Photopolymer Etching: a New Walk to Map


Photopolymer Print

Photopolymer Print

A couple of weekends ago I took part in a photopolymer etching workshop at Intra, an art venue hosting a diversity of creative events and classes and in particular, it has a splendid collection of specialist arts equipment and facilities for fine art printmaking.

Intra is conveniently (for me) situated in Rochester and the workshop was taken by Liz Miller, a London-based artist I saw some of her work recently at an exhibition entitled Beyond Boundaries in Rochester Art Gallery. Beyond Boundaries included pieces also from two other Intra artists, Xtina Lamb and Adam Piper. Liz’s work on display (Debussy II) both is, and is inspired by, graphic notation (non-traditional music notation using visual symbols). Graphic notation is associated with experimental music such as that of John Cage, composer of 4’33”.  Incidentally, Cage was also a printmaker and I’m a particular fan of his watercolours  using stones and on smoked paper. And his preoccupation with chance.

Original Photo of 'Knitted Ivy' Optimised in Photoshop

Photo of ‘Knitted Ivy’, optimised in Photoshop for the Photopolymer Process

I’d not heard of photopolymer etching until the Beyond Boundaries exhibition. Actually, I’ve done very little etching, or printmaking in general. During my fine art degree years, the facilities were there for etching and screen printing, but I didn’t take advantage of them. This was partly because my body didn’t at all like being exposed to the fumes from the etching solvents and acids – luckily for me – as I now know these are carcinogenic and poisonous.

A few years after finishing my degree course I did part of an etching course at a local college and even made my own printing press by adapting a victorian clothes mangle. I moved abroad shortly afterwards however and gave the press to an artist friend.

Photopolymer printmaking was originally developed by Dan Welden in the 1970s (check out his solarplate prints, they are stunning) and involves transferring a graphic image onto a metal plate using ultra-violet light. The plate is then inked-up in the usual way and prints are made by feeding the plate and a sheet of fine art paper through a printing press.

The Image Printed onto Acetate

The Image Printed onto Acetate

I took along a black and white printout of a photo of the ivy knitting I did recently (and blogged about here). My image was then scanned during the workshop onto acetate, exposed to uv light for a few seconds – both sides – which sort-of baked the image onto the plate.

After exposure, the light-sensitive emulsion on the plate is scrubbed vigorously and with speed (the emulsion hardens very quickly). This reveals the image bitten into the plate.

Knitted Ivy

Knitted Ivy

My knitted ivy has had quite a journey. I cut the ivy, knitted the ivy, photographed the ivy, optimised the photo in Photoshop, printed off the photo, printed the photo onto acetate, etched the acetate image onto a light-sensitive metal plate, exposed the plate to uv light, inked up the plate, pulled a print using a printing press.

I am pleased I’ve been able to add this technique to my repertoire and also to meet the other workshop attendees and facilitators.

I’m excited about the aspect of chance in this technique, which also preoccupied Cage and I’m going to revisit him as an influence. The same aspect of chance is intriguing in my exploration of botanical (eco) printing.

Of course, I don’t believe in chance. It makes life far more interesting.

Anybody tried this method of printing?

Ann

 

About AnnIsikArts

Artist/Writer, Proofreader/Copy Editor
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14 Responses to Photopolymer Etching: a New Walk to Map

  1. Xtina Lamb says:

    Thanks for the post Ann. Since your class I’ve realised how much the image itself dictates the exposure time for the polymer plates. One of the most interesting things with having different artists coming and using our printmaking equipment is the range of work they want to do, and just the scope of the images chosen. I’d be interested to see the hare image that came out quite dark for someone else in your group, exposed for several minutes. Someone else last week was exposing a very pale image for just 15 seconds with good results! Test strips every time seem to be the way to go if using a big plate.

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    • AnnIsikArts says:

      Hello Xtina. This process has possibilities for a ‘major project’ which I’m calling ‘Below the Line’, an expression taken from Deepak Chopra’s book ‘Quantum Healing’. Had there been time at the workshop I would have liked to try making plates with some of my eco print ‘fans’ (which in reality, are coffee filters dyed with plant material). I’m also interested in the metaphysical/spiritual aspect of bringing something into being/making something visible by exposure to light. I’m also itching to have a go at Gocco. I liked your work at the Rochester exhibition and have just managed to buy your ‘Swept Away’ book. I look forward to receiving that in the post. Thank you! And hey, it’s good to follow up on folks – you made a sale! Have a nice Christmas season. Ann

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  2. I’m still on the page visiting Dan Weldon’s Solar Plates. This reminded me of a ‘print’ process, whereby using India ink or instance, covering the page, placing objects on and leaving it in the sun. the first bunch wasn’t successful, it rained and I forgot they were outside. I’ll revisit this and see what happens. Inspiring post as usual. Much regard.

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    • AnnIsikArts says:

      Thanks for reading friend! I have some photo sensitive paper waiting for me to do that process you talk about. Of course, we have no sunshine here at present. Today it has been dark all day! Coming down with sore throat etc. Oh well.

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  3. Just popped in to say hello after seeing your comments on Sharon’s blog this morning. I’ve been in and out of Friday Fictioneers recently as I’ve been busy and also sometimes just tired of trying to keep up as well as enjoying doing my own thing on my blog each day. Hope you are well and ready to enjoy the Christmas holiday.

    janet

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    • AnnIsikArts says:

      Hello Janet, how nice to hear from you. I’ve not been able to participate much in FF recently, for the same reasons as yours, but hope to pick up on it again soon. I’ve signed up for your bicycle blog and would like to make a small donation but can’t find a way. If you add a Paypal option, that would be good. It’s wonderful work you’re doing there. Happy Christmas to you too. Love Ann

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      • Ann, it’s great to hear from you. I hope things are going well for you. Bill said just a couple days ago, that we probably need to get Paypal, but it won’t be happening this year unfortunately. If you’re following the blog, which doesn’t have much action except around Christmas, you’ll know what’s going on. I don’t know if you can send checks overseas or not easily. But we’re happy for the support and hopefully next year we’ll be able to accommodate Paypal.

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      • AnnIsikArts says:

        If you move onto charitable status you could also set up a page on Just Giving. I sometimes donate through Just Giving via Paypal. Have a nice Christmas.

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      • Thanks for the idea, Ann, and have a blessed Christmas, too.

        janet

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