|top + middle: image on acrylic, bottom: printed image|
It's a difficult thing, to realized you've failed. Even in your most optimistic and forgiving state of mind, a moment of failure can be discouraging. But failure is a strong and almost desperate word; one you yell to yourself at the peak of frustration. It's easy to overlook all of the valuable work leading up that moment–a million little wins forgotten in the wake of one mistake.
The other day I decided to make some monotypes (not to be confused with monoprints). I've been itching to do some printmaking and this felt like a really accessible approach, and one I'm familiar with.
To begin, I took my piece of acrylic (plexi), inked it with oil-based block printing ink, and began shaping my image by removing the unwanted ink with towels and brushes (keep in mind that like a stamp, the image will transfer backwards). When I was done, I dampened my Rives BFK with a water bottle and let it almost dry–until it was just barely damp and cool to the touch. Next, I taped my paper to the acrylic, to prevent unwanted movement, and began transferring the image by rubbing a wooden spoon and clean brayer on the back. If I were in a real printmaking studio, I would have used a press, but this should have sufficed for the simple image I was making.
The results are above. I could tell as I was working that the ink was thick and tacky–so it probably could have been thinned out. The paper was also very toothy, made obvious by the grainy way in which the ink transferred. When I lifted the print, I immediately felt frustrated and disappointed. I was hoping for something much more consistent and even in application and instead I had a blotchy mess. And, as the name suggests, it's a one chance deal. If it doesn't come out the first time, you have to start all over.
The last few things I've done with the block printing ink have been problematic, which I think has something to do with its consistency. Prior to purchasing the ink, I had been using oil paints for my xerox transfers and monotypes with much greater success, so I decided to pull them out. I grabbed a tube of cadmium red which pretty much oozed out onto the acrylic. Initially I thought, great–it's nice and wet, easy to roll with good opacity–this should print nicely. But as I tried to lift the paint and form my image, I found it incredibly difficult to maintain neat-ish edges or even remove the paint at all. I think that in the end it took me much longer to prep my image this time.
The results of my paint attempt were pretty similar to the ink–it looked more like a ghost print than a successful monotype. While I'm still not entirely sure what went wrong, I have my speculations: ink/paint consistency, paper type, level of pressure applied. At first I was ready to renounce monotyping, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that making a piece isn't just about the end result; it's about the entire process and my own experience throughout that process. Sitting there working on it was so different than being glued to the screen of a computer. The results may not be as 'perfect', but the process was much slower (in a good way), thoughtful, and emotional.
|a little glimpse at my messy (shared) studio|