Friday, December 2, 2011

The uphill battle for Underfoot prints

Print progress updates have been a little slim around here lately, but it's not because there's no printing going on. Quite the opposite, in fact. I've put three client projects (not printmaking) to bed in the past week (one of them a 5x17-FOOT mural, eek!) and have happily filled the "extra" time with trips to Studio V.

Unfortunately, printing problems have persisted, and my up-to-now favorite paper seems to have finally gone 'round the bend.

The last few batches of Hosho "pro" that I've purchased have been noticeably inconsistent in thickness... even from one end of a sheet to the other. I've grumbled, but worked with it. But remember the troubles I was having with the ibis linocut from a couple of weeks ago? Some of my troubles were due to impatience and too-wet ink, but something still wasn't right.

I used Hosho AND Rives lightweight for the little aspen leaf print, and noticed again a little "fibre pulling" on the Hosho. But I made only 5 prints on small sheets of paper and it didn't seem too bad. I chalked the ibis print problems up to printmaker error and launched the current print for the "Underfoot" series on Hosho. (Justification: I have a stack of it, the rest of the series has been done on this paper, and I really like a bright white sheet.)

But there was trouble from the outset. Used to be it was easy to tell the smooth side from the felt side on this paper. This batch, not so much. It's ALL fuzzy. As a result, the first color pass was... how shall I describe it? Not smooth. No problem, I thought. The first passes are often light, and once there's another layer of ink on there, the felty bits will lay down and it will be just fine.

Four colors down. Spotty at best.

Hmm. Nope.
By the fourth pass I was really getting worried, but I was committed by then. I can't abandon a project if there's any chance I can pull it off. (Can you say obsessive/compulsive?) I like this image and I like the carving and I know that I'll probably never revisit it... so I soldiered on.

But what a mess! The paper is blowing fibers EVERYWHERE! Somewhere around color 4 or 5 I had to clean off the block and scrape my inking slab every other sheet because everything was getting gummed up with tiny paper fibers. Not. Right.

Selective inking for colors... hmm... 6, 7, 8, I think.
I whined about it to a friend who teaches in a college printmaking department and she shook her head. She'd heard other printmakers were having trouble with this paper, too. (When using it on a press someone had big sections of paper pulling OFF. Yikes!)

Colors... 9, 10, 11(?) down. Printmaker sustained hand-cramp injury
from too much burnishing time.

So I've carried on...but at this point it's taking about 15 minutes to hand-burnish each sheet, and the adhesion is still spotty. It looks okay from a distance, but up close? Hm. At this point I just need two more colors, and I'm hoping they'll provide at least a couple of usable prints.

Of course the upshot of all this is that I got to participate in Cyber Monday by ordering some new papers to experiment with. Two sheets of this, two sheets of that....

I also started another small (5x7) print on Rives lightweight... just to keep myself from completely throwing in the towel. Nothing to show for it yet... but I bet next week there will be!

In the meantime, I just scheduled a demo at Abend Gallery in Denver for Saturday, December 17. I'll be surrounded by painters during the session... so come and show some printmaker love if you're in the 'hood! 11am-3pm. Might be a good time to see if I have any hair left, too.


  1. I'm in the market for a new favorite paper too. I wish paper companies did better sample packs for printmakers - e.g. Hiromi paper will gladly send you a sampler of tiny corners, but I'd rather have a sampler of, e.g., printer-sized paper that I could actually use. The woes of printmaking!

  2. I'm sorry to read of the trials with the paper you are using. Please know that your frank explanations of your process helps printmakers like me to know that it's all a process, and every piece offers a new adventure. It really is like a hike you've never done before. Sometimes it surprises you by looking rote in the guidebook, but turning out to be filled with insane uphill switchbacks that kill your knees on the way back down. But, what an adventure! Your Underfoot series is gorgeous.

  3. Yeah, what's UP with sample packs? They'd be more useful if you could actually sample them.

    GREAT description of printmaking surprises, Karen! Insane uphill switchbacks, indeed. (And today it's my hands instead of my knees that are sore. Taking a break.) Thanks.

  4. Big bummer. Nothing like having your favorite paper decline in quality (or disappear altogether!) to shake your world. I hope you'll record your experiences with your new test papers. Meanwhile, I admire your tenacity, and I must say that some of the unintended "texture" that the paper is giving you is kind of pretty. But that texture should be *your* choice, not the paper's choice! Good luck.

  5. I have a batch of Hosho like that. I'm using a smooth surface Winsor and Newton Cartridge paper at the moment.

  6. So frustrating Sherrie :(
    Feel for you.
    I've had similar issues (not with this paper I hasten to add), and it just has to happen with an image you feel is going to be really successful.
    It won't help right now but these things happen once in a while and you just have to grin and bare it and move on.
    Hope the little 'un is giving you some fun and comfort.


  7. Ann and Annie, thanks for the hand-holding. :-) (If you don't already know each other, you should!)

    Stuart... for 20 years I've been wondering what "cartridge paper" is. I just nod my head sagely when people describe it as what they are using. Methinks it's time for enlightenment. Help, please.

  8. Hi Sherrie

    There is nothing special about it. Its just ordinary drawing paper. Apparently it was originally a rough paper used for wrapping cartridge shells in, artists started using it for drawing and watercolour painting before proper watercolour papers were invented. I guess its just one of those things that gets 'lost in translation' between american and english. I spent ages wondering what scratchboard was, until I realised it was the scraperboard I had been using for years!

    The paper I have been using is a smooth surface 220gsm paper. The ink lies flat on the surface and it is strong enough to stand up to being rubbed with the baren. It will also take quite a lot of ink without buckling.