Monday, March 16, 2020

Social Distancing in the Studio

With everyone hunkering down because of the Covid 19 pandemic, the studio is the perfect place to keep busy, in solitude.

I'm currently working on a piece for an upcoming group show at the Mark Twain House in Hartford, Ct. Artist members from the Printmakers' Network of Southern New England are challenged to create work based on the writings of Mark Twain. After reading a number of his quotes, one in particular spoke to me on a personal level.

"Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured."

Seems as though there is so much to be angry about these days: the state of our government, ineffective politicians, an egotistical president and now an uncontrollable pandemic. I need to remind myself to step back from things that are uncontrollable and just breath.

I found an old piece of Solarplate and decided to see if it was still usable. Turned out it worked.

Inkjet positive                   Inked Solarplate                      Proof        

At the moment, I'm approaching this as a one-of-a-kind print collage. The image is based on a shadow photographed along the beach. Waves were added along with some surface bubbles; appropriate since waves, like acid, are capable of damaging erosion.

I carefully cut out the figure and used a hole punch to create voids in some of the bubbles.

I'm not sure if I'll print a monotype plate to add color behind the figure or use a variety of Awagami Japanese papers to fill in the void. Right now I'm kind of liking the papers.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

New Year - New Challenges

My guy surprised me with a fabulous Xmas present - an Ink Jet printer. 

Whenever I've worked in a photopolymer studio setting, I've noticed that they create their film positives using an ink jet rather than a laser printer. The quality of the image always seemed spot on.

 Today I finally had a chance to do some testing with my new printer.

I created the film yesterday and let it dry over night. I was excited by the clarity of the image.

This morning I was eager to see how the film would work so didn't bother with small step-test Solarplates. I lost some of the subtle values with a bit too much exposure but liked what I saw after processing the plate; lots of detail.

I was also eager to try some Gamblin oil based ink. I was surprised to find that many workshops use oil based ink when printing their Solarplates claiming it produced a better image. Some even mix the Akua ink with the oil based.

Being a devoted Akua user, it's been awhile since I've used oil based ink and had forgotten how different it is to wipe the plate - more labor intensive. I printed on damp Arnham paper and ended up with a decent print.

For comparison, I inked the plate with Akua Intaglio soy based ink. Much easier to wipe. Same damp paper was used and I ended up with another good print.

Here are the two proofs side by side. The Akua ink on the left and the Gamblin to the right. There is less plate tone with the Akua but both inks produced a good print. I like the Akua one better but more experimenting is planned.

I think I'll continue to play around with this plate and use it for an upcoming exchange portfolio.

So, I'm off to a good start and hope to get some momentum going for a decent 2020 in the studio.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Doubling up

More experimenting with film positives today. The first trials revealed that the darker ink jet positive rendered more detail & a deeper bite to the Solarplate. What if I printed out two exact images on my laser printer and overlapped them?

Two laser prints on DuraLar film.

After carefully lining them up and weighting them down, I taped the positives together.

Print Frog holding film positives together for taping.

I exposed the Solarplate to the doubled up film positive using the same settings as yesterday. After processing it looked promising.

Exposed Solarplate.

As I carded the ink onto the plate, I could feel quite a bit of drag due to the surface texture.

I ended up with a very dark proof and much of the subtle detail was missing. Quite disappointing. I probably should have increased the exposure time since the darks were much stronger with the double positives.

Even though I overlapped the two films very carefully, the final proof had a bit of a foggy look; it the lacked crispness that was in my earlier experiments. 

Since I'm now out of Solarplates, that puts and end to my experimenting. In a couple of weeks, I'll order more Solarplates, a few Toyobo plates and some oil based inks to do a few more tests.

It was worth giving the double positives a try. I'm sure I'll eventually hit upon the perfect combination of variables.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Film Positives - Laser vs. Ink Jet

This morning was a continuation of the weekends workshop with a focus on comparison testing. Which film positive works best for Solarplate photopolymer printing... one from an ink jet printer or one from a laser printer?

Before I left Zea Mayes, I had a film positive made on their ink jet printer so when I was back in my studio I could compare that to my laser printer. The first thing I did was print the same image using my laser printer. The ink jet positive appeared much darker in comparison.

Ink Jet Film Positive
Laser Film Positive

After determining the best exposure time, I made two plates. After processing, I could immediately see a difference. The plate exposed with the ink jet positive was stronger in appearance and seemed to have more detail.

Left: Ink Jet Positive - Right Laser Positive

Ink Jet


I carded the ink onto the exposed plates using Akua carbon black intaglio ink and I could feel a distinct difference between the two plates. The one exposed to the ink jet positive had a lot more tooth, appeared to be more deeply "bitten" and obviously held more ink.

Inked Plates: Ink Jet left - Laser right

I printed on dampened Hahnemhule Copperplate paper. There was a definite difference between the prints. It was obvious that the plate exposed to the ink jet positive produced richer blacks (almost too dark in places) and held more detail.

Ink Jet


Doing this test was time well spent. I've always wondered if the two types of printers would yield different results when working with Solarplates.

As mentioned in the previous post, the type of printing ink used also makes a difference. Now I'll need to reprint the plates using an oil based ink to see how that affects the final print. What's important to me at this point, is that the type of printer used to make your film positive definitely has an impact on plate exposure and the printed image.

Prints & Film Positives - Ink Jet top / Laser Bottom

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Ink Choices

So, at this weekends workshop, the instructor preferred using oil based ink with the Toyobo plates. She felt that it yielded better results and richer color. Because I use Akua intaglio soy based ink, I had to try printing the plates using that ink.

I printed the plates on the same paper we used in the workshop: damp Hahnemhule Copperplate. This is what I found.

Initially, when I pulled the proofs, it appeared as though the prints were similar. The detail appeared intact and the color looked the same.

Oil based ink left - Akua Intaglio Carbon Black right

When I compared the prints three hours later, I found that the blacks in the Akua prints were no longer as deep and rich as those printed with the oil based ink.

Oil Based ink top - Akua Intaglio Cartbon Black bottom

The outcome was the same with both plates.

The instructor mentioned that she preferred printing with oil based inks because the Akua inks did not produce rich images and she felt the colors were weak in intensity. With my comparison experiment, I can definitely see her point. Though initially the images appeared similar, as the new prints dried, the deep blacks lost their intensity. The prints were not as crisp as those printed with the oil based inks. It was surprising because it had been awhile since I had used oil based inks and without a side by side comparison, I felt that Akua produced a strong print. I do know of one printmaker who alters his Akua inks by mixing in a bit of oil based ink; maybe that's his solution to the problem. I might give that a try next. I'm definitely going to do some more ink research.

The bottom line is that each printmaker has their own unique way of working and personal preferences so it's always interesting to come away from a workshop with helpful hints and a new perspective.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Toyobo Photopolymer Plates

Toyobo plates are similar to other photopolmer processes in that a film positive is used to create the image, the plate is exposed to an ultra violet light source and processed in a water bath. What stands out though is the level of detail and clarity they are able to capture.

Of course, the success of the plate depends on the quality of the film positive. The Zea Mayes workshop provided me with a number of good tips for using Photo Shop to create the best possible positive.

My first test plate was based on a straightforward photo of an old mannequin. The proof shows that all the subtle detail was captured. (The white streaks are scratches on the film that happened during the ink jet printing.)

My second test plate was based on a collage of images that I had manipulated in PhotoShop. I was curious to see if all of the detail would be transferred to the plate and I was really pleased to see the result. All of the values and detail that were in the original image showed up on the plate. Pretty impressive.

My next step is to order a few Toyobo plates and see if I can replicate the results in my own studio.

There are a few variables that are different from my studio to Zea Mayes. They use a different aquatint screen than I do, print their positives on a different film using an inkjet printer, and printed the plates using oil based ink. I use a Dove screen, Duralar film and a laser printer and use Akua ink. It will be interesting to see how things work out.

That's the joy of printmaking.... experimenting with new processes. I'm just happy to be able to work again.

Health Hiccups

I've had a rough time with shoulder issues and finally had to have rotator cuff surgery. Needless to say that put a hold on my studio time. Hard to work with my right arm out of commission.

Therefore, I was thrilled to take part in a photopolymer workshop at Zea Mayes studio in Florence, Ma. this past weekend. My first outing sine the surgery but I was happy to find that I was only slightly limited with arm movements.

Artist Nancy Diessner introduced the group to Toyobo photopolymer plates: how to prepare film positives, prepare and expose the plates, and print.

Nancy Diessner with Toyobo plates curing in the sun.
Zea Mayes studio was quite impressive. Wonderful work spaces. The downstairs studio was used for the workshop. Spacious and well laid out.

Inking stations.

"Clean" area for paper prep
Silkscreen room
Work stations
The second floor is reserved for member and is just as impressive.

Rembrandt press (little sister to my floor model)

Light filled studio

All in all a great weekend. Knowledgeable instructor and great classmates. It was interesting to see how the Toyobo plates compared to the Solarplates and ImagOn I use.