Developing Practice

4 January 2018


My photographic art practice has focused around different themes, but there is a single continuous thread that can be found which is about different levels of revealing and concealing. This can simply be adjusted within the parameters of the picture frame by how much information is available in the image for the viewer to interpret. At times the photographs have been non-representational or abstracted to the point where the subject is no longer identifiable. At other times the images are of recognisable things or places, and are more about the subject than the photographic process.

It wasn’t entirely clear to me how I would use photography in printmaking in an interesting and satisfying way. I knew I didn’t want to print photographs through the etching press or screen print them as an “alternative process”. But, I also didn’t know how to think about printmaking like an illustrator or someone who was interested in the drawing process.

During our research module last term, I used experimental music to guide my image making.  Listening to sound, and in particular how layers of sound built over time, helped me approach printmaking using photographic images through collage. I had not used collage in my work before, so this was interesting to explore. I think because I was listening to experimental music, I used images that were non-representational, and therefore the process was not so much about the images being photographs, but of course, photography was present in the process. These images were very much made through the concealing lens, as the main focus was about visualising sound.

When the research module was finished, and the developing practice module started, I was ready to approach the images in a new way. I was still interested in collage, layering, but also wanting to mix photography with printmaking.  I did a few experiments using photographs that I digitally printed, and then printed photo etchings on top of the digital images. This seemed to satisfy my desire to incorporate the digital world with a traditional one.

Sarah Bodman also set me a book making challenge, as she knew that one of my main reasons for doing the MA was my interest in artists’ books, and to make them. But so far I had been thinking my way out of making them. Her challenge was a fantastic gift, as I realised it set the stage for me to have a much larger picture frame to work within, and allowed me to reveal and conceal in one book. This of course could happen in a gallery or other ways of presenting your work, but it is the modest nature of books that attracts me to them. They are certainly not modest in the effort they require, but the playground that exists between the front and back covers is where I want to be. I cannot thank Sarah enough.

14 December

I had my bookbinding tools, cutting mat, scalpel, everything ready to start assembling the books, to get to the post-office to make the 17th deadline. I set up a makeshift studio in the canteen. Sounds odd, but actually worked quite well. A large table all to myself to assemble. I was actually dreading this part of the bookmaking process, but I found it to be quite relaxing, and this was much needed. Made it to the post-office, along with the rest of Bristol, but made it.


As a group we decided to do a show and tell, which was a lovely idea. It was really great to see everyone’s work. Some of it really interesting. Despite the fact that we are in the same year, and many of us follow one another on Instagram and Twitter, we still don’t know what the other does. Well, you get an idea, but it is not quite the same when you get to see a small body of work, talk to the artist, and touch the work. It was all very positive.

7 December

Sent books to be printed over the weekend, dropped off paper on Tuesday (5th), but with all the deadlines the print bureau cannot keep up with the demand, therefore printing was not finished on Thursday. They do a good job, know how to print the books, but extremely frustrating to have to wait when Thursdays are our only day. I know we are meant to have many projects on at the same time so that we are not set back by blips like this, but when it comes to printing, and trying to experiment with different papers, etc., the wait feels unbearable.

I asked if I could pick up my printing on Tuesday the 12th, as I also wanted to submit one of my little books to Unveild, which had a deadline of the 17th, so there wasn’t much time, and I still had to bind and post the book. They could only suggest that “I try” but basically there were no guarantees.

The printing was done on Tuesday, and they offered to use the guillotine to cut them to size for me, which would be perfect, and worth the wait. I will pick them up on the Thursday the 14th, the last day of term.

30 November


More etching. Less successful when I printed the halftone on top of another image, but I that may have been because the background image was the wrong colour and too busy of a background to then add a pattern to. I also just printed the halftone image on its own, and tried to omit sections using stencils. Very simple and basic, but I had not done it before.  The result was quite pleasing.


I also picked up a print job from the Digital Print Bureau. It was quite pleasing seeing the digital images come to life.  It was easy to see some stupid mistakes I made. The bleed didn’t show, so I have to cut the pages right at the images, and it would have been easier to do this with a bleed. I also forgot about making it a few mm larger, as it will need a trim to tidy up the edges. The thickness of the paper causes the middle pages to stick out from the front and back covers.

I would rather someone else doing the cutting and binding of the pages, but there is also satisfying to have some aspect of doing it by hand to get the finished result. Depending on the number of multiples, the novelty could wear off.

The three drafts I made in response to Basim Magdy’s exhibition, endured a lot of changes. It was like starting from scratch, but they are much better now. I think.  I look forward to seeing how they look after they are printed. It is somewhat strange that despite the fact that we stare at something on screen, we need to see it printed.  At least to see the mistakes, or how something doesn’t work. But it only makes sense that when something is to be experienced in a 3D form, you need to test it in 3D form.

Here are a few pages from the little books:




23 November

This was quite a successful etching day. I printed the photopolymer plates on-top of the digital prints. It was a surprise. It actually turned out better than I had hoped. The only problem is the cost of the digital prints. I only printed 3 because of the cost, but only have one print that turned out okay. This will not be a large edition, more mono printing, just due to the costs of things.



16 November 2017

What a day. Earlier in the week I had prepared some digital prints. Unfinished. Leaving a space for to add a photo etching. I sent them for printing, with the hopes that it would be finished in time for printing today. Not quite ready, but finally got them in the afternoon. I also created two photo etching plates. One with a halftone, in a vector file format, to get the smooth circular dot pattern of the halftone. Success, I can tell. The dots are sitting perfectly plump on the plate.

I also had a tutorial with Sarah Bodman. She set me a challenge to make a book a week for three weeks. Stop thinking, just make! The pressure is on.  A little bird mentioned that I was spending too much time thinking myself out of doing. Birds should fill their mouths with worms, not telling stories.  It is good for me. But it is rather daunting to show Sarah my pathetic attempts at book making, the guru, the book Yoda.

I had prepared a quasi- photo zine earlier in the week, and wanted to do a test print to see how it looked in printed form. I still need to fold, assemble, and bind. The plan is to make a small series of three with text of automatic writing I did in response to Basim Magdy’s exhibition, The Stars Were Aligned for A Century of New Beginnings at the Arnolfini this past summer. I am not sure yet about the words in combination with the text. Both are abstract, and may leave the reader unsure and possibly confused. Personally, I would rather be left with a feeling when flipping through the pages of artists’ books, but I do realise that I probably fall in the margins of the minority. Most people seem to need help. What some sort of narrative.

I also contacted Basim Magdy to make sure he didn’t mind that I mention him and his exhibit as the influence of the little books. He wrote back straight away. He doesn’t mind. Phew! Although, it is rather embarrassing to send these weak makings to someone who makes such amazing work.  But hey, a token of appreciation.

9 November 2017

Testing, testing…. I have to say that I was a bit disappointed with the results. One of the first problems was the halftone dot I created was done through Photoshop, so the image had a raster edge, and the halftone looked more like a houndstooth pattern, which is fine in the world of tweed, but not the look I was after.  I was after the conventional halftone dot pattern.

The other issue was I was doing the tests of the black and white photograph etching on an already very busy digital print. It interfered with my judgement as to whether I liked the combination of etching and digital printing.

I decided that I need to create digital images with space for the photo etching.  Obvious, I know, but in the moment of creating the digital image, it is hard to leave it unfinished. To get it printed, to have people look at the images in an unfinished state. Of course, one could argue that a piece is never finished. It can always be altered, and depending on when one revisits a piece of work, the change of mind can be dramatic.

2 November 2017

Based on my thought earlier in the week, I decided to try and do some experiments in etching. I had a great conversation with Dave Sully, and with his help, I am going to explore combining my ideas of halftone, photography, and digital elements in the etching world. Intriguing. I am not sure how it will look in the end, but it seems like it really needs to be explored. At least I will know if it is worth pursuing.

I have prepared a test plate with a sample of a plant photograph. One section is lighter than the other, as I will print a halftone dot pattern on top, and Dave thought it would be worth testing whether the density of the background image will impact on the legibility of the dot pattern in the foreground. I will do the test prints next week. Watch this space!

30 October 2017

Just a quick thought. Typically, I am usually more interested in making colour photographs and usually non-representational, but for the series that I am doing with plants, I am using black and white photographs of plants and representational. This has led me to think about trying the photogravure process.  I have used Photopolymer plates in the past, but I wonder how the final images compare. I still plan to apply a layer of halftone images, which would be cut out shapes of a plate. Looking similar to how I have applied the halftone in the digital images.

Just a quick thought. Typically, I am usually more interested in making colour photographs and usually non-representational, but for the series that I am doing with plants, I am using black and white photographs of plants and representational. This has led me to think about trying the photogravure process.  I have used Photopolymer plates in the past, but I wonder how the final images compare. I still plan to apply a layer of halftone images, which would be cut out shapes of a plate. Looking similar to how I have applied the halftone in the digital images.

26 October 2017

My first attempt at printing a 4 colour halftone image onto Folex. I can do it now. Not hard once you do it. This is in preparation to screenprint, but I am now wondering if I would prefer to etch the halftone image, but having done a multi-plate print before, I need to plan it better so that registration is spot on. This would be key for the halftone, to be a true halftone. Even when perfect, the image is quite abstract, so if it is misaligned it won’t look like anything.

Ruth Broadway wonder if could etch on-top of a digital print? I made a comment that my favourite printmaking method was etching. Just the way that ink absorbs into the paper. I like the physical etching studio space. The blankets, the wheel.  Traditionally, etching paper needs to be wet before it is printed, will a digital print hold on to the ink when submerged in water, or will it bleed out into the tray contaminating everyone else’s work?  Only one way to find out.

I am also thinking about a hybrid print. Using the digital print, and then cutting out the etching plate shapes with the halftone image, and seeing how that will work and look.  Does it add anything more, than when a digital print is printing solely as digital?

19 October 2017

This was a day making more digital prints and trying to make my first book. Thinking of it as the first seems to put too much pressure on it. Actually, I have made books before, blank books, thanks to the amazing Angie Butler, but blank books seem like they don’t count. No content. I was thinking of doing a series of three books, based on some writings I did in response to Basim Magdy’s exhibition The Stars Were Aligned For a Century of New Beginnings at the Arnolfini. The books will also contain a series of excerpts from photo collages I have made. I have thought that I could make them A6 size and submit them to the London Centre for Book Arts open call for A6 books. But, I have wondered if the details of the collages would be lost in this size.  I will need to do some tests of A6 and A5 size, which would be the typical photo zine size.

12 October 2017

The two prints I made last week, I had printed at the Digital Print Beauro based on “conceptual screenprinting” and the other theme I plan to explore this term, feeling plants/can plants feel, based on the book by Peter Wohlleben, The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate―Discoveries from a Secret World. I was quite surprised by the results. There is something quite pleasing about the mixture of colour, a black and white photograph, and a large halftone obscuring the images.

I had some discussions with some of my classmates about the prints. Some of my questions where: Are they okay left as they are, as digital prints? Would the addition of screenprinted elements add to the overall final result? Or does the image need to have a printed element to be somehow legitimate in this course? Personally it doesn’t bother me, I could leave them as is, and use this same process in other forms, such as making books. But I feel fairly confident, whether people say it or not, that a digital print is considered less than a “handmade” print. Perhaps because, typically, someone else needs to print it for you? And because we are digitised these days, we crave the haptic. And that a human made something rather than a machine.  Although, let’s face it. We are still very dependent on the machine/computer/tools to make the handmade.

This has led to some thoughts about exploring riso printing. This seems to be an accepted form of printing in the print community. Despite that fact that someone else needs to do it for you, it is still rooted in the printmaking discipline, even though I think it may be a glorified photocopier (at least that’s how it looks), but prints each colour separately, similar to screenprinting or lithography. There is also something quite nostalgic about the colour palette as well. Prints look like they could have been made in the 50-70s.  This certainly does suit illustrative work, and simple shapes and abstract forms look fantastic.

I have been in contact with a riso printer in Birmingham, about getting one of my books printed. Of course it is much more complicated than I originally thought, because of the colour separation, and the way a book needs to be printed, I wasn’t able to do a test of this process, since the plates get made for each colour, so the hard part would be done. I think my test needs to be a single, smaller, photograph, just to see how it translates in this process.

5 October 2017

This was our official first day back. I was scheduled to have my mandatory tutorial with Sarah and Paul to discuss my plans for the term. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect, as we hadn’t had one of these meetings in our first year. I discussed my main themes that I planned to focus on- photography, books, and print. I mentioned my guilt for not fully embracing printmaking, but still influenced by it in my approach to photography. Paul said this was okay, and I could approach it conceptually. This planted the seed for “conceptual printmaking”.

Sarah also had a fantastic gem hidden under the desk for me East [hyphen] West by Magda Stawarska-Beavan. A project based on the sounds of Istanbul. Because it was Sarah who gave it to me, I could only assume that it was an artist’s book. It was the same shape and feel as a vinyl record, and to my surprise it was both. She said we could consider this book as printmaking.


Physically, it is just like a typical cardboard LP sleeve cover, a pocket for two records, there is a book inside with photographs and interesting text by an art historian and artists responding to this sound project. You can also see a video that would have made an impressive instillation as part of this project on the website. Turner prize winner Lubaina Himid and Ekin Sanac do a spoken word piece in response to the sound recordings of the city. Their words provided similar visuals like the sounds do.


Based on this conversation, I started to think more about the idea of conceptual screenprinting, and made these two pieces you see below.  Maintaining the photograph, but experimenting with the halftone, as it is an integral part of the screenprinting process when screening photographs.

Website Chrystal Cherniwchan Plants Blue Half tone

Web Chrystal Cherniwchan Plants Orange Half Tone