While nibbling a cookie (Trader Joe’s Biscotti), I was pondering drypoint printmaking without a press. The cookie container in my hand was sturdy and smooth, and I wondered if it could be used to make a drypoint plate. I also wondered how the cookie(s) I just ate could contribute to the printing without a press part of this conundrum….
Using a Cookie Container to Make a Drypoint Plate
Have you ever seen those clear plastic containers around produce and baked goods?
Some folks refer to them as clam-shells, since they often have a hinged cover. Here in the U.S., many distributors of lettuce, cookies, and fruit will box their products in clear plastic containers that you can recycle into printmaking plates.
With a little trimming, you can use the smoothest parts of the containers as plates for drypoints or monotypes! Let’s examine, shall we?
Make Some Printmaking Plates
First, eat the goodies in the container. 😌
Next, inspect the top, bottom and sides to search for a smooth, flat section, free of seams, holes or ridges.
Note: the flattest segment may be under the product label. You can soak the label in water, and then scrape it off, and use vegetable oil to rub out the remaining glue. Be careful not to scratch the plastic.
Now, use kitchen shears or craft scissors to trim a square, rectangle, or circle of plastic.
Once your piece is free of the container, measure and straighten the edges with a utility knife and ruler.
If you’re cutting a round shape, trace the base of an appropriate sized bottle or glass with a marker, and carefully trim with a utility knife on a self healing mat.
Transparent Plate Material is Perfect for Tracing
I’m using a twisted scribe – also known as a Whistler’s Needle – to draw a face in the plastic with firm pressure. If you don’t have access to a scribe, try an awl, an ice pick, or a heavy gage sewing needle, taped securely to a chop stick.
If drawing is challenging for you, take advantage of the clear plastic, and trace a photo. Tape the plate down, or make a trace outline of your plate on top of your reference photo so you can align it over your image again after pulling some test prints.
Fine Tune Your Cutting with Sand Paper
After I cut this little piece from the cookie container, and straightened it with a ruler, I used a fine grit sandpaper wrapped around a block to smooth the edges, and slightly round the corners.
Add Plenty of Crosshatching to Increase Contrast
Drypoint, like most printmaking, is an iterative process. That is, you can simply outline your form with your engraving needle, and ink it up to pull a print so you can see how it’s coming out. Then you can use that print to inform your next steps on the design.
Say you want to add shading, or contrast after seeing your first outline print. You return to your cleaned and dried plate with your twisted scribe, and add lots of crosshatching.
After crosshatching shapes here and there, you ink and wipe the plate again, and pull another test print. (These are called artist proofs.)
At this stage, you might decide a few more details are needed to improve the composition of your design, so you scribe some more into the plate material. Then you ink, wipe and print again, and see how that looks, and so on.
Use Your Body Weight to Stomp a Print
Stomp-printing this drypoint engraving with nothing more than my body weight (which included the cookies I ate earlier) was an experiment. But it works!
You can read more about Stomp Printing over here.
It’s important to avoid rocking the plate-paper-magazine sandwich. You want to avoid moving the paper against the plate. That will lead to a staggered print with a shadowy artifact effect.
Lay your magazine and drypoint assembly on the ground, and jump on it with two feet landing at the same time. That’s it. Don’t rock or take steps or twist. Step off the magazine, and check your print. How does it look?
The Right Tools for the Job
For the best chances at drypoint printmaking success, use intaglio printmaking ink, and printmaking paper to do this. Acrylic will dry too fast, and watercolor will bleed into the paper so you’ll lose your details.
If you have any other material-partnership workarounds that create a successful drypoint stomp print, please share them with us in the comments.
Have a ton of fun experimenting with this –
Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll see you in the next post!
P.S Speaking of tools, if you’d like to be better acquainted with the warning symbols on art supplies related to toxicity and health, read this article by Winsor and Newton about what each symbol means.
Light reveals us to ourselves, which is not always so great if you find yourself in a big disgusting mess, possibly of your own creation. But like sunflowers we turn toward light… And in this light, we can see beyond shadow and illusion to something beyond our modest receptors, to what is way beyond us, and deep inside.Anne Lamott