Archives for the month of: August, 2010
Botanical etching with obscuring layer of cross hatching.

Botanical etching with obscuring layer of cross hatching.

I spent Friday morning in the print workshop and pretty much wrecked the prints with an unnecessary layer of mark making on both. I wasn’t a very happy bunny by the end of it. The plate with the four botanical images on had a pentimenti on the flower head which was getting on my nerves. I should have blocked it out but I didn’t and it was a bit too much; not a very stylish bit of pentimenti. I wanted to tone it down and the writing too so I put on a layer of crosshatching which just mucked it up entirely- you can’t see the rather wonderful backward writing anymore and you can still see the pentimenti so that was a disaster.

I quite like the idea and the idea has evolved in the etching so I might rework it from scratch and without the cross hatching and with more coherent words.

The other print worked to a degree. I reworked the flower head and left it in the acid for a long time and that emphasised the image and obscured some of the writing more. The flower head is inverted, Baselitz style. It isn’t great though.

So, I have to ask myself how much this has been a worthwhile exercise. I have developed these two ideas through the process of etching. The layering of the mark making comes out of the process of putting a ground on, marking, printing, regrounding the plate and making more marks. I haven’t entirely controlled the process as well as I have with the  straighter drawing ones which I much prefer. I could prepare them more with Photoshop and so on, prepare the writing and so on. Though that works against the process leading to the idea. I could redo them as paintings or watercolours or monotypes.

The writing on the images is trying to get the voice of the artist, researcher and teacher into the work. And the idea of the images is to make work that directly relates to the (current) research question. These are supposed to be demonstrations, learning pieces. I am trying to learn about something so that I could teach it.

Some things have come out of these two pieces – the layering and the use of text. They could be laser cut prints like the cards I made. How the laser cutter would deal with a layered image might be interesting.

Second botanical plant image. Layers of abstract image made with Lascaux acrylic ground painted on and then car paint aqua tint with Dom. Further layers of writing and drawing through traditional grounds at NUCA.

What I tend to want to do is to be able to use a process so that I can improvise with it and have the process lead to ideas. I get frustrated if I can’t get the process to do that and if I feel that the process is dictating to me. I find the etching process quite awkward in itself which is interesting. It is slow and cumbersome and some of the etiquette is quite annoying.

Over the weekend I went over the Intaglio book and thought about what I was doing wrong. I also looked at the Edinburgh Printmakers website which has a nice easy guide to ‘safe’ printmaking, or at least safer.  The attraction is that this water based set of processes both makes etching much simpler as it just becomes about grounds and stopping out and also opens it out into something much more complex as the range of things you can use as grounds and stops is broadened out considerably.

One of the reasons why this has been quite difficult for me, I think, is because, as an art teacher, I have tended to learn new processes in a relatively simple, classroom friendly form. We can’t do a lot of welding but I can knock you up and nice Anthony Caro in heavy card board with a low melt glue gun. With etching I have learnt it in a fully professional workshop with all the facilities and safety gear and I have to re-invent it for doing it in the shed or classroom once all this is over. If it is to remain part of my practice anyway. Being able to make this sort of work in the shed would be different anyway. Having the process in your possession is different to driving twenty five miles to the art college, over caffinating myself in the many cafes near the art college and then driving home again. Talking to David and working with Dom this summer has made me think differently about it and I am looking for a way to take more control over the process.

I also started a large acrylic image based on the ideas developed in the etchings yesterday. I prepared a surface with a blue similar to the Lascaux ground that I used on the plates and painted on the Penck like image that I had thrown on to the copper plate at the summer school as a first layer. Today I have started to put the words on in similar blues.

Abstract layer based on the layer of mark making on the etching plate started at the summer school.

Do I want the writing to be legible? Or do I want it to be semi-legible? Or not at all legible? Just a sign of writing being there as a visual thing? What is the point of writing being there if it isn’t legible? A sort of mumbling.

The idea is that the thing will look like a page of notes from a learning journal in some way.

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Back in the etching studio again. Very quiet and peaceful and an entire art college printing studio to myself. Can’t be bad. Two plates on the go today. I worked on them last Thursday in here and I am trying to finish them off today. The two prints are left over from the summer school. Both are plates that Dom gave me, one a squareish one and the other more of a vertical rectangle. On both I have put on traditional resin grounds and worked through these again. One has been done twice and the rectangle is on it’s third ground, this last time with a motif from the old botany books that I have been using. These should be the last dip and they will be done. I have experimented with writing on the plates. One has lots of little, pretty obscure messages on from the summer school, Grayson Perry style with logos and so on and the other one has handwriting on. I also want to do something like ‘Another nice etching’ by the Chapmans. We’ll see how that turns out.

Last week I had another go on the laser cutter and this time much more successfully. I had trimmed down the image in Illustrator so that it was simpler and we reduced the size of the result by about 25% so that 24 fitted on the A1 card. The result took just over two minutes to do for each card and so the whole sheet only took 45 minutes or so. This meant that the individual card had less invested in it, as it were, so I am more likely to post them on, which was the intention – a postal art piece. I think this is the way to go; using the machine to make a ‘print’ type object rather than a plate. There is some exploring of the raster idea and the possibility of making a lino cut with the machine which I should explore further next year. The way the machine etches type is impressive and a lot easier that my trying to write backwards on an etching plate. There are photo etching options I could no doubt try out.

I gave David Page one of the tiles yesterday and he was intrigued by the effect. We discussed his adventures with liquid grounds and copper plates. He had made a very fine little ‘hunter in the snow’ etching on a tiny and very ancient press. This NUCA print studio is so well equipped for traditional techniques that the idea of doing etching in the shed takes a bit of thinking about.

David Page in his studio


Having survived the Belstead MA summer schools I have a complicated and probably over ambitious day in the NUCA print workshop planned. I have two plates to work on. One of them is the plate I made with Dom Theobald last week during Innovative Printmaking. We used a Lascaux water based etching ground which I used to paint on an image and then we dipped it in ferric before Dom gave it a couple of goes with the car paint aqua tint method. The result was OK but only a rather vague image. My intention has been to clean the plate and reground it traditionally to work over it again with some writing. Then finish off with another image drawn from the week in another layer. So far though it has taken most of the morning to get the blue stuff off the back of the plate as I have had to go and buy some Cif and a scourer to do it. I am about to reground it. The other plate is in the acid. This one has a thin layer of the blue stuff on and I have scratched an image through it based on the botanical images I found in the old books in the library room I was working in for part of the week. I am giving that a very deep bite to see what it does and will then probably reground it. The works is based on the learning journal work that I did at the summer school. This is finishing off the project really. This afternoon I am with David and the laser cutter to try to make a multiple where the object that comes out is the print – a probject, prinject or objint perhaps?

9.25 pm

A reasonably successful day. The laser prints more or less went to plan bar some fiddling about to make the thing only engrave the lines once rather than twice. The results are fine and pleasingly uniform. I ended up with ten and a couple of trials so an edition of ten. I did intend to post them out but they look a bit good for that and have taken more time than I thought. Back with a slightly simplified effort on Thursday to have another go at ‘printing’ another ten of Belstead Variation II. The etching plates I worked on between the laser cutting moved on. The one on the plate with the thin layer of acrylic ground etched quite well though it was difficult to get the ground off. It took half a bottle of Cif to do it. There must be a better way. The other plate I worked at lunchtime (to the bemusement of my bench mate) and redipped for an hour or so. I also printed the large plate with the shoes on but failed to get a successful print at all. Either over rubbed the aquatint or under rubbed, couldn’t get it right.

Had an interesting conversation with Sonya about the laser cutter. She was disappointed with the speed and power of the thing which restricts the usability of it and she pointed out that it had been bought mainly for textiles to flatten the nap of velvet more than anything else, which it is good at.