In my sketchbook, I played around with various designs. I liked the idea of working with the human body, because it referenced Matisse, and is easily read in even he most abstract form. I looked at some of the drawings and photos I had taken in my Pas De Deux workshop earlier in the summer (see http://starrybirdsartdiary.wordpress.com/2013/08/09/pas-de-deux/). I wanted a simple, bold, easily read shape but which had enough interest in it.
I thought these might be too complex and experimented drawing my hand and feet, a stylised profile, and a tree which I had drawn on hols.
I was struggling to make a single, simple, continuous positive shape whilst also creating a single continuous interesting negative shape. I finally settled on the crouching dancer and parasol pine to print.
I draw my designs on A4 thin photocopier paper and carefully cut them. I rolled up Caligo ink in cyan on an A4 sheet of perspex for my first attempt and hand pulled it on light cartridge paper.
I didn’t lay the stencil down smoothly, creating a double edge in places. Although I checked the plate for any dust, or bits of ink skin before printing, I clearly missed some because of the white dots. I do like the way the shape reads, though. The ink was less smooth than I wanted and I decided to thin it a little for my next attempt. I also thought that the size of the stencil was causing me difficulties, so I tried an A5 version.
Of all these iterations, the one printed on my mangle, on damped paper was best, but the stencil rippled and creased with the dampness, creasing my print slightly. Frustrating.
I actually really like the ghost image after printing the positive stencil. I find the texture and outline left by the stencil more interesting than the original print. I think the positive image of the dancer works best, and the negative one of the tree. I think this is because of the boldness of the former; the amount of ink relative to the area of the plate.
I had a lot of difficulty placing either stencil accurately and smoothly so that it hit the ink flat. I tried using a very thin plastic stencil instead, which had much greater rigidity (and could be cleaned and reused). I used a very thin brochure cover for this. Mechanically, it was much easier, but it left a larger halo around the print area, and a slightly less crisp edge.
I didn’t get a print of the positive stencil that I was happy with. After generating a large stack of failures, I decided it was time to move on and try and improve my print quality in the next project.
Points to work on:
- stencil design
- don’t leave the ink for long picking up dust
- check for bits of ink skin
- thin the ink a bit
- use a roller larger than the plate if poss
- hold the plate up to the light to check coverage