If you are in London I can thoroughly recommend the Introduction to Printmaking course at the Mary Ward Centre. It covers the basics in quite a small workshop but I think this allowed me to see what could be achieved at home without fancy antique presses at my disposal.
(Apologies for the dodgy photography.)
I couldn’t make the first lesson so I don’t actually know what I missed out on but in the second lesson we tackled monoprinting. I was a little bit scared by this method. At first I felt it was more like painting than printing and I didn’t much enjoy making the plate but actually I was quite pleased with the end result. The brief was to find a mono photograph to copy as a monoprint. As I wasn’t there for the first lesson I missed this so had to scratch around looking for images in the classroom and these speed skaters spoke to me for some reason. Although I liked the end result I wouldn’t necessarily pursue this method. For me the essence of printing is being able to reproduce an image and obviously monoprinting is a mono print. This print went missing after the lesson and I didn’t find it again until the final evening when I found it framed on the wall. It had been there for the duration of my course which I was rather pleased with.
Essentially using a polystyrene sheet to make a printing block. Apparently the polystyrene used to package pizzas is ideal if you can’t find them to buy in an art shop. The brief was to bring in lots of different objects to make marks in polystyrene so it could have been screwdrivers, beads, coins, pencils etc. Anything that would make a mark. I loved it. It was very immediate and I loved the way you could easily cut the poly to make jigsaws so you could ink up different blocks and then fit them all together before printing on the paper. You use quite a light weight paper and just place it on the block and rub over the top with anything flat. Putting it through a press would destroy the block. You can get about ten prints out of each block before it starts to disintegrate.
I made two blocks in the first session of the Tate Modern and the National Theatre. Both brilliantly easy to reconstruct in print. I then also revisited it a couple of times before the end of the course, once when I made my set of Highlands cards to say thanks to Tom for my lovely birthday weekend, and then in the final session when I recreated more London Landmarks – the Gherkin and St Paul’s. If you get a chance to sketch the Gherkin in polystyrene, do it, it’s very satisfactory.
I think this is my ultimate form of printing. I have tried it in the past but I have never got amazing results. I learnt so much just in one session about how to cut the block and how to print. Iron your lino – that is my key tip. Our homework before this session was to pick an image that was roughly 50% black and 50% white to get some good contrasting sections. I picked an image from the 1930s of an London underground station. We then had to sketch some ideas and start cutting. I found myself without really realising it working in the style of the Grosvenor School of printers. I only realised when my teacher said that really reminds me of Sybil Andrews of the Grosvenor school of printers (or something like that). I had seen some of their work in an exhibition on holiday last year and I have a calendar next to my desk so it has obviously been more of an influence than I realised.
We spent three weeks on lino and I started off with a one colour Victoria line blue print. I then cut into the block to make a second colour plate and printed on top with Bakerloo brown. Again this wasn’t a conscious decision, they just happened to be available but they are the two underground lines I use the most. I must say I am not that into the two colour jobs. It’s not just because I didn’t manage to get the registration right but I just think the one colour prints are the ones I would display on my wall.
Sort of like a poor relation to etching but much less faff so I liked it. The first week was drypoint in cardboard. I did a bit of a roman statue which was ok but I didn’t get his eye right. On the second week we used a metal plate and I decided that this technique was perfect to illustrate contours so I painstakingly drew the contours of the landscape around Fort William. Very roughly. We also used a technique called chine colle where you basically make a collage on the print so you add paper to the plate and back it with bookbinding glue before putting it through the press. I quite liked the result of the old looking print with the new OS colour map.
Making the plate is definitely more fun than printing and I will definitely be keeping the plates (top photo) rather than the prints I made from them. Actually no I will keep the prints but I will turn them over and display the nice blind embossed side rather than the muddy ink mess on the other side. I won’t be pursuing this technique. The plate is made by making a collage from stuff and basically pouring pva glue on it. The plate above is after inking and I decided not to clean it and keep it like that.
So you will definitely be seeing some more lino and polyprinting from me in the future, once I have worked through my to do list.