Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Printmaking II

On my second day of printmaking, I learned how to add colour to the prints I made the first day, and how to do chine collé. First I had to make a template that I could use for adding colour. I placed trace paper over one of my prints, drew the outline of the edge of the copper printing plate (so I would know where the edge of the print should be), and decided where I wanted to put the colour. Next I stuck clear packing tape over the trace paper so that I would have a stiff template to work with to make cutting easier. After I decided where I wanted colour (I chose red), I cut out those areas with an exacto knife. I cut out only a few small shapes in the template.

I placed the template on the copper plate and taped the edges to hold it in place. With red ink on the roller, I rolled it back and forth over the areas that I had cut out. Only a few small shapes appeared on the copper plate in red ink. I placed the plate on the press and then came the tricky part of placing my black and white print on top of the plate to print the red areas. Tammy helped me - well, she did it to show me how. We again covered it with news print and the felt pad and I rolled the press. This is what I got.

Now about chine collé (“chine” means thin paper and “collé means glue). Chine collé is method for bonding a thin, delicate paper, which is more receptive to delicate details than heavier paper) onto a heavier paper. Also, this method allows a background colour for the image which is different from the colour of the backing. You can also do collage with this method of printing.

I used one of my red prints from my first day of printmaking, cut out the image, placed it on a sheet of fine thin Japanese paper and from Tammy’s collection of wonderful papers chose two sheets from which I cut a rectangle and tore irregular forms for a collage. I assembled the pieces for a composition.

Next the pieces had to be soaked in water and sprinkled with wall paper past so they would stick on the paper when I rolled it rolled through the press. We put the cleaned plate on the press, placed the pieces of paper back the way I had originally arranged them on a thin sheet of paper, placed newsprint over it all, and then down came the felt overlay again before I rolled the press. Out came what I think is a beautiful collage. This is it.

                                          This is Tammy.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

For years I have been wanting to explore printmaking, so I contacted a fine local printmaker, Tammy Ratcliff, who agreed to give me an individual workshop. What an interesting experience! I enjoyed the process of making mono prints, and I want to see if I can describe the steps in a way that makes sense to someone who has not worked in this medium.

Tammy showed me some prints so that I would have an understanding of what would be possible. She explained a few things and then “threw” me into the work. I sat on a stool at a table that was covered with a sheet of glass. Using a tube of ink in a caulking gun, she squeezed ink onto the glass and spread it around a bit with a scraper. To coat the roller, she rolled it through the ink. I learned to roll the roller in the ink until the ink looked velvety, then I was ready to roll ink onto a 6 x 6 inch copper printing plate, back and forth to coat the plate evenly.

The next step was drawing into the ink on the plate. I experimented with different ways of making marks on the plate: pencil, Q-tips, cloth, paper towel stretched over my finger. I had wanted to incorporate words into the image, forgetting that the words would be reversed. So I tried to write backwards, which didn’t work. I wanted to write “The Word” but the “d” turned out to look like a “b” and I decided to forget about putting text into the print and just explore the medium. Then it became fun.

After I made a drawing, and tried to make different textures in the ink, I decided to try printing. The press is like a table with a glass top that has a roller fixed to it, with a big metal wheel that looks like a steering wheel on a boat. We put the copper plate on which I had rolled ink and then made marks in the centre of the glass. The cotton-rag paper that had been soaked in a container of water, went on top of the copper plate. We covered that with several layers of ordinary news print to protect the inch-thick felt pad that covered the surface of the press.

Next, it was time to turn the big metal wheel counter-clockwise to make the roller roll across the inked plate, and then back again the other direction. We lifted off the newsprint, and then lifted the print off the plate. It was time to see how my marks in the ink translated onto the paper. I had my first mono print! But that was not all. We placed a very thin Japanese paper on the plate, and printed another, which is called a ghost print. Here are some samples of my first day of printing.

Monday, August 1, 2011


I just finished reading Twyla Tharp’s autobiography, “Push Comes to Shove.” Tharp is an American dancer and choreographer. She began dancing early in life as a result of having a mother who was a musician, who pushed Twyla into dance. Her mother, who changed the spelling of “Twila” to “Twyla” because it seemed to her a name more suitable for a celebrity, decided from the time her daughter was born that she would become famous. That tells you in a nutshell the origin of the impetus for Tharp to work with an intensity and focus that did lead to her fame in the dance world.

For me the excitement of the book lies not only in Tharp’s determination and hard work to develop her dancing but also in her honesty in looking at how her personal life affected her work and how her work affected her personal life. She drew on her personal life to create dance sequences, and expanded her understanding of herself through her dance.

It was her life as a parent that took the brunt of her commitment to dance. Tharp admits that her son did not get much parenting except when he was with his friends’ families. When he was eleven years old, he told his mother that he loves her but that she’s weird and he asked to go to boarding school. Tharp was relieved because she could not give him what he needed and still do what she wanted to do in dance. (I think she was a better dancer than mother.)

The final chapter of the book is moving because of the way she ties together an amazing lifetime of work between the covers of a book. I printed out the following sentence and have it lying on my desk, reading it over and over: “How to protect and extend the lessons and beauty of that past without buying our own energies and imagination is the challenge for every artist.”