Poly litho plate “disasters” still good for art

I am working on the messy “disaster” prints from my first (now abandoned) circle sharpie on poly litho plate. I could not get a clean print from this plate, but I will re-use all the “failed” prints in some way.  I tinted these with prismacolor pencils and rather love them. Printmaking reliable repeatable editions is not all that much fun: it is the messy surprises that can turn into magic…

First Circles tinted 1Circles plate 1 slice 2


Learning a bit more about poly litho printmaking

I have been print a bit (and trying to print a bit more) using polyester lithography, or poly litho. Some lessons learned (beyondthe basic process):

  • start with a good plate! I don’t know the sources of the plates I have, so no recommendations yet. But if you are struggling, and you have a new brand of plate, you may be wasting your time: not all poly litho plates are equal!
  • keep your plates and your hands (or gloves if you use them) very clean! Once a plate gets greasy & picks up ink where it should not, it will be hard to clean! It may be best to cut your losses and start over: thorough cleaning will likely remove some or all of your image!
  • keep it simple until you know you have good plate material and understand your wetting solution, etc. (hint: using multiple media types for your drawing is not keeping it simple)
  • using china marker and other greasy media to create your image requires more care if you want clean prints: they may smear, generate fingerprints, etc.
  • “permanent” markers aren’t. I find they don’t stand up well to plate cleaning. And they vary by color and manufacturer.
  • editions are best run all at once, so start first thing in the morning!
  • if the ink seems to be building up a little after several prints, run a cleaning print directly on to damp newsprint before the next inking.
  • remember you probably need to “charge” your plate: lots of inking for the first 2 prints, and those may be discards (or a good basis of further work).
  • it takes longer to “charge” some materials:   ballpoint  does not seem to require much or any charging, if you ink the plate very thoroughly for the first print.
  • mixing materials makes charging & inking trickier. Ballpoint picks up the ink so well, but laser toner needs more work, as does sharpie. The contrast is not always desirable.
  • Ballpoint makes very clear distinct lines that don’t result in much bridging. It is useful to know this if you are trying to work back in to an existing plate done with laser toner or other materials: the ballpoint lines will stand out distinctly on your prints unless you work to integrate it.
  • Ballpoint pen is my current favorite: it is durable, needs little charging, and is OK to draw with (I don’t like drawing with sharpies!).
  • Heat your prepared plate before using: this won’t hurt and may help set the image. I generally use a hairdrier on high for 2-3 minutes holding if very close and moving it slowly around the plate (don’t do this on a glass surface!!).
  • A smoother paper will display fine lines & detail better (Duh!) I am liking Arches 88 silkscreen paper at the moment!
  • It may be helpful to use a larger thin plexi plate on the press bed under your poly plate: this will help you set the press pressure. Use one the same size if you want a platemark…
  • And if you are a multimedia artist, you can always tranform those printing failures into artistic successes somehow!

These are two different prints from a new laser copier plate, not yet fully charged. Note the unevenness of the inking! I printed over the poly litho prints with a transparent water based ink rolled very thinly on a plexi plate. Tthe ballpoint pen lines stand out clearly visible & different: I added rather too quickly to the laser copy plate. I will need to do more work to integrate them with the piece and make it work!

Cave print detail Cave, 8x10 polylitho bleed print


And in the “never done” department:

Watchers Collaged almost finished The Watchers, with more more connections

Watchers with connections scan 3
This piece has sat on the easel, unfinished, for some time now! I have lightened, darkened, subdued, highlighted, added, and taken away.

The last image on the right is the latest. Among other things, I added the connections that encompass the bones and reach below ground and darkened the mummy/bones.

Note that it is hard to assess the changes online with the small images scanned & adjusted slightly differently… I have to scan this work in four sections, piece them together, and try to adjust to provide truer colors & contrast. It is tricky!

Not sure where it will end!


Printing a poly-litho plate drawn with ballpoint pen

Ballpoint No I  plate
Ballpoint No I  print 3
Ballpoint No I adj

Ballpoint No I colored print 1Ballpoint No I colored print

After hours of struggling with a recalcitrant poly-litho plate first drawn with sharpie (then cleaned & redrawn with ballpoint) it is a treat to work with another plate (shown above left) that inks cleanly! It gives me hope.

I will abandon the original Circles plate (shown in an earlier post), and perhaps create a new plate based on that design. Above you can see the a plate that works (shown at left), one print from this as scanned, plus one at right digitally enhanced for darker stronger lines. I have already added more to this plate for the next print round!

But here the fine point ballpoint lines are so delicate and the prints lack impact and strength. Much more work is needed!



Circle II as beetleCircle II as beetle  II
There are many digital games to play with intricate abstract designs! My two circle drawings based on David Gallagher’s Segmental Sculpture have become landscape and beetle backs now…

Circle II as beetle III
Circle II squared curves
Three Worlds w_color

Inspired by a photo

I was inspired by an old b&w photo of a sculpture by David Gallager (Segmental Sculpture, 1977, Green River Community College), which has been recently refurbished. I loved the tones of the older photo, as well as the shapes and qualities of the sculpture. So a little drawing, then a lot of digital playing:

After Segmental Sculpture D Gallagher 4After Segmental Sculpture D Gallagher