SirIsaac #Two. January 2024. Photogravure Viscosity. A2 Hahnemühle

Photo Polymer prints are usually initiated with a photograph. I wanted to play with the possibility of beginning a portrait print with a drawing from a smart phone photograph. The image was made at the opening of Sir Isaac Julien’s retrospective exhibition in 2023: What Freedom Means To Me. The show was wonderful unique mix of the political and poetic made over 40 years. It was great to meet Isaac after so long. He was wearing his cool LA gear flip shades which sat dramatically on his forehead. On my return home looking at the photos on my phone from the evening I thought one of them captured Isaac’s character and it might make a respectful celebratory portrait. The photogravure process exposes a continuous tone image on to a polymer plate which can be inked by hand and printed on quality heavy weight paper. I made the drawing on an iPad from the photograph which became the digital image to be exposed.

Digital photograph/drawing, intaglio plate and first proof

The first proof print was made with black etching ink on off white paper. The image was missing something of the warmth the portrait demanded. I made a second drawing with more detail, broader tone to offer the contrasts between Isaac’s face, skin, hair, shirt, tie, jacket and shades. The drawing marks and pencil strokes are more apparent. Re exposing this and proofing it delivered a deeper quality of print and portrayal.

First Proof

The monotone image was valuable, but again there might be more to be achieved. Consulting master printmaker Justin Sanders we came up with the possibility of applying a viscosity print technique to allow a colour to be integrated with the black ink image. The process requires the plate to be inked up as normal, but before printing, a selected colour is rolled over the high points of the plate leaving the black ink the recesses. This is a relief and intaglio hybrid process invented by Stanley Hayter (b.1901 Hackney) in his Parisian studio Atelier 17. It requires skilled mixing of differing viscosities of ink applied evenly with hard and soft rollers.

The resultant prints on Hahnemühle paper give an impression of a drawn/photo portrait set in a single flat colour space. On closer inspection the colour areas have a texture that allows the ink to be patterned created when the ink viscosity reacts to the paper as it dries. Use the magnifier cursor to see the patterns.

This two colour hybrid print technique seems appropriate in portraying ‘SirIsaac’.

SirIsaac #One. January 2024. Photogravure Viscosity A2 Hahnemühle
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