New Work: Surface Rolls

I’ve been busy with work and enjoying the rare Portland sunshine.

Yesterday, though, was one of those really marvelous days in the print studio. I didn’t start printing until the afternoon (see earlier comment about sunshine), and I forgot to bring paper. Usually that would be the end right there, but some forgetful person left some beautiful paper behind. I rescued it from the water bath a month or so ago, and it was still sitting there, unclaimed–so I claimed it. It did lose some sizing in its long soak, but not so much that it hurt the paper.

A healthy and disgusting film of pink slime covered the bottom of the water tray, so I had to scour that before I could wet my paper to print. Even thinking about it now is grossing me out, so let’s move on.

I wanted to print in red. Unfortunately, the plate I’m using is the back of someone else’s plate; despite all the polishing I did, it still holds tone. Colored inks tend to leave more tone behind than black inks. Even after modifying the ink, the problem remained, and the bright red napthol turned to something closer to iron oxide.

To preserve the freshness of the color and skirt the plate tone issue, I decided to try a surface roll. It achieves the glean, graphic look that this drawing wants.

An Approximation (test proof), an etching by H. L. Birdsong on Flickr.

The surface roll worked out so beautifully on this one that I tried it with my next plate as well, though I used black instead of a color. I don’t usually work with much color in my prints, other than the tone of the paper and the temperature of the black ink, but I find that many of these geometric constructions want color and specific ones at that. The above image, for example, I can’t imagine in any but red. There’s one construction that has to be light blue. I will try the color roll with that one next; last week I had a very unsatisfying day of trying and failing to get the right shade of blue to print intaglio. Again, oxidation was a factor.

This next print, Thales’ Theorem (title may change), wants to be in black. It just feels like the appropriate color, and I really don’t have a better reason than that for any of my color choices.

Six Rights (Thales’ Theorem) test proof, an etching by H. L. Birdsong on Flickr.

I never liked surface rolls when I was in school. “Why surface roll when you can chine collé?” was always my thinking. Wanting to work with more vivid colors for this pared-down imagery is changing my feeling about that. Those little white lines are really, really sexy.



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