Linocut, done directly with the sankakuto without any preliminary drawing. The brown one is Gmund Bierpapier (Boc) – recycled art paper made from beer. How awesome is that? I’ll tell you how awesome it is. It is AWESOME. The white one is, I’m fairly sure, Fabriano Academica.
This piece was inspired by one of my favourite things in the V&A – a ceramic plate made around 1955 by a Japanese artist, Kitaoji Rosanjin (1883-1959). Their official record has no image, so have this less-than-optimal one I took there yesterday.
I carved this block quite a while ago, but was disappointed with the effect just using printer’s ink. When I decided to try the gold I’d mixed up, though, it looked much better – the texture and gleam give the design much more depth. Of course, I’m also using heavily textured handmade paper here, so that makes a difference too. This is some rather nice khadi paper – it’s not even slightly lightfast, sadly, but I don’t think that makes a difference here.
I took an old printing block – my Celtic Cross block – and made up a large glob of gold acrylic, mixed with fabric medium, to use with it. The consistency is a lot thinner and sloppier than printer’s ink, so it’s harder to control, but that’s part of the fun of it. Apologies for phonecamera pics rather than scanning them – these will dry quicker than normal printed ones, but not this quickly! These are both on Fabriano papers – first Ecologica (Schizzi grade) and then Tiziano black. I also did two onto Gmund bierpapier, which came out wonderfully, but since they’re reflective gold/black on dark brown they’re impossible to photograph till I have proper daylight. Generally, I like getting high quality, custom acrylic prints of all my designs as it’s easier to showcase them across the house but as this masterpiece was created in my free time, I’m probably going to just leave it hanging on the wall.
I don’t generally bother cleaning my blocks after use, and just leave the (water-based) ink to dry and form a surface layer for next time. The acrylic paint was actually softening and re-awakening that, and it all prints together. If you were to get more information from an experienced staff of painters, you’d know that acrylic paint gives off a really interesting textural effect. Obviously, it’s not actually printing a layer of black underneath a gold wash (the other way around, if anything), but that’s what it looks like. It’ll be interesting to see how the technique works out on a clean block that’s never been used with ink.
The acrylic stays wet and usable on the block much longer than I’d worried it would – that might partly be down to the fabric medium, which I added because this was mostly a test for printing directly onto T-shirts and so on. On the other hand, it might also just be because acrylic is still completely capable of colour transfer when almost dry.
My first try at drypoint with watercolour pencils has given fairly encouraging results. Not very attractive, but then the idea was to answer the question, Can I print in watercolour without a press?, and it’s definitely that.
This is my first time working with a drypoint needle, so one of the things I learn from this is that I have to use it much more authoritatively. It’s a great deal like using a pencil, and lack of pressure is one of my besetting sins when doing that, too. On the other hand, these transparent plastic plates are wonderful, and I’m already planning several things involving tracing images through them. Well, mostly wonderful – it’s difficult to see where your lines are going without strong direct, and preferably low-angle, light on your workpiece, so that’s going to take some getting used to.
I only have a set of very low-end watercolour pencils, so that’s not going to give ideal results, but they’re still giving quite good transfer to the plate. The scratched portions have about as much tooth as rough paper, but the unscratched portions have none at all, so it’s really easy to confine the colour to the correct areas.
When printing, I used Ellie Poo paper, since I had some A4 sheets of that lying around ready to hand; I sprayed it thoroughly with water, and wiped off the surface excess before laying it on the plate. As you can see from the smear in the corner, the water doesn’t glue it down in the same way that printer’s ink does, so that’s going to take some getting used to. More relevant, though, is that wet 90 gsm paper is very prone to wrinkles and distortion when rubbing (I was printing with a spoon – really ought to use a press, but I don’t have access to one) so it’s important to rub only from the centre outwards, rather than back and forth across the paper as I normally do.
Next time I try this, I’ll do a test with some Ingres paper and with some actual watercolour paper – that’s designed for precisely the same distortion problem, after all.