The set of Akua water-based inks I ordered arrived a few days ago, then the Japanese baren and supply of Dan Xuan paper also arrived, so I spent a fascinating day over the weekend, in my makeshift home print studio, playing with them and trying out different ideas.
For consistency and to aid measuring the results, as with previous experiments I did with the sample Carbon Black ink, I tried using both dry and damp papers of different types and used the same collagraph plates and found the damp paper produced consistently better results. This time I also tried mixing some inks and tried rubbing the ink into the entire plate, as with Intaglio, to see how that compared with the prints from ink-based inks through the etching press at UCLan. The results were surprisingly similar, especially considering I was not using an etching press and that these plates are now fairly worn.
Continuing the experiments in brushing ink onto the collagraph plates, Japanese style, I then printed with the baren and the results on Somerset paper, damp and dry are rather nice although the Hahnemuhle Etching is a bit too textured. The best results were with using the Dan Xuan paper which, especially when using the baren, come out beautifully. I love this more intuitive way of working, where you really do feel your way around the plate firstly by brushing on the ink and then by hand with the baren during the printing. This process just feels right and fits nicely with my work ethos and the themes around which I work, so I think I now know which path I am taking.
The appeal of doing this AA2A project in the first place, was to have the opportunity to try out different methods and approaches to printmaking and learn from more experienced printmakers, as well as have access to various presses. It has not disappointed, as I have had the chance to try out so many ideas and whilst some have been more successful than others, the value is in having the opportunity to try. The technicians in the printroom at UCLan have been brilliant and very supportive.
When I started this project, I did not really know where I was going or how to get there, so being able to experiment was integral and has actually shown me what I don't want to do which in turn has enabled me to realise what I do want to do.
I spent an entire afternoon last weekend playing in my makeshift print studio at home, trying out the water-based ink sample whilst awaiting delivery of my inks. I experimented with all kinds of techniques, tried both dry and pre-soaked, damp paper as well as different types of paper. I also tried ways of transferring the image to the paper so I could really get a feel for what was possible and what the limitations were. I'd done lots of research so this was a chance to try out some ideas and have to say it was a lot of fun.
I am really pleased with the prints that resulted, some of which are in my image album. Perhaps more importantly however, I feel that this process is the one I am more connected with and that I want to pursue. A few more bits and pieces to acquire than I am good to go...
One of the experiments I've been pursuing over the past few weeks is in using liquid Latex to create molds which I then use as a plate for printmaking. I had never used Latex before and. like most of the experiments on this AA2A project, I had no real idea what I was trying to achieve or even how to go about it but thought I'd have a go and just see what happened.
Initially, I thought it might provide a solution to the problem of putting the collagraph plates through the press and the paper sticking, by creating a mold from the collagraph plate. I selected a few plates that had been through the press several times, and started coating them with liquid Latex which I bought from the local arts supply shop.
I found they needed about 10-12 coats, each of which needs to dry, or cure, fully before the next is added so it was a long and laborious process. I'm glad I used a cheap paintbrush as trying to get the Latex out of the bristles, despites washing after each application, became a real headache!
When the first ones were ready to try out last week, I struggled with removing the mold from the plate without it stcking to itself so the first print in the album has a somewhat primitive look with uneven edges, which I actually quite like. I quickly found that a light dusting of talcolm powder rather than washing-up liquid as recommended, made it a lot easier to remove the molds and in so doing, they retained their original shape. The second image was printed this week having removed the mold this way so it has retained its shape more.
Having removed the molds, I laid them flat and lightly used a roller over the entire thing with oil-based intaglio ink, then laid pre-soaked paper over the plates and put them through the small relief press. Initially using too much ink, I gradually got the hang of using less and managed to get some reasonable results with a first print. I quite liked the impression given by the wrinked edges of the latex when making the print and the visible brush strokes from coating the latex which showed through the ink.
Although these were quite successful in terms of generating a print and several of the other printmakers commented on how effective and original they were, I wasn't entirey happy as they were not really what I was trying to achieve. I experimented some more with different plates and changed the techniques as I went and tried both pre-soaked and dry papers but still I was not convinced.
After the successful experiment with Akua Intaglio water-based inks, I decided to invest in a set of the inks so I can play til my heart's content. The Akua Intaglio inks will give me the best of both worlds in that I can use them straight out of the pot for painting on the plate for monoprinting, but I should also be able to use them for rubbing in to the collagraph plates and then putting through either the intaglio or relief presses when I have acces to the printroom. Sounds perfect.
I have ordered 6 inks to give me a minimal, natural palette. I can mix a selection of other colours then as needed. I've also ordered the Transparent Base.
Can't wait for them to arrive so I can start using them.
After spending an afternoon playing with the sample of Akua water-based ink for monoprinting, I am really excited about the results. Unliked the acrylic paints, which dry far too quickly before you even finish 'inking up', the Akua ink just stays wet so you can slow down and take much more care.
I carefully painted directly onto the collagraph plates I had made previously, knowing that I would be able to simply wash off the ink with warm soapy water afterwards, unlike the aycrylics which dry and harden and get stuck in the recesses.
When it came to tranferring to paper, I tried using both wet and dry papers of various thicknesses just to see the effects. I am using scraps and oddments of paper for these experiments so I don't create unnecessary waste. The best results were on Hahnemuhle etching paper which seems to accept the inks beautifully, the amount of detail that transferred quite extraordinary but the Khadi papers did not work as well.
After my successful attempts at monoprinting, I wanted to explore this option further not only so I had a viable alternative for printing without a press but also as I had found it to be a much more immediate process. The task though was to find an alternative to acrylic paints which just dried too quickly leaving little working time.
I read about Golden's Open Acrylics and about various extenders and modifiers which would help keep the paints open for longer to increase the working time. I also started reading about Akua water-based inks which sounded quite interesting. I particularly liked the idea of working with non-toxic substances, especially as I'd be using these primarily at home or in my studio, neither of which has the best ventilation.
I spoke to Tracy, our senior print technician about them and she kindly gave me a sample to try out. I shall report back when I've given it a try.
During the winter holidays, whilst UCLan was closed, I continued with the monoprinting experiments I had started before Christmas which I started these as I wanted to be able to do some printmaking at home or in my own studio when access to the print room was not available.
Initially I used some acrylic paints and just brushed the paints onto the collagraph plates I had made previously by using natural objects and encaustics. I then simply transferred onto paper using a rolling pin to see what would happen.
I was delighted with the results and played around with using different colours and brushes to see the various effects I could get. I particularly enjoyed the minimalist style I was able to get and managed to produce a number of prints I was very pleased with. I found that just using my hands gave a softer, more organice look than the rolling pin.
Curious, I included some prints along with some Christmas cards I made using the same process, in a local exhibition and sold several prints and quite a few cards on the opening night. This was all the encouragement I needed - I just needed to refine this a bit more.
The biggest downside is the speed at which the acrylics dried so it was time to do some research and find a solution or alternative media.
What is it with printmaking? It seems as fast as you solve one problem, another appears that needs solving but then, that is part of the appeal.
Since my last blog post, I spent a further two sessions in the print room at UCLan prior to the end of term but regrettably, did not get much further forward and due to a busy period, did not get a chance to blog.
The problem seemed to be paper sticking to the collagraph plate once the pressure of the press was applied and even Tracy, our brilliant print technician, did not really seem to know why. I tried all sorts of ideas including using different ways of sealing the plate as we thought it might be the wax getting warm and becoming sticky as pressure was applied. We tried changing the pressure, changing the plates, and even changing the press blankets. I am using the Columbian press for this work rather than an Intaglio press. I also tried various different papers, each with different levels of success.
I also tried dry as well as soaked paper and tried changing the amount of soaking and drying time as we thought the paper might be too damp. But all to no avail. The paper still sticks even if only in one small area. This is quite annoying as there must be a reason but I took the decision, at the end of term, to leave that project on hold for the moment and turn my attention to monoprinting, which I can do in my own studio.
At last things seem to be coming together - I have a workflow that is starting to work for me and that is half the battle. Last week I was able to spend the entire afternoon in the printroom and had taken in 3 plates I had prepared the previous weekend, ready for inking up. I managed to produce prints from each of the plates, without any assistance, which is a major step forward.
One of the prints was even usuable! Of the other two, the paper stuck on one, which I think was due to not blotting it sufficiently beforehand and on the other, I hadn't removed enough ink from the plate so the result was much darker than I had intended. Still, one out of three I was pleased with. Learning by doing is working well
Over this last wet weekend, I reworked a couple of earlier plates and made another 3, so they'd be ready to ink up this week. I am really enjoying making the plates and am getting lots of ideas for more. This time, I have more cleanly etched the intaglio parts whilst also trying to enhance the relief, in order to get some really sculptured effects. With luck, I can spend another afternoon in the print room this week to try these out and make some more prints.
We'll see what happens.