Saturday, 27 April 2019

U is for Umber

U is for Umber and I suppose when I think of Umber - what I’m seeing in my minds eye is actually what is called "raw umber”.   I don't know a lot about it other than, that it is considered to be within the ‘earth pigments’ category, and that it isn't as expensive as some other powder pigments.   The printmaking ink which I first started using was made by intaglio printmakers in London .

Now when you hear of another pigment that's called "Burnt Umber",  although you might imagine that it would be a darker version of the "raw umber”  - that isn’t always necessarily the case.  Different brands vary in what they offer.

Umber is a natural brown or reddish-brown earth pigment. Umber is darker than the other similar
earth pigments, i.e., ochre a kind of dark golden yellow and sienna a kind of brownish red.

In its natural form umber is referred to as 'Raw Umber'.

It had occurred to me that perhaps the word “Umbria” ( a place in Italy) was somehow connected to the word 'umber' - and indeed it is.   Apparently that was where the pigment was first located and extracted.  

As artists we all know that the umber coloured etching ink you get from Intaglio printmakers in London will quite likely be slightly different from for example Charbonnels etching ink.

If you are particularly interested in the scientific nature, of umber pigment then here is Wikipedia.
As mentioned, there can be variations that tend towards a slightly more yellow, red or even grey.

OMG..I had so much trouble with this umber coloured print.   It was originally drypoint on aluminium plate.  But it just wasn't 'happening' so after degreasing the plate I added pastel ground + sanded it gently so it'd hold more ink.I also made small figurative plates which also gave me grief.  I was making  prints for an exhibition my print workshop was hosting and I was running out of time!  So in the end I had to do some 'hand embellishment' using Carbothello water soluble pencils. I highly recommend them for this kind of task, they are not cheap but they are worth it and they last for ages.

What you see here is the 'background' onto which, the image below this, was created.  It shows a proof of some wooden planks that were inked intaglio and rolled through the etching press. The planks came from a dilapidated chest of drawers which my partner broke up and then I spotted them ...ah ha I said!

Ink in the grooves of the woodgrain was one of those visual effects that had eluded me for some time. And I have always been heavily orientated towards 'intaglio' printmaking, as opposed to relief.  Loving its intrinsic tactile embossed characteristic.  It took ages before I actually got around to doing something further with it. The wood was inked with London Intaglio ink + the paper sheet size was about 40 x 55 cm Hahnemuhle paper (my favourite).

I had come across this image from World War One, which showed a mother and her children who had to leave their home in Belgium and go seek refuge elsewhere. It was a low res image that I had worked into to improve sufficiently for use.  Throughout 2018 the BBC had broadcast a serial on Radio4 called "Home Front" which was set in Folkestone in the south of England and those two things along with a lot of the other cultural 'events' of 2018 compelled me to make this piece about them, even though I had no idea really who they were.  This makes me realise there are lots of photos around now (e.g., Syria, Myanmar) that in the future, will be like this photo, 'unknown'. I had never used so much coloured Inbe(blue) washi paper,  in one print before BUT I found it necessary.

ABOVE.  Title: “There but for the Grace” monoprint - wood intaglio, relief print and inkjet chine colle. 40 x 55 cm

Funnily enough I came across this photo while researching my photos for this post and came across this image.  It's what I call a 'print map'.  If I have anything with more than two 'elements' e.g., a piece of coloured Inbe paper and a plate element....then I have to do a photo (or I just forget).   However it does not mean that I will necessarily make the print.  I think this one is still sitting in the 'in progress' pile.

See how dark the umber coloured ink looks here - oh now that I think about it - this drypoint on polypropylene, was inked up using Akua Intaglio ink.  This is their "Burnt Umber".  I love how quick, easy and much less laborious, using these inks are.  They are soya based created by printmaker artists for professional use. Clean up with soap and water or sometimes even with baby wipes.  I am glad I made the change-over,  even though I could hardly afford it financially.  
I would buy a couple of pots from Artifolk (UK) every few months which would cost about £36. Gradually I built up the 'colour family' I needed.  Akua is now owned by Speedball (USA )- the people who do those excellent soft rubber brayers) I just wish they were wider than 15 cm (6 inches) AND had a bigger diameter.  I ought to write to them.

I made the heart image with an idea towards a final outcome. At the end of almost every 'vein' would be a small circular intaglio plate and underneath each would be a piece of inkjet chine colle paper with the image of a child who had been killed in the war in Syria.
  Again I wouldn't know who they were.   Honestly in a way I know its pathetic but as somebody who's disabled and financially challenged  - I feel powerless and inadequate where these people especially children are concerned.  It seems to me that sadly its really a form of legitimised murder. 

Wars are so horrendous and the longer they endure the more complex they become - I mean these people were just some citizens* having the audacity to ask that they be treated with respect... demanding they be granted their human rights....I kept wishing that someone would accidentally drop a few bombs onto Mister B. al-Assad's 'hang-out'. 
Above not the exact plan but a version I made using a pigment inkjet image with the drypoint intaglio heart on top.

Another thought I have had is ....I wonder how he explained the decimation of the entire country to his children.
"Well you see these terrorists(* ) were making street protests complaining about how bad I was and the government...Aye...they were breaking all the windows and attacking the I had to defend .they didn't like us 'Alawites' and would they would have come to our house and probably would have hurt you"............not well it hurt my over inflated ego so much that I thought no no no...I will not be dictated to by my own people.  "How dare they".

This final piece which uses umber for the intaglio elements eg the spider and the arch shape. It is printed on top of an ochre coloured aquatint background, the little sleeping figure on the right was made from a scan of a drypoint I had created earlier. It wasn't the right orientation - so I scanned it, flipped it, and out put it onto some washi paper to use as chine colle.
It's called Little Dreamer, and it's about 36 x 46 cm.

I like to think that this piece is somewhat more optimistic that it represents a child being surrounded by comfort and a place where they can play..but most of all have HOPE.

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