I have decided to start working with water based printing ink, as I can make use of my existing paints, and I only have a small studio space. This could be a problem for slow drying media at the moment where I expect to be having lots of false starts, producing a lot of prints in the process. The ease of use and easier clean-up is an obvious positive too. I have large tubes of Daler Rowney System 3 acrylic paint in process primaries, turquoise, black and white, and textile medium for monoprinting and screenprinting. I have also got some block printing media for use on future projects.
For my first experiments in mark making, I have used sponge versus rubber rollers, an old toothbrush, coarse versus sable brushes, a silicone colour shaper, cocktail sticks, a tiling plaster tool, woodblocks and clingfilm. I have taken ghost prints both using a second dry piece of paper, and paper that has been slightly dampened rather than soaked. This picks up more ink and gives a pleasingly soft image rather than scant high contrast lines. Because I only tended to print when I was happy with the effect, I seem to have spent a lot of time trying different things whilst only printing a few of them.
In these examples, I took inspiration from a photo I took in Birmingham of the buildings reflected in water. I rolled the ink out thinly with a sponge roller, giving a lightly mottled effect, and brushed a second and third colour on top with a coarse brush. For some I scumbled a line across the piece with a silicone colour shaper which gave a pleasing line of high contrast between clean plate and heavily inked marks. Areas where the ink was slightly thick spread as expected, and gave an interesting texture on lifting from the plate.
Moving on from this, I tried layering prints first in red, then bronze powder in ‘orange gold’ mixed with textile medium, and finally a scant black layer in a small area only. The style I had in mind was a hybrid of the above studies, graffiti tags and an overall affect similar to Chinese prints, particularly the name stamps. The bronze powder gave a very subtle shimmer as I used a relatively small amount. I tried mixing the powder with colour and medium as an interference but it was lost in the ink. I know that acrylic interference colours are available. I signed this as a gift to Mum for Mothering Sunday and had made it to fit with her décor.
In preparation for drawing from life, I tried some small studies with black ink. I have some dried sea holly on my desk, and tried to paint them comparing applying a dab of paint and drawing it out with a cocktail stick versus rolling a thin layer and drawing into it with either a cocktail stick or silicone colour shaper. For fine lines like this, the former technique seemed to work best as the marks were lost in the rolled ink. Lines need to be quite broad to allow for spreading of thicker into thinner areas on application of the paper.
My first attempt at a larger painterly print was a disaster. I painted as I would usually do, mixing my palette first, then painting. I thought I was working quite quickly but I forgot to use printing flow medium with the paint as I was mixing them, didn’t use enough water, and the paint dried on the palette as well as the printing plate as I was working. I dabbed some water on the drier bits before printing to try to help this. The image didn’t print in most areas as it was too dry, and in other places the paper stuck to the plate and tore on lifting. I will try again using more (any!) flow medium, but I think I may have learned why oil is the preferred medium for this. I think I will need to experiment with oils with linseed and solvent to see the difference for myself.