My KS4 Y10 students have been working on a Life & Death project, with the aim of creating two smaller final pieces rather than one large one. The final pieces are made up of a cast (in modroc) inspired by Antony Gormley’s ‘Another Place‘ along with a series of intaglio prints.
The printmaking process can be quite laborious, so I have let the students trace images for their initial drawings to speed things up. Here I’ll post a step-by-step guide of what they’ve done so far.
- Students found portrait pictures of people they were inspired by and photographs of objects that could relate to our Life & Death project. Most chose skulls etc, but some chose flowers and animals.
- Students traced over half of their inspirational person’s face, then made up the other half with their chosen theme.
- It is important to work in pen at this stage, so students can create tone using mark making rather than blending. The more types of marks they can make on their drawings the better, for example cross hatching, dots, scratches etc
- Working onto clear perspex sheets, students used a sharp tool (nails or a pointed metal object will work) to trace their drawing through to the block. They did this by scratching their drawing through onto the plastic.
- To ink up the blocks, students scrape printing ink across the perspex with a spatula. This pushes the ink down into the scratches they have made. Ink is then wiped off with a dry cloth. This is a simplified description of the process but there are plenty of good websites (such as handprinted.co.uk!) with examples of how to ink up and wipe the print block.
- Students painted backgrounds that they wanted to print onto then used the printing press at school to create their pieces.
As you can see the marks that the students have made all show up beautifully. The press picks up any ink from the block, so the smoky background is due to some ink being left on the block. This can be removed if you’d like a crisper finish, however I think it looks great!
Some prints came out with an uneven finish, this is either due to too much ink being rubbed off the block, or parts of the paper not being damp enough. The process is trial and error but the students have enjoyed trying out slightly different ways of working each time.
Students are able to go back to their block and etch more details if they wish, then print again. As an extension, some students printed onto a range of backgrounds that they created with different colours, newspaper, tissue paper etc. They then started to collage their different prints to create new pieces.
I have really enjoyed teaching this as students can see that making ‘mistakes’, or their prints coming out differently to what they expected is a good thing. They have enjoyed the different practical aspects and although it is a very difficult skill, they’ve all had a good go.
Have you done any print projects with your students? What do you think of the outcomes here? Do you have any questions about this project or the process? It’d be great to hear your feedback in the comments.