Tag Archives: transparent base

Being at the end of your rope

Being overextended — at the end of your rope — is a familiar human condition. Managing internal and external demands can be challenging. I met overextension while working on one of my large cloud linocuts, and the results have been challenging.

blue ink

Transparent ink looks deceivingly cohesive when not rolled out.

When ink isn’t quite so juicy

In many of my cloud linocuts, I begin with very transparent layers because I want to make a smooth transition from the white of the paper. I am working on another 25 x 40 inch cloud linocut, and ran into trouble as I printed the first light blue-grey layer. When I printed the first layer onto some very expensive Somerset paper, a strange chalky dry residue remained on the block. When I rolled ink over the block and printed on the next pristine piece of paper, the residue pattern then printed.

Exasperated, I tried cleaning the block, but the problem reoccurred. I tried adding more tack reducer to some of the ink, burnt plate oil to some more, but neither was successful.

uneven ink on paper

Chalky ink clumped on the block, and then printed strangely on the paper.

Help from the internet

I use relief inks by Gamblin, so I sent a query through their website. Cecilia Hamlin reached out with some suggestions. The first was to clean the block with vegetable oil, and then with mineral spirits. Cleaning a block this size and weight is non-trivial, as it requires hauling the cumbersome block out to the garage. I also tried re-sanding the entire block with 400 grit sandpaper twice. Still no improvement.

I sent Cecilia photos of the ink on the glass and on the paper. Then the problem was made clear. She suggested that I had overextended my ink — using too little pigment in too much tint base. The addition of too much tack reducer also meant that the pigment did not disperse evenly, but rather clumped together and stuck to my linoleum.

Ink has a memory

On my latest layer, I followed Cecilia’s advice:

  1. Start with the tint base needed and then add in color.  Mix thoroughly. (I have a bad habit of not mixing as long as I should.)
  2. Only then should I add the tack reducer, with a maximum of 10% of the total ink volume. I tried to use less.

Layer 4 blue prints unevenly over previous layers providing me with a challenge.

The result seemed to be better. Unfortunately, the ink on the paper now affect how much new ink transfers from the block onto the paper. So you get these strange textures. The next linocut will be the true test of the new ink strategy.

In the meantime, I must use all of my creativity to salvage the current work. I’m already thinking of some radical measures to make all of the variation work for the image.

Patience and perseverance are the words for February in my life. What are your words?

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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.

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What a difference a new base makes…

Although I am a relief printmaker, I work with transparent ink that is traditionally made for lithographers.  Inks when fresh from the can are very concentrated, and like other media, some are more transparent than others.  If you print too concentrated a color, it can be very difficult to cover that color over with a subsequent color, even if the color on top is very opaque.

When I talk about inks to non-printmakers, I explain that the transparent base in what holds all the pigment in.  Here is what two types of transparent base look like, with and without some pigment added:
Handschy transparent base (left) vs. Graphic Chemical transparent base (right)
My inks are by Handschy, purchased from Graphic Chemical.  I the past I have used Handschy transparent base as well (on the left), purchasing it in 5 lb tubs.  It has the consistency of honey (very sticky), and while it is very transparent, it has a tendency to impart its yellowish tone to my ink mixes.  So it was hard to get any delicate purplish-blue layers.  And it became difficult to purchase.

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