next instruction was to print the positive and negative onto the same sheet, this proved difficult. I simply couldn’t get my head around the placement of the stencils, I was also hindered by the previous staining of the gelli plate.

Given my perfectionist nature, I found it really annoying that I couldn’t figure out how to do this properly, however, when I look at the Paisley motif below, the imperfection created by the offset stencil is rather attractive and has created a dropped shadow effect.

I found ways to ‘cheat’ by layering translucent paints, or printing bold opaques over dry backgrounds. Some of these prints were interesting because they contained combinations of texture and mark-making.

Eventually, by thinking a bit more logically, I produced the prints I was aiming for; I switched to my glass plate and used registration marks to align the stencils. This confirmed my previous thoughts that the slight off-set was producing a more attractive image. This observation follows the search for imperfection encouraged by my tutor for Pt3. In my feedback, Cari noted that I referred back to this issue regularly, I would like to hope that this is now becoming habit, it has been an important lesson to learn.

The multitude of ‘imperfect’ prints produced along the way to attaining the effect above, seemed perfect backgrounds for Back Drawing. I was keen to explore using a combination of the techniques I have learned so far (which can be seen in the larger print below, where I had already tried to include the reductive method alongside stencilling).

I thought adding an outline and some pattern would help define and enhance the prints…

I am disappointed with the result below. The back drawn outline is too dominant, too ‘perfect’; it has made the image twee and predictable.


The photographs below illustrate how I tried once more to add definition in the same manner. This time it was useful because I was able to identify what was going wrong: the image was too dark to begin with, adding black simply wasn’t going to help, it made the print even muddier.

In response to this I have been looking at the work of Ruth Issett. She has a fantastic eye for colour, her prints are bold and well defined. I concluded that if one uses complimentary hues in the layers of printmaking, outline should not be necessary: the colours should ‘pop’ by themselves. I tend to prefer to work with analogous colour but I need to reconsider the combination of colour I chose.

In addition, I think using black for both the stencilling and the backdrawing was a mistake. I learned in earlier exercises it is difficult to layer black… I made the same mistake again. I need to remember the role of a black outline is to contain the colour, it will not allow the colours to interact the way that the inclusion of white does.

What Next?

Re-work this exercise:

  • consider layering complimentary colours,
  • use a broader range of hues,
  • save black for back drawing,
  • if using an outline, keep it loose and energetic,
  • try using back drawing on stencilled print, to create a separate drawing (think Paul Klee: Twittering Machine).