Part 4, Stages 2&3, Project 1, Exercise 1 – Mark-making

19 March 2017

Project 1, Exercise 1 – Mono-printing, making marks

I approached this exercise as an opportunity for learning and testing. The example on page 81 of the course notes (figure 4.1) was a finished print and obviously involved not only mark-making, but also stencilling and back-drawing combined. I made the decision that  for samples 1-6, I would simply explore mark making and the effect of materials and tools rather than trying to create a finished picture from my sketchbook.

I started by using Snowdon 130gsm cartridge paper with Akua Intaglio ink (a water-soluble ink, which despite the name is also recommended for monoprinting). I found the intaglio ink very easy to use, it being the right viscosity for the mark-making which I wanted. I used dry paper for all my samples.

I gathered together a variety of implements to use as mark-making tools:


SAMPLE 1: Akua intaglio ink, 130gsm cartridge paper, mixed mark-making

After inking a perspex plate with the intaglio ink, I then worked into it using a variety of tools. I laid the cartridge paper on top, then used a new brayer to apply pressure to transfer the image (see below):


I was very disappointed with the image transfer, in particular the lines of pressure created by the edge of the brayer, which dominated over the marks which I had made in the inked plate.


SAMPLE 2: Akua intaglio ink, 130gsm cartridge paper, mark-making with a stick

Similar to sample 1, but this time I used the back of a wooden spoon as a brayer. I took a photograph of the inked marked plate, as a comparison before attempting to transfer the image onto paper (see below):

The results were disappointing again. The spoon make a point contact and only transferred the ink well in these areas where the pressure was highest (see below):


SAMPLE 3: Akua intaglio ink, 130gsm cartridge paper, mark-making with a stick

Instead of using a perspex plate, this time I inked an overhead projector acetate. I made similar marks to sample 2 using a fennel stick. This time I used my intaglio press to transfer the image to the paper, and at last I got a crisp clean image (see below)

I like the way that I was able to use the stick to make very think lines, but also double textured “scratchy” marks. I experimented with direction density and width of line by varying the angle, direction of the stick and the speed of my mark-making.


SAMPLE 4: Akua intaglio ink, 130gsm cartridge paper, mark-making with sponges and a brush

Using the overhead projector acetate as a printing plate, I made marks using a sponge and a nail brush and transferred the image using my intaglio press.

I love these marks which are full of character. I wasn’t expecting to be able to make scratchy marks with a sponge. There was a lot of control with this technique and I was able to remove more or less ink dependant on the amount of pressure which I applied. The marks remind me very much of Van Gogh’s paintings in which he used swirling patterns to depict the sky and clouds.

I got some unexpected lines when using the sponge roller which arose from the edge of the handle scraping against the inked surface which also removed ink, creating fine lines in my print. I worked both vertically and horizontally to create a textured surface and the combination of the sponge and the harder fine lines give a specially interesting contrast.

The nail brush was more difficult to control, but I was able to get a lovely open pattern.

SAMPLE 5: Akua intaglio ink, 130gsm cartridge paper, mixed mark-making

Again with the intaglio press and inked acetate, I worked some different marks onto a new plate.

I was able to make some very bold and definite marks with a grouting tool, cotton buds, and the edge of a credit card. In the middle of the image, I used a plastic comb to create very delicate parallel lines. The thick lines are the edge of the comb, which I later broke off, so that I could just use the fine marks on their own in future.

I got a very subtle ghost-like effect by wrapping string around a plastic rolling pin and then rolling this over the inked plate before taking the print. The marks are bold to the left where the first contact was made with the inked plate. To the middle and right, on subsequent rolls, the string had already picked up some ink, so the amount removed from the plate was less and the image became progressively more feint.

SAMPLE 6: Akua intaglio ink, 130gsm cartridge paper, brushwork

Because I wanted to experiment with brushwork, I added some Akua “blender” to the top half of the inked acetate plate. This product is a modifier which thins the ink for brushwork (Speedball art products, 2017) After adding the blender, I worked into the ink with a decorators’ paintbrush and a narrow coarse-haired artists’ brush. The blender had the effect of lowering the viscosity of the ink, making it easier to move around the plate with the brushes.
On the lower half of the plate, I used a pipette to place droplets of water on the inked surface. I worked into some of these with a small artists’ brush, and others I left on the surface.
I used my intaglio press to transfer the image to the paper (see below):
In the area where I had applied droplets of water then used the paintbrush, there were concentrations of dark ‘blots’ of ink amongst the areas where the ink had been removed by the bristles. In contrast, the blender produced a more even dispersal, with no ‘pooling’ of the ink.
I was expecting the surface droplets of water to partially dissolve the ink and make an interesting pattern, but in the event they were barely noticeable. To clean the intaglio ink requires soapy water, so a detergent such as washing up liquid or liquid soap might have been a better choice.
SAMPLE 7: Akua intaglio ink, Thorpness and Sizewell seascape, 130gsm Snowdon cartridge paper
Taking inspiration from the mono-prints of Degas (which I reserached for stage 1), I decided to have a go at using the reductive process to recreate the seascape on page 12 of my sketchbook. I used a variety of mark-making techniques: the edge of a credit card for the sea and waves, the tip of a cotton bud and the tip of a wooden skewer for the buildings and tree line, a piece of paper towel for the clouds and a cotton bud for the shingle beach. The inked plate was perspex.
I was very pleased with the image transfer and boldness of the marks, in particular the sea surface/waves (see ablive, which is sample 7a). My least favourite part is the shingle, which needs to be more delicate to properly represent the actual surface texture accurately. This area also needs to be a quite dark and graduating in tone, so tools like cotton buds may be too uniform and bold in this instance. I do not feel that there are any other marks in samples 1-6 which are appropriate, so I would need further experimentation if I wanted to refine this print. I also feel that there is scope to improve the buildings by using a mark with a solid edge (edges made with a cotton bud tend to be soft/fuzzy).
The ghost print is also excellent (see below, sample 7b). All the detail is there and the image is sufficiently bold to be easily “read” by the viewer.
Speedball art products (2017) Akua modified and release agent. At: http://www.akua (Accessed 19 March 2017)

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