If you have followed this blog in the last weeks, you know that I am currently printing again. I mentioned I was working on a “more serious print”: Well, actually I decided to participate in the Bookmarks : Infiltrating the Library System Project by Sarah Bodman. And I am looking for something that I would like to print in an edition of 100. For my standards that is a rather large edition, but after the trials with woman with hat 1 and 2 I felt confident that I can do it, and I liked the idea of printing women with hats.
I spend quite a lot of time with the block for woman with hat 3. I didn’t want to rush into things, and decided to make a lot of proofs on different papers, to decide what would work best.
I decided to go for oil based Sakura relief printing colour for this one. It turned out that this is not a smart solution if you have an unheated studio in wintery England. – It took them a little over two weeks to dry. While there are a lot of prints with which I am satisfied per se, there is none that I find ultimately convincing. It turns out I find my own block a little too boring to be bothered to make more than I have now. Right on top you can see a scan of some of the prints that I found interesting in one way or another. I like how the red dots on the paste paper on the very right make it look like she is holding a bouquet. – A lucky coincidence that I would have no chance to replicate intentionally. The second from left is parchment, and to my relief the paint indeed dried eventually, and I was not sure at all that it would.
Well, the prints had to move out of the way sooner than they dried, for me to experiment with something else instead, and so I tied some thread to the railing at my stair and hung the prints there. That makes them hang just above the height of a hand-railing as you can see. But everyone who wants to enter my studio has to take the last steps crawling anyway, to underneath and through my working table, so this made the situation not much worse.
Once the (seemingly not) drying prints were out from under my feet – quite literally – I was free to try something else. Being bored with that print, and therefore, so I thought, with women with hats, I turned to an old favorite: fish and feathers. (I printed a lot of these two years ago, for example feathers here, more feathers here, some fish here, or other fish here I printed many more fish than these, though. For some reason I just draw and print a lot of fish, …). I figured, that the bookmarks would be some kind of business card, and therefore maybe should be something that is typical for my work. Therefore returning to an old favorite seemed like a sensible idea.
I made two plates: a drypoint in rhenalon and a drypoint in lino. It was clear that the rhenalon wouldn’t do for an edition of 100. Typically one can get about 10 prints before it gets too blurry. But it was a quick warming up exercise.
The results are mixed. I am neither totally happy not totally unhappy with the prints. Some came out sharper than others, none crisp but that is to be expected with drypoint. I struggled with wiping, as you can see here: There are some regions that are clearly too faint, there is some additional dirt with the fish on the very bottom. Many details didn’t come out like I owould have wanted them to come out. But, well, it was just an exercise.
The frames marking three panels are a relict from an earlier stage in my sketchbook from when I still thought I would be making three independing plates. While scratching I wanted to try how I could translate the frames to the rhenalon (i.e. trying out whether I could do thicker lines). While that worked o.k., the boxes themselves are rather wonky, with the third one being significantly smaller than the first.
Well, and after that I gave the lino a go. This mix-technique is something I tried last year, and it doesn’t seem wide spread. I know of no-one using it.
The first trial with the lino-drypoint looked promising (see above on the left). There was a lot of dirt visible in the print, and there were minor things I wanted to change, but I was actually quite happy with the outcome. The plan was to make more of these the next weekend. – Maybe even to go for the 100. My next weekend therefore started with cutting more pieces of the watercolour paper to size that I was planning to use, and then water and press a first batch. Making a print takes quite a lot of work like that: First rub in and wipe the first colour in all three panels. Then clean the parts that should not print extra carefully. Then add printing colour to the lino on the three plates very carefully and in a very thin layer. Clean the plate once more, then print. – And every single one was dissappointing. (See teh white spots and lines above on the right.) The upper fish seemed to do o.k., but not great. The lower fish and even the feather didn’t show much of the first colour. Instead the parts that should be black just printed not at all. It took me far too long to realize what was going on. I thinned the black paint in hope it would more easily be rubbed into the scratches, I made the scratches a little deeper. Nothing seemed to work. Only then I realized: – The paint I was using for the drypoint was not made for intaglio but for relief. Switching to a paint made for etchings made all the difference. Well, that understood, after just one good print, I got rid of the frames:
I printed a couple of these images which came out o.k., now that I was using the right kind of paint only wiping remained an issue. It is hard to keep the prints consitent, though. Making an edition of 100 would be hard, hard work. I spend about 4 hours printing and got 20 prints out of it.
Well, I won’t be using this plate for my edition in any case. Too many things that I still dislike about it. Even if I decided to go for fish and feathers, I would make a new plate.
I still have a couple more ideas to try, and I still have until June to make my bookmarks. Until then I’ll number and sign and mark all my trials. I’ll end up with A LOT of bookmarks. Anyone in for a swap?