Tuesday, October 30, 2007


Last night I held a demonstration of relief printmaking at the Federation of Canadian Artists on Granville Island. While the turnout was pretty small (four), it did mean that everyone got to try their hand at carving. The ink was playing up (atmosphere too dry?) so I couldn't really give them an opportunity to roll up, but I think they had fun nonetheless. Everyone said they learned something, and were keen to try when they got home (apparently, all had their own lino cutter tools, ink and brayers). The most common problem that they'd had was way too much ink blobbed onto the plate, and loss of detail. Now that they've witnessed such fine inking finesse on my part (hint - that's pretty heavy irony; I'll discuss the ink disaster shortly), they have a better idea of how to tackle it again.

Showing how to carve the Safety Kut block

Participants try their hand at carving

First roll up with Speedball water soluble ink

Transferring print to paper by burnishing

The reveal - demonstrating (on purpose!) too little ink

Creating crab prints for participants, using Graphic Chemical ink
(too little ink, this time not on purpose!)

So, the ink fiasco. I had been warned that Speedball inks are finicky in certain environmental conditions (well, you just have to search the Wet Canvas! printmakers forum for "Speedball" to get an idea of the opinion there!), and while I'd had experienced it to a certain degree at home, I'd never had a complete lack of any functionality whatsoever. I definitely had that happen last night! The ink dried almost as soon as I rolled it onto the Plexiglas plate. I think that the atmosphere was just too dry, but I'm not positive what the reason was. I did have a fan blowing down on me, so that might have been the problem. Anyway, I had to switch to the Graphic Chemical ink, but I'm not yet able to get a very dark print using it with the Safety Kut blocks. I have yet to try on linoleum to see if it makes a difference, but perhaps I just have to keep layering. It's really difficult, because I am so used to Speedball that I think I must have a ridiculous quantity of ink on my block, yet it isn't dark enough. I'll have to keep experimenting.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007


I just completed a monochromatic miniature of a piece of late 19th or early 20th century farm equipment that I photographed at Luxton Fall Fair last September. I am captivated by old equipment - there is something fascinating about rusting metal, and my curiosity is always piqued by inexplicable (to me!) machinery. Dave is much more cleaver at gleaning meaning from the various valves, cogs and sprockets than I am.

On grey Rising Stonehenge 245gsm paper, image size is 10cmx10cm (just shy of 4"x4") using first Graphic Chemical water-soluble black:

and using Speedball mixed deep indigo:

I find that Safety-Kut can have good and bad sides; you'd think you'd be able to use both sides, but not always. Often the texture produced in the print is grainier on one side of the block than the other. This is a print as an example of such grainy texture. At first I thought it was the Graphic Chemical ink, because I'm not used to it, and it seemed to take a ridiculous amount more than I would have expected. But GC ink is much stiffer than Speedball, and more like a "real" printing ink, so you have to work harder to build up the layers. The ink was really "zinging" (the sound made when you pull the brayer through the ink), and I thought I was overloading it, but apparently not. I tried with rice paper as well, thinking that it was the thickness of the Stonehenge, and same problem (although I was able to get a somewhat clearer print). I think I'll try the GC ink with actual linoleum and see how it does. I also want to try this print with an actual press, rather than burnishing. Hand burnishing can produce just so much pressure; a press makes a big difference with tricky materials sometimes.

As this is a piece of farm equipment, I'll use it for our POG monthly challenge "On the Farm". I'm happy with the piece, but a little disappointed in the printing quality. We'll see if using a press makes a difference, but it'll have to wait for a while!

Monday, October 1, 2007


Last year, Dave & I visited the Powerhouse at Stave Falls in Mission. It was the power generating station for the Lower Mainland for much of the 20th century. There are many fascinating displays on hydroelectricity and power generation, and they've got a lot of the old machinery and gauges etc. in this huge generating room. The machinery definitely caught my fancy, so I have many photos from that trip for potential source material.

This print was done using the reduction cut method. I started with a cream-coloured paper (Rising Stonehenge "Cream" 245gsm), and used three colours in Speedball water-based inks: orange, rusty brown, and a dark plum brown. The final dimensions are just shy of 4"x4" (10cmx10cm)The image is a very close up look of part of one of the generators at the Powerhouse.

Printing setup (click to view larger)

First state (low light conditions make it look a bit yellow)

Second state

Final state (this one is a bit white; I think I used a flash!)

As I was working on this edition, I also did a monoprint using the various states. This piece is 9"x19"; please click on it to get a larger view.
Powerhouse Array
(colours aren't really correct - image software editing low-light exposure)

I seem to work best at night, or at least that's when I get in the groove to work. So these were printed between 7 -1130 pm last night (hence the weird light conditions). I have a "monthly challenge" from POG that I need to work on next... maybe that'll be tonight's project!