Laser cutting is new to me and generally I’ve stayed away from what I consider modern techniques, passing judgment on them before trying them, but now I want to try as much as I can and make a decision based on my experiences.
I created a positive and a negative image in wood, Lino and Perspex I’ve used the same image so I can see how differently the materials behave
It created a much deeper indentation in the Lino and I had to work on a smaller scale to protect the machine, the wood picked up all the fine detail and the Perspex becomes a beautiful object, I feel the wood is the best material out of the three to use with the laser etching and it seemed a shame to cover all the fine detail with ink.
I decided to create blind embosses with them to try and pick up the scorch marks, I used Zerkall 450g and left it to soak for 30 min and printed with the plates in a nipping press for 1 min this picked up all the scorch marks and fine detail.
Above images laser etched wood and prints from the scotched wood
Lino emboss and pigment
I liked the effect my scorched plates were achieving, but eventually this disappeared off the plate, so I started sprinkling pigment on my Lino, I felt I had put a lot on the plate but when I printed it
I was surprised at how subtle the pigment was.
Embossing will be a technique that will be important as I move forward, it’s a process that enables me to demonstrate how difficult the world is to navigate. These prints are very subtle some people find it difficult to see any definition in the image and that’s exactly what I wanted to achieve. I want people to experience my every day life through art.
MonoType printing 1-2-1
I contacted artist Fiona Fouhy who creates large scale atmospheric mono prints. I went to East London print studio for 1-2-1 tuition with her, to work on increasing the scale of my mono prints and making them more dramatic, I experimented with several different techniques.
I worked on building layers of ink on my plate and printing each layer, starting with the lightest and ending with your darkest and you roll over the whole thing with a colour with extender in it, this brings all the layers together. I really like the results that can be achieved with this method but I felt I needed longer to perfect it, but it’s definitely a technique I will use in my work.
Next I inked up my plate and masked of areas with geometric shapes and printed this on newsprint because I was more interested in the ghost print, I then turned the masked areas over so the inky side was facing up and printed it on damp Somerset paper
I inked up my large plate and then took ink away from selected areas, at first I was careful but then I used a piece of scrim and made big gestural marks, this was then printed on an etching press.
The last print had echo's of the previous prints, I inked it up and put degree wash on selected areas, this removed ink off selected areas and you can work it into your print,
over the years I have done a lot of mono printing but this was the first time I had used extender in this way or used degree wash.
Etching Hard ground
I cut geometric shapes that were inspired by architecture, into parcel tape and stuck this on my plates, I then rolled even layers of warm hard ground over my entire plate (the ground is made out of wax and Bitumen)
Above image etching plate
Once cooled, I took the shapes off the front off the plate and sealed the back and placed it in Nitric acid for 25 min, The acid ate where the tape had been peeled away i've been left with crisp etched lines, once again I really like the stark contrast the etched zinc provides but Its the imperfections in steel that I’m drawn to, I can relate to these imperfections and feel they add character, just like my medical conditions are seen as imperfections but have given me strength of character.
I’m fascinated at how quickly steel responds to its environment and how quickly it rusts. These have become my two favourite metals to etch with.
I wrote to artist Anne Desmet and attended her wood engraving workshop in Oxford. I was nervous about doing this course, I thought that my sight may make working on such a small scale and in such fine detail a challenge but to my surprise this was not the case and it has been my favourite workshop to date.
I was fascinated by its history, the variety of wood and modern alternatives that can be used, and how they all behave differently.
Although I was working small scale, I was still able to fully participate, because there was a contrast in the engraved wood thanks to the pen ink I had used to seal the wood before working on it.
Above image wood blocks
I prefer wood engraving to copper engraving, I find it a more satisfying process, I like the feel of the materials and the marks the tools make.
I printed my blocks by hand, burnishing each one, experimenting with a variety of fine papers including some Japanese paper.
Above image wood engraving on Japaness paper
I’ve always been fascinated by its strength, delicacy and translucent qualities. I have learnt its strength comes from the long fibres in the Japanese plants they use to make the paper.
It's transparency enabled me to print one block on both sides to create a mirror image, I can hardly tell which side I've printed on, This paper has great movement and I can envisage creating an instillation print with it.
Above image wood engraving
I also used a relief press, using Zerkall 100g. These prints came out really well and were slightly embossed, I also over laid the same block several times to create a larger piece, this completely changed the feel of the print.
Above image Joining wood engravings together
I experimented with this technique leaving a white line in between each block, the gap became a part of the work, I could have spent ages doing this, there were so many possibilities all from one block.
I have enjoyed this process so much that I have already ordered some lemon wood and a box of mixed hard wood.
I was taught how to look after my wood blocks, so they wont crack. Heat, moisture and cold can all cause problems, the blocks need consistent temperature.
I may let one of mine naturally crack, I like the idea of natural fractures in materials and working with them .
Anne Desmet Wood Engraving
You can work in any direction unlike woodcut
Box wood is popular, the tree is slow growing and this makes the wood strong, so enables great precision when engraved into.
Cut wood into slices, type high and leave to cure for four years on their side until the moisture has gone in a dry space
Thomas Bewick made the engraving technique we use today popular.
Blocks are type high because newspapers used to create their images out of wood blocks , sometimes it would take 30 Blocks to create one image, Box wood was used between 1700-1908 for news papers.
Maintaining a block
You can join different blocks together to make a larger block but large blocks are more likely to split than a small block.
You can use both sides of a block
You can produce over1000 prints from a block if you get the pressure right.
Box wood -yellow colour
Lemon wood - pink colour
Pear wood - darker than lemon wood
You can intaglio or relief roll the blocks and print them on a nipping press or Albion press or hand burnish
Only need toothpaste sized amount of ink
Everything you engrave will be white, it is a relief process unlike copper engraving which is intaglio
Engrave your brightest areas first but it’s easier to cut your fine lines first
Tools I enjoyed working with
Bull Sticker - Curved point - makes a light curve
Tint tool - drop & flat side - makes straight lines lines
Above image Engraving tools used
This course has made me look at the materials I use and reminded how much I enjoy working with wood and the importance of it as a material, I’ve realised I respond differently to wood than metal.
I now realise that working with metal does not give me the same satisfaction. This was a turning point for me and has made me want to be more selective about the materials I use going forward.
Sublimation & marbling
I decided to try another modern process.
I’ve done marbling before but I used marbling inks which provided intense colour, at University I was using Disperse dye and diluted washing up liquid, the washing up liquid is used sparingly and creates white areas, my marbled prints were more subtle I then expected but once I used the heat press and transferred my images to metal I was surprised how intense the colours had become
I experimented further with these dyes, I drew on paper with wax this acted as a resist to the Disperse dye.
I concentrated on layering, colours and exploring different textures today to build depth in my work.
I have created a lot of work with geometric shapes so I decided to created some with natural softer forms, by encouraging the dye to bleed together..
Above first stage of sublimation printing creating design on paper
Above image sublimation print on alluminium
Drypoint on Perspex
During my 1-2-1 with Justin he explained how I could create a half tone with sand paper, so I got different grades of sand paper and rolled them through te press on top of my sheet of perspex, this has given me a half tone, Aquatint dot all over, I then created my image on top and printed it. I like the resut and feel in future I may pick selected areas to half tone.
Printing on plaster
I also printed the above plate in plaster, its something I have wanted to try for along time, I like the results of the print but the tile is uneven, so I will have to work on maing sure everything is level.
I also noticed this process has weakend my perspex printing plate so I am not sure how many prints I would get to make in plaster. I will now try and use one of my steel plates and see if they hold up any better.
Laser cut on to Perspex
I've laser cut the image of the Wharf onto perspex, I would like to blind emboss this plate like I did the Lino and wood so I can compare them.
Above image Laser etched perspex
Printing laser cut wood and Perspex
I printed with extender again today, I added a small amount of ink to it, mixed it really well and inked up my plates, I printed my images on Zerkall 450g that had been soaking for 30 min and I printed them on the nipping press and left them for 1min any longer and they stick to the plate, this I have learnt the hard way. The Laser etched Perspex is a subtle print and has slightly more detail but the wood has a deeper emboss and has the addition of the grain of the wood.