When you begin to learn about printmaking at a university, there are many rules. Some are for safety — avoid catching your hand under the press roller, don’t splash the acid, etc. You also learn how to create an edition where each print should be virtually identical. Use wheat paste for chine collé (collage) work. More rules…
If I am honest, I have been enjoying printmaking so much more, now that I’m breaking the rules.
My trip to the Southern Graphics Council International’s conference in Portland, Oregon was transformative. The conference is a combination of traditional academic activities (keynote speakers, panels, etc.) along with demonstrations, lots of gallery shows and a vendor fair. Since I am neither a student nor an academic, I delighted immersing myself in only the activities that I chose — a rare occurrence in anyone’s life. Several demos provided new ideas to me, and I will share them briefly here. If you wish more information, please use the link provided to visit each artist’s website.
Elise Wagner, assisted by Master Printer Jane Pagliarulo, demonstrated creating encaustic collagraphs. The melted encaustic medium (a special blend of beeswax, resin and titanium white that Elise has created) is applied to a plexiglass sheet. Using both heated tools and other implements, Elise created a dynamic matrix that she used to print an image onto damp paper. Because petroleum will react with the wax, she used Akua Intaglio inks and a wiping method similar to intaglio. I found this new option appealing. Creating the plate is much faster than with linocuts, but you have much more control and can take your time in creating — different from when you print wax directly onto paper in encaustic monotypes. I came home with a can of Elise’s medium and am looking forward to giving this new technique a try.
Fake Chine Colle: Alternative Adhesive Processes
Throughout my artistic practice, I have wanted to use other papers and elements in my work. Traditional chine colle requires a delicate and skillful dance of making wheat paste, applying just the right amount, and drying flat. My efforts have only been marginally successful. And I find when I try to glue with anything water-based, my support paper buckles. Masha Ryskin demonstrated how she uses Gudy-O and Gudy-V adhesive films to create chine colle and collage elements in her work. These films — which can be obtained from Talas — are expensive, and a bit tricky to use, but when adhered are invisible, archival and permanent. You could even print over the collage elements you have created.
Akua Colors take on Natural Pigments
Akua Ink creator Susan Rostow did an interesting demo where she compared modern synthetically derived inks with the pigments they are designed to imitate. She personally collected the pigments she was working with, including the tiny cochineal beetles that make up a purple-red color. You could clearly see that natural pigments could not create the same intensity of color that the new inks could. At some point, she said, the amount of pigment in the transparent base was so high that the ink would become chalky. I have some very old Akua inks that I believe are past their prime, but the kind folks at Speedball (which now mass produces the Akua Inks with Rostow’s collaboration) gave me a sample of new inks, and I am eager to try them out!
Learning about Pochoir — Making the Stencil Brush Fabulous Again
Pati Scobey used both the positive and negative parts of a polyester plate to demonstrate the technique of pochoir — or stenciling. She used watered down acrylic gel medium, plus salt and carborumdum, to create textured plates. From these plates she cut out shapes, using the cut outs printed positively, and using both the shape or the negative space to print gently around a shape using a stencil brush. With these techniques, Pati creates repetition of shapes, patterns and textures that she uses to create handmade books. Here you can see a selection of her finished work, ready to be bound.
Gamblin Inks — Carefully crafted by Chris
Gamblin very kindly hosted an open house for the conference one evening. Here is a very tiny video of the Gamblin process for creating their printing inks. The pigment and the burnt plate oil are mixed together and are then fed into a three roller mill which slowly pulverizes the pigment to the consistency that printmakers need. Use your imagination to see Chris on the right side of this machine, gently guiding the finished ink down a short metal slope into the familiar Gamblin ink cans. He fills each by hand, and will do between 200 and 400 cans each day. Thanks Chris!
Now my brain is full of new ideas, and I must decide which new technique to try first… Stay tuned for the good and the bad of my latest experiments.