Stephen Fowler held a fascinating one day print workshop during Subjects Futures week. This workshop was aimed at the Design and Illustration students, however a couple of Fine Art students were able to gate crash and Stephen’s attitude was ‘the more the merrier’. Stephen is obviously an avid collector of 1950s – 1960s vinyl LPs, more for the beautiful and varied designs on the covers than the playability of the records. About 50 Vinyls were spread out on one table in the print room, whilst the printing inks and materials were spread out on another. Students gathered around to hear the principles of design and the instructions for the day – the task was to design an LP cover using 3 printing methods. Music and imagination were very much a part of this workshop – Stephen played about a minute of music from 5 or 6 records whilst students wrote down the feelings or impressions evoked by each; this would form the basis of the work.
Stephen used a range of interestingly shaped rubber stamps, erasers, foam sheeting, pre-formed print stamps, plastic and cling film and also the neoprene foam tubing plumbers use for lagging pipes, to his create his designs. The printing inks used are water based.
I wasn’t so interested in designing an LP cover, more exploring the use of simple printing techniques to advance my own ideas and work. On the right is a print using cling film with pale ink to give a background layer on brown paper. The figures are cut from a 10 inch x 10 inch foam sheet and then inked up and pressed onto the first print whilst still wet. The idea is simple but effective and I was happy with the atmosphere created in the end product. Below, this print was achieved with more layers; firstly using a neoprene foam tube into which I had cut a design with a very sharp scalpel. This was inked-up and then, using a decorators implement, rolled across the paper. The same foam figures where used again in a slightly different format. Finally, at the bottom, I used half a potato – yes, and inked-up potato – for the vegetation. It is amazing what you can do in terms of making prints without a press and this is what I will take away from this workshop. Every time I peel potatoes I will be thinking about the exciting images I could be making.
The idea of layering, and concealing and building up the image worked well with my practice and ideas, and use of colour. This simple method of printing lends itself to spontaneity and work at home.