Sunday, April 23, 2017

Gearing Up to Print

I had confessed to my accountability friend that I really hadn't done anything yet towards getting any quilts made; all I'd been doing is thinking and planning. Bless him that he countered with "Planning is important. It's ok that you've been planning." But as I said in the last post, at some point planning becomes procrastination, a justification for dragging one's feet. I needed to get some fabric printed up. I'd soon have justification for my dread of this next step but in the meantime, I took a deep breath and mixed up some paint. I'd taken time to review my notes from the on-line lino class I took and the part about printing in that new linocut book, and had an idea why I had problems during my last printing session. I'd also thought a lot about how I might get more of a dark burgundy color than the first time. So with lots of confidence, I began. And right off the bat I stumbled. I thought I had the Speedball printing ink in red, but apparently I'd decided not to buy that because I had so much of this Liquitex acrylic paint on hand. Ok, I'll go with that then and add Liquitex black as long as I had some, already mixed with some textile medium. I'd use no brown this time, just lots of red with some black. The black seemed to turn my red brown, but I kept adding and adding black until it was the darkness of the leaf I was trying to emulate. I viewed it in natural light and it looked good.

Test print pinned to felt for experimental quilting.

I have small pieces of fabric lying about that have been test printed on and I decided to use one of those to test print the color of the paint. Looked good to me, showing red as desired.

There's a second version marked on the flip side I've not got around to cutting yet.

And yet when I printed on my 15 inch squares, the paint didn't look at all like the test print. It was back to brown, nearly identical to the original paint mixture that started with brown. Paint coverage on the linocut was very uneven and strange. And even though I had my reference prints at hand, I managed to mess up placement of painter's tape guides on several. I ended the first session with nothing usable, not even my carefully cut and fused triangles. So much for advance refreshing of my memory.

My studio is actually the master bedroom which has its own bathroom which I use exclusively for printing.

I really wanted to junk the whole idea, walk away from this grandiose plan for the leaf cluster. I guess the muses showed ME who's in charge! But the next day I decided I just needed to get back on the horse and give it another go, armed with the new lessons learned. I tinkered a bit with the paint, adding more red back in, taped my reference prints to the mirror and tried again. It went somewhat better, now that I knew what to look for as I inked up the block. I didn't mess up any placements this time but I was still disappointed in the outcomes. That paint took on a chameleon nature in that it changed color depending on the background it showed up on. And why should I be surprised? I already know that any color of fabric will read differently depending on the colors surrounding it. Why should paint be any different? I ended the session thinking I still did not have a decent print to work with.

When you don't care, everything goes well.

But at the end of any printing session, one will have excess paint on the palette and on the brush or brayer, and I hate just washing it down the sink. So I grabbed more small pieces of fabric I'd left in my print area, some already printed, and printed with abandon. So of course, all these "I don't care" prints turned out great! Here are two set out to dry. The one on the right is a highly textured grey batik and the one on the left is a rather nondescript greenish batik with the occasional hint of blue leaf. It was first printed with a piece of foam whose original purpose is a mystery. It is quite thick and I'd had it around for a long time wondering if I could stamp with it. Yes, I can! And quite well too.

Testing how it will look around canvas in floater frame. Same paint as all the other prints, the only time it looked black.

Sometimes you have to give what you've been intensely working on some space before passing final judgment, especially if you are as disappointed as I was. I gave it several days before I looked at my prints again to reassess. It also gave me time to reset my thinking, remembering my original plan was to do lots of prints, quilt them up and pick the best four for my ArtWalk exhibit. More importantly, I was reminded that right now, I only needed to finish one that I could take a picture of to submit with my application soon due. Surely I have ONE print good enough to fulfill this goal. And indeed, now that I looked at the group again, there were still duds, a few that might be saved, and at least two that turned out fine. Sometimes you have to remember the big picture. Sometimes you have to remember the intermediary steps.

This is one I decided will work, and will be quilted with a garnet or pebble stitch. The small piece is another one of the "I don't care" prints that I plan use somehow, probably combined with something else to make a larger piece.

Leaf print outlined with burgundy thread, auditioning thread for garnet quilting.

The stripey orange batik print is also ok, and I layered both of those up for quilting with Thermore polyester batting. The batik got decor bond fused to it first because it is quite thin compared to the Stonehenge cotton of the other one, and I felt it needed more stability because of the quilting I planned. And without much time to spare, I started the quilting on these before packing them and the don't care prints up to take to art group. Yes, that week I had TWO accountability parties pushing me along.   


The Inside Stori said...

Your printing session post is awfully familiar… how you didn’t give up! The newest member of our Fiber Junkies group has brought a new found attitude to our group……layer, layer, layer……if one isn’t happy with the first attempt…..go over it with another one. Denny often layers so much her original idea is no longer visible but the end results are always great.

The Idaho Beauty said...

Well, Mary, if I wasn't trying to produce a particular result, and wasn't working towards a deadline, I could have a different attitude towards all this! One of my art group gals suggested that "print over" fix and I'd thought of it myself, but I'm stuck thinking what the next layer would be. Layering doesn't come naturally at all, which is why I am playing around with mixed media and art journalling on the side. it is ALL about layering. But layering, I have found, doesn't always end in something usable either. I could show you some of those "expending paint" cloths in that bathroom that are really quite ugly and the more I add, the worse they get! I don't even think cutting them up in small pieces to mix with something else would save them - lol. But of course, I can't toss anything either, so never fear - I'll keep trying. :-)

The Idaho Beauty said...

Another thing I often forget to consider when assessing my printing is how much the final piece can be and will be transformed with stitch. A lot can be hidden or enhanced with thread.

Lucia Sasaki said...

Dear Sheila, your comment about your "I don't care" pieces made me smile!
Yes, creative process is like this, frustrating at the beginning and making necessary this time to give two steps back to evaluate the progress.
How good you take courage to kick procrastionation and going for it!
You inspire me, be sure of this!
Thanks a lot!

Michele Matucheski said...

Thank you for your honesty and sharing your processes, Sheila. It is a PRACTICE, which means the first prints (or whatever it is) out-of-the-gate might not be so great. But the the ones on Day 2 are pretty good ... It helps to sleep on it to process what you learned, to do more planning on the non-planning side of your brain.

I'm looking for some stained glass fabric to make some quilted table runners that will make it look like stained glass behind a black silhouette. I'd taken a fabric painting class with Micki Lawlor prob 10 years ago now --- The stuff looked ok, but I wasn't sure what I'd ever use that fabric for ... I think the Monet's Garden pieces will do nicely for these little table runners. It only took 10 years for the right project application to show itself!

I was interested to see you using the Liquitex paints -- It's a lot easier to get around here locally without having to pay shipping fees. You can water it down slightly for fabric painting. I tended to like the pain better for block printing than the speedball inks, that were really sticky. I kind of liked the translucent nature of the acrylic paints when it printed ...

That's part of it, too--being a practice -- When you practice your craft and know it well enough to plan and do something willfully, and it works out, great! But there's a lot of process along the way, and some prints wind up on the re-dye pile / rag pile. Some are pleasant surprises -- Serendipity!

The Idaho Beauty said...

Lucia, thanks! I know it always makes me feel better about my own ups and downs when I discover other artists go through the same thing - often ones I wouldn't dream would run into problems. So it is good to know my sharing is inspiration to you as well. And you inspire me with the way you "just do it" with book binding and are now exploring sumi painting. We all have our own creative paths that inspire others!

The Idaho Beauty said...

Michele, thanks for your supportive comment. Yes, I know it is a "practice" but I've never liked the practice part of anything I've tried my hand at! Instant perfect results, that what I expect - lol. And yes, I too have had that experience of not having a clue how I might use something until years later when it becomes the perfect thing. It accounts for much of what's in my bins and drawers that I've moved from house to house over the years. What a feeling of justification for my inability to toss things when they DO finally get used.

As for the Liquitex, I used it back before there were (or at least before I was aware of) paints specifically for fabric. And yes, it was what was available at the local Ben Franklin. I didn't care for the stiffness it left but I was just dabbling in using real leaves to stamp images on fabric so not a huge deal. Not long after I discovered I could add textile medium to soften it, and then discovered the fabric paints. So using the acrylic paints didn't last long and I still have a lot of that original group I bought. Waste not want not - I'm trying to use them up! The Speedball screenprinting ink is a bit sticky but it was recommended in the on-line lino class I took and is used by another art quilter who stamps a lot on her quilts. It too can be watered down some but I actually like the consistency right out of the jar. Just have to keep working on my technique. :-)