Before I describe the techniques I have used in my work I would like to explain the basics of printing.
Ink is pushed into marks and lines which are either etched or engaved on the plate and then printed by press.
Ink is rolled, dabbed or painted on the surface of a block which is then printed manually or by printing press.
The techniques I have used in my work are as follows:
Drypoint - Intaglio Printing
An image is created by drawing directly on to a metal plate with a sharp needle. No acid is used. Then again ink is rubbed into the lines and the top suface is wiped clean and a print can be taken from this plate. This is a far more direct way of working in the metal plate but the marks and lines can wear out quicker so the edition sizes will be smaller. My drypoint editions will not be more than 20.
Etching Aquatint - Intaglio Printing
First I roll a thin layer of wax over the metal plate. This is called a softground. Then I trace my image in the softground, it is like a soft wax so it is easy to draw on. With this method I can get quite detailed drawings on the plate.
Once my drawing is traced, I put my plate in an acid bath. My drawing will be exposed to the acid but the rest of the plate is protected by the wax.Then, when I take the plate out of the acid, I clean the wax off the plate with white spirit.I can now print my first proof. At this stage I have only a line drawing.
The next step is to create solid areas of tone on my etching plate.This can range from a white to very dark depending on how long you leave it in the acid.This is called Aquatint.
An Aquatint tone is achieved by first coating the whole plate with resin dust which is heated with a small blowtorch underneath, causing the resin to melt into tiny globules. When it cools down the resin will harden. I now want to create different gradations of tone from white to very dark.To achieve these, I begin to "stop out" the parts on my plate which I want to keep white and put the plate for a few seconds in the acid which causes all the unstopped areas to be the next darker tone. Then I "stop out" with varnish also the next lighter area and continue the process of dipping the plate in acid through succesive stages to achieve further tones which get darker and darker at each stage as a result of longer exposure. The longer you keep it in the acid the deeper the bite and therefore the darker the tone on the print will be. My darkest bite will be around 8 minutes.
When this process is complete, you have to clean the plate for printing.To remove the varnish you use white spirit and to remove the resin you use methylated spirit. Then when the etching plate is ready for printing I have to ink up the plate, wipe off the excess ink from the surface with scrim (a cloth) and put the plate on the press.On top of the inked up plate I have to put slightly damp paper. Then I roll it through the press.
In some of my etchings I have used Chine Cole. Before I make a print. I put japanese paper with some starch emulsion on top of my inked up plate and under the paper and then I roll it through the press, all at the the same time. The Japanese paper can add a diffirent colour to the print and it can give an extra texture to it as well.
My editions off my etching plates can be up to 50.
Collograph - Intaglio Printing or Relief Printing
My own collographs are all printed as Intaglio.
In most of my collographs, I have carved out my figures with a sharp Stanley knife in a thin piece of cardboard which looks very much like mounting board. It is called white pasteboard and has a gloss on the surface.
First I scrape just the top surface of the board to achieve a light tone on my print. As I scrape off more layers, my tone on the print will become darker. So in this way I can achieve diffirent tones. I can also leave some areas untouched and these will stay white on my final print.
The scraping will be uneven and that gives a textured and organic feel to it. On bigger collographs like "The Guineafowl" and "Yorkshire Hills" I have built up areas of the cardboard with all kinds of materials like crumpled tissue, silver foil and sand. I also use "Gesso" which is a paste into which you can press all sorts of profiles like the profile of a wallpaper or a finger print. When the Gesso has dried and all the other materials have been glued I have to seal it all with a button pollish.
Then I can make prints from this "collage" printing block the same way as you do from an etching plate.The block will wear out quickly (being card) so the editions will be smaller. My editions from this media are not more then 20.
Linocut - Relief Printing
Ink is rolled up on the surface of the linocut block which is then usually printed manually. That means that you put a dry piece of paper on top of the block and then you press with the back of a spoon on the back of that piece of paper.This is one way of printing. The other way is to print it on a press.
Mixed Media - Relief printing.
The sample I will give for this method is my "Green Heart." For this I have rolled all sorts of objects with ink like a cut out piece of aluminium in the form of a heart. On top of that I have put a piece of crumpled up silverfoil also inked up.On top of that I have put some threads from scrim and I have then put a damp piece of paper on top of this built up block and run it through the press.The print that came out was not so interesting. But then I peeled off all the layers and there remained a very interesting imprint on the metal heart plate. I put some of the coloured scrim treads back on that and ran it through the press again with a fresh piece of damp paper. This print was a lot more interesting. It has become the " Green Heart".
So mixed media for me is printing a lot of prints with inking and building up pieces of metal, silverfoil, threads and all sorts of other materials. And at the end of the day there are just a view prints emerging that are interesting enough to keep.These prints are quite often one off's.