Learning Journal: Polytile Printing

Polytile printing using blue, black, white and purple ink. Tile pattern is a tank blueprint as seen from above. Lines on the blueprint have been made more angular to give an abstract interpretation of the tank. In the shadow factory in Longbridge, tank parts and airframes were built for World War 2 under the Austin car factory. Initially I had wanted to use the tunnels under the factory as inspiration, but as tank parts were built there I used a blueprint as inspiration and produce an abstract design.

The first picture is of my initial sketch, the tracing paper used to transfer the design, and the polystyrene tile. The tile had been used to print two layers so had been worked into with pencil two times. The ink easily washes off the tile so it can be reused.

The main challenge I faced when working into the tile before I started printing was a difficulty in imagining the finished work. This made it difficult to choose which lines to print first, and which to save for a second and darker colour ink. My work came out well, and I am pleased with the tones, the contrast in colour and the tile effect achieved. Having said that, in future tile printing I would make more copies of the prints initially and start slowly working the lines and build the design up in more than 2 layers. I believe with more layers, additional detail could be added to the print. My prints have an abstract quality, and are also quite rustic. My aim was to obscure the image of the tank a little, but in some prints the inks were different tones and because I didn’t have enough ink on the roller there are different shades. I feel this adds to the effect and makes each print unique, which works well when all four prints are arranged together. I like the contrast between the mechanical and well engineered design of a tank and an imperfect and abstract interpretation in blue and purple ink, colours that would not have been used in the tanks themselves.

Following on from the polystyrene tile printing, I moved on to working with a lino tile. Having experimented with the polystyrene I created a design with multiple layers so I could add as much detail and colour as possible. I was inspired by Cyril Power’s ‘The Tube Station’ to create a background with perspective (in my tile, the plane appears to be emerging from a tunnel, as used in the Longbridge shadow factory). I have also tried to include a lot of lines in contrasting directions to add an abstract element to the print. ‘Hollywood Limousine’ by Stanley Donwood is a fantastic example of this. Creating a lot of lines and detail in the lino cut make the print seem more like a pen drawing or painting rather than a print.



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