Assignment 1

 Open College of the Arts
Tutor report


Student name Christine Bruce Student number 505070
Course/Module Printmaking 1 Assignment number 1


Overall Comments

You have made a good start here with your first assignment and have developed some strong subject matter, even through some struggle of making a decision about exactly what that subject matter could be! Continue to absorb yourself in other artists work too as well as gathering first hand resources of imagery that appeals to you – subjects that are all around you; interiors, exteriors, landscapes or still life subjects. You can take these further using a viewfinder to place over a photo, painting or drawing and ‘zoom’ in on a particular aspects that you think might translate into print well. You have simplified your ideas to ensure they translate into print, and used a wide range of exciting monoprinting techniques that bring your varied subject matter themes to life.


Assessment potential (after Assignments 1 and 4)



I understand your aim is to go for the  Creative Arts Degree and that you plan to submit your work for assessment at the end of this course. From the work you have shown in this assignment, and providing you commit yourself to the course, I suggest that you are likely to be successful in the assessment.




Feedback on assignment

Project 1

Your first painterly monoprints explore colour and mark-making to good effect; you have produced a strong body of prints here, that demonstrate your ability to experiment freely and confidently with your tools and materials. Expressive brush strokes are prominent and energetic. It would be good to see many more types of marks made with a wider variety of tools like toothbrushes, knives, forks, twigs, feather nibs, cotton buds…anything that will make a mark in the ink. I like the way you have explored the nature of the inks by thinning them out, using them wet and dry and getting a feel for what the brush can do with splatter effects. The two colour combinations work well, complementing each other and working in harmony with the white spaces. White space within a print can be essential, giving a sense of space and depth. Rolling ink on the plate and wiping is shown well in the yellow, red and orange prints, where you then add more brush strokes of painted areas. Ghost prints can be just as interesting as the first print taken and it’s good to see you discovering this. The ‘Spanish’ print begins to resonate a sense of movement and place that the earlier prints didn’t quite capture…your experiments are coming into fruition as you discover just what can be achieved and gain confidence in your tools and materials. The contrast between strong geometric shapes and soft brushed areas of colour is excellent. The range of colours, including a little black makes the colours sing…more areas of black would enhance this. It reminds me of some of Sir Terry Frosts later paintings and prints – well worth a look. Copier paper is more absorbent than cartridge paper, but with wet inks it can buckle and dry with wrinkles unless you weight it down whilst it’s drying. Cartridge is stronger and may just need more pressure applying in transferring the ink to the paper. It may be that you have to apply a little heavier roll-up of ink, ensuring that you pend time rolling out the ink to give a good even layer of the ink on the plate.

Ghost prints can be used as backgrounds for over-printing with another design. The black and white print showing the writing on a menu board is very strong, even though through it you realise the need to write backwards on the plate! You have trouble thinking of what subjects you should use for the life study print….anything with strong form is sufficient. Don’t worry too much about subject at this stage; it’s the process you want to get to grips with, and the subjects will come later. You began with the tree, grass and sky composition. The interplay of formal and abstract shapes here is really interesting, especially where the black outline partly suggests the ape of the tree. The grass could benefit from some textural aspect by working in the ink. The still life you return to portraying the cup, plate and fruit is super…blue and orange as complementary colours sit in harmony very successfully here, and you have the scale of the subjects well judged along with the composition of each object within the picture plane.


Project 2

Your masked prints bring to life a varied range of subject matter that you now seem comfortable in exploring and seems to be ‘happening’ with more deliberate planning and thought. The brief asks for one example of the negative masked print and one of the positive. You show here the two coming together with two contrasting colours…which is what’s asked for in the following project. It’s worth baring this in mind when it comes to formal assessment, where you’ll really need to ensure that exactly what’s asked for is exactly what’s submitted to represent and meet that criteria. The figurative shape of these masks works very well although some of the transfer of ink is a little blotchy and thin in areas. The stronger transfer of ink is evident in the ‘Egyptian’ mask prints. I love the irregularity of the stencil, seen in the negative print with a white figure and red background; the way the head is tilted and the crossing of the feet are all decisions that make this more than just a paper shape; it has a powerful sense of the personal and much potential. You develop this further later on with back-drawing to great effect. You could play with the color combinations and look at making a third stencil even, or layering up a number of colours, shifting the stencil out of alignment slightly, working from a light colour first through to darker shades. This would add a greater amount of depth and further impact.

Project 3

There are a number of two coloured masked prints that you have made, but I’m not sure exactly which one’s you are submitting for this task as the images you’ve sent me use three colours. The two-coloured prints (Egyptian and Christ) I have commented on earlier and these are the prints that meet this brief well. The further experiments of the Cypress trees, Hollyhocks and fruit really begin to show a sophisticated approach to not only planning the whole composition and colours of the design, but also in your ability to work through the process producing some excellent results. Yes, it doesn’t take much time and preparation to make a print that’;s layered and built up in this way! You comment it doesn’t come to much, but it does! The masked print of the bridge and buildings in the skyline is interesting – did you take it any further?The Cypress print has much potential for growth – additional colours, textures and stencils could be applied to make this a rich image that speaks of the warmth of the landscape and the subjects. The trees at first reminded me of standing stones – it interesting to see you then later work with similar shapes and themes in the Monolithic prints. You are really discovering exactly what each process can do for you, and that is the whole aim of this first assignment,. At times it may be frustrating, especially with the less immediate printing process, but you’re not going to immediately ‘take’ to every process and that’s fine! It’s wonderful to see you bringing primary colours together to overlap and create secondary colours – water-based inks often lend themselves to this, and you can always experiment with an extender that is specifically designed to be added to your inks to make them more transparent. I’d like to know which brand of inks you’re using, perhaps you can mention this in your next blog for assignment two. The deliberate misalignment of the mask to produce the white halo around the trees plays a major part in the success of the print, along with the subtle gradation of blue in the sky. Have you tried the rainbow roll effect, where you could use two different shades of blue, maybe white too, rolled up on the same roller? Great Art mail order have started selling some very small rollers, perfect for detailed and specific rolling – I think they ship worldwide. Printing on a flat surface requires the colours and surface texture to play it’s part in helping the eye perceive it as having three dimensional qualities. This occurs through establishing light and dark areas, shadows and suggestions that enable formal elements in a composition to come forward or recede. You’ve managed to create some of this in the Cypress tree landscape and it would be great subject to pursue later. The other versions where you’ve added textural qualities to the sky using the roller don;t have the same appeal and impact, but some of that may be due to the roller have being used with a vertical motion. Horizontal roller marks wold be inline with the landscape itself and the horizon. Using cotton buds or cotton wool, you could try removing elements of the blue sky, in either of the versions here, to suggest clouds and allow the white of paper to show through.

The simplicity of the fruit and Hollyhock prints reminds me of Andy Warhols screen-prints, where shape and colour are the major forces behind their success. You have developed textural qualities in these prints, using the leaves themselves and brush marks to only part of the pear – giving it solidity. You comment on the processes you’ve used, but it would be good to read your thoughts about the finished result and any further developments you could make. The Hollyhock painting is really rich in colour and surface pattern – you have successfully broken this down into elements perfect for printing. It’s reminiscent of a fabric design and could be built up further with additional layers of colour and repeat patterns using the flower and stem masks. The masks here have been used well in conjunction with painting and wiping on your plate; you continue to find new ways of working that are quicker and more immediate as you’d prefer.

Backdrawing has engaged your obvious love of the drawn image, using line and tone to produce some beautiful prints here. The apples in the basket show a rich use of ‘rainbow’ colours, and where you later use this palette to show off the Hollyhock stencils is great. This technique requires very little ink on the surface of the plate to help prevent too much ink transferring to the paper….all you really want to see are the drawn lines, put the subtle pick-ups of ink elsewhere here do not take over and detract from the image itself. The back-drawing could work well over the Hollyhocks too, and you can use all sorts of mark-making tools as you can when you draw into the ink, to create differences in line, tone and pattern. Your various backdrawn studies of Keith make a good series of prints that show differences in pressure you’ve used, drawing tools, colour of paper and ghost printing. Other types of paper can work really well for this – brown parcel paper, paper bags, newsprint. The washing -up liquid has given way to the odd splodge and ‘messy’ tones, but it’s energy and expression is lively and very atmospheric; you’ve used light and dark to good effect here, especially in the face.

Project 4

The dramatic black and red bull print is planned in detail in your sketchbook and the prints are strong and iconic. The red could be more solid in it’s transfer on the paper, but in some ways the few patchy areas add to the effect, like a rock or cave painting. The way you’ve played with the solid figure of the bull and it’s counterpart shadow is really intriguing; particularly where the mask has moved slightly to produce the white halo effect again. It’s as if the sun is blazing down casting the shadow….the symbolic value of the red is essential in representing the subject matter in full. The black back-drawn image of two bulls fighting is super and could even look good over a red background too. The earthy feel of cave paintings that you refer to could be bought to life more by using an additional sponge dabbing effect over the red, using an oxide red or burnt sienna brown.

Bonfire of the Vanities brings a conceptual idea forth in the form of simplistic shape and suggestion. You have deliberately inked your plate heavier than before so that the red printed is as strong and uniform as possible, adding to the overall impact of the composition. The ambiguous nature of the bold shape and the very fine lines that emerge forth from it’s top are appealing. The first version of the gallery space suggests windows in the wall…or pictures as you intended! Where did the shape emerge from in the second version, that you’ve submitted for this task? Are you relying on an intuitive and spontaneous approach to your decision making and letting one idea inform another? This cross-over into the world of abstraction may be something you’d like to explore further. As simplistic as these prints are, it would be good to see an additional technique employed to provide an additional layer – whether hard or soft. The two opposites in this way do attract each other. You talk of the possibility of embossing the shapes – this would be achieved most prominently with the use of an etching press, and through using stencils made of thick card. If you don’t have access to one, you can always use your hands and ensure that even pressure is applied throughout. The thicker the surface of your stencil or mask the deeper it can pushed into the paper, and it can help if the paper is damp (spray lightly with water and blot  with blotting paper and a clean roller) You can’t dampen every type of paper successfully – it’s best to use a ‘cotton rag’ paper like Somerset, Fabriano or BFK Rives. These wonderful printmaking papers may be a little expensive, but they are worth it. A more reasonably priced paper is Zerkall and you can buy these from Great Art, Intaglio Printmaker or TN Lawrence.

The monolithic set of prints, inspired by David Nash’s work are certainly ‘less fussy’ than the painted monoprints – the simplicity of form takes front seat and resonates a whole myriad of interpretations. It is a question of subject matter, and there’s no doubt in this assignment you’ve explored everything! All the standing stone prints in the series have a degree of interest in the way you’ve combined a number of techniques, but they seem to be shouting out for something more. Perhaps a few other stones, of differing sizes and angles of shadows, or the suggestion of a horizon or ground level…at the moment they are floating in the air. The texture of the paper, apparent by rubbing ink with your finger over areas, is good. It makes me think about the backgrounds and surfaces of your papers, and how you might prepare them in the future for printing over. You can hand stain certain areas of the paper, with a rag and printing ink, pushing it in to the paper and rubbing, Or you could use the printing paper to take a rubbing of an interesting texture, using chalk, pastel or charcoal. These preparations of paper could then be used as backgrounds and starting points to be printed over.

The Christ-like figure, using the negative mask and back-drawing on a super shade of paper is by far one of the strongest prints I’ve seen, but again, there could be just a little more. Often less is more, but it could just be a halo of shade around the figure, or a little back-drawn detail to the background. This composition is super, and printing here in white on brown paper really brings it  out – fantastic!



You might like to include a separate blog just for your sketchbooks. It will help you great to deal to generate more ideas for print using your sketchbook. You can cut and paste images from magazines, make colour swatches of ink to decide on your palette, photographs, exhibition info. Drawings, using pencil, pen and ink and pastel. Try and develop your book into a visual journal – a resource that is just as important as any finished print.



Learning Logs/Critical essays

I’ve found it difficult at times to work my way around your blog, particularly when trying to cross reference the images that you sent me of your prints, with the planning notes and critical observations that you then made of each in your blog. It would be really useful if in each post, you could title it Project or Task 1, 2, 3 and so on. If the images of the prints you’re submitting for each assignment are on the blog, then you can make notes underneath them maybe, and then you don’t need to worry about compressing the images to send as well. You may want to create a separate blog to put work in there titled ‘further experiments’, or ‘additional prints’ – but label everything with it’s corresponding task number.

You have researched other artists in detail and enjoyed being inspired by their work – do maintain this dialogue and perhaps investigate some relief printmakers that might be working in your locality.

Suggested reading/viewing


You might like to have a look at these blogs from a couple of my other OCA students.

Printmaking Today is a fantastic quarterly magazine that showcases many contemporary printmakers and lists exhibitions worldwide. There is a website that you can access too

The Printmakers Council (UK) have a super website, full of information on artists and links to many other useful websites

Liz Toole (lino)

Sarah Young (lino)

Angie Lewin (lino)

Judith Stroud (lino)

Helen Frankenthaler (simplified woodcut prints – exploring surface, line and colour)

Barbara Rae

Paul Gaughin (woodcuts)

Kandinsky (woodcuts)

Hans Arp (woodcuts)



Pointers for the next assignment


You might like to source a variety of printing papers, especially Japanese papers to print on. Good quality cartridge is good for relief printing too. Carbon copy paper is useful to transfer a tracing of your design onto lino and do ensure that you roll your ink out on the lino for a good period of time to ensure an even coverage of ink.

It would be really useful for you to write a little synopsis at the end of each task, commenting on overall strengths and weaknesses of all your prints in that series. This should help you discern the scope of each printing process and how it can work for you and your preferred subject matter.



Tutor name: Nichola White
Date 23rd August, 2011
Next assignment due November, 2011

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