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Week 52: 9th – 15th September
This week I headed down to London to see the London Art Book Fair at the Whitechapel Gallery. I’d visited previously a couple of years before when I exhibited there with AMBruno and found it to be a vibrant example of the art publishing world.

The London Book Fair 2013
‘The London Art Book Fair is an annual event which celebrates the best of international contemporary art publishing. Hosted by the Whitechapel Gallery in association with Marcus Campbell Art Books, it showcases a diverse range of work ranging from individual artist publishers to galleries, magazines, colleges, arts publishing houses, rare book dealers and distributors.’

Unlike the other artist book fairs which focus mainly on the work of artists who create and work with books, the London Art Book Fair also incorporates other types of art publishing, including monographs, journals and gallery catalogues. While this attracts big names such as the Hayward Gallery and MIT Press to the fair, I feel that it can also detract away from the artist book as a medium and make audiences more confused about how books can be art.

Nevertheless, it was a busy and fruitful visit and, as with other artists book fairs around the country, there was a packed itinerary of events available to visitors. One of these of events was a risograph printing workshop, organised by Ditto Press, where participants were able to learn more about the risograph printing process and then make a print to take away with them.

Risograph Printing
I’ve been wanting to learn about risograph printing for a while, as an alternative to screen printing, so it was great to have an opportunity to participate in the workshop. Risograph uses a duplication process by creating a master stencil from wax paper inside the risograph machine. The paper is then passed through the machine and soy-based single colour ink is pushed through the stencil onto the paper, one layer at a time. Additional layers of colour are created by producing a master stencil from another image and passing the paper through the machine again.

This process is predicated on first separating your artwork into layers, as with screen printing. obviously, there wasn’t the scope or the technology available within the 2 hour workshop to produce complicated artwork separations, so we made simple images using drawing and collage techniques that could then be scanned with the risograph printer to produce our finished prints. This simplified technique was very useful as it gave me a good idea of how I might go about creating images in future, but I decided to do a bit more research into how to prepare artwork to create different effects.

Colour interactions
I found this guide to using different techniques to prepare artwork for riso printing particularly useful. Produced by Paperpusher in Canada, it covers everything from using opacity in colour interactions through to the register of the print. Colour interactions are created by using the combination of two overlaid colours to make a third (as shown on the image) However, although the final image is in colour, the artwork is prepared in black and white, with the darker tones producing stronger colours, and the less opaque tones creating more pastel effects.

Other effects using two colour printing include duotones. Creating an image using contrasting colour halftones helps to draw out the midtones and highlights. Halftones are the dots that make up an image (as in newspaper printing) and can be increased or decreased in size on the risograph machine depending on the preferred outcome.

Print register
As riso printing is produced in layers, it isn’t always possible to align each layer perfectly with the one before. Equally, large solid areas of ink may not have as perfect a consistency as a digital print. However these discrepancies are usually minimal and create a more ‘handmade’ effect in the finished product. Although I wasn’t expecting to be introduced to risograph printing at the London Art Book Fair, it was a welcome addition to their programme, and I’ve already made contact with Footprint, my local riso printers in Leeds to determine how I might use the process in my work.