Printing with paint: I got thrills, they’re multiplying

I’ve been quasi evangelical about the quick results of iPad painting. In a printing workshop last week I used real, hands-dirty paint. Whoa! Talk about prolific! I think I found a rival medium!

Birds print pattern painting

Birds print pattern. Laura Eades 2014

“Mmm, smells like art”, said my 3-year-old when I put her art-apron on to attempt some potato printing at the weekend. I know what she means. Inky smell. Poster paint. Pastels. You couldn’t isolate the aroma but it smells like green and brown and cardboard and red, with a hint of glitter and a splash of tea.

The fact is, I’m still buzzing from the smell of paint from a session at a local studio called Little Art a week ago. I don’t mean I’m high off paint fumes. I’m high off paint vibes. The fact is, I’d forgotten just how good real paint is.

Digital paint smells of …

Nothing. But that’s about the iPad’s only shortcoming. For the last three years I’ve used the apps Brushes and Animation Desk to make quick illustrations and animations. I love making digital artwork because:

  • Illustration is quick (and animating is still time-consuming, but it’s comparatively a lot quicker)
  • I like the imprecision of drawing with stylus or finger, and the end result being slightly beyond control
  • Even rough pics look legitimised when they’re in digital form (ever scanned a pencil sketch? It looks better, believe me!) so – yes it’s true – even though I can’t draw very well/accurately, I feel free to create
  • I could make plenty of pictures. Far more than if I’d been using real paper, that’s for sure! Quantity.
  • I can have multiple versions, so I don’t worry about wrecking my pictures if I continue to work on them
  • I can work backwards – put backgrounds in later, for example
  • There’s an ‘undo’ button
  • I don’t have to scan them to chuck them onto a blog, and I don’t need a gallery to hang them in

In recent times I’ve got into using the layers function with the eraser to ‘carve out’ layers of colour, a little like printing.

I love prints and if I buy art, it’s usually a print! So when this printing workshop came up, I decided a day away from family life in the company of colours would be more of a sanctuary than a scrub at a spa.

Oh for the peace and promise of a studio

I’m reminded of how great it is to go somewhere. A new space, a new atmosphere. I know that sounds obvious, but just as you have a different conversation with your spouse in a restaurant as over the kitchen table supper, you create differently in new stu stu studio.

A whole day in the artroom with rollers and ink and snipping and pressing – with resonance of the sanctuary room at school – but with cups of tea and miniature chocolate cakes and meandering adult conversation – if you want it – provided.

A studio is a magical place, full of tools (toys) and colours (visual calories). All the paints and rollers and papers make a special atmosphere, just as books make an atmosphere in a library. It’s a kind of peace with a lot of potential. Everything is sleeping gently, waiting for your touch to wake it up.

Birdie tag printing little art berlin

Bird tag. Laura Eades 2014

Cram a lot of creativity into one session

The day was called b r e a t h e with art – though I ended up breathless, because I’d forgotten what a meditative trance it is to work with your hands – time flew and with printing, where do you stop?

Prolific? Wow. With printing you can really churn it out. Warhol was totally on it. (Perhaps the reproducability of his work, and the sheer number of them he churned out, accounts for the fact he’s the best selling artist at auction even today).

Stamping and printing is a ping a minute. Ping! Did you hear that? It was another thing getting bonged. You can make loads and loads and loads of stuff in a really short space of time. You can get addicted to versions. I made some cool gear for Christmas: 20 tags, 4 cards, 3 full posters… (photos on Facebook).

Tree print webA buffet of materials

All laid on. What a feast. I wanted to try everything. Materials just kept on materialising. (“Oh, I forgot, here’s a tag cutting machine”. “If you need any ribbon…”. “There are these shapes stamps in this box”. “What about this handmade paper?”. “Anyone want to print onto gift bags?”). Yep. Yep. Yep. Gimme! Me!

I want more

I want a membership of a studio, like a gym membership.

Could be dangerous to have unlimited access I guess … my history of retreating psychologically into art projects would need to be a source of wisdom. I want this stuff. In my life.

Printing is the medium. Why haven’t I tried it before?

Everything on my list of things I love about the iPad, bar the ‘undo’ button, was there in printing.

  • Quick, satisfying results
  • Easy to make art that looks more graphic (more ‘designed’ and stylish – though it was just thrown together) than my usual style of drawing
  • Easy to get on a roll of feeling encouraged. Easy to complete things and move onto the next, and the next
  • Great results even if your percieved skill level in the art stakes is low. Definitely no ability to draw required
  • You get to make stuff, useful stuff like cards. So you don’t need a gallery or a purpose or concept to the art, cos you’re too busy fantasising about how great that bird you just carved out of an eraser would look on a teatowel or a strip of wallpaper

There’s more to life than staring at an led screen

But there’s something more that I was missing and didn’t even know I needed.

It’s hard to explain it. It’s something to do with doing things with your hands, of having to link up your brain with your fingers. Maybe getting into one part of your head. Getting into a kind of zone, surrounded by scissors and uhu and hole punches.

The feeling of deep inner calm when you’re guiding your scissorblades along a pencil-line. The feeling when you’re gouging out a rubber (more satisfying, even, than picking the skin off your feet). An atmosphere. An energy. A smell.

Yes. It must be a special smell.

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Disclaimer: Little art berlin gifted me this art session. It was their first ever adult session, and I agreed to write about the experience from an illustrator’s point of view. These opinions are my very own. I think they should do more adult sessions, don’t you? For upcoming sessions at Little Art in Berlin, check out their Facebook page here.

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Digital vs craft? What’s your preference? Get involved on the comment thread below the post.

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