Backdrawing from life: Lillies

Backdrawing - lillies

Another catch up – I realised I hadn’t done any backdrawings from life, so made an attempt.

I decided to draw some lillies growing in a blue container in our garden. After a couple of quick preparatory sketches, I mixed up some yellow, green and blue ink and applied it to my perspex plate. I liften some ink off with some scrap paper, then laid some green textured paper on gently and took the plate outside to create the backdrawing.

I made a couple of versions – the one shown was the better of the two.


Hmm, not brilliant – mainly I think because of colours weren’t really strong enough against the paper, so poor choices there. I did want to create some more examples of backdrawing from life, but just ran out of time. Also, I guess I’m not always that confident in creating decent drawings very quickly, and as usual time is of the essence when using my water-based inks.

I did want to create some more examples of back drawing from life, but unfortunately ran out of time.


Back to masks: “Mother” monoprint

I’m almost there – almost have all the pieces I need to hand in for my assignment (phew). Looking closely at the requirements for submission, I noticed I was missing some pieces, including a second example of a print employing positive and negative masks. My first attempt with this, ages ago, was quite painful, particularly in getting the registration right. But after gaining practice through subsequent work, I found it much easier this time.

sketches for "Mother" monoprint

Sketches and planning

I decided to work with a shape I’d sketched last year. This actually started life as a doodled zentangle curve (in the top left of this photo), the shape of which reminded me of a nursing mother.

I developed this only a little to create some simple shapes that would work as masks, and decided on a three stage process. Past experience with registration meant that that this time I made things easier by including one edge of the figure that “bled” over the edge of the frame shape – this helped to position the masks.

Setting up

Once again I used my masking tape right-angle frame which is stuck directly on my fantastic glass table. This provides a corner on which I can register my printing paper each time, and I can simply use more masking tape as hinges on the top edge of the “frame” to position my masks. Each of the three major masks were attached at the start of the process so I could check their position up front.

1. The first print created the grey background, using a mask that masked out the “frame” of the image and the central figure. You’ll notice that the  print is facing the opposite way from my sketches. This was of course deliberate…. ok, no it wasn’t, but I didn’t noticed till I took the first print (sigh) and didn’t have time to reposition all the masks. I thought it might look good anyway so pressed on and took three more prints, re-inking the glass each time:

2. Next I added the dusky pink of the central figure using one mask that masked out everything but that central shape, and two smaller ones that created the shapes of the mother’s face and the baby, leaving them white.

For the shape of the mother, I had deliberately cut the mask to leave a white border between her head and the grey backround.

For the smaller masks, which sit isolated in the middle of the  image, I used the same technique I’d used in the poppy print – I attached the small masks directly to the previously-printed grey images using small pieces of low-tack masking tape.  (This was easier than trying to lay them directly onto the ink without smudging). At this point I lost two of my set of prints because of some remaining registration problems I hadn’t forseen – here are two that survived after some adjustments:

After the 1st (grey) and 2nd (pink) prints

The small white internal spaces are not quite white – this is becaused I used very thin tissue paper for these small areas, which let a tiny bit of speckly ink through. I looks kinda nice though.

3. The final print used a final mask to add a darker contour to the figure. Both prints came out well, and slightly different. I like this one best:

Mother monoprint - final 3rd stage - dark contour


This was good, I enjoyed it and found the whole process so much smoother now after all the practice I’ve had with previous experiments. Saying that though, I still made a few fairly basic mistakes, but by now I think I’ve understood this is part of the nature of printmaking and know that even the professionals will count on losing a percentage of an edition to various mishaps and errors. I  am pleased with the resulting prints too and that I got it all done within a few hours (hooray for water-based inks!).

This image was created to demonstrate the use of +ve and -ve masks together, so I’ll leave it at that, but if I have time I may take this a little further by adding some backdrawing or texture.

Backdrawing – Zoe

Here’s a backdrawing I made using a photo of Zoe when she was just 2. With a thin layer of dark blue ink, made thinner by taking a quick print to lift some more ink off, I laid the printing paper down, then the photo, then drew lightly over it using a dry pen,  using different pressures to get some light and shade, and also using a sponge to get some of the softer textures. I was quite pleased with the way it came out – and once the print was dry I added some water colour in blue, pink and brown. I think I’ll try this again, and develop it a bit further.

Zoe (backdrawing)

Further experiments in monoprinting

With these prints I was just experimenting with masks, textures and backdrawing. I didn’t really plan too far ahead, but started with a large circular mask, with some smaller shaped masks to fit inside. I used a very thin wrapping paper for the masks, which happened to have spots on it…and it turned out the white spots lifted ink much more than the rest of the paper, so when I lifted the masks after a print, I found the texture left behind. Another happy accident, so I used this in a couple of different ways.

I added some backdrawing/ghost prints and – my new favourite – a sprinkling of tea, to get the effects in the prints above. So…. we have… petri dish? Views into space? Escaping ameobas? Hehe, just some experimenting.

Monoprints – Texture experiments

This exercise was about a) experimenting with textures by making impressions in the ink using miscellaneous objects and materials, and b) using these techniques to create a landscape.

First, experiments

Image 1 – In the first experiment I used wrapping paper, pipe cleaners, tea bags, copper wire, a balloon, pasta spirals and spagetti, scouring brush, and dough cutters, pompoms, sponge and foam shapes from Zoe’s art box.

Image 1 - Texture mark making

The best results came from the the sponge and foam shapes, tea bags, pipe cleaner and paper, which absorbed or lifted the ink nicely.
Spagetti and wire were hard to press onto the plate without getting finger prints on the ink, and didn’t lift the ink so easily.

Image 2 – In the second experiment I used the best materials again, but still found the ink wasn’t lifting as easily as expected. Some building-like shapes emerging though..

Image 2 - More experiments in texture

Image 3 – And in the third piece I used the foam shapes again but first dampened them with warm water – some smudginess but much better in terms of lifting ink. Here I used the (very rough) shape of Cockenzie Power station (which is on the coast, near where I live).

Image 3 - using warm water

A landscape

Image 4 – developing the idea of image 3, I started with a two colour plate, and used the foam shapes for the rectangular elements of the building, the scouring brush for the sea (I liked the effect here), cotton buds for some shapes at the base of the image, a tea bag, paper, and balloon to texture the sky, and spagetti for the vertical spines on top of the building….and the best bit? Tea leaves from a burst teabag scattered over the sky….I loved the sparkly, starry effect this produced. Happy accident!

Cockenzie Power Station monoprint


I’d been putting this exercise off for ages – I think because I tried to imagine the landscape image before trying the experiments, and couldn’t. But once I just started experimenting and kept going, some ideas formed and I began to enjoy it. And I was very surprised and pleased with the final result.

I loved working in my new little workspace, esp mixing and printing directly off the glass table, so I really feel like I’ve made some progress after such a long time away.  Onwards and upwards.

More masks…

Further experiments with my masked poppy monoprints.

First, combining +ve and -ve masks..

..and wrestling with the problem of how to register the two: a) getting the +ve and -ve masks positioned correctly, and b) positioning the printing paper identically for both prints.


Lining up the -ve mask wasn’t a problem, as it was the same size as the printing plate, with the cutout in the middle. But the problems came with trying to position the +ve mask – an isolated design that had to be placed in the middle of the inked-up plate. (If I’d thought this through a bit more upfront, I would have used a different design that incorporated a bleed over the edge of the print).

This wasn’t made easier by the fact that my +ve mask had quite a bit of movement in it. In the end I drew some guidelines around the plate to help, but this still meant placing the +ve mask by sight. The result? Not great, not fun, and certainly not repeatable.

Thank goodness…

Luckily, I got a great tip from another student – Carol Stimpson (check out her great work at her blog) – something I’d not thought of, which was to attach the +ve mask (very lightly) to the printing paper (in which case it’s easy to place it accurately), instead of placing it on the inked plate. Aha! I tried it – it worked perfectly! (Thanks Carol). Here’s the result:

(as before, the white border around the poppy is just because of the thickness of the masks, and not being able to apply enough pressure – this would disappear if I were to use a press, probably. I like it though).

Here’s a ghost version – this was easy to register as the masks had already been removed – and I just taped the printing paper with a “hinge” of masking tape against the printing plate.

Afterwards I thought of another potential way to do it (short of an overhead projector)… placing the -ve mask on the uninked plate,  rolling the ink over the mask, then removing the mask before printing (although I reckon it would be hard to roll the ink nicely around the shape details).

Next: some experimenting

1. With leaves – first using them as + masks over a ghost plate  to get the white outline, then pressing them into ink, then back onto the print. (Unfortunately none of them are poppy leaves but never mind!) I like some of this.. especially the ones that overlap the red background.

For this next one I first rolled and printed a light green background then added lines made using the end of a paintbrush, some dry-brushing, some darker green ink brushed on, a net from some supermarket clementines, some quinoa (made holes in the printing paper, oops), some lightly spattered acrylic medium, and …er.. some Rice Crispies. Well, as i said, experimenting!

Next, I used the -ve mask with red ink to get the poppy shape… but before printing painted in some darker red and green ink onto the space within the mask…..BUT, getting tired at this stage, forgot to wipe some of the smudges from the mask before I printed it. You can see the resulting smudginess especially on the poppy leaf.  Very annoying but I don’t suppose I’ll make the same mistake again! Here I was trying to make the red poppy a bit more transparent, so added more medium to the ink.


Good and bad here, and I have to say I was getting rather frustrated with the whole registration project, but very chuffed to finally get a good result. I was really happy to move on to some experimentation and feel I’ve learnt a lot there about what to expect from variety of effects – lots of things to try!