Letterpress / Workshop

Printmaking has been the basis throughout my art practice and I’m constantly returning to old methods and wanting to try some new. I have been interested in the process of letterpress for quite a while, so this semester I decided to ask the technicians to organise a letterpress workshop so myself and other students could experiment with the method.

As my practice is text based, i discovered letterpress through my research. I haven’t seen a print created by letterpress in person before, so this was an opportunity to finally see it. For this session we were asked to write a haiku, so we could use this to make our prints. Haiku is a short poem from traditional Japanese decent, and it consists of 3 lines of text; the first and third lines are 5 syllabubs and the second middle line is 7, below is the haiku I wrote in connection to my work:

Look into my mind
Where the darkness wreaks havoc
it consumes my life

Going into the session, we were then asked to cut our haiku’s down, for the sake of the small amount of text the vice can hold and it also was to make our texts more to the point and evocative, so what I ended up printing was:

M I N D . .
Darkness wreaks havoc
Life consuming.

The next step was to decide a font, I used 18pt Perpetua; a very small text, reflective of the aesthetic of a typewriter. Now it was time to compose our pieces of text in the vice, making sure the letters were all backwards so it would print the correct way, and finishing the vice by using blank metal blocks, to assure the type wouldn’t move when being printed.

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Below are images of my completely set text in the vice:

The next step was to remover the blocks from the vice, and place them inline on the letterpress printer, inside the metal frame. Then, just like the vice, packing out the empty space with metal bars and compressing the entire frame together so when ink is applied and then printed, nothing would move out of place.

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Illustrations of the Letterpress process from the mentor.

We then each printed 2 pieces on thin white paper and also a warmer cartridge paper, the process of loading the paper and then rolling the machine that took the paper and pressed it onto the inked type was simple to do but the technical aspect of it is difficult to explain, so below is a video I found online, showing the letterpress printing process:

The Outcome:

I really enjoyed the entire process, it felt and looks very industrial with the metal type and machines. However, i’m not entirely impressed with the outcome, i feel it looks too simple; as though it has been printed through a computer. I think the detail can only be seen in person, with the slight impression it makes on the paper, but the process of making the haiku, setting the type in the vice and printing is the highlight of letterpress. I thoroughly enjoyed this workshop, but I feel the outcome is not correct for my practice.

Embossing / Workshop

Embossing is a process I have been interested in for a while now, but it has only recently been available at our print studio’s at uni. The embossing technique uses compression form weight and air suction, to create an impression on paper that is a relief of the object you place beneath the paper.

For this, I laser cut text from acrylic sheet, creating 2 sets of text; one for embossing which is the rectangular piece, and one for de-bossing ; the individual acrylic letters.

Acrylic for embossing:

Acrylic for de-bossing:

The first technique i tried was embossing, which created a raised text effect, by pushing weight down onto the acrylic rectangle and suctioning air upwards beneath the letters. I used both wet and dry paper for this, the wet paper meant the text would be more raised as the paper is more pliable.

Embossing – Dry paper

Embossing – Wet paper

 

I then used the individual acrylic letters to experiment with de-bossing. I firstly had to apply spray mount to the letters and set them onto paper in place, so the text was in-line. De-bossing is the same technique as embossing, but prsses the text down into the paper, instead of raising it. Again, I used both wet and dry paper, but the wet paper made a heavier impression.

De-bossing – Dry paper

De-bossing – Wet paper

I really enjoyed this process, and i’m impressed with the outcomes, I prefer the effect of embossing, but i’m not happy with the rectangular frame, so I would need to increase the size of the surface next time. Obviously this was an experiment, so the prints aren’t perfect – the spray mounted letter stuck to the paper and tore it slightly, the pressure was too much which resulted in the tearing of the letters and the marks on the prints are a result of the burnt edges of the acrylic, which I need to remember to clean next time around. But I can see the technique in person now, and return back to the print room to use the embosser solely.

 

Cyanotypes of ‘Where is my mind?’

I have been wanting to get back into the print room, as printmaking is my passion and I haven’t used in my practice in a while, so I decided to get back by firstly using Cyanotype.

The process for cyanotype is great, and I love seeing my designs as negatives, in order to expose them, so the final outcome is the correct way around. The outcome of cyanotype is always different, and only when it’s finished, you can see if it has been done correctly or not – so there’s always an element of risk involved, which is fun.

I used my prints from Fringe Aesthetics, as my designs to print. I used these in order to see them in a different way, I think making the same design with a different process or colour can bring a lot of perspective and new ideas. Below are my outcomes:

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I’m please with my final prints, it’s nice to see the original prints on a smaller scale but still having the same amount of detail. The cyanotypes of my prints made me see them as more medical, perhaps the academic history of the blue print is why, or seeing them to a correct size, that a doctor would print a brain scan.

Although, I did cyanotype for the purpose of the process and outcome, the aspect that stood out to me was in fact the negative print outs, used to cast the images on the the light sensitive coated paper. They really resemble brain scans and x-rays to me, as that’s what they have basically become – I intend to use these as points of reference in order to take them bigger and develop my prints further:

 

Something Blue / Preparation for ULTRA exhibition

I am part of an upcoming exhibition at Bloc projects in a few weeks, titled; ULTRA. The connective theme for this show is all the works produced by the 5 artists involved, is to be the colour blue.

It’s clear from my blog, that I rarely use colour and my normal palette is black and white, so using blue in my work was quite difficult as there is no connection to my context of mortality and fear.

From this, I decided to use this artwork and exhibition to experiment with the record idea, in the hopes that I would finally conclude whether to push my work to be reflective of brain scans or vinyl records.

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I have used a mixture of dark navy blue and a lighter, more electric blue. I have used these colours from a reference image of a limited edition clear blue splattered vinyl, so the suggestion of ‘one-off’ and speciality comes through from the piece.

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Vinyl record I used as a reference for my print.

I have printed on acetate, so it will look slightly shiny on a wall, but still clear – as though it is printed onto the wall, without doing so.

The finished outcome:

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I have used Metallica’s song, Fade to Black, in the print, which is a song about death and one i used in my previous prints. The paint is a mixture of PVA glue and acrylic paint, to achieved a shine on the print so it would suggest a vinyl record and i’m really pleased with this combination and how it looks on the acetate, I feel this is an improvement from the paper i have used previously.

I’m still really unsure on my thoughts toward this piece, I really like how it looks and the textures but as for the context of the vinyl record, I feel a disconnect and the pieces where I am investigating the brain and thoughts are stronger compared to this.

None-the-less, I am still going to present this piece in ULTRA, and await feedback from peers and tutors, even though I am sure I will not be continuing with the vinyl record influence.

 

Pushing the Record Idea

In a tutorial, it was suggested to me that I push my work to be more focused on vinyl records and music, rather than brain scans and thoughts. My tutor explained that when viewing my prints, they only saw records and the texture and lines of text screamed vinyl records.

As of right now, I am uncertain which way to take my work, so from this suggestion I experimented with the reference of vinyl records, as my practice is influenced by music and i feel this shouldn’t go unnoticed.

 

I firstly produced my own ‘vinyl record LP’. I used the LP sleeve of Nirvana;’s album; Nevermind, and used one of my favourite printing processes, Cyanotype to create the record sleeve. For the record, I produced 2 cyanotypes; one of the front of the the LP, the other of the back. I then cut and constructed them into the sleeve

With reference to my own records, I then made the record in sleeve using paper and finally placed one of my laser cut, acrylic records inside to finish the piece.

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As an object, I’m really impressed with the likeness to a real record, mine is the size of a 7″ LP. It’s a really tactile piece and it has interest, but as an artwork I don’t feel it works. This was only ever an experiment, which I hoped would inspire me further, but unfortunately it hasn’t.

 

I also produced a record with laser cut, but using blue acrylic. I also made my own label using laser cut on paper and using my own words. The idea behind this was to suggest a limited edition record, in which some of them have colour in the vinyl. I intended the idea of a ‘one-off’ piece to be portrayed.


I feel at a loss with both of these experiments and the idea of making my work about the vinyl record. My work about thoughts and looking into the brain scan reference is stronger than the influence of records, I feel a connection with my own interpretation of  CT head scans and my fears are truly realised in those works, they are more personal and the brain is a much richer reference point.

Although I am still lost, I feel more confident with the brain scan ideas and work – and doing these works surrounding records has been helpful for me to make that decision.

Cone Prints / Vinyl Record

As my work is influenced by my adoration for music, the text in some of my prints have song lyrics in them. The songs I have used are by my favourite artists and are about death which helps me understand and make sense of death in many ways. The circular motif has often been referred to as resembling a vinyl record from the shape and the circle gap in the middle.

As a means to further suggest the use and context of music in my work, it was suggested to me that I make the paint I print with, more like a vinyl record – so making the paint thicker and shiny.

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To achieve this I added PVA glue to thick acrylic paint, as when dry it would achieve a slight shine, and when printing black on black would have a subtle but very noticeable difference from the different textures.


I’m pleasantly surprised with the finished outcome, when I printed this initially, I had very low hopes for an effective finish because it was so difficult to print form the addition of the glue. However, I think the PVA and acrylic create a really heavy consistency that is comparable to the vinyl of a record, so i’m pleased with the visual of the piece.


As for the context of the music being pushed, i’m not sure this is as successful as my prints towards the CT head scans. With the head scans, I feel I can connect to an overall context, with the music lead idea, I think something is lost – maybe the anxiety I feel and the emotion I have toward death.

I think I will have to re-consider which direction I want to take my work in, and possibly re-visit this textural process.

Cone Print / Song Length

It was suggested to me that I could add subliminal context to my prints with song lyrics as the text, by expressing the length of the song through the period I spin the cone. With my other prints, I rotate the cone once so the full circle is formed, however with this experiment, I will be spinning the cone for the length of a song.

For both these experiments, I used the song ‘(Don’t Fear) The Reaper’ by Blue Oyster Cult. Below is a print, where I spun the cone from the start of the 5.10 minute song to the end, spinning the cone 81 times in total, as the paint thinned to nothing on the cone, I was simply rotating the cone, creating the slightest of blur on the previous paint prints.

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I then spun the cone for less time, and made the print only for the length of verse that features on the cone, for only 1.72 minutes, which produced a less blurred print with the text slightly more visible than the above one:

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I’m really interested in how constantly spinning the cone has created an obvious swirl image, that is not present in my original prints. These now replicate a spinning record to me, which has successfully achieved the idea of adding more of a music context to the prints, and I may return to this particular process in the new semester.

 

All photos taken by myself.