I had been building up a number of ideas for the four contrasting subjects required for this task, either developments of ideas looked at earlier in the course, or subjects arising out of my experiences and for which I feel that monoprinting could work. These include:
- a landscape of contrasts, photographed from above
- plough marks in a field linked to an image of the crop in the field
- a murmuration, following a trip to the Somerset levels last year
- a Bridget Riley inspired geometric piece using a interference textured background
- a group of shapes derived from a magazine photo of chopping boards but suggesting very simplified human forms
- an homage to Paul Klee using a textured, layer background and back drawing, along the theme of weightlessness
- a abstracted land/sky scape using rollers, different viscocity inks and a dark field over layer.
The first two of these ideas both arose from a photo in a magazine. This interested me because of the diagonal nature of the lines and the contrast of natural shapes and hard, man made lines. It shows an enormous market garden glass house in Kent surrounded by organic-looking plough marks in the fields.
I wanted to develop this in two different directions. I like those curvy lines in the field. The crop has just been taken out leaving the stubble. I have been walking on the Chiltern Way this week and everywhere the fields are being ploughed and limed. In some fields I managed to find some ears of wheat and oats. I like the idea of using these as stencils in combination with a print exploring the texture of the field.
The wheat was rejected on two counts, the thickness of the ear with the grains imbedded in it, and in carrying it home, the dry and fragile whiskers broke off. The oat survived better and has a lovely visual delicacy. I had two pieces and took the risk of carefully removing the seeds from one and then pressed it under books.
I decided on two plates for my print, one reflecting the shape of the field seen from above but retaining the diagonals of the photo, and an intersecting rectangular plate for the oats.
I spent a long time planning and preparing for the print. I set up my working areas carefully. My ambition was for really clean, well registered prints.
I cut my plates from thin plastic sheet (recycled brochure covers from Watford Arts Recycling Project). I sniped the sharp corners so that my paper would not be damaged. The plastic is too soft to damage blankets. The size of my plates was constrained by the size of the oat head and by my registration sheet. Under a very thin sheet of plastic, I taped a piece of paper with the outlines of my plates and the edge of my paper marked. I taped it under plastic because I have found that a paper registration sheet creases under damp paper, creasing the print, and also I can clean the plastic after each print. The plastic is only so wide, and will leave an impression on the print, so my printing are has to be well inside the edge of the plastic.
I used acrylic paint to select four colours for my print, two layers for each plate. In my colour selection I thought about:
- cool/warm (dead/alive)
- colour mixing through transparency
I then spend time mixing my colours and cleaning up before printing. I have inks in process colours, white, black and an additional red, blue and yellow, so mix my own colours. I find it difficult to know how much ink to mix to ensure I have enough for whatever my run is going to be. I stored my made-up inks in film canisters.
I decided to print all four runs in a continuous session whilst my paper retained its dampness. This meant I could keep my paper pinched in the press eliminating one registration problem.
I rolled up the first plate in green and textured it by pressing textured wallpaper onto the plate. Having printed this, I cleaned the plate and rolled it again with the second colour and wiped the crop marks in with two cotton buds taped to card. In my first attempt, this wiping wasn’t very effective, so on my second print I dipped the buds in white spirit.
Still leaving the paper pinched I rolled up my second plate in a gold/beige and wiped a stalk and swiped shapes into it, echoing the oats. I was concerned that I was loosing clarity and strength of ink from the first plate as ink was offset back onto the press bed. Still, no turning back. Having printed this and then cleaned and rerolled the plate in red, I placed the oat head on it as a stencil.
My registration system worked well, and I am pleased I used the plastic sheet, cleaning it after each pass. I managed two prints which were clean and well registered. Using white spirit for wiping the tractor marks gave much better definition. My purple colour was more transparent than I had hoped, even though I had mixed in some white, so the colour is rather deadened by the green underneath. This might also be due to the lifting off of some ink.
I thought that these needed a bit more going on, and I had a lovely inky oat stencil, so I flipped it over and printed in on the first print, as a trial. I thought this added interest so I decided to do it on my second print, but inking the stalk better and with a different placement.
I am quite pleased with this final print. It is by far the most complex print I have ever attempted and I think the shapes and different elements work well together. I like the transparency of the red plate over the field and the delicacy of the oats.
I wondered if I could print it better letting the ink dry after each layer and re-damping it. This would mean printing over quite a number of days. I printed the first green payer, let it dry and a couple of days later printed a purple layer, but instead of working subtractively, I used some lego wheels to run ink over the plate. Having re-damped the paper, it seemed a different size now, and in spite of my registration sheet, I failed miserably at registration. I didn’t persevere with this; badly registered and I found the tyre marks contrived. Somehow, coming back to the print after a few days, I just wasn’t ‘in the zone’ anymore.
I did take a ghost off the red plate and combined it with a oat head inked in the background colour. I love the delicacy and rather Japanese feel of this. I do enjoy an element taken outside of the plate edge.