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…