Wednesday, January 30, 2008

New Inks & New Ideas

Playing with new inks - Crows
Playing with new inks - Crows
Originally uploaded to Flickr

A couple of weeks ago, Dave & I were on Granville Island (with the intention of picking up my prints from the Malaspina show, which had sold). We wandered into Kroma Acrylics where they've been making acrylics since the 70's. I had been looking into using pigment dispersions with transparent ink base to create colours for printmaking, as I'm underwhelmed by the colours available to market from any of the water-soluble (non-oil-based) inks. After reading a bit about the concept on Wet Canvas, I called Art Guerra in New York to ask him about what he thought about using pigment dispersions in relief printing ink base - his website has an unbelievable list of pigments available. He didn't have any specific experience, but had some very interesting tips (such as concentrations to use) and information, so it was a good long-distance call investment.

Anyway, with that in mind, I spoke with Kevin Head at Kroma about the availability of pigment dispersions through their store. He told me they'd tried that a long time ago, and there really wasn't enough demand to make the effort economically viable (that, and the dispersions do have a shelf life, so the turnover wasn't sufficient). But he suggested that I try combining high quality acrylics, such as Kroma's, which have a very heavy pigment load to carrier ratio, with the transparent base medium, and see what happens. He recommended that at least 50% acrylic/base would be good to try, and possibly higher acrylic content, but he wasn't sure. He reckoned that the water-soluble inks would likely be acrylic based, so that the combination should work.

Well, after looking at Kroma's acrylic chart, I was stoked about the colour opportunities!! And I've used Kroma in my acrylic paintings and monotypes, and I love their paints; so beautiful to work with. I went home and ordered some AquaLine inks from Faust (because I wanted to have SOMETHING to print with in case the experiment failed), as well as a tub of AquaLine transparent base, and I also ordered the Graphic Chemical water-soluble relief ink extender (which is really a transparent base) for the acrylic experiment. In my communications with Faust & GC, I discovered that the GC water-soluble inks were, while not "acrylic", certainly similar, so I figured the GC ink base would be the best candidate.

My Faust inks arrived first, so I doodled some ideas and carved a few small blocks to play with. Today was the ink testing day! I did a few straight-forward black ink on white Masa paper, but then I had some fun.

Field Crow
Field Crow
Originally uploaded to Flickr

This one is a simple two-colour, two block print. The yellow background is the Faust diarylide yellow at full strength.

Crow Flight
Crow Flight
Originally uploaded to Flickr

This one was a bit more fun - I picked up strip of ink from the inking block with a piece of mat board and pulled the "bead" of ink down the paper (thanks Pat! This is how he tests his litho colours before proceeding with colour proofing). The mix is probably 75% base to ink. Then I printed the crow on top of that with full strength black.

Then I tried the Faust base with the acrylic. Well, I don't think the Faust base has any acrylic properties; the combination was an instant gumbo effect. Kind of cool, actually, but totally useless. I couldn't brayer it out at all, it just went sticky and tacky all over. I was somewhat disappointed, but wasn't defeated yet, so I continued to play with the existing inks for a while longer this afternoon, doing a few editions.

Finally, I picked up the GC base from the post office this evening, and tried some acrylics with it.

Trans base with Acrylic
Acrylic / ink test
Originally uploaded to Flickr

The first colour is Kroma's Burnt Sienna. The next colour is actually Golden's Heavy Body Acrylic in Cerulean Blue, although you'd never guess it from the photo. As you can see, the layering potential is spectacular. The ink mixture stayed open for at least two hours before I cleaned it up. And when I say open, I mean it remained workable, even the stuff that was brayered out on the slab, and it didn't gum up on the brayer at all. Yet the little bit of acrylic that I'd accidentally left on the slab beside the mixture was dried rock solid. So Kevin's theory worked on this base, which, I'm assuming, is sufficiently acrylic-like to not have weird interactions with the acrylic. I suppose if I used even more acrylic, the mixture would get less and less transparent (well, depending on the pigment), but I'm not sure how the workability would hold up. I'll definitely experiment more with this, but for now, I'm quite delighted with the possibilities.


jen hook said...

very cool!
I just got a tube of gc extender, I i will have to give it a go!

Anonymous said...

This is a great experiment! Acrylic paints provide SO much variety and they are SO much more cost effective.

Are you planning to put some results in direct sun for an extended period to make sure that the combination doesn't have an unintended effect, like yellowing, separation, or crackling?

How is the drying time?

I think I will try this as well. Thanks for posting it!

Unknown said...

I will eventually be putting the results in the sun (when I get some!) to see what happens. I suspect that it'll be the same as acrylics, but it's a good idea to test, yes!

So far, I've only done a couple of layers, and they dry really fast because they're thin. I'm going to be working on a 4 colour reduction, so we'll see how that goes.

K's in GR said...

I like the Faust Aqualine inks a lot. Great colors. Some *are* very tacky, but I've gotten them to work well when mixed with the base they sell.