Ways of Working

I love experimenting in the studio and will draw on many different processes to make my art but printmaking is my main focus. Most of the time I print onto paper but occasionally I will also print onto plaster & fabric. Paper made by pulping offcuts of paper and 'failed' prints also provides an interesting surface to print onto.

Sketching outdoors is an important part of my creative process and helps inform & inspire my printmaking and mixed media work. I often use plate making techniques in mixed media work and original prints are often incorporated into mixed media work through collage. I incorporate stitching into a number of my prints using an old Singer sewing machine.

My hand made prints on paper are totally different to giclee & other photographic reproductions confusingly also called prints! Here's an outline of the processes I go through to create a print onto paper -
  • create a plate - it could be done by etching a metal plate, building a collagraph, carving into lino or a combination of techniques
  • ink the plate
  • put the plate ink side up on the bed of the press
  • cover the plate with the damp paper I want to print onto
  • carefully place the three blankets on top of the paper & plate and wind through the rollers of the press
  • lift off the blankets
  • and even more carefully peel the paper off the plate and discover the image that has been transferred onto the paper, which is called a print....

Printmaking this way is an uncertain, exciting, frustrating and messy process with no guaranteed outcome!

I only pull a small number of prints from each plate whatever its strength - I will prepare no more than five pieces of paper to use for each plate . As each individual print is made from a plate inked and wiped by hand each print is unique.

If you are interested there is more detail below.........

I usually use sheet aluminium and a copper sulphate saline etching solution, but am also experimenting with using a simple copper sulphate solution to etch zinc. The back of the metal plate is protected by parcel tape & various soft & hard grounds are applied to the front and scratches & marks made through them to the metal surface. The plate is then submerged in the etching solution which penetrates and bites into the unprotected metal to produce an image. Often a plate will have more than one submersion with grounds removed & reapplied each time. The plate is then cleaned & polished to make it ready to use.

A collagraph plate is made from a collage of materials glued onto a support which is usually a piece of thin plywood, card or metal. I use different types of papers, fabrics, plastics, fillers, carborundum, plant materials, adhesives, paint and sometimes a even blow torch to produce an image on the plate. I usually seal the plate with a layer of shellac before printing with it. Many collagraph plates I make are fragile and have a very limited life.

I use vegetable based 'stay open' ink from a local printmaking supplier for my printmaking and much fun can be had in the choosing & mixing of colours to be used. Collagraph & etched plates are usually inked using intaglio techniques where ink is worked into the texture of the plate using a range of tools such as brushes, old credit cards & cotton buds & then carefully wiped to remove excess ink. Linocuts are normally relief inked using rollers. But I am quite happy to use rollers on any type of plate & have been known to use intaglio techniques on linocuts!

Using the press
The inked plate is placed ink side up on the bed of the press and damp paper laid on top followed by tissue paper & then is covered with the press blankets before winding it all through the rollers of the press. It is the pressure of the rollers that forces the ink onto the paper - too light a pressure & the plate doesn't print properly & too high a pressure can damage the plate.
You never quite know what you will find when you take off the blankets and carefully pull the paper away from the plate - no two prints are ever the same! Often a plate needs further work before I am happy with the prints it produces. The damp prints are carefully dried in layers of blotting paper weighted under boards to remove the moisture then hung from a drying rack for a few days to allow the inks to properly dry.

And finally......
Jurassic Coast Solar Eclipse
When the print is fully dry it is named, signed & given an edition number e.g. 2/4 is the second print of four pulled from one plate. Where I have used different colours/inking techniques for each print these are marked EU (Edition Unique) or VE (Variable Edition).

Traditionally the first print pulled from a plate is called an Artist's Proof (A/P) and any prints made before a plate is finalised can be called State Proof (S/P).

Often printing plates are not very attractive but there are exceptions and a number of plates I have created and printed with have become artworks in their own right - examples can be seen in the 'Other Work' gallery.