This month, we continue exploring new ways to print, this time using black fabric ink and the human body.
For anyone visiting the gallery from December 4th 2020 to January 10th 2021, download and print this ‘Seek and Find’ document before your visit, to help you look closer at the artworks in the exhibition. Or, use your personal device to look at the sheet as you go through the exhibit with your family.
The printmaking techniques we will be examining this week are inspired by the work of Izabella Provan, who is one of the two artists from the Mesh exhibition.
Izabella Provan is a photographer living in Portland, Maine, who has recently won the first annual MESH prize, in collaboration with artist Gregory Kaplowitz. Her images examine poetic abstractions of the human figure, where the viewer is called on to contemplate beautiful forms and uncertain situations.
In a similar way, we will be exploring how to print with parts of the human body, as a new way of producing personalized, physical impressions using everyday materials.
The term ‘monoprints’ is used to describe single images that vary from one print to the next, which are made with printmaking techniques. Printmaking is usually a way to create several examples of the exact same image, which are artworks that are made as a multiple, but in some cases where the images are slightly different from one print to the next, we say that each example is a unique ‘monoprint’ as there are no two exactly alike.
For instance, the instructions below explain how to make a print on paper from a monoprinting plate that has been covered in ink. If you were to try making two separate but identical images using the same process, while removing the ink on the plate using your body in the same way, the final images would look slightly different as your hand would move a bit from one print to the next, and the ink removed in each case would also show a slightly different texture from one print to the next, as the inking process is inconsistent.
STEP 1: GATHER MATERIALS
- Black, acrylic water-based printing ink
- Thin paint brush or spatula
- A printing plate: smaller plexiglass surface, to produce the monoprint
- Monoprinting plate alternative: 8.5 X 11 inch acetate sheets or protective sleeves (from the office supply store)
- A brayer, or ink roller (from the art/craft store)
- Brayer alternative: small paint roller (from the hardware store)
- 8.5 X 11 inch drawing paper or coloured construction paper or fluorescent computer paper
- Rubber gloves (to keep your hands clean)
- Newspaper or other recycling paper or cardboard (to keep your work area clean)
- A large wooden spoon (to burnish, or firmly rub, the printing paper to better lift the image from the inked surface)
- Burnishing alternative: tablespoon
- Optional: spray/mist bottle containing water
STEP 2: PREPARE THE MONOPRINT PLATE WITH THE BRAYER BY COVERING THE PRINTING AREA WITH INK
Use a thin paint brush or spatula to remove fabric ink from the container and apply it directly to the monoprint plate.
If you do not have a store-bought monoprinting plate, you can make one at home by cutting down an acetate sheet or a protective sleeve that can be bought from the office supply store. Still another option would be to use an empty ziplock bag, or any flat piece of plastic or glass that has safe edges.
Use the brayer to gradually spread the ink to make a thin, even coat that is a bit sticky when you roll it. When using an acetate sheet or protective sleeve, roll the ink evenly over the entire area as this will be the surface used to make your image. Don’t forget to line your work area with newspaper first though!
If the plate has too much ink, wipe the roller down with a paper towel before re-spreading the ink into a thinner, sticky layer that doesn’t have too many visible streaks.
STEP 3: USING YOUR HAND, APPLY PRESSURE TO THE INKED SURFACE OF THE MONOPRINT PLATE TO REMOVE THE INK IN THE DESIRED AREA
Using your gloved hand, apply pressure to the inked surface so that the ink is lifted and removed from the area where you are pressing down on it. By subtracting the ink in this area, you are creating a negative space on the printing plate, that will be transferred to your paper during the printing process.
If you don’t lift enough ink from the plate on the first try, it is because you have too much ink on your monoprinting plate.
To solve this problem, either go back to STEP 2 (Roll the inked surface with the brayer and remove extra ink by rubbing the loaded brayer with a paper towel, then smooth the printing surface with a clean brayer.), or use a paper towel to remove ink from your gloved hand before reapplying pressure to the plate in the exact same spot.
STEP 4: LIFT THE INK ONTO A PAPER SURFACE BY BURNISHING IT WITH A SPOON
Move your monoprinting plate to a clean surface before carefully placing a piece of paper over the inked area in the position where you want the image to appear. Using the back of a spoon, rub down firmly over the inked area of the plate in a circular motion. Do this by moving the spoon in small circles, and glide it slowly over all parts of the plate, making sure to take extra care while adding more pressure around the edges.
When using acetate or a cut piece of plastic, take extra care to move your monoprinting plate to a clean printing surface beforehand as you don’t want any extra ink, that was left on the surrounding newspaper, to get onto your final printing paper.
Make sure to measure both the sides and top-and-bottom of your image before putting your printing paper into place.
Before finishing the burnishing process, carefully lift a corner of your paper to see if the ink has transferred properly.
If you can still see wet ink on the plate, or white areas on the paper, you might have missed some spots, so start burnishing again while moving in a different direction, for example up-and-down rather than in circles.
Again, remember to press hard around the edges, and don’t be worried if you crease the paper a little as this will ensure you pull a good result.
STEP 5: MAKE MORE THAN ONE IMAGE TO MASTER PULLING A MONOPRINT WITH THIS TECHNIQUE, OR TRY AN ALTERNATE HAND POSITION OR COLOUR OF PAPER
Your first few images should be made to test out how to best print using this technique. Notice how the hand below has an extra finger, as the hand wasn’t placed in the same spot when trying to remove extra ink in STEP 3. The sides of the print were also not burnished enough in STEP 4, which makes it difficult to see the thumb.
The open hand printed with acetate below has better results, though there was still too much ink on the plate, which should have been removed in STEP 2. The paper was also slightly crooked at the bottom.
A well printed monotype should have a deep, even black background and a clear, detailed surface where the ink was lifted from the plate.
STEP 6: SHARE YOUR WORK
If you share your work online, be sure to tag @polygongallery as we would love to see your printed results.
Join us on Saturday, December 5th in order to experiment with more printmaking techniques, while learning how to frame your prints in different ways. See you here next week!