5.1. Balance

  • Make an abstract print on the theme of balance
  • Use found objects to mask parts of the printing plate to make marks
  • Use what you have learned so far in the course


I began this exercise by testing different objects as masks:

  • sewing thread
  • torn sack cloth
  • a piece of tatted lace
  • torn rice paper
  • thin metal rings for tying flowers
  • pencil shavings (wooden part)
  • a copper stencil from the sewing kit of my great-grand-mother

All of these, apart from the stencil and the rice paper, turned out to be too thick and turned into blobs.

The right hand picture contains the actual print on its left side, its ghost (after removal of the objects) to the right of it and marks I stamped with the inked side of the sackcloth in that. In combination they became quite interesting, it looks a bit like some kind of steam punk face with goggles.

I tried to go thinner with my objects:

  • dog hair
  • flour
  • pencil shavings (graphite part)
  • plant parts

The leaves and petals worked best, but are not very original. They felt very school project. The other ones were more promising.

The dog hairs turned out to be the thinnest lines so far and the pencil shavings marked the paper a bit which I found interesting. The flour made a nice cloudy pattern. The third picture shows the actual print and its ghost after removal of the thread (not the flour for obvious reasons). With this picture I had begun to think about balance and what I wanted to do with that.


I was thinking of the golden ratio, or more precisely the golden spiral I had come across in my assignment for the Introduction to HE (hence the spiral above). Into this came the idea of scales and a “riddle” we used to ask each other as children: “What is heavier, one kilo of iron or one kilo of feathers?” How to turn this into something visual? This is the page from my sketchbook:

Balance thumbnails

I wanted part of the spiral to be the scales weighing up something simple and “heavy”, a white block, against something diffuse and “light”. I also wanted the dark area to be more complex with accidental edges, maybe reflecting the two sides of the scale. The first couple of prints turned out quite simple and a bit boring.

In the first I like the circular shape of the cloud and and the edges of the ink. The second discouraged me from the idea of different hights in the background according to heaviness. Almost from the start I put some cloudy elements in the lower right corner – for compositional balance.

I had used shavings from watercolour pencils and hoped they would colour the cloud, as had the graphite. They didn’t, or only very very weakly. Further testing and thinking solved the problem and resulted in two prints I like. During the testing I also noticed that I moved away from the spiral more and more, interpreting it more freely. A good thing I think.

Balance 3

The colours turned out clear and strong here, but there is no cloud instead. And I was not satisfied with the composition yet.

Balance 4

Here the cloud turned out very nice, but the coloured bits became blackened. Why? Maybe due to the blotting of the paper with a wet cloth?

Note added later: What happened was that the shavings are on top of the plate with ink beneath them. As everything is reversed when printed the end up at the bottom with ink on top of them. For them to remain clear they must adhere to the plate and only mark the paper. Less pressure and a wetted paper might work?

I like the scales (the sewing thread mark) being out of equilibrium, but still in balance. I also made the square larger.

The last print on this theme I like best:

Balance 5

I exaggerated the disequilibrium and with that left the idea of the golden spiral. It felt right. I like very much that I let the coloured bits go off the inked background. The roller marks turning into dots at the top left go very well with this I think. The image is dissolving. The cloud turned out the way I wanted it, it looks a bit like fireflies. What I am not really satisfied with is how the black turned out. It has horizontal marks the one before did not have and I rolled a bit obliquely.


Questions asked by the brief

The brief asks if the Prunella Clough image in the course material jogs ideas with me. It did not especially. It makes me think of horizon lines or city skylines one behind the other. For the balance theme I did not really get any help from it.

I think the lower part of her image could be made by the technique in this exercise. The object(s) would have to be something very thin that allows some ink through (like my ricepaper did) but that also blocks the ink out completely in lines. Maybe silk pieces cut up and sown into with a very fine thread? The white bits at the top I think are done by collage.

My working process

I had difficulties with this exercise in the beginning. I was not really pleased with my marks from the testing and I always feel a bit self-conscious when I try to express something explicitly, as “Balance” in this case. I don’t want to be too obvious. From this starting point I am really pleased about the outcome. I sat down and thought about the task, about what I had by way of materials and what I wanted my picture to show. The initial thumbnails were helpful to order my thoughts. But I did not come very far. The actual printing and analysing of the outcomes took me further and I think the prints show a progression, in the composition as well as in my handling of the materials. I very much enjoyed working with my ideas once I had found my stride. I think with this I have used something I learned on this course: to keep working, try out ideas, do things several times. Often the exercises I found demanding at first were the ones that let me push my boundaries. I am not really sure if my final print is any good as a print. But the process that got me there was a good and instructive one.


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