Experimenting with printing block materials

For this part of the assignment, I made some experimental prints using Funky Foam (a thin modelling coloured foam for children), cardboard, polystyrene and upholstery foam.

Upholstery foam was very difficult to cut accurrately as it tended to compress and distort with the pressure of the blade. I tried inserting screws and pulling them out, which made small holes in the surface. I had expected to get quite a clear print with this material, but the structure is coarse and fine, meaning that very little ink was picked up on the surface. Only very faint printed marks were achieved, and any attempt to make the marks stronger by applying more pressure caused blurring and smudging of the image.

More succussful was the polystyrene. I cut it into a small block, and secured the edges with a layer of cellotape around the edge. I drew a loose continuous line sketch of a bottle and cut around it. I was surprised how well the polystyrene held fine lines together during cutting, as I was cutting a positive image to print. The initial prints were successful, with a textured finish that I had expected. The block was not durable enough to withstand cleaning and was disintegrating slightly with each print.

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Next up was cardboard sealed with a light layer of PVA. I had expected a print with more uniform flat areas, striped areas where I had stripped away the top layer, and blank areas where I had cut the corregated material away. Unfortunately the cardboard had a slightly ridged texture all over, making the differentiation between intact and stripped areas less obvious. Fine cut details were also lost in the print. This was perhaps the most disappointing of my experiments as I had seen some really good examples of cardboard prints. I think that a thicker ink such as acrylic may have been better for this.

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The piece I am most impressed with is the funky foamblock. I used a variety of materials as indicated in the cartoon below. The pyrography tips were used without heat applied. It took impressions really well, and much more defined than I had expected. The dressmaking pins on their wheel, and the slightly roughened areas with the zester were so shallow that I wasn’t sure if they would print at all. The unmarked areas were really smooth and clean in the final print, in contrast to the slight texture of lino.

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I was thinking about using styrofoam cups as a printmaking medium as they take impressions in much the same way as the foam. Rolling the cup would create a shaped print similar to Japanese fan prints. The logistics of getting a clean even print would be a technical challenge.

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