Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Some thoughts comparing my prints with the editioning i'm doing with CFPR

a photo of me in the print centre at UWE in front of a burgeoning collection of test strips 

In the first post on this blog I mused with some open-ended questions about the importance of planning and preparation in the printmaking process. Over the past two months I’ve been working on two very different projects, one of my own and one through CFPR at UWE.

With CFPR, I’ve been helping edition a woodcut series for Paul Coldwell. The blocks were made of MDF and lazercut. At the moment I’m doing test strips for white ink on black paper- we’ve already printed an edition black on white. The prints have just one layer, although for future editions colour will be added. The print I’m doing for myself is called “there she goes my beautiful world.” It’s also a woodcut, but I’m printing it as a reduction. So there will only be one edition. My aim for the print was to approach it in a painterly way- by improvising each layer as I came to it.

With the Coldwell print, we naturally made no contribution to the image, and CFPR and my involvement was purely technical. ‘We needed a perfect edition. What’s the best way of accomplishing this?’ So our approach was through lots of tests, proofs and concise documentation. There are all sorts of variables when making a run- ink consistence, rolling consistency, registration, packing and mess management- to name a few. Printing on the Columbian press we have at UWE we spent a lot of time fiddling with our packing set up. I was surprised how much the pressure varies between a test strip and a full print.

Something else I had to become familiar with was the block. I’d never printed a lazercut block before so I was interested to see how it might print differently. MDF itself prints similarly to lino; you get a sharper cut and less texture than with a regular piece of wood. This, with the precision of the lazer mean that the image we were printing was very fine and flat and required a smooth even layer of ink over the whole surface. An early problem we had was that the block itself was too thin, so when I rolled on the ink the board bent resulting in a sharp rectangular faded area on the print.

"there she goes my beautiful world" (unfinished)

The wood I’m using is from a reclamation centre in Bristol. It’s a kind of hard wood, rich in colour, fine grain and easy to cut. It’s also got dents, cracks and holes all over it, which I incorporated into my design. It also has an impact of the layer of ink. I feel things like that gives the print and the block more personality.

Unlike, the Coldwell print I’ve been hand burnishing my woodblock. I use an assortment of spoons for different pressures and surface areas. This means I don’t need to worry about packing, however I do put newsprint over the paper to keep the back clean while I’m working. I think that hand printing gives you a texture you can’t achieve on the press; it also gives you more flexibility. But it is more labour intensive, even compared to the Columbian.

One similarity between the projects is registration. For the Coldwell prints it’s simply a means of ensuring uniformity through the edition. For mine it’s necessary to make sure all the layers line up. I’m allowing myself to be fairly flexible in my edition, allowing the layers of colour to flow and interact in an open playful kind of way. I don’t mind if there is some variation, as long as it’s contained with the boarder.

It’s really important to have a safe registration method; because the less time you’re faffing with the paper- getting it in place- the less likely you are to get ink or dirt where it shouldn’t be. With the Coldwell series we developed an order for rolling, lifting, covering and so on, involving many pairs of disposable gloves all in order to make sure the environment stayed as clean as possible. I took some of the ideas into my own edition. Particularly thinking about how the Chinese printmakers have a very ergonomical set up where the inks and the papers, and the cutting and printing areas have defined stations. All within easy reach. I’ve found that having an organised base on both projects is a very effective way of anticipating a level of quality in an edition. For my own prints, it was a secure starting 

Freedom Prints at the Sigtuna Bonhoeffer Congress