I’ve been exploring the combination of different printmaking techniques in one piece of artwork lately. It’s required some experimentation, and lots of learning.
This year, I discovered sun printing (the technical term is cyanotypes) that use sunlight to expose specially-treated paper to create one-of-a-kind prints. In June, I used the cyanotype medium to create an artist book, and blogged about the process here. Now, I wanted to explore how to make unique prints utilizing cyanotypes combined with relief printing.
My process lead to my newest works of art called “Soaring”. These pieces combine hand-printing on wood (the mountains), then creating a sky using cyanotype paper, and finally adding soaring ravens hand-printed relief-style over top of the cyanotype.
Here is a walk through my process. It begins where much of my art begins: with an inspiring view in my home town.
This is one of my favorite views here in the Bow Valley: the mountains called the Ehagay Nakoda Range which includes Ha Ling Peak on the right and Mount Lawrence Grassi in the middle. (The Bow River is in the foreground.)
I began with the mountains, creating the base block by sketching my artwork on tracing paper, and transferring it onto my printmaking medium.
Here, my carving on the block begins.
The block is carved, and ready for inking.
I test-print the block on a piece of art board I have in the studio, and like what I see, so I proceed with printing on wood canvases prepared with white gesso.
Here the wood canvases are printed and wait to dry. For the next layer, I will create the sun-printed sky.
I am working with cyanotype treated watercolor paper. Cyanotype prints are solar-sensitive, and when exposed to the sun will “imprint” onto the paper. Whatever is covered will appear white in the final print, and whatever is not covered will turn blue. The paper I am using is pre-treated so all I do is expose it to the sun, then put it into a bath of water to stop the exposure process. (Thanks to Dea Fischer, local Canmore artist, who put me on to a great supplier of cyanotype paper.)
To get the feeling of clouds in the sky, I am exposing the paper but covering it with synthetic poly-fill. I created several cyanotypes, and only got two I was happy with.
Once the cyanotype prints dried for 24 hours, I chose my two best prints, and cut the shape of the mountains out of the bottom of the paper. Next, I will need to adhere the print to the board that’s already been printed with the mountains.
I treat the wood canvas (base art) with gel medium that is used to bond paper to wood, and carefully line up the printed mountains and the cyanotype sky.
Then, I protect the art with plastic, followed by a flat board, then load on my heaviest art books. This pile sits in the studio for another 24 hours to ensure an excellent bond between the paper and the wood.
This is the resulting base art with two of the steps complete. Next up: adding the soaring birds in the sky.
I start by sketching a number of flying ravens in different patterns of flight, and transfer those to the block for carving.
Here, the soaring ravens are carved and ready for inking…
The inked block is ready to print onto the sky.
First, I pull a couple of test prints. I love the way these birds look like they are flying around my studio!
The soaring birds are added carefully to the sky, after much pondering about where best to place them.
Both these mixed-media prints made using these hand-printing techniques will be available at my Artists of Elk Run Open Studio Tour this weekend, December 8 & 9, 2012, along with my other — more traditional — hand-pulled art prints and cards.
It’s going to be a great weekend talking art!