Part 4, Stages 2&3, Project 1, Exercise 3 – Back drawing

27 March 2017


Project 1, Exercise 3 – Back drawing


SAMPLE 1: Figure drawing, acetate sheet, Akua intaglio ink

I started by keeping my drawing simple with the primary aim of obtaining a good quality print. I first inked a glass plate with Akua intaglio ink, then I transferred the ink to a sheet of acetate using a soft roller. When I had an even coating, I moved my inked acetate to my printing surface. I used masking tape to mark the position of the plate on a sheet one newspaper (see below):

I also used masking tape to secure my paper (in this case 130gsm Snowdon cartridge paper), which I laid over the inked plate (I had previously marked that the plate would rest under the paper in the position of the pencil marks).

I laid a photocopy of my image in reverse/mirror to that which I wanted in the finished print. The sketch was taken from page 30 of my sketchbook.

Using my sketch as a guide as I applied pressure using various tools and to transfer ink from the place to the paper. For this first sample, I used just a graphite pencil.

I was disappointed that my image was ill defined (see below):

I think that the most likely reason for this was too much ink on the plate. I also noticed that the colour (Paynes grey) was a lot more fluid than the Carbazole violet which I had used before. It is not uncommon to get different viscosities in different coloured inks, However, I did not have any of Akua’s “Mag mix” (ink stiffener), so I decided to switch to my oil-based inks, which I knew were more “tacky”.

Despite being disappointed with the image it is not one to throw away! I can image drawing into it with pastels to bring out the figure (the background texture is lovely on it’s own), or perhaps adding another layer of ink in conjunction with stencilling.


SAMPLE 2: Figure drawing, acetate sheet, Lawrence linseed oil-based relief-printing ink

I used the same method as sample one, but this time with magenta Lawrence linseed oil-based relief printing ink. The image was slightly better, although still not very well defined (see sample 2a below):

The white blocks almost look like a reaction of the ink with a residue of chemical on the printing plate. However, as it is the left-hand side (reversed during printing), I think it is just likely to be areas where my hand didn’t apply pressure to the plate during drawing. Once again, I suspected that there was too much ink on the plate.

This time I also took a ghost print using the intaglio press (see sample 2b below):

It is a pity that the outline is not bolder because the background texture is quite interesting. It might be possible to develop these prints with a second or third process (maybe printing, drawing into the print with another media or stitching). I would not discard the prints for this reason – they could be useful later!


SAMPLE 3: Figure drawing, perspex sheet, Lawrence linseed oil-based relief-printing ink

I had found difficulties when rolling out both types of ink onto the acetate sheet, which tended to curl up and get trapped around the roller. I decided to switch to the stiffer perspex sheet (which I used for the remainder of the exercise).

Using the same method as samples 1 and 2, except applying less ink to the printing plate, I made the print shown below (sample 3a), using 130gsm Snowdon cartridge paper:

At last a print with clarity and the quality of lines which I wanted! It has bold easily “readable” lines with a soft “smudginess” where the pressure of my hand has touched the plate during the transfer process. I took a ghost print using the intaglio press and the same type of paper (sample 3b):

I liked the effect which reminded me somewhat of the simple lines of Mattisse’s reductive monoprints. Again, the technique produced a clean bold image with soft expressive marks. Now I could experiment and develop different marks.

SAMPLE 4: Figure drawing, perspex sheet, Lawrence linseed oil-based relief-printing ink

I wanted to use this sample as an opportunity to try out different mark-making techniques, so in addition to drawing the outline in graphite pencil, I applied pressure to the negative space/background using the rounded end of the pencil. This gave a “bubbly” texture:

It is an interesting texture which perhaps needs to be applied more uniformly and densely to help the figure to stand out Against the background. I used 130gsm Snowdon cartridge for my first print (sample 4a) and made the ghost print (sample 4b) with Fabriano Unica (a multipurpose printing paper with a more textured surface):

The surface texture of the paper has resulted in a slightly more “grainy” transfer of ink which is appealing in this instance because it adds to the texture and interest of the print.

SAMPLE 5: Thorpeness and Sizewell, perspex sheet, Lawrence linseed oil-based relief-printing ink

I decided to change image to the seascape because of the many different textures and easily defined boundaries (see page 12 of my sketchbook). I used 130gsm Snowdon cartridge for both prints.

I made a backdrawn monoprint which is shown below (sample 5a):

Followed by the ghost print (sample 5b):

I am very pleased with the contrasting textures which I obtained with the prints. I used a charcoal pencil (blunt) for the outlines, then used my fingers to gently apply pressure to form the clouds. The sea surface was made by rubbing with the flat edge of the pointed end of a pencil. I think this could be improved even further by varying the widths of the outline march, some of which was perhaps too bold.

SAMPLE 6: Thorpeness and Sizewell, perspex sheet, Lawrence linseed oil-based relief-printing ink

So far I had only used conventional printing papers, so I decided to get experimental. I took a paper shopping bag and cut in into trips to remove the logos before stitching it together using my sewing machine:
I used the same marks to make the mono-print as sample 5, the rationale being that I needed bold marks to make the image stand out against the background colour/texture. The print is shown below (sample 6a):
The print is full of character, having “lumps” where the paper is joined, causing additional pressure marks, which, I think add to the appeal of the image. The background paper texture could easily be emulated with reduction techniques by monoprinting from an inked plate, so it is also inspirational from this perspective.

Rather than taking a ghost print onto paper, I printed it onto cotton fabric. I wasn’t sure whether I should use the intaglio press, but decided to give it a go (see sample 6b below):


The print is fainter than I would have liked (but then it is a ghost print). The marks, however, have transferred well. Lawrence linseed oil based relief ink is one of the few inks which specifically states as being suitable for printing onto fabric. The image is not bold nor interesting enough to use as it is (the single colour being rather insipid), so I thought about how it might be developed. I have some Sharpie fabric markers, but I decided that they wold be too bold. An alternative might be to use Pentel fabric dye sticks or Markel oil-paint sticks which can be blended and used to add additional colour and texture. Stitching to embellish and define surface textures is also an option.

I was about to clean the plate when I noticed that the weave texture of the fabric had transferred onto the plate, so I decided to take another print, using Fabriano Unica paper (sample 6c). The results show that the fabric weave has transferred very well, however, unfortunately the original image is too feint and can be barely discerned. The rough texture of the paper may also have contributed to this.


SAMPLE 7: Thorpeness and Sizewell, perspex sheet, Lawrence linseed oil-based relief-printing ink

Continuing with trying out different paper, I decided to make a print using Khadi paper, which is highly textured and made of rags. I used the same method of mark-making as sample 5. However, because the paper is so rough, the fine detail of the marks had not been captured and I was disappointed with the image (see sample 7a below). I also don’t like the single paper colour which I find bland. It could, of course be enhanced by the addition of printed or painted colour blocks, but because I didn’t like the way the marks had transferred, I decided not to pursue this.

I took a ghost print using Fabriano Unica paper on the intaglio press (sample 7b). As the ghost print is in effect, reductive, I took the opportunity to introduce further texture using some of the techniques which I had practiced in project 1, exercise 1. I removed some ink to simulate clouds using a piece of kitchen towel covering my finger. I used cotton buds in the foreground to simulate gravel texture.

Although there are some interesting textures, I don’t feel that the image is sufficiently clear that a viewer would be able to decipher it without prior knowledge, so I am a bit disappointed. I wonder if the roughness of the Fabriano Unica paper is to blame?


SAMPLE 8: 12 Crag path Aldeburgh, perspex sheet, Akua intaglio ink

I decided to have another go at using the Akua ink. The main reason being that I only had 45 mins before I had to collect my son from school and I knew I wouldn’t have time to clean up the oil-based ink, whereas the water-based ink could be left in a bucket of soapy water.

I joined two different colours if envelope paper using the sewing machine, similar to sample 6. I used the image from page 21 of my sketchbook, the idea being to echo the floors of the building with the horizontal stripes of paper. The print (sample 8a) is shown below:

Cropped and shown in close-up the image looks neater.

I am pleased that the image transferred well and that I got good results with this ink (which was a mixture of Paynes grey and Mars black). I feel, however that the stripes in the paper are too bold, and (due to time pressures) the drawing lacks care and attention.

I reflected on this image overnight and realised that there were actually rather a few aspects which I liked: the marks are lively and spontaneous, adding character, the background paper texture is interesting, suggesting brick or plasterwork. I did some work in my sketchbook (pages 36-37) thinking about how I could use the image. On a printout of a photograph, I experimented by colouring in blocks using acrylic paint. I used the actual colours of the building next door (blue and purple – yes they were these colours!), and took care to avoid the printed lines. I also highlighted certain features of the building in white acrylic (window frames, roofline). A copy of the developed sketch is shown below:

I am so pleased with this progression; the acrylic paint is dilute enough that at least some of the pattern of the envelope paper is visible below. This could be emulated with Akua intaglio ink, by adding transparent base to make the ink more transparent. I now feel that the balance of the drawing is correct, with the centre house appearing to take “centre stage” and the back drawn print lines are no longer over dominant. There is a feeling of elegance, and because of the colours, you know this house belongs in a seaside town.

Like Degas, I could have considered using pastels or paints to work detail on top of the monoprint directly. However, I could alternatively draw onto a printing plate or use stencilling (with registration) and overprint the original image to give the blocks of colour a printed quality in keeping with the back drawn print.

I also took a ghost print on the intaglio press (sample 8b). The only paper I had cut and ready to use was Fabriano Unica, and unfortunately the image is mottled and rather ill-defined, probably due to it’s rough and absorbent surface.

The technical details of the print aside, I really don’t feel that the dark “negative” ghost print fits with the bright colours and freshness associated with sea-front houses. In this depiction, the building looks more like a wing of a sombre stately home, dark and foreboding. It is interesting to see how the type of print and the colour can affect the mood and feeling of an image so profoundly and change the interpretation.


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