4.1 Pushing a Found Drawing in Different Directions

Having done a large drawing based on the crack in the Tate Modern Turbine Hall floor, I decided to take the same inspiration and push it into different interpretations via print. I thought the sketch lent itself to interpretation in dry point and carborundum.

Sketchbook sketch

First large drawing

Drypoint it a technique were a design is drawn on a plate by scratching into the surface, such that the raised burr will hold ink for printing. Drypoint can be very expressive and  direct. The technique is basically linear with the design applied using a steel needle or other point. I like to use a Dremel to get spontaneous marks and then add to the with a point. Areas of tone can be created by hatching the marks or by painting on a gritty medium.

My plate was acetate, and I tried to wipe it such that a little plate tone remained. Wiping ink ready to print requires practice, and I haven’t had any recently. The effect of the burr in drypoint is to create a charcoal-like soft line which I like. I have wiped in a little burnt sienna ink in some areas to add variety to the tones.

Drypoint print with carborundum, A4+

My second print is slightly better wiped.

The soft tones from the carborundum work well with the linear drypoint marks. The hatching bottom left, intended to build up the gradient of tone from top to bottom, is clumsy and too regular. To moderate this, I wiped further carborundum into that area, catching it in the cross hatching. I also added some hatching in the upper area of the print for tonal gradient.

The tones at the bottom are now rich and velvety and the cross hatching less prominent. However the tonal gradient in the very centre is now less subtle and that has altered the balance of the design. That pointy angle is badly drawn and now looks really uncomfortable.

That aside, the nature of the marks achieved by the needle and Dremel are varied. The Dremel responds to pressure and can make delicate marks from shallow burrs or broad soft marks from deep burrs. The needle makes fine, straight lines. I am out of practice but it was a delight to return to drawing in this way.

Having been experimenting with drawing on an open silk screen, it was an obvious next step to see where I could take this simple design via that medium. Rather than piling lots of marks on the the screen, I wanted to try a ‘less is more’ approach and be very economical and simple. I tried using a thin broken wedge of water soluble charcoal to get sharp marks, but the medium is so soft that this is not possible. Only the broadest, gestural marks can be made. By allowing more charcoal to fill the screen at the top, I have varied the tone in the ‘crack’. At the mid point, I sprayed the screen with more water and let the charcoal drip down, doing its own thing. A line of purple and then pink gritty mineral pastel was then applied across the screen. Everything was left to dry before printing.

Charcoal and pastel silk screen print, 43 x 31 cm

Derwent describe this XL stick as ‘Mars Violet’ and it is a lovely subtle colour which the white balance on my camera has struggled to reproduce. To transfer the charcoal takes several passes of the squeegee, and the acrylic medium has picked up a violet tinge from the charcoal.

The very soft charcoal is dragged down by pulling the acrylic medium, and I think that I have to accept this as a limitation of the process.

The screen records and transfers the way the charcoal moves in water.

I printed the screen a second time to see how much media was left in the screen. To vary the image, I powdered some coarse mineral pastel (Pip Seymour’s Honister Green Slate, gorgeous) over the support before printing, rather more than I meant to. Although it has printed, this image is too weak to be engaging.

There are aspects of this process which I really like; the broad simple marks required, the stop out effect, the hard and soft edges. I have to ask myself if I can develop it into a professional product or is this as good as it gets? If I persevere, could I produce something that I am prepared to put into an exhibition? However, I do think that this is a genuinely useful enquiry into what drawing can be and how it can be reinvented.


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