Getting to know you

When I was in art classes, one of the benefits of the class was the assignment — that gentle (and sometimes not so gentle) nudge from the instructor to try something new. Now that my art practice takes place in my basement studio, pushing boundaries and innovating is much harder. During my weekend visit to the Boston Printmakers Biennial this fall, I came upon a display for Gamblin relief inks. I decided to order a set of these inks and give them a try. Here’s my first print with the new inks…

Elizabeth Busey. In Celebration of Thin Places.  Linoleum Reduction Print
17 x 25in, 2013.

I decided to try the new inks because I wanted to experiment with another transparent base. I was attracted by Gamblin’s formulation specifically for relief printmaking, and the woman at the Gamblin table assured me that the transparent base was just that — virtually transparent. The base is made out of just burnt plate oil and calcium carbonate, and when you roll it out on the glass it is slightly tinted a subtle off-white. I decided to try out all the colors with a vengeance…

Trying out all of my new Gamblin relief inks.

One of the biggest differences I see is that you don’t have to amend the tint base as much as with litho ink. The litho transparent base was very sticky, and required a great deal of Daniel Smith Miracle Gel. The only ink that did not seem almost ready for rolling was the Ultramarine, which can be stiffened with some magnesium carbonate.

I found that I used somewhat less ink for each layer than I did before. Especially with the darker colors, I was able to re-ink the roller several times before adding new ink. I did have one color layer very early on where the ink began to build up on the block, but I think this was because I hadn’t adjusted the tackiness correctly. Subsequent layers worked very well.

My one complaint about Gamblin inks is their crazy little baby food jars. They form a crust around the sides, even with new waxed paper inserts, and because the jars are so small, it is tough to get my putty knife in for some fresh ink without getting the dried ink bits in the mix. I also wish they would sell the transparent base in a larger size. I had to order five jars to guarantee I would have a satisfactory supply for an upcoming large print.

Trying something new was a bit stressful, but I am pleased with the outcome.

What new things have you tried with your art…in your life? Maybe one of your New Year’s resolutions could be to mix it up a little (printmaker’s pun intended.)

Happy New Year!

3 Replies to “Getting to know you”

  1. Love the look of the "trying-the-colors table of brayers, layers of ink and overlapping colors". What apparent confusion! Nice how ordered and neat are the works that arise from your methods. This is a nice print with beautiful colors and a great title.

  2. Hello to the Blue Wave Printmakers!
    I did try the Akua Intaglio inks a few years ago, and couldn't get the consistency quite right for my relief prints. Perhaps I should try them again. Loved finding your blog — Nansi's entry made me laugh. I vaguely remember that stage with my kids, who are now teenagers.
    I've added you to my blog roll!

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