It’s 10pm and I’ve been printing all day, all week in fact, and I am tired tired tired, but what is worse is that I’m not much better off than I was when I wrote my last post on Monday!
I am having a huge battle with my print, although I guess I knew that it would probably turn out this way because it often does and it’s partly to do with the ‘artistic process’ generally rather than my own specific quirks. I mean, how do you decide when something’s finished? Or if it’s ‘good’? Or even if it’s good enough? Each artist has their own point when they have to stop/recognise that it’s right/realise that if they do anything else to a piece of work they’ll ruin it. I seem to keep working and working and working at it until I just can’t face doing any more. Along the way I will have had a few happy moments of thinking that perhaps what I’m doing is ‘good’ in some glimpsed-at way and more unhappy moments when I think it’s all rubbish and that I should just throw in the towel right now. It’s a bit of a roller-coaster.
The last few days have been a real roller-coaster as I’ve grappled with yet more unfamiliar techniques. Art-school aquatint theory says that it well-nigh impossible to lay one aquatint over another when using an aquatint box to distribute the rosin evenly on the plate, or at least that’s what I was taught in printmaking evening classes. But it turns out that if you use the rough-and-ready method of sprinkling rosin over your plate from a flour-shaker with muslin tied tightly around the top then you can, actually, layer several aquatints over each other to beneficial effect, so that’s what I’ve been doing. I imagine it must have looked quite funny as I sat patiently sprinkling rosin onto my plate on the back verandah, wearing my P3 face mask, and then teetered on a chair to blow-torch the underside of the plate which was suspended from the verandah roof on two wire coat hangers with one of the racks from our gas barbeque creating a shelf on which the plate could sit… I hate to think what would have happened if I’d toppled over!
Fortunately I was able to apply the aquatint, but unfortunately it wasn’t particularly successful and J ‘P for perfectionist’ Willis did point that out. I should say here that he was only articulating what I knew but had hoped he wouldn’t notice, but Willis isn’t a perfectionist screen printing artist-cum-art tutor for nothing and he noticed straight away. His advice, which is usually well worth having, was for me to bite-out the existing aquatint, thus creating a deeper line on the plate which sounded attractive, and then to re-apply the aquatint into the deeper line, thus creating a better aquatint AND a nice embossed mark all at the same time.
Sadly all did not quite go according to our plan. I was able to bite-out the existing aquatint and re-apply a new one (and believe me, this was a convoluted process involving cleaning and degreasing the plate, rolling on a hard ground using a hard roller so as to protect the flat surface of the plate while revealing the lines so that they could bite properly and having to do tricky things like stop-out the back of the plate without damaging the hard ground on the front) but… in the end the rosin dust settled nicely into the ‘floor’ of the bitten-out line, and didn’t adhere to the sides, which meant that when the line printed there was much less definition of the edges and in some places not enough aquatint to hold the ink. ^%$(*$ !!!
I am, of course, up against a tight deadline and I still have to work out how best to ink and wipe the darned plate, but now I’m going to have to re-make the plate (and try to salvage this version by re-aquatinting it again in the very faint hope that things might improve), from scratch. Drat and tarnation, I say. And now I have to clean up which is NOT my favourite part of printmaking.