Inspired Prints | Artist: Bryan Nash Gill

I had an inspired sort of Saturday this past weekend..

Japanese paper, layered print

Japanese paper, layered print

After hours of looking through wedding invitation templates and examples online throughout the week, I started looking more towards fine art prints that I could change into invitations.

My problem with all the customize your invitations from our templates online, is that as a printmaker they all looked either cheesy or cheap to me. I believe that prints should not come from a printer especially in the case of nature inspired prints…

My printmaking work has always revolved around the beauty in the nature around me. I connect a lot of personal memories to outdoor locations close or far from home. So when I went to York University and started taking courses in printmaking, I started printing these locations in my childhood memories. This where and why my print series’ are titled Nostalgia, CMYK, Welcome to the Family, and so on.

Because I plan to print my wedding invitations (and stationary) myself and I intend for it to be woodsy and rustic, running into Bryan Nash Gill’s artwork was perfect. I watched videos and read about his process online until it was no longer teaching me, then I turned to going to the local Chapters to check out his book, Woodcut, to read and learn from it. And drool over the images.. Much to my fiancés dismay.

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If you haven’t heard of Bryan Nash Gill‘s artwork please look it up, it’s gorgeous! His book is a truly beautiful reflection of the work as well.

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I’m still surprised the book was even available at Chapters due to the fact only two copies were available in all of Ottawa at the Rideau store and no stores in Toronto had any. But it was convenient to stop in and read the book on the way home from Nuit Blanche.

I am now educated on the process to create prints like Bryan’s, and I’m going to try my best to produce prints that look good enough for my wedding stationary. Here goes nothing! or everything?!

 First off I needed to find wood! And I needed to cut it..

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Luckily I’m at the point in my life where I’m living at home with my parents again and they have a garbage pail full of tree branches they’ve cut over the years on their property.

I chose to use a much much smaller piece of wood than Bryan does but I’m working from what I have and what will work for my end goal (my stationery).

After sawing off two pieces of the branch one from either side of the branch so they’re slightly different sizes and show different character.

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Sanding

Because I’m not necessarily a woodworker, I put a piece of sandpaper down on the picnic table and swiped the pieces on it like a cheese grater to smoothen the work surfaces I’m going to use for printing. It was a creative solution to sanding a small surface and being oblivious to normal woodworking procedures. It worked for me.

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After sanding, I had two pieces of beautiful branch. So smooth! and the sort of burn marks from sanding make it look gorgeous, so gorgeous I didn’t want to burn it!

This is where I was confused of what Bryan did next, because in the videos where he speaks about his work, it shows him burning the surface with a propane torch and brushing it. I was confused why he did this until I sanded the pieces and realized they wouldn’t show their rings without the next steps.

Burning

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For this step I used a butane kitchen torch regularly used for creme brûlée but I’m repurposing it for wood burning, because let’s be honest we never make creme brûlée. Not something I’m happy about…

I burned the surface a bit at a time, having never used the torch or burned wood not in a camp fire, I had no idea how fast or close the torch had to be. I burned a bit, then brushed it with a toothbrush (a new toothbrush that we had overfilling a drawer somewhere). I also picked up some of the pieces of wood my uncle cut for me last summer that were supposed to be coasters until I forgot about them. They’ve been outside over the winter and used to steady table legs on the deck all summer, so they’re a bit weathered. I figured I might as well find another way to use them or try it out at least.

 

In the end, I now have four pieces of branch now burned and brushed, that I can seal, so I can print! Eek!

Sealing

I was a little unsure about what kind of sealer to use on the wood. I needed something that would seal the printing surface, so that when I inked it the ink would not penetrate the surface and soak in. That would mean ruining the piece for future printing. I needed something that would seal the wood, without filling in the cracks completely as well. But I needed to be able to wash the ink off after printing also. This was a hard and lengthy process of researching what I could use.

I’m starting to understand why he talks about his process as a long and patient process.

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The piece on the left I sprayed with hairspray. The piece on the right was brushed with an outdoor Varathane wood sealant.

Printing! Finally!

Once the sealant is dry they’re ready to print! and how fun that is!

It was difficult finding a way for the paper to stay still so that I could press the paper onto the surface with the bowl of a spoon to make sure I printed every ring. I eventually found a book that was the approximate thickness of the pieces I had and got out my steel letter stamp set to hold the paper in place on top.

I also tried out a new kind of ink. Akua Intaglio Ink, it worked nicely. This ink isn’t as sticky as the speedball block printing inks but washes off with soap and water which is an awesome feature for oil based ink!

Once I discovered that printing on Japanese paper turned out gorgeous and not so great on traditional smooth rag paper, I printed away! Here are my results!

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Overall, I think they turned out pretty well. I’m going to get some new pieces of Maple and try out to see the difference. These pieces were Spruce, a very soft wood, so I’m excited to see how the hard wood turns out. I’m going to try some larger pieces as well and different colours.

I’ll be sure to post when I’ve tried the new pieces!

Happy printing!

Shaylah

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