Part I: Carving
The materials used for this part were as follows: Printed and edited destination photograph, one rectangle of plexiglass, metal plexiglass carving tools, iPhone flashlight, duct tape, fine sand paper, and rough metal filer.
Before we began doing any actual work on the print, we first had to choose a picture we had taken during a vacation to fit the theme of "destinations". I eventually selected a picture I had taken in the Millbrae Japanese Garden of a Japanese stone pagoda-like structure. After uploading it to photoshop, we then tweaked the photo's brightness, sharpness, size, and eventually turned it black and white. After Mr. Laurence had printed these edited pictures, we then got to work with carving on the plexiglass. Despite its name, plexiglass is not actually a kind of glass. Instead, it's a hard plastic made from acrylic, and this hardness makes it an ideal choice for carving. In photoshop, we had edited the photo so that it was exactly the same size as our plexiglass piece, so we laid the plastic on top of it and duct taped it on the sides.
Next, we first used a thicker metal carving tool to carve the general outline of the objects in our picture. The key was to only use the picture as a guideline, so only the objects we wanted to include had to be traced. However, since it was difficult to see where you are carving on a clear, transparent piece of plastic, Mr. Laurence revealed to us a trick. Using the flashlight on our iPhones, we could shine them in direct contact with one of the plexiglass's corners, and all of the carved areas would shine white. After I had carved a general outline of the pagoda-like statue, I then used a much finer and pointier metal carving tool to carve out the finer details of the picture, like the texture of the statue and the tree branches in the background. Especially since my photo had such a strong contrast of light and dark values, I wanted to express this by putting a lot of thick dashed lines in the dark areas and fewer thin dashed lines in the lighter areas.
Once the entire outline was complete, we then used fine sand paper and selected areas of medium value to sand down. Since the areas I wanted to sand down were very detailed, I folded the sand paper and then only used the sand on the tip to create medium values. After a while, I found that sanding in a circular motion worked best, so that's how I created the circular texture in my carving's background. Since my original photo had so much stuff going on in its background, I only decided to include the trees and pagoda in my carving.
When the entire carving was complete, we then removed the duct tape and used the rough metal filer to feel down the sharp surface edges of the plastic. This way, when we rolled it through the printing press, it won't cut through the printing paper.
Some difficulties I faced during the carving process was the carving of the outline of the photo onto the plexiglass. This was because the plexiglass itself had a certain thickness to it, and looking at the photo at a different angle would alter the picture's outline. Eventually, I realized the best way was to keep my head at a comfortable position but to not move it too much. Additionally, I also found it hard to create the different light and dark values in my carving. But when I imagined that this was essentially the same thing as creating values with pencil on paper, I realized all I had to do was create more thick lines in areas of dark value and the opposite for places of light value.
Part II: Inking and Printing
The materials used for this part were as follows: Plexiglass with carved destination picture, a tub of water, thick printing paper, newspaper, thin waxed paper sheets, printing ink, a brayer, plastic inking surface, cheesecloths, Q-tips, plastic palette knives, and a printing press machine.
Unlike our previous printing techniques of screen printing and linoleum printmaking, dry point-printing was more of an ink-reduction method that created a print with very little ink. Because there wouldn't be that much in on the plexiglass while printing, we would need to make the printing paper more receptive to the ink. To achieve this, we submerged the thick, textured printing paper into a tub of water and let it soak while we prepared the plexiglass for printing.
First, we used a plastic palette knife to scoop a small amount of printing ink onto the plastic inking surface. We could either choose red, blue, or black, and I chose to use black ink. After this, we used the brayer to roll and spread out the ink. The ink we used for this printing project was especially sticky, and Mr. Laurence showed us how we should roll it out until it was both evenly distributed but still a bit tacky. Then, we used the inked up brayer to roll ink onto the carved side of the plexiglass.
Next, using a used piece of cheesecloth, we wiped away the surface ink from the plexiglass. Now, the ink was only in the carved crevices and sandpapered areas that we created earlier. Then, we used a cleaner piece of cheesecloth to get the desired un-inked areas cleaner, and for the finer details, we used a Q-tip. Once this was complete, we retrieved our soaking printing paper from the tub using a small waxed paper sheet. In order to get the excess water off, we then proceeded to place the paper in between a few sheets of newspaper and pressed on top, allowing the newspaper to absorb the water.
Now that the printing paper and plexiglass with ink was ready, all we had to do was place the damp printing paper on top of the plexiglass and sandwich it between the printing press paper sheets. Once we finished rolling them through the printing press, we then carefully lifted the paper off the plexiglass, placed the wet print on the drying rack, and washed our plexiglass piece. This process was repeated once more to create two prints.
Some difficulties I experienced during this process included wiping the ink away with the cheesecloth and placing the wet inking paper on top of the plexiglass before printing. The first time I did this, I had removed way too much ink so that my print ended up being too faint. This was a problem because I had wiped away the ink too roughly, and this resulting in the ink inside the carved crevices to be taken away also. Eventually however, I solved this through being more mild with my wiping away of ink. I tried to only wipe away the general surface of ink so that I could see my carving's outline, and then used the cleaner cheesecloth and Q-tips to only wipe away places I didn't want ink. This left plenty of ink in my carved crevices. That is how my next print proved to be more successful with bolder lines. The only problem with this, however, was that in certain areas (especially in the bottom right of my print), I had wiped away the ink unevenly, leaving smudge marks. By then, it was too late to solve this, but if I had done another print, I would've paid more attention to these areas and wiped away ink more carefully.
Additionally, one of my prints (a third print that isn't shown in this blog post) had water marks streaking the entire print. Later, I realized that I had done everything correctly. The thing that caused these unwanted water marks was that when I placed the wet inking paper on top of the plexiglass, I moved it, smearing the ink disproportionally onto the paper before rolling it through the printing press. This, coupled with how the paper was wet to begin with, resulted in those unwanted water marks. I now know that if I were to create another print, I need to carefully place the inking paper on in one try and to not adjust it once it's on.
Part III: Painting with Watercolor
The materials used for this part were as follows: plastic bowl with water, water spray bottle, watercolor trays with watercolor paints, flat medium-sized paintbrush, thin and pointed tiny paintbrush, and paper towels.
In total, I had create three prints, but for my final presented two, I excluded the one that had watermarks. Out of the two, we were to choose one to leave in its original inked form and the other to paint with watercolor. I chose to use the first print I did since the lines were fainter than the other one.
First, with a bowl of water and paintbrushes next to me, I used the spray bottle to spray water onto the watercolor paints. This activated the gum arabic inside the paint, allowing it to be used for painting. Next, I used my wet brush to take some paint and put it onto the watercolor tray. Then, depending on how mild or strong I wanted the colors, I used water to dilute the paint. Using this diluted paint, I carefully painted the desired areas in my print with a paintbrush. For the watercolor painted print, I decided to make the pagoda-like statue red, the supporting structures orange-brown, the trees green and brown, and the background light blue.
I decided to make the darker-valued areas of my print have a bolder color, so for those shaded areas on the pagoda, I painted bright red. For the lighter-valued areas, I used more water to dilute my brush and only took a little bit of red paint to create a lighter tint of red. A similar process was repeated with my pagoda's support structures. With these two shades of red side-by-side, it successfully emphasized which areas were meant to be shadowed and which were not.
Despite this, I found it especially difficult to keep my printed lines visible. With the stark red popping from the print, I needed something to ensure that the printed lines beside them were still visible. I later solved this by using a thin brush and outlining the printed lines with the same bright red paint. Some of the areas I painted were still wet when I outlined them, so in order to prevent bleeding, I took a paper towel and dabbed the areas dry.
Additionally, when I painted the background light blue, I didn't put enough of the blue paint on my palette. This meant that when I finished painting one section, I would have to recreate the same tint of blue from scratch, and in certain areas in my print, you can still see how not all of the blues are the same. In order to even out the color, I decided to use a wet brush and take away some color from the bolder blue areas and add them to the milder blue area. Next time, I'll know to take enough of the desired paint so that I won't have to remix with water.
Although this project was probably the most difficult out of all the printing projects due to some very new techniques, my final product was still something that I could say I worked hard on. If given the opportunity, I would like to try this project again and create something I would be even prouder of.
Print #1: Black Ink on Printing Paper
Print #2: Black Ink with Watercolor on Printing Paper