A Gift From The Sun

by Terry Johnson
(Robe SA)

Last weekend I joined a small group of artists from around South Australia and Victoria and undertook a two day workshop with print master Silvana Angelakis.

What made this experience so unique, aside from the huge amount of knowledge imparted by Silvana, was the total use of the sun to produce our plates enabling one to print relief, embossing and intaglio works on paper.

The weekend was perfect, weather designed for laying under the very old apple tree in the garden courtyard while the sun etched into the photosensitive plates.

The course was held in a beautiful studio, purpose built for printing, in a renovated 150 year old local stone stable well equipped with an excellent press, papers ,inks and other endless art supplies, plus a state of the art commercial espresso machine to ease any stress.

Can there be any stress in art you ask? Well yes! I found tense moments trying convert my brain from a painter's to a printmaker's with my first pressings looking rather murky and certainly lacking in definition.

Day two was a different day and my drawings were more aligned with working towards creating a print, so success was within my sights.

To make a solar plate I firstly transferred my artwork to a transparent film. This film was then overlaid on a solarplate and exposed to the sun, much like making a contact print in photography.

The surface layer of the plate is composed of light-sensitive polymer materials, which are soluble in water. Wherever UV lights strikes the plate the polymer is hardened whereas the other parts of the plate that are blocked from the sun by the opaque lines and marks of the drawing remained soluble.

By carefully washing the plate the soluble residue washes away ,leaving a plate with lines and grooves and, better yet, as the drawing is on a transparency that is seen from either side, unlike traditional relief and intaglio printing, there is no need to create your image in reverse.

Yea have another coffee!

As the course advanced we made intaglio plates which captured an excellent range of tonal shades using an aquatint screen ( a high resolution transparent film covered with random opaque dots) in a double exposure process. (Yes more time in the sun and under the apple tree).

From here it was on to multi plate printing ... So much fun and although the disasters were many in the beginning, as the days drew to an end all were delighted with the outcome and for me the urge to keep investigating the printed image is a must do for 2013.

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