What if you have artwork with the brightness of stained-glass on an interior wall? And what if it could be made with lightweight paper instead of heavy glass? My monoprint collage Cosmos has the look of a modern stained-glass window, with blues and oranges that make me think of Marc Chagall.
To create Cosmos, I modified a huge 36 x 24 inch monoprint plate I had used for other collages. I took away half of the lines, allowing large pieces of my collage elements to be viewed. I limited myself to three tones of blue, plus some white and a hint of orange. The pattern is a global projection that is usually viewed horizontally, but I decided to place it vertically, as with most stained-glass windows.
Some work just demands to be viewed up close — especially the work of Vija Celmins. I was able to see a retrospective of her work at The Met Breuer in New York City recently. Numerous guards looked nervous as I surveyed her drawings and prints closely.
You can always tell an artist. We are the people who have our noses inches from a work of art with the security guard rushing in to restrain us. We just like to know the “how” of creating. Often we cannot discern the artist’s secrets… In this blog, I’ve revealed one of the ways I keep track of my patterns — tracing paper.
I have been creating a vocabulary for my monoprint collages. I use patterned monoprints and vintage maps (some of which I have printed on.) Lately though, I have wanted to use some of my own photographic imagery, and this posed a challenge.
To achieve an integrated look, I choose very thin papers for my collages. Rives BFK, for example, is too thick and has a visible white edge when glued onto a collage. Likewise, photo paper has a similar problem. A solution serendipitously came to me last fall in the form of a cyanotype workshop. Now I would have a way to print imagery on my thin Masa paper. Serendipitous, my latest collage, allows cyanotypes to make their debut.
What is a cyanotype?
Cyanotypes are an old alternative method of printing photographs. The process was discovered by Sir John Herschel in 1842. Briefly, paper is sensitized by a combination of ferric ammonium citrate and potassium ferricyanide. The paper is allowed to dry and kept in darkness. Prints can be made with negatives or actual objects by placing either on top of the paper and exposing it to the sun.
In future blog posts, my learning process with cyanotypes will be explored. For now, you can see two cyanotypes used in Serendipitous — look for the bright Prussian blue papers. What do you see?
Serendipitous will make its own debut at the Indiana Artists juried exhibition at Newfields (formerly the Indianapolis Museum of Art) in April.
Is it ever really finished? This is not a question I’ve had to ask myself until recently. When creating reduction linocuts, at some point you simply do not have any more linoleum to carve away and so the answer is yes, you are finished.
Delighting in an open-ended medium
My recent foray into monoprint collages has allowed me for the first time to decide that something was not finished. This occurred last week, as I was about to post the remaining monoprint collages based on my Voronoi diagram drawing. Here’s the finished monoprint collage, Galaxy Next Door.
My final adventure with painter’s tape was to use it as it was intended. Also known as masking tape, its purpose is to protect a surface from paint or ink.
When I perused a collection of images I had gathered for inspiration during my workshop at Penland School of Crafts, I was surprised to see how many were of city window reflections. Inspired by this, I first used a blank polycarbonate plate to print a vertical light blue-grey flat.
Newsprint sketch makes masking easy
Now it was time to create my matrix. Hint #1 — If you want to recreate this matrix quickly (you are going to pull the tape up) draw your design on a similarly sized piece of newsprint. Placed underneath your plate, it is easy to recreate your matrix. I wanted to create another version of my icebergs, but now the iceberg would be reflected in the windows of a building. This might be a reminder of the perils of global warming when we are ensconced in our people-made bubbles.
The painterly approach proves problematic
I created the above image by rolling a very light blue on the top and darker pthalo blue below the waterline. Sharpie marks on the back of the plate helped me to keep the horizon parallel. I used rollers, palette knives and pieces of mat board to add color to the ice above and below.
I found there were several challenges to this approach. First, the ink tended to gather along the tape, which didn’t allow for a crisp a line when I removed the tape. In addition, the plate above has a great deal of ink on it. When I ran it through the press, some of it actually squished and ruined the reflection effect. Hint #2 — One solution might be to remove some of the ink with a sheet of newsprint…maybe with the press, or perhaps without.
Another problem was the removal of the tape. Once your fingers marred the ink surface, especially where it was flat, there was no fixing it. Hint #3 –Leaving “tails” along the edges made the removal much easier. Sticking the inky tape segments immediately to an old phone book kept them under control.
The next iceberg was simpler — less ink and no squish. But you can still see places where the ink has bled into the areas kept blank by the painters tape. I guess this is a problem that is universal.
Layers of tape are perfect for blind embossment
My final experiment combined my love of the mathematical patterns I painted on my bathroom walls. Some tape was one-layer, used to delineate polygons. I used small rollers to combine two colors on some of the shapes. I used four layers of 1/8 inch tape to create embossment lines that continue the pattern out to an embossed border. I discovered that 1/4 inch tape doesn’t yield nearly as crisp a line as the thinner tape. Hint #4 — Avoid getting any ink on the areas where you are doing blind embossing. Even a little ink will stain the tape and will print faintly.
Will I use painters tape in the more traditional sense in my monoprints? It worked best in areas where a thin layer was rolled evenly over the entire surface. Looser, thicker ink was less successful. And yet I haven’t entirely let go of the idea of environmental problems reflected in skyscrapers.
Maybe the solution is out there waiting to be discovered…
My adventures with painter’s tape continued during my time in a monoprinting workshop at Penland School of Crafts. I should probably mention that monoprinting usually uses a plate with no matrix. No etched plate, no carved linoleum or wood block, no collagraph. Nothing repeatable.
I just had to have a matrix
Yet I felt compelled to try out my new tool by creating a matrix. My intention was to create the matrix, roll out the ink and then remove the tape. I eventually did this, thus destroying the matrix before I could take a picture of it. Here’s what a new matrix looks like, with both 1/4 inch tape and 1/8 in tape. You can see some ink residue on the tape even after it has been cleaned. Continue reading “Adventures in painters tape Part 1”
Solvents can make you lose control… in a good way. I learned about using them with monoprints during my time at Penland School of Crafts.
One of my biggest complaints about relief printmaking is that it is hard to have an image look painterly. You either have flat ink, some kind of blend roll, or layers of texture made by a rotary tool. Flow is something you rarely get with a relief print.
Solvents are the Wild West
This iceberg image was one of the first ones where I used solvent freely. I liberally dropped mineral spirits on a transparent layer of phthalo blue lithography ink. Using a Q-tip and a paint brush, I drew around the areas with the solvent, and then let the pigment disperse. If you have ever sprinkled salt crystals on wet watercolor, the effect is similar, but much more pronounced.
Solvents are the Wild West on the monoprinting plate. Your inks can bleed into areas you didn’t intend, such as where the iceberg is now peaking out above the surface of the water. While oil-based ink can stay “open” — meaning you can work with it or wait to print for some time, when you put down the solvent, you are on the clock. I found that within 10-15 minutes, areas of my block had little pigment, and the surface appeared dry. When printed, you will see the white of the printing paper. Whether this is what you intended, or not. Delays also mean you lose some of the sharp details that solvents and brushes can create.
Bringing solvent back to the home studio
Despite the challenges of solvents, I was determined to figure out a way to use them in my home studio. I don’t have adequate ventilation to use solvents in my basement, so I purchased a small metal office table at the IU Surplus Store and placed it outside, close to a door that leads to the basement. I can bring the inked plate outside, use Q-tips, brushes and toothbrush bristles to apply the solvent to the plate, and then rush the plate back inside to the press.
Be careful to keep the plate perfectly level on the way to the press. Juicy solvent areas will run. I learned that the hard way.
The battle between solvents, inks and papers
Even outside, odorless mineral spirits are toxic, so I was hopeful that I could use Gamblin’s Gamsol as a solvent and use my Gamblin relief inks for monotypes. I discovered two things: 1) the Gamsol moved the relief ink quickly on the plate, but 2) the Gamblin relief ink transferred poorly from the polycarbonate plate to dry paper. Gamblin’s website does recommend monoprinting on damp paper, but my studio doesn’t have the capability to soak paper. It would have to be done in our only bathtub up an entire flight of stairs. Plus once you get paper wet, it is difficult to register subsequent layers. So no relief ink…
Luckily I had some Hanco lithography inks, like those I used at Penland. Unfortunately, the Gamsol didn’t move this ink well at all. So I will need to continue using odorless mineral spirits on my monoprint plates, and reacquaint myself with litho inks.
One of the challenges I made for myself is to use new techniques intentionally. I want to ask myself — is there a reason why I am using solvent in this piece — other than the fact that it creates cool organic oozings of color…
Here is a sneak peek at a multi-layered monoprint that I created using solvent and tape. Parts were successful, and parts went, well, squish.
Getting the color of your art right online is complicated. When I first created a website, I naively believed that I could just take a digital camera image, upload it into my image library, and post it directly to my web page. The results were shocking. My work looked dull and my colors were off.
Many years later, with the generous guidance of my photography and tech savvy husband, I have a strategy that yields online images that are fairly close in color and tone to the originals. Since this is how many people first experience my work, accuracy is crucial. I am certainly not an expert on this subject, but I’m sharing what I do in this blog series in hopes that people will find useful tips for themselves.
Underprinting. Yep, that’s a thing. I have always envied oil painters who begin their paintings with loose gestures of colors — sometimes in a complementary color. The white of the printing paper can be daunting, and I am always looking for ways to create more depth and texture in my work. Enter the underprint.
When I created my new linocut Treasure of Great Price (see below), along with the companion Pandora’s Paradise, I wanted to experiment with something printed underneath that would provide movement and depth to my topography. I have also been thinking about the topographies that humans create — like mountaintop mining — and how harmful these can be to the earth. So I decided my underprinting block would be a fingerprint.
I cut two twelve-inch blocks for this linocut, one that had the fingerprint, and one that would be reduced in my usual fashion. Because I used gold ink, the initial gold marks created a sort of resist as I printed subsequent layers, yielding an interesting texture. The marks are more visible in some layers than others, depending on tone and also hue.
My small underprinting block’s success has led me to create a 25 x 40 inch block filled with seven fingerprints. I can’t wait to see how this will appear on a larger scale. Finger(prints) crossed.