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Wild Raspberries: wip 02

This is a follow-up to Wild Raspberries: wip 01 which reported on my start of this project. I was unhappy with most of the prints there and so altered curves and levels of the images in Photoshop (after a short tutorial in how to do so from Katy Goodrich).

With the Hands image, I shifted the levels only slightly to lose the heavy dark shadow in the cup of the hands:


The barbed outline got a bit more complicated curves adjustment to bring out the fine details more and tone down the darker lines:


I worked a lot on the canes image, not just the one I had from the last post but another which was more of a close-up and a little more abstract. I then tried both those images overlaid with the close-up one reduced to 20% transparency and the other at 45%. These two looked like:

Image03 Image04

with the result:


So, I trundled off to Staples again and got the images printed onto transparencies. I took these into LPW on 27th Nov and developed the images onto a new set of photolithography plates and got started printing them.

First, I printed the canes, this time using green ink. I got a couple of decent prints out of this, one of which was:


but the last was really poor. I made a complete mess of wiping the plate down and inking up. Didn’t have a clue what was going wrong.

So, I moved on to the hands and these came out ok, but not great:

20111127wr03 20111127wr04

I then took a closer look at the transparencies and it looked as though they were less well defined than the previous lot. The Staples assistant used a different printer and I think it might have been a less capable one.

Anyway, I ran a third print of the hands through but this time superimposed on one of the canes images:


Not at all aligned properly. Need to find some way of exposing transparencies onto plates that allows for proper registration.

When I cleaned the hands plate, it seemed to have marks on the plate, as if new lines had developed out. I asked Serena about it and, after some discussion, she reckoned that it came down to too vigorous cleaning of the plates. I had been rubbing pretty hard with the turps and hadn’t realised that it might cause damage. Serena also realised that her printed instructions from the course ought to have mentioned wetting the plate or applying gum before using the turps to protect the image.

Finally, I printed the spiky outline image:


and this one, finally, came out just as I wanted it to. The long spikes were faint but visible while the shorter ones and the centre of the outline weren’t so dark as to overpower the image. A win at last.

And to make it even better, cleaning the plate after wetting it was so much easier and caused absolutely no damage/

I’d intended another day’s printing when I would experiment with ink transparency and different colours but didn’t really have time to do this with all the preparations for my trip to Australia (now less than two weeks away).

Wild Raspberries: wip 01

I have finally got myself back into the studio to do some printing, couple of times in the last two weeks, as opposed to volunteer admin/photography or attending courses. It has been a long time coming.

I’d been *thinking* about an idea for a print for some time and thought it was time I got some real work done. The idea was inspired by reading my friend Kona McPhee‘s poem, Wild Raspberries, in her latest collection, What Long Miles. An image came to me as I read the poem and I thought it’d make a good print but, as usual, never followed through. Well, now I am.

The image I had in mind was of cupped hands over a stylised background of raspberry canes with damaged fruit held in the hands, the canes and hands printed using photolithography and the raspberries with drypoint. The affect I wanted to achieve was similar to the layered screenprints of Ruth McDonald, who I follow on twitter and whose work I really love (eg see this one). I had no idea whether I could do anything similar using photolith.

I took a set of photographs of my wife’s hands and picked one to use. Then took some shots of raspberry canes. I also created an image, a spiky outline of the hands, using Procreate on the iPad. All these were loaded into Photoshop, as separate layers so that I could see the effect of one over the other.


Once I had each separate image the way I wanted it, the way I would want each photolith plate to look, I made just that layer visible and exported it as a full resolution jpeg (maybe should have used tiff – if Staples could print it). Those first four images were:

Hands11-c1 Hands11-c2 Hands11-h Hands11-x

I had these images put onto transparencies — tried using my own laser printer but it is on its last legs so the output was dire — using the local Staples outlet and took them into Leicester Print Workshop where I’m a member (and volunteer). This was on Thursday 20th Nov.

I’d previously done a course on photolith printmaking with Serena Smith and Kathryn Desforges. But this had been a year or so ago so I needed a refresher. Luckily for me, Katy Goodrich, the LPW apprentice, was willing and more than capable of getting me back up to speed in this technique. She showed me where all the equipment was, helped me set it up, showed me how to cut up a photolith sheet, then watched over me as I exposed the first transparency, developed and printed it. I managed the rest myself but she was always able to help when I hit problems: I’d have turned around and gone home without her.

I printed the hands first:


Not good. The shadow in the cupped hand was much too dark. I tried the spiky outline next:


Not happy with this either. The actual image had long, fairly light spikes but they were entirely lost in this print. I tried the two images of the canes next, first the darker one:


This was ok as a print but was much darker than I wanted: it’d overwhelm the hands when printed over the top. So then I tried the more transparent of the cane images. This one I printed twice since the first almost couldn’t be seen:

20111120wr04 20111120wr05

Not sure you can see either of them here!

I had a chat to Katy afterwards about these results. She reckoned that I needed to reduce the tonal range of the images, that photolith plates were not good with wide ranges. I wasn’t sure how to do this in Photoshop so she volunteered to help me with this (and did) on the following Monday when I was in as a volunteer.

So, not a successful day in terms of results but extremely good in terms of my printmaking education. I’ve done a follow-up day’s printing using images altered to Katy’s suggestions developed as plates. That’s for the next post.