Q&A with Clayton Tremlett

‘Originally I studied as a painter but the processes of printmaking, particularly the excitement of the reversed and uncontrolled magic of the first proof, eventually got me.’ 

Image: Clayton Tremlett with life mask, 2016. Photo: Carrington McArdle.

Why do you make art?

For me art making is about identifying connections and commonalities in life experience. In more recent years my practice is about examining history and drawing from events or people that influence my identity, to make works that encourage others to reflect on who they are.

I enjoy aesthetic challenges and also like to make print projects that use the printing industry or printed matter like wallpaper or stamps as a historical context.

What’s your relationship to printmaking?

It’s about experimentation with materials and processes, by challenging or corrupting a traditional technique and cultivating something personal.

When I started printmaking, my focus was multi-colour reduction linocuts (up to twenty colours) because of the textural beauty I found in the layering of ink.

For my most recent series Beard and Influence I have advanced a technique I’m calling Laser Resist Etching which combines photography, Photoshop and the photocopier to make a new form of photo etching.

How did you get interested in printmaking?

I suspect it was subconscious connection with my father’s practice of carving leather. As a child, I recall watching him use a swivel knife and tools to effortlessly cut and sculpt leather which has many parallels to carving lino with a scalpel and then removing the waste with gauges.

Originally I studied as a painter but the processes of printmaking, particularly the excitement of the reversed and uncontrolled magic of the first proof, eventually got me.

Who is your favourite artist?

Favourite is a transient thing. Many artists have been very influential depending on their ideas and technical skills. I admire artists for their individual pursuit of a personal expression and this translates across many disciplines. If I had to name a favourite sustained influence it would be the electronic music of Kraftwerk and their conscious aesthetic as it relates to visual art.

 What is your favourite artwork?

This too is transient and dependant on a particular changing set of receptive moments in life. Recently I travelled with my family to Vietnam and was overwhelmed with the technique of lacquer engraving on panels. Although it is an old technique it was a new experience for me and for a time my most favourite type of work because of its combination of carving and painting.

In my hall at home is a portrait of Captain Cook by Rew Hanks. I particularly enjoy looking at this work because of its technical skill and confidence with the medium.

Where do you go for inspiration?

More recently that would be the Public Records Office in Melbourne.

History is tangible when you are holding a book that is over a hundred and forty years old with detailed information on a prisoner’s appearance, crime, punishment, religion, occupation and tattoos.

Crime and Punishment and Inking Up are artist book projects that explore prisoners held in the old Castlemaine Goal. Crime and Punishment focused on the types of sentences you could get for misdemeanours like riding your bicycle on the footpath (one day), while Inking Up highlights tattoos favoured by a selection of prisoners in the 1890’s – the most common being an anchor between the thumb and forefinger.

What are you working on now?

My current exhibition has taken four years to produce. The works are large scale self-portrait linocuts in the guise of twelve bearded Australian Bushrangers. This was my first performative series where I grew diverse hirsute appearances in order to re-create the original photograph of each bushranger.

After each project, I like to flip the concept to see what is revealed on the other side. Following on from Bushrangers it seemed logical to research the phenomenon of being lost in the bush.

I am also documenting central Victorian ANZAC memorials (the lone soldier) as the central image for a series of anti-war linocut prints.

Collection as Nexus: Community, Culture, Connections

John Coburn, Sacred site, 1987, screenprint. Image courtesy of the Wagga Wagga Art Gallery.

Wagga Wagga Art Gallery is the home of the Margaret Carnegie Print Collection, which holds over fifteen hundred original works by Australian artists. For the past three years this collection has been used as a nexus for education and engagement programs, making connections through printmaking.

These broad ranging programs have built upon and expanded successive iterations of outreach initiatives that have used printmaking to involve community and cultural perspectives. The success of these programs has also been founded upon partnerships across multiple institutions, particularly between the Wagga Wagga Art Gallery, the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW), and the Arts Unit of the New South Wales Department of Education and Communities.

One of the programs, Ngulagambilanha: be returning home, has used artworks by Indigenous artists H J Wedge, Tommy McRae, and Lorraine Connelly-Northey from the AGNSW collection, and, from the Margaret Carnegie Print Collection, Wiradjuri artist Roy Kennedy’s prints My original mission – Darlington Point and Booligal weigh station. These etchings have been used as a catalyst for students to explore techniques and ideas at the on-site workshops at Wagga Wagga, which also drew heavily upon the AGNSW education kit Home: Aboriginal art from New South Wales.

Kennedy also participated in a video-excursion from the AGNSW during this program. Kennedy provided a particularly strong focus as he grew up on Police Paddock Mission during the Depression, then moved away when his mission closed in 1941. His work draws on ‘his mother’s stories and his own experience … documenting a life of dislocation and deprivation, from the Depression years up until the abolition, in 1940, of the notorious Aborigines Protection Board that managed the missions in New South Wales.’[1]

Roy Kennedy, My original mission – Darlington Point, undated, etching. Image courtesy of Wagga Wagga Art Gallery.

Another education program KaPOW! (Kids and Print Outreach Workshops) has featured a broad range of prints from both Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists, including G. W. Bot, Jock Clutterbuck, John Coburn, Rona Green, Treahna Hamm, Arone Raymond Meeks, and Judy Watson. These works have provided models for different printmaking techniques which were then integrated into participatory workshops. For example, John Coburn’s Sacred site screenprint was used to model the reduction relief printmaking process.[2]

This expansive suite of programs has generated a synergistic flow of energy, creativity and expertise across a broad range of regional, remote and rural communities. The Gallery itself has provided a welcoming environment to bring together local Indigenous representatives, specialist print educators, curatorial staff across multiple disciplines, and learners of all ages. In addition, the development of complementary outreach programs has brought the Gallery out of the institutional framework and into the wider region – significantly encouraging participation from community groups lacking previous experience of arts-focused education activities.

Engagement programs such as KaPOW! and Ngulagambilanha demonstrate how the use of well-established collections can provide an innovative and rich means of reaching out into communities, as well as extending the traditional exhibition focus of galleries. Many different programs can be initiated and structured around these collections, relating to cultural contexts, art making and appreciating. Such programs also enable the development of strong connections between the art gallery and its collections, and the community not just within the artistic sphere but well beyond. In turn, this provides opportunities to open up a greater discourse around cultural practices, community engagement and artistic practice in reference to collections.

 

Gulbalanha: know and understand each other is the culmination of the second utilisation of the partnership between AGNSW, The Arts Unit and WWAG. On display at Wagga Wagga Art Gallery from 17 September to 20 November 2016.

 

References

[1] Hetti Perkins in Tradition today: Indigenous art in Australia, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2014

[2] Linda Elliott, ‘Catalysing Collections’, Imprint Vol. 48 No. 3, 2013.

Linda Elliott is Curator Education and Public Programs at Wagga Wagga Art Gallery.

Q&A with Bridget Hillebrand

‘As a child I was fortunate that sketch books and charcoal were always at hand. My mother attended the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna before immigrating to Australia and introduced me to art at a young age. She always encouraged me to draw from life and drawing is still a large part of my practice.’ 

Why do you make art?

My earliest memories as a child are of climbing over the back fence and drawing in my neighbour’s garden. My neighbour’s yard was always far more interesting than my own. It was wild and overgrown and I spent many hours contemplating how to draw the curve of a leaf or the angle of a falling roof gutter. As a child I was fortunate that sketch books and charcoal were always at hand. My mother attended the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna before immigrating to Australia and introduced me to art at a young age. She always encouraged me to draw from life and drawing is still a large part of my practice.

What’s your relationship to printmaking?

Constantly evolving!

How did you get interested in printmaking?

After finishing my painting degree in the early 80s I travelled overseas for a year. I remember the first time I viewed prints by Dürer, Kokoschka, Kiefer, Schiele, Kollwitz and Rauschenberg to name a few, at the Albertina in Vienna. Some of the works resonated with my senses so strongly that I went back numerous times to view them. On my return to Australia I was committed to making prints and rarely picked up a paint brush again.

Bridget HillebrandRites of Passage, 2014, linocut printed with crushed quartzite and limestone, 30 x 113 cm.

Who is your favourite artist and do you have a favourite artwork?

A large range of artists and artworks inform my practice at different times. I am open to encounters that not only inspire but also challenge my way of thinking. I enjoy artworks that provoke a variety of responses. James Turrell’s Skyspace Within without is on my list of favourites along with many others.

Where do you go for inspiration?

Most recently Mt Arapiles, but inspiration can come from a variety of sources: a conversation, a passage from a book, music, exhibitions or an encounter in the landscape. Most importantly the act of making inspires me to explore and experiment with new ideas.

Bridget Hillebrand, Site Unseen, 2015, hand-stitched artist book, bind embossing and chalk, 17 x 39 cm (closed).

How has the experience of completing your PhD affected your practice?

Completing a PhD provided time and focus to develop a body of work related to my experience of the landscape and more specifically to rock climbing. It encouraged me to articulate my thoughts and experiences, which in turn enriched my experiences in so many areas. Writing an exegesis allowed me to rediscover my love of reading. I also researched a wide array of material that I may not have looked at otherwise. The research also stimulated my interest to further challenge and explore the corporeal and spatial aspects of my work, to increase the kinaesthetic nature of my creative research, and to further explore an interactive engagement between viewer and artwork.

What’s next for you?

My solo exhibition Touchscapes will be exhibited at MADA Gallery, Monash in August and comprises the practical component of my PhD research. In developing artworks that reflect a rock climber’s intimate and sensory encounter with rock, the exhibition presents new possibilities for seeing and looking, where the viewer is invited to engage with the works through touch.

 

Touchscapes will be on display at MADA Gallery, Monash Caulfield, from 10 to 16 August. bridgethillebrand.com

A Postcard from The Big Print, Inkfest 2016

Clockwise from top: InkMasters and Mistresses at the Big Print event; unveiling the Big Print; The Big Print in progress with the 1.6 ton tandem compactor press. Images courtesy of Frei Films and Inkmasters Cairns Inc.

At the Tanks Markets an eager crowd looked on as the InkMasters BIG PRINT production team carried out the biennial Big Print this time using a 1.6 ton tandem compactor as the press. A successful project, which was months in the planning, left many smiling student faces and happy memories. Yorkey’s Knob, Redlynch and Worree primary schools and St Mary’s, St Augustine’s and Trinity Anglican School secondary students took part in this project. Inkmasters Hannah Parker and Theo Tremblay worked with the art teachers in their respective schools, and REACH (Regional Excellence in Arts and Cultural Hubs) supported the project. Jessica Roelofs coordinated the whole Big Print project for Inkmasters, and has installed the finished prints 7 x 1 x 2 m) at Cell Artspace, Cairns, where they can be viewed until 21 August. Visit the InkMasters Facebook page for the full story!

Margaret Genever is an artist and President of InkMasters Cairns Inc.

Q&A with Jonathan Tse

‘My inspiration comes from things I collect. There are many things I love including early children’s toys. When my family migrated to Australia from Hong Kong in 1975, my parents only bought the necessities and much of our childhood belongings were left behind.’ 

Why do you make art?

I always enjoyed drawing and making things as a child. In 1978, while in primary school, my mum submitted an application for a Creative Art Scholarship offered by the Trustees of the Queensland Art Gallery and I was offered a place at Kelvin Grove Primary School on Saturday mornings. Ever since then I have always had the itch to create and today I still love it.

What’s your relationship to printmaking?

From 1987 to 1989, I completed my degree at the Darling Downs Institute of Advance Education, Toowoomba, now USQ, in (Creative Art) and then QUT in Brisbane in (Visual Arts). I am currently working at Queensland College of Art in Brisbane as the technical officer in Printmaking.

How did you get interested in printmaking?

My interest in printmaking, specifically screenprinting, began at USQ, back in 1987 under the guidance of Normana Wight, lecturer and Head of Printmaking at the time. She was the one who got me interested in making prints and since then I have been fascinated by print and all its techniques.

Who is your favourite artist?

That’s a tough question – there are many artists/printmakers who I admire and draw inspiration from. If I had to narrow it down to three, these would be my favourites: George Baldessin, Jörg Schmeisser and Ray Arnold (and yes they are all etchers).

What is your favourite artwork?

My favourite artwork is an etching by Jörg Schmeisser called Looking Back. I have this print on my wall and it was the first print I saved up to buy when I was a student.

Where do you go for inspiration?

My inspiration comes from things I collect. There are many things I love including early children’s toys. When my family migrated to Australia from Hong Kong in 1975, my parents only bought the necessities and much of our childhood belongings were left behind. Today when I find something ‘Made in Hong Kong’ at a garage sale or the flea market, I remember back to the early days when I had one of those. The nostalgia makes me want to collect it again. Today my work is not only about family and connections, but also looking back and finding the past.

What are you working on now?

I am currently working on a survey exhibition of prints titled The Collector to open on the 5 August at Queensland College of Art in Brisbane. The show is an insight into the fascinating world of the artist as a collector and the influence this has had on my work. I hope you will be able to see it.

 

Jonathan Tse’s survey exhibition The Collector will be on display at Webb Gallery, Queensland College of Art, from 3 to 13 August.

Trails: Seong Cho’s Works on Paper

Roslyn Kean, artist and Director of The Stables Print Studio, Sydney, writes about Seong Cho‘s work in the lead up to her exhibition Trails at Incinerator Art Space.

Seong Cho, Trail  XII, 2014–15, woodblock, 42 x 81 cm.

It has been a decade since Seong Cho completed studies at Meadowbank TAFE Art School here in Australia, prior to which she graduated as a Graphic Designer in her country of birth, South Korea, in 1978.

Since her arrival in Australia in 1990 the unifying base for this series of works has been established, with focus on memory and journey becoming one.

Her recent works employ very large hand-cut woodblocks where the image is drawn directly on the block with broad expressive brush strokes. These lines capture the childhood memories of the mountainous winding roads of her mother country, and embrace emotions associated with the artist’s visits to sacred temples or family members. The act of drawing becomes the writing of a diary.

Creating a dynamic contrast of light and dark, movement and shadow, the lines take you on a journey of memory. It is not essential for the viewer to know the story but the topographical rendering also creates a link to the written language of Korean characters suggesting a personal story is being told in each work.

Cho wants to establish her vision of the world in a deeper realm: my bold thick lines symbolise the winding and long journey of life we all must take’, but taking time to consider the scenery and various obstacles encountered on the way are of vital importance to the content of her drawings. Now in a foreign country away from immediate family, the path has not always been easy.

Cho is one of many Australians weaving ancestral traditions into a new life for herself here in Australia. This is who we are as a community, so many different cultures and traditions melding together to share in a way forward, while retaining sight of our disparate origins.

These memories help define the person we become. To record in an ongoing series of prints, as Cho has, gives strength and conviction to the ongoing series of works. Working on handmade papers form Korea also helps embody in a tactile way something from home. Hand printing with a baren on this large scale involves a physical engagement that allows you to become very connected to the surface marks of the wood and the intimate way in which the image will be transferred.

There is a spiritual presence in Trails and the viewer is drawn into contemplation and quietness. Cho aims to depict a Zen philosophy, which is often ignored in our busy lifestyle, ‘…we often forget to contemplate our journeys, both where we have been and where we are going’.

Seong Cho’s exhibition Trails will be on display at the Incinerator Art Space, Willoughby, from 27 July to 14 August.

Q&A with Clare Humphries

‘I’m inspired by questions that I can’t answer easily, and by unexpected connections I discover through artworks, experimentation, conversations and reading.’ 

Why do you make art?

What draws me to art – as a maker, and also as someone who experiences the work of others – is its potential to produce a contemplative state formed through the senses. Art allows me to engage ideas through the body and to explore alternative spaces and temporalities. Making is also an act of attention, a way to form questions and to materialise the immaterial. Simon O’Sullivan suggests art engages introspection as a ‘technology of transformation’; this resonates with my experience of working with materials and processes, and it also reflects the kinds of effects an encounter with another person’s practice can have on me.

What is your relationship to printmaking?

Ever since I produced my first print I have been fascinated by touch as both an intimate and yet distanced element within the means of production. I remember my first printmaking experience in which I spent hours making sustained and intense physical contact with the printing plate as I carved an image. I then stood back and witnessed the detached, momentary and mechanical contact between paper and plate as they passed through the press together. I was compelled by the intimacy of plate-making coupled with the fleeting contact necessary to pull a print. Since then, much of my work has been concerned with exploring and re-configuring the relations between the hand and the printed surface.

How did you get interested in printmaking?

My father was an art teacher, so I was exposed to many fields of practice from an early age. Our home was full of artworks including screenprints, linocuts, paintings and hand-forged objects. My father gave me many opportunities to explore different materials and processes and through this I discovered a fascination for what I call the ‘haptics’ of printmaking. Since these experiences I have also uncovered an enduring interest in imaging technologies that function beyond their ‘time’, that is, beyond the time when they function as a commercially viable medium. New possibilities are always uncovered in obsolescence. 

Who is your favourite artist?

Different artists and artworks inform and enrich my practice at different times. Recently I have been looking at Anni Albers in relation to a new body of work I am developing. I’m investigating the potential of cloth to trace a liminal zone between presence and absence, particularly as it might be evoked through the idea of a winding sheet or burial cloth.

I’ve been investigating Albers’ weavings and writings because of their exploration into the materiality of cloth, including the ideas of the ‘path’ and ‘event’ of a thread. It’s interesting to consider her move to printmaking later in her career, and to look at works where she has translated qualities of tactility, tension and pliable surfaces to the two-dimensional picture plane.

What is your favourite artwork?

A number of still life works by Spanish Baroque artists were very influential on the work in my current exhibition. For many years I kept a reproduction of Juan Sánchez Cotán’s Quince, Cabbage, Melon and Cucumber (c. 1602) on my studio wall. Whenever I look at this work my sense of worldly vision seems to stop at the far edge of the shelf depicted in the painting. Beyond the ledge the intimately rendered vegetables have no spatial coordinates and the darkness seems to suggest that even gravity may cease to exist there.

In Cotán’s work ordinary objects emerge from dense black fields and appear somehow more than real, transfigured by a dramatic play of darkness and light. 

Where do you go for inspiration?

I’m inspired by questions that I can’t answer easily, and by unexpected connections I discover through artworks, experimentation, conversations and reading. Inspiration, for me, is a desire to act and, like curiosity, it feeds on itself: I find the more I act, investigate and experiment the more I want to act, investigate and experiment. Inspiration also arises when something gets displaced in my thinking, so I find the more I can be open to questions and experiences, the more curious I become about future possibilities.

What are you working on now?

I have just finished hanging a solo exhibition called Exhume at Counihan Gallery in Brunswick. It presents a body of work I produced as part of my postgraduate research and includes some new work that extends on the project. The exhibition addresses the idea that after a person dies their personal belongings enter new systems of circulation and value. I extended a methodology of printing for the project that aims to reconfigure the relation between the hand and the printed surface.

My next project represents a shift of focus that extends on some of my persistent concerns. As I mentioned earlier I’m exploring the space between bodily presence and absence, between ‘here’ and ‘not-here’. My starting point is an investigation of cloth that has potential as a wrapping for the body. I’m interested in how the notion of a winding sheet might suggest the limits of embodiment and evoke notions of ritual and transition.

Clare Humphries‘ exhibition Exhume will be on display at Counihan Gallery in Brunswick from 22 July to 14 August.

TOP TIPS: ZINE MAKING

Today we are privileged to hear from Jeremy Staples, bedroom publisher extraordinaire and curator of Copier Jam!, with his top tips on zine making.

Copier Jam! installation shots.

In one way or another zines have slowly taken over my life since the early two thousands. From creating zines to running workshops, co-funding the Zine and Indie Comic Symposium and most recently curating a zine and indie comic exhibition titled Copier Jam!, which is part of the Print Council of Australia’s 2016 Year of Print celebrations.

I stumbled upon zines – these raw, crudely produced publications – via my love of punk! That said, I had no access to them before I started creating them. I didn’t know what I was actually doing was a zine, to be honest. I was just doing my own thing, with a group of friends who wanted to support the local music and art community. None of us had skills in design, layout or journalism. We did it together and it was completely DIY. The DIY process, complete freedom and lack of rules is what got me into them and why I keep coming back. The accessibility for the creator and consumer is something that continues to draw me to the world of bedroom publishing.

I love that zines are a platform for anyone to document, share a viewpoint or simply share their creativity. These little bits of paper can be on any topic imaginable!

This was one of my main motivations to produce Copier Jam!, an exhibition which highlights current zine and independent comic creators, collectives and distributors from across Australia. The exhibition includes publications alongside original art, layout, workings and even a zine vending machine from the Canberra Zine Emporium collective. On display are zines published from 1992 to the current day from seventeen creators.

Zine tips from Staples!

Have fun, think outside the square, don’t create invisible barriers and work with materials that you have on hand! Use the zine as a tool to showcase your work, document or even share personal tales from your life, travels or your mental health. Copier Jam! features work from outsider artist Philip Dearest. An artist who knows how to shock even the most seasoned fan of underground art. One of Dearest’s most renowned releases to date is the aptly titled Off My Meds, in which he undertakes a study of creativity during a month off his regular medication.

Share what your good at! Ashley Ronning is an illustrator, risograph printer and zine creator based in Melbourne. Ronning’s work was recently plastered throughout Melbourne as part of the promotion for annual Festival of the Photocopier hosted by Australia’s largest dedicated zine shop, Sticky Institute.

Read up! The Copier Jam! exhibition catalogue zine showcases interviews with all the creators in the exhibition and features a cover printed via Japanese toy Gocco printer, which is actually the little sister of the Risograph.

Still stuck for ideas? Vanessa Berry is one of Australia’s most respected zine creators and has been publishing since the mid-nineties. Berry created her Shopping List Stories zine that showcases found shopping lists and fictional tales about the people who wrote them.

Get amongst it! If you’re not comfortable or up to the stage of creating your own zine, why not submit to a collaborative zine. Callouts are made and generally based around a theme or topic. We make Zines is a good start along with following Australia’s renowned Sticky Institute – the Flinders Street zine subway shop and hangout.

The last thing I love about zines is the lack of rules! There are no limitations, no rights or wrongs other than making one solely for creating profit. The world is your photocopier! Dream with your eyes open, step away from the TV, put your dreams down on paper and start writing and scribbling your own revolution!

Copier Jam! poster – art by Philip Dearest; gocco print by Staples.

Copier Jam! will be on display at the Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery until 7 August. www.thestaples.com.au

We hope you find these gems useful and invite you to send in your top printmaking tips to share to imprinteditor@printcouncil.org.au.

Photopolymer/Solar Plate Printmaking

A page from the original article published in Imprint winter 2010, Volume 45 Number 2

‘All that is needed to make the plate is a UV light source and water to wash out the exposed plate. Simple, quick and safe! No acids, rosin powders or bitumen grounds.’

Cover for Imprint winter 2010 Vol. 45 No. 2 featuring GW Bot‘s Paddock Glyphs – Garden of Poets, 2008, linocut on Korean Hanji paper, artist’s proof, 94.5 x 61.5 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Australian Galleries.

The following conversation between Sandra Williams and Susan Baran was published in the winter 2010 issue of Imprint Vol. 45 No. 2.

In 1972 Dan Welden, a master printmaker from the USA, started experimenting with light sensitive photopolymer plates commonly found in the commercial printing industry. By exposing a plate in the sun, he found he could produce a high quality intaglio image that was a safer and simpler alternative to traditional etching. He coined the term ‘solarplate’.[1]

Sydney-based artist Susan Baran has keenly embraced this printmaking process and has been working with photopolymer plates for over a decade now. She talked with Sandra Williams about her way of working with the plate.

SW: Susan, how would you describe your printmaking before you started using photopolymer plate?

SB: My printmaking experience was firstly with screenprinting using very toxic inks and solvents, then as an etcher using nitric acid, rosin aquatint and more solvents. I was satisfied with this way of working though concerned about the fumes I was being exposed to.

SW: How did photopolymer plates become a key element of your printmaking practice?

SB: I joined Warringah Printmakers Studio in 1999 looking for a place to print. I had vaguely heard of ‘solar plate’ but was not really interested until I saw what was being done at Warringah with this new type of plate. It was a period in my life when my children were young and etching was proving to be too slow for my limited studio time. This new technique appealed to me because I could make plates so quickly.

SW: Was the transition from traditional etching to making photopolymer plates difficult?

SB: No. I just loved the ease of the whole process and was really interested in learning how to work in a safer, less toxic way.

SW: Why is this way of working less toxic?

SB: All that is needed to make the plate is a UV light source and water to wash out the exposed plate. Simple, quick and safe! No acids, rosin powders or bitumen grounds.

SW: Can you explain in more detail your method of working?

SB: Instead of working the plate I prepare a transparency. I photocopy objects, fabrics, drawings and photographs to create a collage on paper. I then make the transparency, again using the photocopier. Finally I draw onto the transparency with an etching needle, working into the black areas, and add to it with crayon, lithographic pencil or Indian ink. This is the stage where I push and pull the image. When I feel it is resolved I expose the plate.

SW: Can the plate be altered after being exposed?

SB: No, not a lot. With an etching you work the plate until you are happy with the image, but with photopolymer plate you must work the transparency before exposing it. However, there are a few things that can be done. The polymer surface is very receptive to drypoint lines so line work can be added at any time after exposure. Gesso or acrylic medium (with or without carborundum for blacker tones) can be painted onto the exposed plate to add tone or to cover up something if desired.

SW: What effects can be achieved with photopolymer printmaking?

SB: I have described the way I choose to work, but it is a very versatile method where a variety of effects can be achieved, for example by drawing and painting either onto acetate/drafting film or directly onto the plate. Prints can have a lithographic feel by painting or drawing onto sandblasted or grained glass just like you would on a stone. Plates can be exposed without a dot screen and washed out for a long time to be suitable for relief printing. Photographic or computer-generated images can be used just like they have for screenprinting in the past.

SW: You mentioned a dot screen. Can you explain what that is and why it is used?

SB: A dot screen is to a photopolymer plate what an aquatint is to an etching. Whereas an aquatint uses tiny rosin particles to create tone the dot screen is a high-resolution film covered with minute, random, opaque dots. The dot screen is exposed first, then the artwork. If a dot screen is not used a type of open bite effect results, and sometimes this is preferred by the artist.

SW: How are the exposure times determined?

SB: There are different brands of plate available (Mavelon, Printight, Torelief) – all with different exposure times. Then it depends on whether you are using the sun or an exposure unit. Generally test strips are done to work out the preferred exposure time for a particular image.

SW: What is the best way to learn about photopolymer printmaking?

SB: Ideally it is best to do a workshop. The process may sound complicated, but it is really very simple and straightforward with enormous potential for making great prints.

 

[1] Solarplate is Dan Welden’s registered brand of photopolymer plate.