Sit like an Egyptian

Back to design. This time I decided to use a smaller shape- A5- to see if I could control the alignment of the two masks. I chose an Egyptian seated profile figure- actually not Egyptian, but taken from another Gauguin. I wanted to improve the alignment and the depth of colour. The positive mask had a straight line at the bottom of the printed area, which I thought would be easier to align. Chose pink and dark blue, and decided to be ambitious and try reversed side-by-side prints. The first efforts were still unaligned, and the edges were unclear.

Egyptian 1

The next attempt – on the left- had speckled blue.

Egyptians 2

At about this stage I started to wonder if I could leave my inks out for longer- I had been washing them off after each session, and realised I was washing a lot down the sink and I hadn’t yet found another source of them. This was when I decided to search the internet, and found a couple of helpful blogs. One thing I learned was that I could leave the inks on the plate for a couple of days. The second was a hint about placing the second mask on the printed paper to ensure alignment. This worked! The blue (on the image on the right, above)  is still spotty, and there is still a big white gap around but the gap is better placed.

Tried once more, and found the ink seemed to be better from having sat on the plate for a day- got a richer colour.

This is the next attempt, above. The one on the left was done first, and the second shows better alignment using the same technique as before, except instead of using sticky tape, I printed while the first stage was still sticky, and used the stickiness of the ink to attach the mask. I also pressed much much harder on the paper. I placed the sketch of the image over the back of the printing paper and pressed especially hard on the edges to try to create clear lines. There’s some mess at the edges but I think this is good as I can get this right now, with the depth of colours pretty even across all four.

 I like the superimposed pink and blue ghost third prints too.

Ghost print Egyptians




I also realised that I wasn’t working very smart, waiting for things to dry, and realised I should multi-task, and have more than one thing going at a time. While waiting for the above to dry, experimented with some textures. This a very new way of working for me: I’m used to sitting down to a single painting for a long time.

Mask 3: Red and green Christ

Tried again with red and green, trying to get solid colours on the printing plate, both positive and negative, by rolling harder and using thinner tracing paper. The alignment was a bit off again.

Red and green Christ


I also got a strange texture in the green background, a pattern of worm-like shapes which I couldn’t account for.

The ghost images here are quite attractive though. When I went to Granada and visited the Science museum, I saw this exhibit in a section on the human body which reminded me of the print. The ghost image seems to look through the body and show its delicate inner workings.

Blood flow


Ghost print red and green Christ

Mask 2 Yellow Christ

Tried another mask- this time I was inspired by Gauguin’s Yellow Christ, which is one of my favourite paintings, and I thought it a very clear image to work with. I added curves and indentations to the body shape to suggest brokenness as there was only the outline to work with. In order to have a single negative mask, I cut through the feet to create an overlap that would keep the mask joined as one piece.

I wasn’t sure what kind of paper to use as the mask. I had tried copier paper, but it tended to curl as it was laid down. Firmer cartridge paper made too big a white area around the image. I also tried tracing paper as a thinner version than cartridge, yet firmer than copier paper.

Although the positive mask reached the borders of the printing area, I was still not successful in placing it accurately the first time. I did however succeed in making a dark, solid printed background in dark blue. The yellow, though, missed the mark, and was also very weakly printed. Nevertheless, it’s possible to get mileage out of this happy accident, by reflecting on the nature of the body/ soul dichotomy, the material and immaterial…. Personally I find it an effective image.

Yellow Christ

The second version on copier paper, using purple in the background, was better aligned but the background was speckled, and there was again a large white area.

Yellow Christ 2

As mentioned though, I quite like the misalignment on these prints, as they suggest a separation of body and spirit.

The ghost print is attractive as it looks like a surge of energy is going through the body.

Ghost Print Yellow Christ 2

I started to wonder about my rolling technique as I couldn’t seem to get a thick surface of ink on the printing plate, so I tried taking a print directly off the inking plate. This was better. The purple positive shape is incomplete as I took it off a patch of colour on the inking plate, but I like this one too, as it’s possible to “read” the incompleteness as a metaphor for transcendendance, or reminiscent of the Turin shroud. There’s a rather fortuitous accident too, where a speck of dust ahs landed just about thte position of the heart, showing as if it’s a target.


Masked prints

When I was following a watercolour course with OCA I got irritated with the fact that the subject matter was so prescribed. This course is different. It’s harder to think about WHAT to paint but it’s a useful dialogue to have with oneself…

Images- static or dynamic- I wanted the latter. Human figure, something recognisable. Started with an image of a woman in the rain with an umbrella. It came from a painting by Paul Serusier, “L’Averse”. I thought it had a distinctive shape, suitable for the purpose.

In my first cut, I got it wrong and had a spare bit of paper, a second negative shape,  which I realised wouldn’t work.  Tried again and simplified the shape.

My first masked print is soft and speckled, not unattractively. The thin line of the umbrella hasn’t come out though. But it’s an implied line.

first masked print- negative mask

Made a few more copies, positive and negative, ghost prints and third copy with ridged shape of the mask.  Used blue for positive shape, yellow for negative.

darker image

ghost print of positive mask

This was all strnagely satisfying, like a miraculous unfolding. You just didn’t know what was going to appear.

Then moved on to try positive and negative together. Chose purple for positive shape, and kept yellow for negative, and tried to add element of texture to negative by dragging a brush across diagonally to suggest rain.  

positive and negative

This went badly for two reasons- firstly some specks of dust crept in and left big white areas on the printed page, although the texture and the solidity of the colour was otherwise ok, I thought .  Secondly, there was a huge gap between the positive and the negative shapes. I also became acutely aware that all the advice on registering the print didn’t actually help with positioning the positive image accurately. It was pure guesswork positioning an image that was in the middle of the page.  As my yellow ink was the most transparent, I tried to position a sketch underneath the printing plate in the hope that it would shine through. The coursebook was very little help with all this.

ghost print of positive mask