Process: Rough’n & Grouse’n

Hey – so I was doing that “A Season of Stuff” project and things started feeling a bit self-indulgent and I felt my writing going downhill instead of improving, so I opted to take a break.  Here we are a week and a half later and nobody seems to have noticed, so i’m not sure if i’ll continue or not.  But here’s another little something for anyone who’s hanging around.

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As most anyone who knows me knows, I love Pennsylvania.  I’ve lived here my entire life.  I have the state tattooed on my arm. I have keystone imagery everywhere in the house.  I’m about to head out on a cross-state bike excursion to go explore whole new sections of the state.  For some reason last Wednesday I was thinking about various other Pennsylvania imagery beyond the keystone and I got to think about the Ruffed Grouse, our state bird.

I came home that night and started looking up some images of ruffed grouses and did a few quick sketches.  After a couple attempts I landed on the image in the upper right-hand corner of the above photo.  The next day I cleaned up the image and inked it. It was a fun little image but I didn’t really have any plans for it.

Over the weekend after looking at this image for a few days decided I wanted to make a screen of it, if only for my own purposes.  Instead of going the normal route of making a transparency of the image, I decided to try another technique that I had heard about.  Rumor had it that you could take a normal photocopy on regular weight copy paper, coat the paper in vegetable oil or baby oil to make the paper translucent and then use that in the same way that you would use a transparency.  I had always been skeptical about this process, but this image seemed like a good way to test it.

I went online and found a couple blog posts talking about their success with this technique, including this one and this one.  Seeing some successful screens burned using this technique emboldened me to give it a try.

Last night I reclaimed a screen and coated the screen with emulsion. The jar of emulsion I have is getting hella old but it still continues to work, so I keep rolling with it, but wondered if it might not be ideal for this test.  My concern being that since the paper is translucent and not truly transparent, I would want to expose the image longer to make up for the fact that less light was actually getting through.  Would the change in technique and the old emulsion mean that I would overexpose or underexpose the image?

I got up this morning and tried to burn the screen before I left for work.  I put the image at the normal distance from the light and decided to go an extra minute than I normally would.  Unfortunately this was perhaps a bit of an overburn.  The image wouldn’t wash out.  I took a toothbrush to the screen to try to help get the image cleaned out and then it started coming out…but then it accelerated and began washing out the rest of the emulsion too.  Conceding failure, I washed out the screen and went to work.

I came home from home and re-applied emulsion to the screen and set it to drying.  I modified the exposure setup, moving the image closer but thinking that I would do the exposure for the normal amount of time (2 minutes).  After the emulsion seemed to be dry, I gave it a shot.  This time I had about a 95% success rate, but the emulsion wasn’t 100% set.  I’m not sure if this was perhaps because I didn’t let the emulsion dry long enough before exposing, because I didn’t expose the image long enough, etc.

Most of the image looked fine tho’ the tail section was a bit washed out.  The emulsion left on the screen was kinda tacky/wet and didn’t seem 100% exposed.  I left it under a light bulb for further exposure but that was going kinda slow.  Heat works just as well as light, so I turned the oven on to 250 degrees and threw the screen in the oven for like 5 minutes.  That dried it up and hardened the emulsion.  With a little masking tape help to clean up the lines of the tail, I ran this test run of images and they turned out really pretty nice, all things considered.

I look forward to experimenting more with this oil technique and with more images of our feathered friend.

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