This one was inspired by reading the Silmarillion, and remembering holidays in the islands of Western Scotland. From the southwest tip of Mull, you can look out to sea and see the Atlantic curving away into forever over the shoulder of Iona. I’ve posted some of them in my Etsy shop. The one at the top there is actually from the second set I did—originally, the plan was to do them all in white on black, but that ran into two problems.
First, the white ink was giving me a lot of trouble—it wasn’t gluing the paper down nearly as much as the black does, so I was finding it quite a bit harder to keep registration and avoid getting messy ghost images. That was a problem with the Fabriano Tiziano I normally use for black (shown at the right) and even worse with the Arches Velin Noir I’d got specially for this. It’s incredible stuff, a really rich deep sexy black, and a nice rough texture—but the combination of that and the white ink, which had been oiling out slightly, gave me a great deal of trouble, and I managed about one good print in three from the run. Secondly, I found the sharp contrast a bit much—with that density of line, it gave a very different impression from the one I’d had in my head. I went looking for coloured paper (I’d been planning that all along, but hadn’t thought of using black on colours until I saw how the white on black had come out) and—unsurprisingly—it’s very hard to find paper the colour of a Highland sound in late summer. The blue at the top is Daler-Rowney Murano “Dusk”; this next one is Fabriano Tiziano “Sugar”.
This is actually the first time I’ve re-inked a block with a different colour of printer’s ink, rather than using acrylic as I’ve tried a few times. Since it was black over white, not the other way around, it worked out—in fact, the black woke up some of the white (it had been a few days, so the block was dry) and you can see white foam on the tips of some of the waves in the “Dusk” print at the top.
This one was truly horrendous to ink & print from. I ended up cutting away most of the plate rather than simply leaving the raised area, since the sheer size of the open areas means it’s almost impossible to avoid inking the cutlines and then rubbing the paper down onto them. In the end, I managed to pull a half-dozen good prints, but produced quite a lot of offprints in the process – I’ll have to find something interesting to do with them. My normal reflex for this sort of thing is to cut scraps, varnish the hell out of them, and turn them into earrings, pendants, or the like, but this ink doesn’t take varnish well. I’m going to experiment with a protective coat of spray varnish before putting the good stuff on, but that will take a warm day and more energy than I have right now.
That’s the first proof from a block I’ve had waiting on my workbench for ages, waiting for me to work out how the top of the dragon’s head should go. Since I took some WIP pictures of the block, here they are – first, while it was waiting, then all finished and ready to ink.
And this one’s all inked up and ready to print. The masking tape is there to stop as many as possible of the traces of ink on the open areas getting transferred – as you see from the proof, it’s only partially successful.
As for where next – I’m happy with the image itself, but I need to do more work on the open areas, and get a more consistent transfer of ink from the right-hand edge. The effect there is partly down to the surface of the block – it’s standard with water-based ink on a new vinyl block, and tends to tone down when the block’s built up a suitable layer of ink over time – but I’m fairly sure it’s also in my brayer technique. One of these days I really must find some others in different sizes.
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.
I’m quite pleased with this one. The image of a white tree on a black ground is something I’ve been trying to do for a while now, and not managed to my satisfaction. I did this partly as an excuse to use the new white ink (Graphic Chemical printer’s ink – though having switched to a tin and spatula with the black, going back to the stiff metal tube for the white is painful) – or to put it another way, I got the white ink so I’d feel impelled to use it! The paper is Fabriano Tiziano, which is technically a pastel paper, but is also the best coloured paper I’ve found. The black handmade paper I posted about a while back is very nice, but it’s about as lightfast as your average Ringwraith, so no good there. I’m not sure about the rating of this stuff, but it’s got to be a great deal better.
I’m not so good at the symmetry thing, being thoroughly right-handed – it’s much, much easier for me to draw the network lines going up and to the left than it is to draw them up and to the right. The right hand side of the tree is much more fluid and less cluttered as a result.
Elly (my girlfriend) was watching me do some printing the other day, and asked if she could have a go just as I was thinking about suggesting it. (Especially since I’d just picked up some Ellie Poo paper…) Here’s the results. It’s turned out rather nicely.
This is the print done with a spoon, as promised. It’s slightly different paper (from my stock – I’ve not been keeping as good track of it as I’d like to, so I’m not completely sure whether this is Fabriano Accademia or Atlantis Heritage Woodfree).
Notice the sheer amount of ink on the flat areas, and the way all the internal cut ridges show up – they got just as much ink on them in the first one, but the baren didn’t press the paper down into them in the same way that the hard, solid spoon does.
This was the first one I pulled from the block, done on Daler-Rowney Canford paper with a (cheap) baren. The ones I did with a spoon are still drying, since there’s so much more ink on them (in them, in fact) so I can’t post a comparison picture yet.
I’ve just taken half a dozen prints from the Brigid’s Cross block I posted about before, since I finally finished carving it tonight.
It’s always an amazing feeling to peel off the first print and see the results – once it translates itself from vinyl & wet ink to paper (and reverses itself in the process) it makes it really easy to look on my work with new eyes. It stops being the piece of vinyl I’ve had on my table for the last month, and I can finally see how all those awkward curves and chunky lines, the unexpected holes and the scars where the sankakuto slipped, transform themselves on paper.
I experimented for a couple of them, going back to the serving spoon (solid, sturdy 1950s EPNS) I used when I first started doing this. It’s much harder and gives a very solid line, and unlike the baren it doesn’t have a grain, so that changes how you use it. Also unlike the baren, it wasn’t designed to be used in that position, so it leaves my right hand and wrist aching. And rather warm, because the friction of the plated steel across the back of the paper gets it hot enough to be uncomfortable.
Tomorrow, when they’re dry, I’ll post pictures for comparison.i
This isn’t finished, but I like the look of it in any case, and I want to do something else based on it sometime – it looks very brass-ish.