Saturday, December 27, 2008

Fruit Alphabet Exhange Spoiler - Part 2

I started work on the actual print this week, in between snow shoveling. Dave had a bunch of MDF (medium-density fibreboard) that he said I could use, so I was keen to give it a try. He also bought me a FlexShaft for our Dremel rotary power carving tool. The FlexShaft is an extension of the tool that has a smaller diameter so that its easier to hold. It's also more maneuverable. The Dremel powers the extension piece, so you can carve easily without worrying about bumping the power control while carving, and it's lighter to use so your hands don't get tired quite as fast.

I did a few modifications to my original design. I liked the look of the crown, but then Dave reminded me that oak (Quercus species) starts with Q too, so I changed her crown to be one of oak leaves & acorns. I transferred the image to the MDF block by tracing the image with graphite paper (kind of like old-fashioned carbon paper, but less messy and much finer results). Unfortunately, the transfer wasn't quite strong enough, so I redrew the traced image with a pencil.

Then I revved up the Dremel & Shop-Vac and went to work.

Here it is inked up with the first ink colour:

I wanted to do this print on black paper, but that has its limitations. I find that the ink has to be pretty opaque to layer well. I don't quite have the patience to layer enough ink on for a purely opaque first layer, so the end result was a little grainy:

It actually looks pretty cool - kind of like stone. So, there it sat, drying, while we did more shoveling. And stuffed ourselves with Christmas fixings.

Next layer was the blue. I had originally planned on really bright, intense colours, but I changed my mind when doing the actual print; I figured that intense colours would likely be lost a little against the dark paper and grey background. So I tinted the colours down a bit.

The second layer was blue; I didn't want to remove all the non-blue elements of the block, because I'd need them later. It didn't really matter which colour I did next, but I figured blue was the easiest to create a mask for, as it represented large, solid areas on the print. I took one of the less than brilliantly printed ones and cut out the areas to be blue with an Exacto knife. I flipped the print over and masked the block so that I would only ink the parts exposed by the mask in blue.

Here's the block inked:

I thought I'd try a different registration method (why do I do my experimenting when I have to send the prints out to other printmakers?). I'm not usually very good at dropping the block onto a piece of paper, but this block, because it was thick, was easy to line up against the print and then gently lower down to the paper. Usually, I place the block on the press bed, then lay the paper on top. Using the paper on the press bed first then placing the block on top seems to work really well, at least with the thick MDF blocks. You can see that the design makes it easy for me to align the block with the print; there are carved lines that extend to the edge of the print (and block) which I can align.

Another benefit to laying the block onto the paper is that the paper doesn't get pressed into the block; so if the carving is low enough, but the brayer drops into the carved-out areas and leaves ink, then it doesn't print (yay!). You can see on this image the rough bits that are inked:

yet they didn't print:

I had to set up the block on the press with something to help keep the roller from running off the block or bumping up onto the block. I don't know that it would damage the press, but I can't imagine that it would be good for it.

Once again, the press worked absolutely beautifully. And this time I was using the Faust AquaLine inks, so I can't give any further thoughts about slipping yet. I'll try the DS inks at some point with the MDF to see how it goes. So far, the print is progressing very nicely. I have to wait a couple of days for the inks to dry before the last layer, where I'll try to do the two final colours at the same time.

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