An old year’s resolution: More works in progress! The Anatomy of a Multi-Plate Print

I’ve been spending way too much time attending to the pandas, and not enough time tending to my “day job blog” which is this blog right here.  I am here-by resolving to post more often, and more importantly, post more “work in progress” information.  Recently I taught a one day workshop on printing with polymer litho plates for two Seattle printmakers.  Polymer litho plates are a great innovation in printmaking, for a number of reasons.  1st, since you are not working on stones or metal plates, you do not need to stock or use the nasty acids and chemicals that you do with stone and plate lithography.  Also, the stones are heavy and expensive, and you must print your entire edition at one time, because you will need to use the stone again for something else.  Don’t get me started on litho stones.  When I have finished posting all this information, I will add a page so that all the information will be available (in order) for a while.

Since I needed to get back to producing some new prints, as I am in a show in February in Anacortes, WA, I thought I would take this opportunity to document the step (by step, by step) by step process that I go through when I make a print image.

I start with a drawing, which, apparently, I have forgotten to photograph, but I will do that tomorrow and add it to the post with tomorrows printing of plate #3. (No sense in pretending that I am perfectly organized, when you know I’m not.)

Stencil for third plate of 7 plate print.

One of the down sides to the polymer plate litho, is that it is tricky to get tonal areas.  I’ve been trying a lot of things, and one of the semi successful ones is to use a spatter spray (using acrylic ink and a toothbrush- an old one, not my current one).  I sometimes paint a “stop out” with something that will wash off the plate, after I have created the spray pattern.  This is useful when you want to have a hard edge to your tonal area. Because the plate needs to cure/dry overnight, you cannot remove the stop out till the next day, making it difficult to know if you have enough spray on the plate. I decided to try to cut some stencils for several of the plates.  Sometimes I tear paper and lay it on the plate, so I can move the blocking papers and get more gradations.  I did lay paper atop the stencils to create variations in some places.  Above is the stencil for the third plate.

1st plate and first printed layer

1st layer of printing

You can see that the color of the acrylic ink I use has nothing to do with the printed color on the paper.  The inks I use are oil base lithography ink and are all custom mixed by me for my prints.  This plate was both painted with a dry brush technique as well as spattered.  I blocked the edges by laying paper over them, so that I would have a soft edge.

plates 1 & 2 printed

At this point I have printed two of the plates. a separate plate is created for each color.  Usually when I have printed 2 plates, I begin to get that giddy feeling that this is going to be a fantastic print, a hope that is usually dashed when I get to the 3rd or 4th plate.  I don’t generally do a full color proofing for my multiple plate prints, which is probably stupid, but there you have it. Usually it works out ok.  Most of the time I don’t really know what the print will look like until I print the final plate, which is the key plate, meaning it has a lot of detail.  That is usually the first plate I make, but the last plate that I print.

More tomorrow, with plate #3.

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2 thoughts on “An old year’s resolution: More works in progress! The Anatomy of a Multi-Plate Print

  1. Thank-you for not only your detailed process on litho plates, but also your candid comment: “Usually when I have printed 2 plates, I begin to get that giddy feeling that this is going to be a fantastic print, a hope that is usually dashed when I get to the 3rd or 4th plate. ” It made me feel a whole lot better about my work. At the moment, I’m doing reduction lino printing with 12 colours. Some are ok, others are “organic.”;)

    • Glad you are enjoying this series. When you post work in progress, you can either pretend that everything always goes the way you plan, and make everyone else feel terrible because their work goes through “ugly duckling” stages, or you can own up to the fact that printmaking is a process and it isn’t always pretty getting to the final work. (At which time we HOPE it is, but it doesn’t always work out that way!) I enjoyed seeing your work on your website. Keep up the good work.

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