Adventures in Printmaking: Day One in the Studio

Adventures in Printmaking: 15 March, 2012, Day One, making the printing plates

At the end of February, I started a zinc plate, using the diamond scriber. It was a simple knotwork border, 6×8. It gives me approximately a 4×6 space to work up an original drawing inside the border.

Zinc plate with Knotwork border: 6x8

Zinc plate with Knotwork border: 6x8

The steel scriber from the engraving kit was easier to use, but the diamond scriber cut deeper, so I stuck with it. It occasionally stuttered and I had to carefully control curving lines. I fussed and puttered with it.

On the 12th of March, more from curiosity than focus, I picked up one of the clear acrylic plates, laid it over one of my more intricate Celtic cross patterns that I had designed for digital reproduction and I traced it onto the transparent acrylic plate with the steel scriber. I moved the acrylic plate to a sheet of black paper and went back over it more carefully with the scriber, pleased with how easy it was to make.

acrylic plate, 8x10

acrylic plate, 8x10

It should be noted at this point that if you use an acrylic sheet to make a plate, they are cheap and easy to use, but the design traced onto the plate will be reversed when you print it. I didn’t care on this one, because the Celtic cross had a fourfold symmetry. Nothing would look odd reversed. Letters are, of course, the most obvious reversal errors to make, but reversing a landscape can look odd too. Trace a design on tracing paper and flip it over to make it easy. Or reverse it in the computer and print it off reversed before putting it under the acrylic plate.

acrylic plate

acrylic plate, 8x10

On the 15th and 16th of March, I had two days off in a row from my part time job. It was halfway through the month, and I needed to get to work. I gritted my teeth and got past the voice. On day one, I finished the zinc border and started on another border with an acrylic plate. I had been planning to get another zinc plate done, but found myself tied up with a bit more work than I expected on the 8×10 acrylic piece. I had picked a very involved spiral pattern, and had blocked out a space the size of an ATC, 3 ½ by 2 ½ inches, on the plate so I could draw an original piece inside the printed border later. The complex spirals included some areas I wanted black, so I went back over them with closely spaced diagonal lines.

There is a small tool called a ‘roulette’ which operates much like a tiny pizza cutter. The wheel has sharp points on it which leave lines of closely spaced dots. Other versions may create repetitive lines, or blocks of dots. The point is, that closely spaced dots or lines create areas that hold a lot of ink, and when printed they create solid spaces of black or whatever color ink you are using. I did not have the money to invest, so I went with a more time consuming option of layering fine lines with the scriber. I knew it was unlikely to be as even as the space created by a roulette, but I was willing to go with it. Telling the negative voice to shut up so I could get some work done.

Note that in the photos of the acrylic intaglio plates, the worked areas appear white. These are the areas that will hold ink, and become the color of the ink.

By the end of day one, I had my two older linoleum block print designs, a new zinc dry point border, and two larger and more complex, acrylic drypoint designs. I also had stiff hands.

Take THAT, negative Voice.



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