Category Archives: Part 4

Part 4, Stages 2&3, Project 1, Exercise 4 – Working with stencils

29 March 2017

Project 1, Exercise 4 – working with stencils

SAMPLE 1: Figure stencil, 130gsm Snowdon cartridge paper, Akua intaglio ink

I wanted to start this exercise with a simple example, so I chose the figure on page 30 of my sketchbook. I started my simplifying the image, then did some sketchbook work to decide how I wanted to proceed with the stencil (see sketchbook pages 39-44). 

By simplifying the figure to a silhouette without clothing, the figure became androgynous. It is shadow-like and mysterious – there is more scope for the viewer to read the image in different ways, to relate to it in their own way and associate their own experiences and emotions.

I had to make a decision about the legs and head which were left indrawn in my optional sketch. I evaluated the options and decided that “framing” the figure top and bottom by extending the stencil worked best (see below)


I liked this configuration because to me it was the most meaningful; I could imagine the figure standing in a walkway of a high rise block, with the top of the head and areas below the knees obscured by concrete and just the centre area of the body visible.

Rather than use a blank, white piece of paper, I decided to rework sample 1 from project 1, exercise 3 (see below):


As well as wanting to use the lovely background texture of this sample, I recalled the figure drawing class where I had drawn the original image. Other exercises involved creating ghost-like effects by working multiple images one on top of each other (see below), which is what made me think this overlaying approach would work. The concept is developed further in pages 40 and 45-50 of my sketchbook)


I cut out my stencils from blank newsprint, and I laid each on top of my printed paper to see whether I preferred the positive of the negative.

It was my intention to use some opaque white Akua intaglio ink, so the white paper gave a good idea of what the finished print might look like. I preferred the dark figure and light background because it felt more shadow-like and therefore easier to relate to.

Never having used the white intaglio ink before, I was not sure just how “opaque” it was going to be, and I hoped that some of the background colour would show through my print. I inked a perspex plate with the neat ink and laid the stencil on top before laying on the paper and taking the print in the intaglio press. The result is shown below:

There are so many aspects of this print which I love; the overall feeling is one of mystery, as if we are looking at the shadowy figure through frosted glass. The white ink has partially covered the background, but is not the same colour white as the original paper, and so blotchy areas persist across the whole surface. The feint lines of the previous figure print suggest creases in clothing. This is my reading of the image, but each viewer will have their own interpretation, made possible by the lack of detail on the figure, and the suggestions made by the printed marks.


SAMPLE 2: Figure stencil, 130gsm Snowdon cartridge paper, Akua intaglio ink

I decided that I would rework sample 2b) from project 1, exercise 3 (see below). This was the ghost print after a back drawn monoprint had been taken from the plate.

First, I tried reusing the inked plate from sample 1 above for a second print. I removed the stencil and used the plate to print over the image. However, their was very little white ink left on the plate and the result was just a fine white outline where the stencil had been. This can be seen faintly to the right of the original outline (see below):

I decided that I would have to ink the plate again, and that white ink would be too pale to give a proper contrast with the background. Although I used the same stencil, by inking my plate in a darker colour (blue), I got the effect of a negative image (i.e. the figure was pale and the background was dark) – see sample 2a) below:

Although I love the white lines on the figure (again suggesting texture of clothes) overall I feel that it is not as successful as sample 1. For me, this is because I expect a figure with a lack of detail (silhouette) to be dark and shadowy and in the background, and there is a conflict with this figure being light and suggestive of being in the foreground.

Having completed this first sample, I thought I would extend the exercise by seeing what other interesting prints I could pull from the plate and stencil.

First, with the stencil still stuck to the inked plate, I laid some strips of etching scrim across it and took another print with the press (see sample 2b) below:

There is no detail from the fabric other than it’s outline, which I feel tends to confuse the silhouette of the figure. For this reason it is not my favourite print. However, I would probably keep it in case I thought of an opportunity where I could develop it by adding another layer of print or embellishment.

Next, I lifted the stencil and the scrim from the plate and took a third print (see sample 2c) below:

Although feint, this image has some lovely delicate features, such as subtle tonal variations between the areas of bare plate, paper stencil and fabric, and the detail of the fabric weave itself. There is also a darker line around the edge where the paper stencil was placed, providing a soft outline. The image has a ghostly quality, again invoking a sense of mystery.

Finally, I took the stencil and flipped it over on a piece of scrap paper to expose the inked surface. From this I took a final print (see sample 2d) below:

This image still retains textural detail where the scrim was placed during sample 2b). Personally, I don’t like this image quite as much as 2b) because it lacks the detail of the inked plate and residual marks of the scrim, which I feel add to the interest of the print.


SAMPLE 3: Fabric scraps, 130gsm Snowdon cartridge paper, Akua intaglio ink

My felt that samples 2b-2d lacked impact, and my preference would have been for them to have been bolder and the fabric weave more noticeable. However, these were ghost images taken from a plate which had already been used to produce a primary image, so I wondered whether I might get stronger results had I not already taken a print. The primary aim of this sample was to answer that question. I wanted also to understand what results I could get by using different types of fabric as stencils (see pages 42-43 of my sketchbook where I explored the concept of using fabric as a stencil for the figure prints)

I started by inking a plate and placing a selection on scraps of interesting textured fabric on top, including scrim, lace, burlap and irregular metallic mesh.

With the exception of the metallic mesh (where there was a slight ingress of ink), the ink did not penetrate through the weave and the scraps of fabric acted as solid stencils (see sample 3a below):

At the bottom of the print is the burlap, which made a lovely embossed pattern. I am drawn to the bold simplicity of this area and the contrast between the large blocks of white and the tiny thin threads at the edges of the shapes which have also acted as a mask to the ink. 

After I had carefully removed each scrap of fabric, I took a second print from the plate (sample 3b). This time I got a contrast of tones between the background of the printing plate and the areas which had been masked by the fabric. 

I was hoping for some strong impressions of the fabric textures. Burlap gave a very strong and striking print and the lace a feint one, but the texture of the scrim and metallic mesh were barely discernible. To understand this properly, I would have to do a series of experiments with different paper and ink combinations, to see how these variables might influence the print quality. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time (printmaking is a technical as well as an artistic discipline and one could spend I lifetime acquiring knowledge and experience).

Next, I took the fabric swatches, and flipped them over onto a scrap piece of paper on the print bed (sample 3c). The resulting print was very detailed, with all the fabric textures being replicated extremely well right down to the finest detail of single threads. In the case of the burlap, the “hairiness” of the cloth is also apparent, with prints of tiny loose fibres in the negative space between the weave.


SAMPLE 4: Burlap fabric figure stencil, 130gsm Snowdon cartridge paper, Akua intaglio ink

Following on from my experiments in sample 3, I decided to use the burlap fabric as a stencil, because it was the textile which had given the most bold and striking results on all three prints.

My burlap fabric was a wide “ribbon” made for floristry use, but it was unfortunately not wide enough to accommodate the complete stencil. As a consequence, I had to truncate parts of the strips which framed the top and bottom of the figure. In order to get the whole figure on the stencil, I also had to cut it out off the straight of the grain (see below):

The first print I took is show below (sample 4a):

I love the embossing from the burlap and the mask in the background which arose from loose fibres becoming displaced after cutting (detail below).

The edges of the mask look like edges of torn paper – another appealing characteristic, which I feel adds texture and softness to the print. I am less happy that the stencil is incomplete and that the figure shape could not be cut out precisely. I had an idea for developing this sample which I have expanded in my sketchbook (page 45) based on back drawing into the stencil area.

I used tracing paper to get an idea of how I could use back drawing to enhance the image (see below):

I think that the contrast between the bold smooth lines of the back drawing and the rough informality of the stencil outline are very strong visually. I decided to go ahead and add the backdrawing to my print, as shown below (sample 4a):


In hindsight, I should have known that the backdrawn lines would not show up against the dark blue background. One way of compensating for this would have been to run a print of white opaque ink over the whole print and allowing it to dry before attempting this backdrawing. This would have had the effect of making the background paler (see sample 1). When I did the backdrawing, I used a graphite stick to make the thick bold outline and the point of a cocktail stick to draw in the clothes. This worked well to give me the two different thicknesses of line which I wanted. An added benefit of the embossing was that it has picked up some of the smudges of the backdrawing to add texture to the print – a lovely subtle feature, suggesting textiles worn by the figure. 

As well as engendering a feeling of shadow and mystery, the two displaced images also make me think of the issue of identity; of being comfortable (or not) in one’s own skin. Another interpretation might be deja vu, or perhaps a feeling of social awkwardness, loneliness or being physically displaced. One of the strengths of this image is it’s multiple readings.

Next, I carefully peeled away the burlap and took another print from the plate (see sample 4b below):

The detail of the fabric and the tonal differences are beautiful; there is so much textural interest in this print.

I thought about using it for a backdrawing as I had the initial print, and developed the idea in my sketchbook (see page 45). Below is one example:

From my experience with sample 4a, however, I knew the back drawn lines would not have shown up due to insufficient contrast, so I decided to keep the print as a reference. Next time if I use a lighter ink initially I will be able to successfully back draw over it.

Using the stencil from sample 4a, I flipped it over so that the inked side was uppermost, placed it on some waste paper and took another print (see sample 3c below):

I decided that the image as it stood, was too vague and simplistic, and would be enhanced by emphasising certain parts of the outline using backdrawing. I wanted to add shading to remove the suggestion that the shape on top of the head was a hat and to emphasise certain parts of the negative space. I made several sketches of alternative ideas (see sketchbook page 47) and also thought about using either opaque or semi-transparent inks.

On this occasion, I used opaque Mars black for my backdrawing. As for sample 4a, I used a graphite stick and pointed end of a cocktail stick to transfer the ink using the backdrawing method. Above and and below the figure I used my fingers to press down and transfer marks/shading. To the left of the figure I used the edge of the graphite stick to transfer ink in a way which looks very similar to graphite stick shading. To the right of the arm are smudge marks associated with the pressure of my hand when I drew the outlines.,

I find that the variety marks and variation of tone make this image work well. It is also easily readable as a figure. Emphasising the negative space helps give the image a three dimensional quality, whilst the burlap texture reminds me of a metal mesh, perhaps suggesting an industrial setting, prison, or detention camp. The bright side of the image to the right suggests that this is where the light is coming from. This is the direction in which the figure is facing, perhaps looking to freedom, hope or a new horizon. The grey tones of this image are soothing and contemplative and overall it has a passive, reflective feel.

Finally, I just had to take a print from the inked plate which I had used for the backdrawing on sample 4c. However, before I did so, I used a paper towel and cotton buds and the edge of a credit card to remove ink from the background (thereby creating different textures and emphasising the negative space). This sample should really belong in project 1, exercise 1, because it is composed entirely of reductive process. However, it is included here because it was a logical progression from the figure stencil prints.

I love the soft tonal reductive work of Degas and the simple monoprint lines of Matisse. This print draws from both those influences. It is bold, simplistic (the figure), and yet complex and textural (the background). I think it works because it is interesting without being over detailed (see sample 4d below)



SAMPLE 5: Bamboo leaf and newsprint stencils, 130gsm Snowdon cartridge paper, Akua Intaglio ink

I wanted to do a series using plant material as a stencil, inspired by the collagraphy of Brenda Hartill, whom I had researched for my contextual studies. 

With most branches still bare, early Spring was not the best time to gather leaves. There are also very few of lovely seedpods and husks which are abundant in Autumn. Nonetheless, I managed to find some evergreen bamboo.

For added interest, I tore strips of plain newsprint to lay horizontally across the inked plate. I then laid the bamboo frond onto these strips, so that the paper stencil prevented some of the leaves from touching the plate.  

This sample was entirely materials led. It wasn’t planned from any sketchbook work – I just foraged for interesting materials and experimented with strips of paper stencils until I found a composition which I liked.

Working with Akua intaglio ink, I tried to make my plate more textural this time. In previous samples, I had inked the plate with a rubber roller, which gives a smooth, uniform covering. This time, I used the rubber roller, but purposely added colour without thoroughly blending, working in different directions to give a variable coverage of ink. The inked plate is shown below:

Below is the first print I pulled from the plate (sample 5a):

Both the paper and the bamboo have acted as solid stencil and there is some lovely embossing from the bamboo stem. This is an image which could easily be overlaid with additional prints, or perhaps used as a base for backdrawing or stitching. 

Next, I removed both the paper an bamboo stencils and took a second print from the plate (sample 5b). This print is very beautiful because of the exquisite detail of the leaves and stem. In fact it is much more visible when printed than simply looking at the leaf.

Next, I removed the leaf frond from the inked plate, and replaced the the paper stencils which I had removed for sample 5b, flipping them over so that their inked side was uppermost. I took a third print (sample 5c):

Because the newsprint is so thin, the pressure of the strips going through the intaglio press on the first print has transferred all the detail of the bamboo leaves onto them. In this print it means we have a strong but fragmented image of the plant transferred from the paper strips and a very subtle background print (because this is the third print from the plate without re-inking).

I love the composition of the three strips covering just over half of the paper and the other part being a feint image of the same subject. There is a sense of imbalance which is intriguing.

There is also a sense of distance, with the three strips being in the foreground and the rest of the image being further away (as if shrouded in mist, perhaps?). This three dimensionality makes the print interesting in it’s own right, but also as a candidate for further development. I can imagine folding the paper, and if it were printed on fabric, then pleating. Joining with other materials could be used to provide contrast; perhaps a opaque smooth material (but not shiny) in chromatic grey (unfortunately, I do not have the time or sketchbook space to follow all these ideas through, but I am recording them here for future reference). 

Next, I took the perspex plate and re-inked it using a darker colour. I then took the bamboo frond which I had used previously and flipped it, so that the inked side was uppermost. Because it had been used with the paper stencils, however, only part of the leaves were inked. The result is shown below (sample 5d):

Because the bamboo frond has been used, there is embossing from the stem. I like the two colour effect and the fact that some of the leaf print extends over the frame of the perspex plate. As a stand alone image it is striking and engaging.

Next, I removed the bamboo frond from the inked plate, flipped it over, placed it back on the plate before taking a second print. The result is shown below (sample 5e):

Although this is a single colour print, it is perhaps the one which best captures the fine detail of the leaves and stems, and for this reason I like it very much. The plant is the star, and the complexity of it’s construction is offset by the single colour and subtly different tones.

My final print using the bamboo is shown below (sample 5f):

I flipped the bamboo frond again and placed it back onto the plate. Similar to sample 5b, there are shadowy prints in the background and bold prints in the foreground. There are white areas where the tips of the bamboo leaves did not touch the ink in the previous pull. It is just as beautiful as the previous print, but slightly more complex. What I like is that all the marks are related because they are made with the same bamboo frond. This gives harmony and a sense of togetherness to the image.


SAMPLE 6: Dried grass stem, 130gsm Snowdon cartridge paper, Akua intaglio ink and liquid pigment

I wanted to extend the work I had done in sample 5 by seeing if I could combine the plant stencilling technique with reductive techniques and drawing using the Akua needle nib and liquid pigment. 

First, I inked a perspex plate by brushing on Akua intaglio ink and used a paper towel to remove ink in the areas that I intended to draw on the flowers. Next, I loosely sketched lilies from memory using akau liquid pigment, directly onto the same plate. I laid the plate on the bed of the intaglio press and placed grass stems on top. The print which I took is shown below (sample 6a).

I like the mark-making in this sample. The lillies have a lovely loose spontaneity about them and the intentional texture from the background brushwork is also pleasing. Because this is the first print, the shape of the grass stems appear as a resist, suggesting they are in front of the image and adding depth and interest. For me, it is analogous to a photograph where the focus is on the lillies, and the grass stems appear out of focus in the foreground; the decision has been taken to only provide visual detail to the lillies. The viewer is left to interpret the grass stems as they wish.

The only aspect of this image which I do not like is the colour scheme. The pink I have used feels slightly sickly and rather kitsch.

Next, without re-inking the plate, I removed the grass stems, turned them over and placed them inked side uppermost. The ghost print which I took is shown below (sample 6b):

This image is more subtle, with a powdery or misty feel and an added layer of tone/depth. The detail of the grasses is now visible, so the image is more prescriptive.

These two prints almost make me want to introduce another layer – tissue, stitching, a semi-transparent photograph? Any additions, however would have to be made without causing the image to become confused or muddled. Another option might be to expand small areas or particular interest and enlarge them – maybe to make a set of square tiles, related by colour and mark. These could be joined with a contrasting material, either as a flat panel or make into a three-dimensional polygon. I have thought about some ideas on page 53 of my sketchbook.




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.

Part 4, Stages 2&3, Project 1, Exercise 2 – Drawing onto the printing plate

21 March 2017

Project 1, Exercise 2 – Drawing onto the printing plate

The second exercise focused on using colour to make a simple monoprint image by drawing onto the printing plate. However, it also included using some of the mark-making techniques learned earlier in the course to create texture. 

Initially I kept to using 130gsm Snowdon cartridge paper (because by keeping the paper consistent, I could understand how different printing inks behaved). I used a simple image from my (sketchbook page 35) as inspiration, which allowed me to explore texture and by using different mark-making techniques. I did’t worry too much about recreating the image accurately – I just wanted to use the idea as a simple template.



SAMPLE 1: Akua liquid pigment, perspex plate

In my previous samples, I had been reluctant to use the perspex plate with the intaglio press incase it damaged the blankets (they are expensive!). However, I decided I would try and make sure that I packed the printing table out with plenty of newspaper to reduce the risk of damage. It was easier to use than acetate, in that it can be more easily cleaned and reused without being bent and damged. It is also rigid during transporting from my inking table to the press (which is in another room).

I used the liquid pigment by placing a few drops onto the printing plate in the approximate location required. In the foreground, I rolled on the ink using a soft rubber roller, and obtained a good coverage. I then worked into this area To add the detail of the furrows in black ink using a brush. 

I didn’t have an appropriate colour for the sky, so had to use violet (I only purchased three colours to try – black, yellow and violet). Instead of using a roller, I brushed this pigment across the plate using a decorators’ brush. The result was that the paint ‘parted’ away from the perspex and did not form a solid continuous layer. This was acceptable for a ‘sky’ texture, and I added to the effect by dabbing off some of the violet paint to form ‘clouds’.

Finally, I painted in the tree lined horizon in black Akua liquid pigment using a fine artists’ brush. It was difficult to get coverage and to control the ink to make fine marks because it was so runny.

My finished print is shown below. I used dry paper.

Because the perspex was several millimetres thick and because I didn’t have a jig to hold the plate in place on the print-bed, it moved during printing – the result being that the print was crooked on the paper. 

As a general observation, I felt that the ink was too fluid to get the coverage and create the marks which I wanted. Akua liquid pigment has been formulated especially for monoprinting, so I referred back to the company’s website so see where I might be going wrong (Speedball Art products, 2017). I discovered that I should actually have laid down several layers of ink, allowing them to “air dry” for a few minutes between each application to build up solid, overall coverage and to obtain a thicker ink for brushwork.

As well as the success of the printing technique, I also thought about how the image made me feel. The feeling I get from this print is one of dark foreboding, due to the black silhouettes of the trees on the horizon and dark shadows in the furrows. This is reinforced by the “heaviness/thickness” of the marks. It is as if a thunderstorm is approaching and yet there is a “sunset” in the sky and light wispy clouds. The colours and textures in the foreground are somewhat at odds with those in the sky and as a consequence the image suggests contradiction.


SAMPLE 2: “Lawrence” brand oil-based relief ink, acetate sheet

I have a good stock of “Lawrence” oil-based relief ink because of it’s versatility; being for all types of relief work, including printing onto fabric. The company’s website states that it is also suitable for monotypes (T N Lawrence & Sons Ltd, 2015), however the ink comes out of the tube extremely “tacky”. A phone call to the manufacturers indicated that the “extender” that they sell would simply increase the transparency without making the ink more fluid, and they suggested I try thinning with linseed oil. This is the method that I used to make the ink mixable and suitable for application by brush. In general, I found that I needed 2 or 3 times the amount of linseed oil to ink, to make it a suitable consistency (this was in contradiction to the course notes which suggested only adding a few drops, to avoid the ink bleeding into the paper).

I used dry 130gsm cartridge paper and made the print on the intaglio press (see below, sample 2a):

There are some pleasing effects, especially in the sky (where I dabbed off the ink using a paper towel). I used the end of a paintbrush, as well as the paintbrush bristles to remove ink from the foreground. The use of both addative and reductive processes togather is a technique which was employed by Degas, and which I have discussed in my contextural reserach.

Compared with sample 1, the colour scheme makes this print feel calmer to the viewer. However, there is movement implied by the texture of the clouds and the displaced earth of the furrows which gives this print a lively, uplifting feel. 

The main problem with this print is that the black ink I used to paint the horizon was thinned too much (as evidence by the fuzzy tree-line and overspill of ink on the right of the print). I think it will take practice to get the correct consistency of ink, especially as viscocity is dependant not just on the brand/type of ink but also the colour/pigment.

I took a second print from the plate to make a ghost image (sample 2b, below):

Although not crisp enough to be used as a print on it’s own, it would be interesting to use it as a background for further printing, or perhaps back-drawing (with the necessary registration). There is something very pleasing about the subdued nature of this print which is suggestive of softness which gives it a relaxed feel (a viewer might imagine due to low cloud or gentle mist).

Note: The messy ink on the right hand side is because of ink on the print-bed from the first impression. I should have replaced the paper packing with a clean sheet which would have prevented this issue.


SAMPLE 3: Akua liquid pigment, acetate sheet

This sample revisits sample 1, applying several layers of akua liquid pigment using a mixture of brush and rubber roller. As the website suggests, I waited several minutes for each layer to ‘airdry’ between applications (Speedball art products, 2017).

In an attempt to make the image more realistic, I mixed an orange sky colour from violet and yellow. I worked the field and sky simultaneously before adding the field texture using black akua liquid pigment applied by brush. I removed ink to represent cloud texture and added tree line detail using the “wide” akua plastic needle applicator. Below is a photo of the plate on the intaglio press ready to print:

The finished print is shown below:

I would have been pleased with the result, had it not been for the “smear” of tree line detail which ruined the print. I thought about why this might have happened:

  1. There was insufficient time left for the tree line to ‘air dry’ before printing
  2. The nib of the needle applicator was too wide for the application
  3. The pressure on the intaglio press was too great.
Because the other elements of the print had not smudged, I decided that no. 3 was unlikely to be the only cause. I needed to do some experiments using a narrower applicator and different drying times (see sample 4).

Despite the disappointing tree line, the detail of clouds and field texture is very good. However, in future, for ease of use, I would be inclined to use Akua intaglio ink for large areas, rather than have to apply 4 or 5 layers of liquid pigment, saving the liquid pigment for working the detail (in this case the field texture and tree line). Both inks are compatible and are designed to be used together, however, at present, I only have one colour of intaglio ink (carbazole violet).

Visually, the image invokes a similar response to that of sample 1, with the sky colour appearing almost violent and confrontational. I prefer the finer detail and more varied mark-making which I achieve in the foreground because I feel this makes the image more engaging (the field being the largest part of the image compositionally).


SAMPLE 4: Akua liquid pigment, needle applicator, acetate sheet 

This sample is my series of experiments to determine why the smudging occurred in sample 4. I worked a series of lines on an acetate plate, this time with the finest needle applicator (red, steel-tipped). The inked plate before the print was taken is shown below:

When I took the print, I reduced the pressure on the roller of the intaglio press from that I had used in sample 3. The results show that there was no obvious difference between drying times of the lines (which ranged from 5 to 20 minutes), or whether the lines were worked straight onto the acetate or on top of a solid area of colour.

The only smudges are where there is a pooling of ink on the original plate – there is no correlation between drying time and clarity of line. This means that I can confidently proceed with using the fine applicator, reduced press pressure and a minimum of 5 minutes air drying before taking a print.

Because all the prints were successful, I suspect that the main reason for my difficulties with sample 3 was down to insufficient time allowed for air drying. However, I would need to do further experiments with the “wide” plastic needle applicator to verify this.


SAMPLE 5: Painterly monoprint using Akua intaglio and liquid pigment

Whilst I was waiting for my purchase of additional colours to arrive in the post, I thought about a new idea from a sketch which I could translate to monoprint using the limited colour palette which I had available. I decided to raid my fruit bowl and make some still life studies of a pomegranate, lemon and garlic bulb (see page 33-34 of my sketchbook).

Using what I had learnt from the previous samples, I first worked some Akua intaglio ink on a printing plate, mixing it with intaglio blender until I achieved a consistency suitable for brushing on the background. I worked the background first, leaving a space for the fruit. I worked two layers, aiming for an opaque even coverage around the fruit and textured brushwork near the edges of the plate.

I worked the lemon in yellow and yellow/black mix liquid pigment, working two layers and “stippling” the surface with my paintbrush to replicate the texture of the lemon skin. The pomegranate was similarly worked by brushing on several layers of violet liquid pigment with accents of yellow.

For the garlic, I left most of the shape empty, working some shading using very dilute black akua liquid pigment which I had thinned with extender. When dry, I used full concentrate black liquid pigment in a needle applicator to draw in the lines.

The inked acetate plate is shown below:

The first print taken from the plate is sample 5a), shown below: I was really pleased with the amount of detail which I had been able to achieve. I waited about 15 minutes to allow some time for the acetate to air dry before taking the print using the intaglio press with 130gsm dry Snowdon cartridge paper. 


Despite being generally happy with the print, I do prefer the bolder colours and stronger image of inked plate! I need to get in the habit of remembering that all the brush marks and impurities are going to be emphasised in the print, and adjust accordingly.

Because the inked image was still quite strong, I took a ghost print using the same dry paper (sample 5b):

Although feint, it has some interesting new qualities, such as the blotches of violet intaglio ink in the background. I like both prints, mainly because of the different textures of the varied mark making I have used; coarse and fine brushwork, stippling and the needle applicators. Although initially, I preferred the ink plate to the prints due to it’s boldness and brighter colours, there is a “gentler” quality about the prints which I am beginning to appreciate.


SAMPLE 6: Monoprinting an outline drawing using Akua liquid pigment and needle applicators

Development work in my sketchbook (page 29) suggested that I could use an outline from my figure drawing to make an interesting direct drawning mono print. Using what I head learnt from samples 3 and 4, I placed the drawing on page 30 of my sketchbook under a sheet of acetate and traced the outline using black Akua liquid pigment and a needle applicator. I was careful to work from left to right, so as not to smudge the plate (I am right-handed), having already made this mistake during a previous attempt at the drawing! The inked plate is shown below:


Despite leaving the acetate to air dry for 20 minutes before taking the print, I was surprised to find “dots” where the ink had pooled each time I initiated a line (see below): these dots mark the points where I started each line. 


Although this was not the effect I had envisaged, it does add an interesting quality to the line (I’m not sure why it happened because I was careful to “blot” the tip of the needle applicator before starting each mark)


SAMPLE 7: Reworking from a “mistake” in sample 6

As I mentioned, my first attempt at drawing the figure in sample 6 onto the acetate was smudged because I forgot to work from left to right. I tried to wipe away the mistake with a damp kitchen towel, but when I went to redraw the line, the acetate was slightly moist and the line bled (see below):

Instead of discarding this attempt, I decided to rework it using coton buds to soften any lines which were smudged or shaky, and I opted to leave the area where the line had bled and see what effect it would give. The inked plate is shown below:

After waiting 15 minutes to allow the ink to air dry, I printed from the plate in the usual way. The image is shown below (sample 7a):


I have to admit to being disappointed that the shading was not bolder. I decided to try a second ghost image, but this time using wet paper. I took a piece of Somerset Satin (which has a “tooth”) and soaked it in water for 10 minutes. I then blotted it with some blotting paper before taking the print using the intaglio press. The result is much more pleasing, as can be seen below (sample 7b):

This image is starting to have more character. The different marks (including the bleed on the leg) have come out very well. Next time I would be inclined to take the first print using wet paper. Of the three prints which I have made on this subject, this is my favourite because of the character of the marks. However, I think I could go further to enhance the image, perhaps by experimenting more with intentionally letting the inked plate bleed in a controlled way, and by trying different types of paper – perhaps Japanese papers, or everyday paper such as brown parcel paper (from my contextural studies, I particularly liked the effects achieved by Paul Klee, who often used cardboard for his oil transfer prints).



Ayres, J. (1991) Monotype. Mediums and methods for painterly printmaking. New York. Watson-Guptill publications.

Drysdale Green, J. (1993) Artefects. New York. Watson-Guptill publications.

Elisha, D. (2009) Printmaking and mixed media – simple techniques and projects for paper and fabric. Loveland, Colorado. Interweave press.

Flick, B. and Grabowski, B. (2015) Printmaking – A complete guide to materials and processes. 2nd Ed. London. Laurence King.

Newell, J. and Whittington, D. (2006) Monoprinting. London. Bloomsbury.

Ross, J., Romano, C. and Ross, T. (1990) The complete printmaker – techniques, traditions, innovations. New York. The Free Press.

Speedball Art products (2017) Using Akua liquid pigments. At: (Accessed 21 March 2017)

T N Lawrence & Sons Ltd (2015) Lawrence linseed oil-based relief ink. At: (Accessed 21 March 20017)

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)