Carborundum & Drypoint Printing

Workshop with Brenda Tye

A fascinating 2 day workshop where I learned a whole bunch of new techniques.  We were asked to bring any sketches or reference material depicting objects from nature.  I photocopied some of my past ideas:

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As a start point I decided to use a view finder and pick out small sections from my drawings.  I finally settled on the image and section here.  It’s a recent piece from one of Elian’s adventures and I felt the curvy linear shapes might translate well for this course (although we hadn’t actually fully understood what we were going to do at this point).

The advice from Brenda was bold shapes without too much detail as it wasn’t going to be translated into a replica of our original.  I then redrew the area several times in different ways.

(Shocking light in the room when I took the photos) I chose the bottom left image for plate 1, the background fronds/stems from the top right for plate 2 and decided to freehand etch tree outlines on acetate (plate 3).  Nothing if not ambitious!

Plates under construction: shellac, glue, impasto paste, carborundum, etching.
Inking up was fun.

This is the first time I’ve used Akua Intaglio inks.  They are soy-based and apparently don’t skin over in the jar – well that’s a huge plus because the wastage of other inks which harden on top is a big loss of materials and cost.  I’ve read quite a bit about Akua inks, not all favourable, so getting this opportunity to try them out without having to buy my own jars was a bonus.

So what’s the verdict?  Do I like these inks as much as my own Gamblin oil based and the Graphic Chemical Co ones I use at the studio?  Well, they did a fabulous job and printed extremely well.  They seem more liquid than the brands I usually use and that’s fine for intaglio but I’m not sure how they would go for relief printing.  Although they say Intaglio on the label the Speedball site (manufacturer) clearly states ‘ Excellent for Intaglio/Etching, Monotype, Relief and Collagraph printmaking‘.  I have my reservations about rolling them on to lino.

Anyway, here is a range of prints using these plates with differing numbers of layers and order of printing.  Some have a woodblock print as a base layer.

I’m not sure how I feel about the layers together.  They turn into a bit of an abstract nothingness to my eye.  The main feature, the yellow ‘blobby’ plate, which I thought would be great, just looks a mess.  This needs more work to get something cohesive.  Perhaps the yellow plate with a different background and colour.  I need to work more with it.  However, I left it at this in the workshop so I could move on to another theme.

Below is my next design, which is far more successful.  Possibly because it is all on a single plate.

Above: the constructed plate and inked up just prior to printing.

Above: the print.  Very pleased with this first print, based on one of my drawings in the slide show above.  Now I’d like to reprint it in other colourways.

A fantastic two days.  Lots of new techniques and ideas to put into my future work.  I just wish there were 36 hours in a day!!

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Etching: Rock pools – Stage 3

Still loving this print!

If you haven’t seen the progression of this project click here for stage 1 and here for stage 2

For my first 2 plate print I decided on sepia and yellow ochre mixes for the line-etched rocks and a mix of ultramarine blue/viridian green/black for the water.

Very happy with this initial result and the registering (which is ALL) is superb.

Next step is more variety of colour and adding some plate tone.

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Etching: Rock pools – Stage 2

Just loving this project!

This week I’ve been concentrating on making a second plate to print with the etching I’ve already prepared.  I’m aiming for the sections underwater.

Transferring the design to plate 2:

I soaked my BFK Reeves paper, then ran it through the press with my new blank zinc plate (plate 2 – the one I’ll be using to create a watery effect).  This stretched the paper to size.  I trapped the paper in place on the press, removed the blank plate, and replaced it with the inked-up first plate, then ran it through the press again, so creating a print.  Keeping the paper trapped in place, I removed plate 1 and replaced it with the blank plate 2.  The printed paper was carefully lowered in place above this and run through the press again.  Hey presto, some of the ink was transferred to my blank plate giving me a perfect faint image in reverse!!  Great way to transfer an image accurately from one plate to another.

Stopping out sections:

I only want specific areas of plate 2 to print so I  selected the parts to etch.  All the rocks above the water line were painted over using a bitumen solution which will resist the nitric acid used to etch.

The plate was then degreased.

After going through the aquatint cupboard, it was heated to set the aquatint and placed into a tray to have the strong acid solution applied by paintbrush.  Some washing up liquid was also added here and there in the hope of creating differing levels of bite from the acid.  This (fingers crossed) should help towards a flowing watery look in the etching.

Once etched, rinsed and cleaned the plate looks like this:

I will be able to concentrate the ink on the etched areas and wipe away any from the smooth parts.  So, I should be able to get water into my print.  Roll on Friday, when I’m next in the studio.

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Banana paper: Stage 1

Whilst having a huge clean-up at Primrose Park recently (the home of Primrose Paper Artists) one of our members came across a couple of bags of banana fibre ready for boiling, before pulping and making paper.  We couldn’t work out who it belonged to so Jill kindly donated it to me.

You may remember that last October my husband bought me 2 banana trees so I would have my own source for paper making.  However, I just can’t bring myself to chop one down to use and I’ve not got enough dead leaves and stalks to make it worthwhile yet.

But, and here’s the great thing, they love my garden, especially the one by the brick wall in the sun.  My loving care helps, of course!  Although I’m a bit concerned that the leaves are all shredded.  Are they supposed to look like this?

Both of them have a baby and I have yet to decide what to do about this.  Should I keep the original and chop away the smaller one or wait until the first one has bananas and then cull it (and where are my bananas anyway)?

Apparently they only produce bananas once then should be cut down and the new one allowed to grow, as they grow on the same root system.  Sounds good until you realise that I didn’t know this and have planted one in a small terrace area.  Not much space for a crop of trees to grow, be chopped and regrow further along the root system.  Oops!

Back to my bags of banana fibre.  From the appearance they seem to be dry leaves and stalks,  not tree trunk, and have been cut up into quite long strands.  Thanks, whoever took the time to do this.

By putting the fibre into a tied up nylon bag before boiling, it makes handling the resulting mush quite easy as the whole thing can be quickly removed from the pot, thereby minimising clean-up and loss of fibre.

Once boiled for 1 1/2 hours – with the addition of some caustic soda to rot away the non-cellulose fibre – I allowed it to cool before removing it from the liquid and rinsing.  I know you should rinse until the water runs clear but as I’m now permanently programmed to avoid water wastage I soaked it many times, wrung it out and tipped the water on the plants.  No, I never got to the clear running water stage but I can live with some colour run-out.

So here’s where I’m at now:

A fantastic boiled mess of soft mushy fibres.  Next step is for them to go through the blender.  Can’t wait to make my first banana paper.

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Etching: Rock pools

I’ve been desperately trying to get back to my ‘One & Twenty’ routine.  OK, hardly a routine, but I’d like it to be.  The idea is that I look at something for one minute (really trying to examine the image in detail) then spend twenty minutes drawing it.  I don’t have a lot of time so this seems like a good way to at least get a little drawing done.

I went to the beach and wandered along the front exploring the rock-pools.

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I sat down here:

Twenty minutes later I’d come up with this:

I went home and continued, tracing some parts and using ‘artistic licence’ to move a few bits around slightly to make a better composition for the plate size I intended to print.:

The design was scanned, reversed, traced onto tissue paper and applied to a zinc plate using soft ground etching.  That is: heated soft wax spread and cooled on the plate surface.  The traced design is placed over this and lightly drawn over.  Once finished, the tissue is removed, taking with it some of the still-tacky wax where the pressure had been applied.  The plate is then immersed in nitric acid and, where the wax has been taken away, the plate etches.

Not a bad first print.  However, the sedimentary rock to the right isn’t defined enough to sit forward in the composition, so I applied a hard ground over the plate surface enabling me to etch more areas.  That is: heated hard wax rolled onto the warmed zinc plate and cooled, then scratched into, in selected areas, before immersing in nitric acid again.  The good thing about this is that you can see through the very thin coating of golden wax and so scratch in exactly the right place.  At this stage, I simply added more inclusions into the sedimentary rock.

Stage two will be working with multiple colours and adding a watery effect from a second plate that is currently underway.

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Paper pulp dipping

My friend Judy & I decided to have a go at this.  I’ve never done it before, never seen it done and haven’t watched any on-line tutorials, but I have seen some superb results.  The piece below, made by Jill Elias, for the recent Primrose Paper Arts exhibition in Sydney is a great example of the technique.

Fantastic texture, hasn’t it?
I don’t know what she has used as the armature for the grey pulp to adhere to but the front white piece might be string or thread under tension.  I’ll have to ask, when I next see her.

So, the plan was to go into this blind, muck about to see what we could do with no preconceived ideas and, perhaps, explore a more structured approach for experimentation in the future.  What could be better than having no idea what you are doing and just seeing what turns out?

Using recycled cardstock I made the pulp and we started cutting and shaping various gauges of galvanized wire and some small pieces of copper mesh.

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Then we started dipping into the pulp.

The (slightly wobbly) numbers above indicate the following:

  1. The original galvanized bird wire
  2. After one dipping
  3. After two dippings
  4. After three dippings

Between dippings we allowed the pulp-covered-wire to semi-dry.  Well, essentially once it had stopped dripping we re-immersed the wire into the vat.  The build up of ‘paper’ is evident in the photo above.  Things were looking up, so after dipping each shape we hung them around the room and continued to work our way round and round the strung washing-line re-dipping each shape until we achieved some decent coverage.

Here are some of the dried pieces:

So, I came home with a holey bowl, a torn ‘rag’, half a broken crown and a very “Play School” style flower.

Don’t you love a day of experimentation when you have no expectations in creating a masterpiece?  Now we just have to think how we take this further.  Maybe time for some research before our next immersion.

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Continuing recycling prints ……

Following on from my last post, this week I pulped some more of my old print proofs (yes, you’ve guessed it, I have quite a pile of paper to recycle!) and also prepared some of the white offcuts for new paper.  My goal was to embed some of my more recent prints into the surface of the new paper.

The first thing I noticed was that my recycled-print pulp was quite yellow again – this type of pulp relies heavily on what colours were printed on the surface originally and I’m using up some multiple-stage reduction lino print samples of native plants in yellows and ochre mainly.

I wanted my pulp tinged blue/grey, pretty much a paynes grey.  I wondered whether using Drimarine K dyes would work as my original paper was cotton rag based.  I semi drained the pulp, so the dye wouldn’t just float around in the water, and added some dye powder.  Then I ran for the camera, what a cool effect!

After two lots of dye it was looking a great colour.  However, I know from experience that it can dry quite light, but I was a bit nervous adding the colouring.  So I printed a plain two-layered sheet.

Looking good and definitely has a blue/grey tinge.  So I added a torn piece of print from my latest Elian adventure.

I bit of paper edge crumple as I didn’t let it thoroughly dry before removing it from my window, but I’m moving forward.  I torn up another print and added it to the pulped paper sheets before pressing.

Quite like this.  One more trial:

Really like this version with the print floating within the centre section.  Wonder what it would look like with some drawing on it?

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