Paper casting

After my debacle with the mixer a few days ago I regrouped, put my brain in gear, and blended some of my pulp into a finer, more smooth paste.  Currently working with banana fibre and cardstock I’m making the components of what will become a travel journal.  This stage is  creating a cast paper motif for the front cover.

I was inspired by my friend, Robert, and his work at Primrose Park last week.  He made his own molds, which are fairly large, and formed some fantastic paper reliefs with them.

I’m not after anything that large or that dimensional, just something low-relief to complement the ‘earthy’ tones of my sheets of paper.

Over the years I’ve accumulated several sets of Cedar Canyon Rubbing Plates and decided to see if I could use them to cast paper.  Made of tough, fairly rigid, plastic the pulp should dry and release quite easily.

I don’t see why they wouldn’t work although the imagery is quite complex and some areas are very fine, but as long as I can push the fibre into all the recesses well enough I should get a reasonable result.

I started by pressing small amounts of pulp into the mold and, once completed, I used a rolling-pin to flatten the back.As the shapes slowly dried I  periodically pressed the pulp down into the molds, hoping to improve the final definition.

I laid them outside to finish drying in the warm shade (with a brick so they wouldn’t blow away) and was surprised how quickly the pulp formed into solid paper pieces and popped out of the rubbing plates.  As they dried they shrunk slightly and came away from the plates, leaving them completely clean.

They’ve buckled a bit as they dried but, depending on how I’m going to use them, I reckon I can dampen the back of them and re-flatten them to lie nicely on backing sheets.  Very pleased with this stage of the project.

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Oops, not paying attention!

Do you know how far the contents of a blender splatter when you’re not paying attention and don’t ensure the lid is on before flicking the switch?

3/4 of a blender of water mixed with 1/2 a cup of paper pulp:

And that’s just me!  I’ll leave you to imagine the kitchen benches, dining room carpet (open plan of course), cupboard fronts, bench stools …… in fact every single surface and item within a radius of 2 metres.  Let me assure you, it doesn’t discriminate, it evenly spreads across anything in reach!

My ‘quick’ whizz of a little pulp has turned into a complete saga and I’m now in serious clean-up mode.

So, the lesson today is not to put the jug on the blender base before ensuring the lid is in place.  Elementary, really.

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Banana fibre paper

I boiled up my banana fibre a few weeks ago and last week blended it to a smooth pulp ready to make paper.  I decided to combine it with some of the leftover  pale-yellow cardstock pulp I made when working with Judy and dipping wire into pulp.

Pulps – above left to right: cardstock, banana, combined.

I started with 100% recycled cardstock sheets and progressively added banana pulp to the vat.  The sheets gradually became darker and more fibrous.

I’ve more work to do on this as I had limited time and space on the day and I want to continue adding a greater concentration of banana fibre to cardstock and see how the sheets turn out.  They should become much darker than these above.  So far I’ve 32 good A5 sheets ready to use as book pages.

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Etching: rock pools – Final stage

Further to my last post on this project here, I decided to have a go at adding some plate tone to the rocks.

Happy?  Not even remotely.  It was very hard to see where I was putting colour as the greenish parts in particular were mostly translucent medium and could barely be seen on the zinc plate.  It’s a shocker.  Let’s try to re-position the green ‘moss’ within the water.

After two attempts I realised that adding some plate tone in the rocks is making the whole composition very, very dull and unappealing.  And the water is too dark and heavy, I can hardly see the linework within the water.

Time to rethink and evaluate my issues:

  • Rocks look dull, although the three-dimensional appearance of them is good.
  • Even though I’ve used a range of darker sepia and yellow ochre in different areas the colour differentiation isn’t coming through.  Only the main sedimentary rock looks any different to the rest.
  • The water is too dark.  It look freezing in there.
  • The green anywhere but in the water is not working.
  • The whole print is drab.  I’ve lost the sunlight and life from it.


  • Abandon the sepia rocks and move to a clean mid-tone grey.
  • Abandon the plate-tone idea as it seems to ‘dirty’ the print.  Hopefully with a simple line print with added water it will appear crisper.
  • Abandon any green on the rocks.
  • Use a minimum of 50% translucent medium to soften the weight of the blue water.
  • Lighten the water by adding more white into the blue.
  • Consider a touch of green in the water.

A definite improvement, although I’ve wiped the plate back a little strongly and the rocks haven’t got quite the presence I would like.  Much lighter and attractive though.

Here I’ve achieved a crisp line image, translucent water with a touch of green to enliven it and a good view of the underwater markings.  Very happy with this result.

So, I learned that sometimes less is more.  To have a good stylised image with less colour ‘clutter’ can produce an engaging result.  Yes, I like it.

By going from my original photo to the final print, I’ve produced a piece that is in a clean and simplified form that appeals to my eye.

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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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