A printmaking studio feels like a sweet shop; there are so many different techniques and processes that catch your eye. In an Open Access studio, you often see other people working on things, there's always this air of mystery, you see the image and the plate it came from and you wonder how on earth they created the image? how does that process work? and I just want to figure it out.
I feel like a magpie picking up lots of different techniques and processes over the years. There's always something new to turn my head, but there are some key techniques that have been dominant in my creative practise over the years.
Early on in my art practice, I used a lot of collagraph, having started using it at University printing on to pieces of fabric to make figurative sculptures. Collagraph is a printmaking technique where you apply collage materials to the surface of a Cardboard plate. It's an intaglio process which means that you apply the ink to surface and wipe the ink away. The surface holds onto different amounts of ink when wiped, with more being held in the grooves and rough textures, it's then put through a press with some damp paper which pushes the ink out of all of that texture and you end up with an image on your plate it is great for lots of texture.
As my work became more representational, I started to refine the process. Streamlining the materials that I used and limiting myself to a scalpel and etching needle to create lines and remove the top layers of mountboard to create line and a grey tone, I used PVA glue for highlights and carborundum powder for shadows because that grabbed onto lots of the ink. I used collagraph mainly for about ten years and dabbled with aquatint, etching, drypoint and mezzotint.
My next printmaking obsession came in the form of screen printing, in January 2018 I did a screen printing course to refresh my knowledge. I adored it, I was doing a lot of pen drawing and it meant that I could combine my drawings with layers of colour (by this point my work had become a lot more colourful) screen printing lent itself much better to the work that I was creating than the collagraph. I did combine the two processes for some pieces, scanning in collagraph plates and combining them with ink drawings to create stencils. I love to experiment.
Had it not been for the events of 2020 I certainly would still be experimenting with screen printing right now. However, I was unable to get to the print studio and access the equipment; I needed to think about a process that could do studio at home. With a small space and no press, I got myself a piece of lino and I dove straight in with a portrait, it was one layer and the one tool I had meant the lines were quite thick and hard to control. I started to get a lot more adventurous, creating reduction prints within about a week and eventually starting to cut up my plates up and reassemble them to put several different colours together.
Once I had proven to myself this was something to pursue I invested in better tools and now I'm looking at combining reduction and printing different plates together to explore the imagery and techniques in different ways. The media has really challenged me because of the printmaking process that you choose changes the style of the work and I have had to figure out how to keep the work 'looking and feeling like mine'. I have worked hard to find my voice through the lino