Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Simple Surprises

Process Reflection: I'm starting to get the hang of the printmaking process. And one of the things I'm learning is that sometimes simple is better. At the end of last week's Tuesday night printmaking class, I had about forty-five minutes left to work after having spent most of the evening working on a big experimental print that didn't really work out. So rather than go back to the drawing board with that one, or just pack up and go home discouraged, I figured I'd play around a little bit.

I took a piece of scrap plexiglass from the drawer and rather quickly drew out some curved shapes with an x-acto knife through the contact paper that protects the surface. Then I painted the whole thing with a mixture of acrylic medium and carborundum grit. While it was drying I tore up some scraps of painted paper into small triangular shapes and painted the backs with Rhoplex, a pressure-sensitive glue which binds the papers to the print when you roll the plate through the press.

Once the medium and the grit had dried on the plexiglass, I peeled off the remaining paper backing, which left smooth plexiglass in some parts and tooth-like rough shapes in other parts. I inked up the plate and then wiped it down, leaving ink on the rough areas and no ink in the white areas. Then I put the plate on the press bed, laid the paper triangles down on the plate glue side up, put the white paper for the print on top of that, lowered the blankets that protect the roller when the press is being used, and rolled it through. I really didn't know how it was going to look, but when I lifted the print I was pleased with its musical, rhythmic quality. It's bright and lively and easy to look at. So last night I wound up doing two more along the same lines, the first with the same plate and the second with another, slightly larger piece of scrap plexiglass:

The last print has more contrast and is more dramatic, but those big black areas feel a little overpowering to me. I'm going to try another next week with a more neutral ink, maybe a brown or green, and maybe scratch back into the dark areas a little.

One thing I've got to try to figure out: the Rhoplex is a very sticky, rubbery glue and it's a bear to work with. It's very hard to get glue on the back of the paper without also getting it on the front, especially with small pieces of paper, which tend to move around when you are brushing them which gets glue on the edges that smears onto the front. Then when you go to print, the paper sticks not only to the white paper, but also to the plate, and you wind up tearing it when you lift the print. Rats.

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