Solar Plate: Trial prints 01
Very late, but this is a quick post about my first, post-course, attempt at solar plate printmaking. Along the way, I made a lot of mistakes – expensive mistakes since each A4 plate costs about £11 – so I’ll list them up here at the top to help others who check this post.
- First up, I prepared too many images. My thinking was that I would make a lot of images, expose them two-up on the A4 plates, and that would allow me to see how a range of exposure and contrast options worked as prints. This idea would be fine if I had the technique down pat. I didn’t. I should have exposed just two images on one plate and learned the technical skills from that plate.
- This mistake is one that needs to be addressed on the LPW technical sheet for Solar Plate. In fact, it needs to be written in bold at the top of the sheet: Peel off the protective sheet. Each plate comes with a piece of clear plastic covering the photosensitive layer and this needs to be removed before exposing the sheet. I forgot and wasted £11!
- I took the plates home after developing them as I didn’t have time to print the same day. I had exposed two images per A4 plate. On the course we had exposed more and cut out the images on the plate using studio scissors. I tried to do the same thing at home and had bought a pair of strong scissors to cut through the steel and resin. Unfortunately, this approach lifted the resin from the steel around the edge. I tried scoring through the resin to the steel first but this didn’t help. No idea how to fix this unless it was the fact that my scissors were slightly serrated with short jaws while the studio ones were long and smooth.
- After exposing the plates and developing them in water, the plate is blotted dry with newsprint. This needs to be a very quick down and up blotting. Don’t rub too hard or for too long or bits of paper will end up on the plate and prove awkward to get off. There really needs to be a better way of blotting the plates. I’m going to email other exponents of the technique and see what they do.
- I had lots of bits of paper stuck to the plates so, at home, I tried to get rid of them. I soaked the plates in water again, brushed over them with a soft brush and then dried the plates with a hair dryer while brushing with a dry brush. I figured this would spread the water around so no water marks where left while drying. WRONG. The plates had huge water streaks down them.
- Repeated inking, printing and cleaning back the plates with white spirit seemed to get rid of the streaks on the least damaged plates. On my next visit to the studio, I’ll try more repeats with the more damaged ones to see if the damage can be removed entirely.
Those are the main mistakes I made. I had four plates with two images on each but only had time to print half of these.
First up were a couple of images from the series taken of the beach pyre (like the one from the course).
The water streaking is less on each subsequent print but is still there. It was only on the next two prints, each printed three time, that I realised that cleaning, re-inking and printing reduced the streaking each time.
These next two images were ones I considered for the 20:20 Print Exchange.
I think the second of these, even with still a bit of water streaking, looks better. I think I over-wiped the plate on the third. This image will need careful preparation.
I might try printing this in a sepia colour to invoke an antique-ish feel to the image.
Must remember to keep my thumb out of the way when wiping down!
Might try printing this in a dark, dried-blood colour.
I’m drawn to the ‘skull in the grass’ image but the faded quality of the beach path one also appeals. I’ll play with both over the next few weeks to decide which to go for or whether to drop both and go with another. Whatever I decide, I’ll create a new plate with just that image on it to print from to avoid the spoiled border where the resin lifted: should be able to get the 20cm x 20cm paper wholly on the A4 plate.