Friday, 8 April 2011

A lesson in Printmaking!

The local community centre where I attend Icelandic class and knitting group is called Hús Frítímans, it is relatively new, only opened 2 years ago.  It's quite a large place with 6 different rooms decked out for various activities for all age groups, it offers space for general meetings, art, music, computer facilities, and even has a climbing wall plus a fully equipped kitchen...I have noticed that many children's birthday parties are held here.

This Monday night they are running a little trial event where people demonstrate/teach a skill for an hour to someone, in return you get an hours upskilling credit and can collect it from someone else in the group, not necessarily from the person you taught to.  This is the first time they are trying something like this and at this stage they're not sure exactly how it will work.  I have agreed to teach/demonstrate printmaking skills without a press (hand printing).  I think I will need to be flexible with my approach as I am not sure if I am just demonstrating or also teaching...I will just go with the flow and see how the evening develops.   I have spent the last couple of days in the studio, with the ipod on shuffle, sourcing materials and refreshing my hand printing has been a while...but a bit like riding a bike, once learned never forgotten.

With music in my ears, and the absolute focus required, I entered a wondrous space today and lost hours. I started at just after 11 this morning and thinking I had only been working for an hour or so I discover that 4 hrs had disappeared.

This is what I have to show for it.

For this demonstration I think time will be of the essence so my demo's need to be quick.  I have decided to showcase the serendipitous nature of print with a variety of easy techniques and will pick and choose them depending on the flow of the evening.
Firstly while everything is clean, I will do a blind or embossed print and then progress to the more messy techniques.

 I will move from there to a simple offset method where you ink up an object or stencil and then with a clean brayer (roller) you roll over the inked objects (I used a leaf and a feather) thus transferring an image of the object to the brayer then simply roll brayer onto paper and voila you have an image. These can be developed further with more layering of other printing techniques.

A further method is to place paper directly onto the inked objects and hand print...I used a towel and rolling pin as a simple press.  This method will give a darker more defined image.


 Another simple monoprint technique is to ink up a smooth surface like glass, metal or plastic, place paper directly onto the inked surface and draw an image on the back of the paper with pencil, pen, cotton bud or finger....different tools will vary the line thickness.  Once finished peel back the paper and reveal your drawing...the texture from the inked plate will add atmosphere to the image.

An additional method is with stencils, I cut a simple stencil from plain old butchers paper, inked up the plate, placed the stencil onto the plate then covered with blue paper and printed using the improvised towel and rolling pin press method.  When I pulled the stencilled paper off the plate I was left with an after image on the plate so I printed it again on more paper...this is called a ghost print and I prefer it to the original.

The blue print is the first one pulled and the image above is the ghost print. One poor old chap ended up with a missing foot.

I can work for hours layering and working a print, these ones were made by just inking up a plate and achieving light and shade by varying my hand pressure when burnishing (rubbing the back of paper with my hand) then inking up textured elements and layering these, I love the serendipitous nature and ambiguity of these images.

 Probably my favourite printmaking technique is the reductive monoprint method where you draw by removing ink from the plate.  I remember having discussions at art school with a lecturer who said this was a more feminine style of working whether it be painting or printing.  Traditionally men have tended to build up layers of paint...many creating almost sculptural paintings, whereas women often create images by removing the paint once they applied it...I realise this is a very generalised statement and not sure how much fact or observation this view was based on but I do know I really feel in sync with the reductive technique.

 The old towel and rolling pin press worked pretty well picking up much of the fine details.

I brought some oil based inks and plenty of printing paper with me from Australia but I am having trouble accessing any perspex or smooth plastic or metal sheets/plates in this little town to use as a base to ink up on.  Artists tend to view what others consider rubbish as potential tools/items that can be used in some sort of art project, I find it hard to walk past a skip bin without having a good look in it...and I am sure given time I will source most of what I need from a scrap heap somewhere.  I don't want to spend any money at this stage for materials so have used whatever I could find in this old post office, she tends to come up with goods when I need it.    I have to provide pretty much all of the tools required for this workshop and I have no idea of the number of participants if any, so need to bring a few of each thing in case I am working with more than one student at a time, also I am walking and can't carry too many heavy items.  So the old post office offered up these for the base plates 8 plastic divider thingamajigs which have worked out just fine and is what I used today for the above prints.


And for the rolling pins I found this watchamacallit, dismantled it and now have several.

Too heavy to cart but will use them here in the smallish 500x500cm and another much larger about 1200x1200cm double glazed windows...perfect for rolling ink on.

Here are a couple of pics of the space that will become my studio.  Although in the basement the space  does have windows to let in plenty of natural light, a sink for cleanups, good heating for the winter, a lavatory plus studio access from the carpark at the rear of the building.

This is one half of the area

 From this side you can see the windows which let in plenty of natural light.

This is the opposite end of the space, there are plenty of cupboards and just around the corner on the left is the sink area.  I have not moved any of the stuff left by the post office as yet but will get in here next week to start sorting and setting it up as a functioning studio has so much potential!


  1. Looks brilliant Vicki - am sure that you will be a huge hit! I especially liked the leaves and feathers... really nice

  2. Excellent Vicki. I've decided since you only need a thingamajig, a watchamacallit a bit of paper and ink to do printmaking then I should get a couple of lessons from you when we come over. If we have time of course! Good luck for Monday night. X

  3. Looking forward to try it!