Monday, February 14, 2011

The Heart of the Matter

I don't usually work with hearts as a rule, but in the last month I've done three projects using hearts as a theme. What can I say? When you get an invite to a project that looks intriguing, you give in and go with it.

Yesterday I spent the afternoon at a new adult art program at the Richmond Art Gallery called "Let's Make Stuff!". The idea is to bring something you're already working on and play in a creative environment with other artists.

Kathy invited us to try using their monoprint press, and since I'd come with no fixed idea on how to proceed except to make something heart-shaped, it seemed a good time to experiment.

I drew a basic heart shape, then overlaid it with a stiff acetate plate painted with gum arabic. Using watercolours I outlined the heart in black, and then loosely painted in the heart in red, and filled the background with a nice woody brown. After everything is completely dry, the acetate plate is put paint-side up onto the bed of the press and covered with a high-rag content print paper that has been soaking in water for about an hour (I squeegeed the paper between two sheets of blotter paper to remove the excess water first).

Sheets of heavy felt are laid over the paper/plate sandwich and then the whole press bed is crank-fed through the rollers. Then the print is gently pulled off the acetate plate, and you get what you hope is a decent print. Kathy told us this kind of printmaking has so many variables (roller pressure, moisture levels, paper quality, how you apply your initial paint to the plate, etc. etc.) that it takes years to predict accurately what's going to come out the other end.

Yesterday all of us seemed pretty pleased with what we got - and we all did wildly different things. Including pulling second and third (increasingly faint) prints off our painted plates (the term monoprint does rather imply ONE print per plate). Some people even ran the same paper through with the plate rotated to get a ghosted image interacting with the initial strong image. Ah, the joy of being a newbie! Wish I'd had the presence of mind to take pictures while we were doing this - it would have been infinitely more informative.

This heart will be the base of what I'm making for one of the projects. I intend to add something to it - probably handwritten text. I might even add some small collage elements if I can find the right touches. And, following my usual "always make two" rule, I have two to play with, so I've got at least a 50/50 chance of getting something I'll be happy to send off, and a 100% chance of having something to help me remember the process for our next Let's Make Stuff! session at the RAG.

PS - Yes, I'll post the other two heart projects (both using anatomical hearts) when the intended recipients have received them. Oh, and Happy Valentine's Day!

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