Sunday, 2 April 2017

Penultimate course at West Dean - monoprinting

The monoprinting course was a slightly longer course - three day - structured around a technical introduction in the morning and then a day of applying these with the occasional technical session in the afternoon. The first couple of sessions introduced water based inks and the last two days we worked with oil based inks.

The course pushed us to bring in some rigour to our work - the very first session was a test of how pure a line we could achieve. Here are some examples of these lines:

And then some line drawings based on a photograph of biloba leaves. Here is the templates, which is a transparency from the photograph.


A print onto a background primed transfer of ink in grey. I modified the black ink throughout as I find it a bit harsh and the prints are quite soft.

Here the background was a wet monoprint with suggestions of the leaves in blue-grey tones and then the print of the leaves over this; below a detail. You can see that the edge is dark: this has come about as I left finger marks on the edge when I was holding down the paper (A4 paper on an A4 plate does not leave much for taping down the paper. I therefor used this device as a frame which has worked out quite well. The lines are quite bold and strong, perhaps a bit too think for the lacy effect of the composition.

We also learned to print using organic materials such as leaves and interesting when these soft leaves stick onto the brayer they can be used to transfer ink onto a piece of paper, such as below. I am not sure whether this appeals to me - firstly I thought the leaves I used were too precise and sharp and secondly in transferring the leaf imprint I think the results are a bit too much like 'wall paper' and I think that would need some further exploration to use in interesting ways.
A detail:

I also tried some grasses but these ended up sticking to the brayer for some time and left a lot of organic debris behind that made a mess and left disturbances in subsequent prints. Clearly one has to clean brayers well if using organic matter in this way.

Here's a detail from a better print using small leaves on blue loktah paper. In fact I printed on different papers to see how they worked, including cartridge, pastel and loktah paper. I think this latter paper was quite interesting in prints where the ink was dark and dense enough to bring up the print. A few examples left the ink too thin to show up properly and mark were faint and washed out.

This example of a print using the small leaves is on newsprint, unfortunate as the print is quite a subtle and soft result.

I also made a series of prints based on cathedral arches, which I will include  when I have photographed it.

Drawing day at West Dean: making gesso, pigment solutions and silverpoint

I am close to the end of the FDAD at West Dean, I have one course to do and an essay and on the way to the end I recently attended a drawing day and a monoprinting course.

The drawing day was very good - Frances Hatch, Evie Hatch and the conservator Judith Wetherall all brought something valuable to the day. We had a thorough introduction to making gesso using rabbitskin glue and calcium carbonate as well as descriptions of the use of pigment in the development of paint.

We were then ready to cover pieces of heavy card, water colour paper and a piece of MDF in rabbit skin glue used as size and gesso and once this was dry by the afternoon we could then apply marks using metal, mainly silver to create silver point drawings.

My sample pieces include elements incorporating textile fibres and organic matter. Here are the initial samples showing the use of pigment:

Three tests on a piece of sized card showing plain gesso, gesso with terre verde (a green pigment) and gesso binding down wool. 

Gesso samples on watercolour paper, the hairy section includes a gummed silk fibre.
As mentioned, in the afternoon we tried out silverpoint using a sharpened silver wire. This is an old method to drawing, used before the pencil was developed, and in the main it leaves a fine, subtle line, which artists such as Leonardo da Vinci used. You can use a broader tool such as a spoon to create a softer mark.  I am not a great drafts person and I like bold varying gestures, so this fine line effect does not sit naturally with me. I am glad I tried it, but will probably not be pursuing this technique in depth.

Paper with wool and gesso which I intend to use as a base for further work - in fact that is what a number of the samples will be for at some point.

A dried leaf with applied gesso and blue gouache.

A piece of thin worn plastic from the West Dean gardens applied to wet gesso with a little gesso applied over it.

Gesso made blue using gouache and then silver point lines and scratches applied.

 Blue silk and other silk and wool fibre.

A piece of gessoed water colour paper with gummed white and green silk fibre. I then drew with the silverpoint in lines echoing the fibre strands, and finally thin lines of rabbitskin glue with terre verde. The picture was taken in bright sunshine which cast fine shadow lines from the silk fibre.