Making plates on the beach

Walking and Printing

I’m certain that moving around encourages creative brain waves, so walking and printing is a winning combination. This is especially true if you can do it in a nice place with good company.

Here is a thoroughly enjoyable activity, where you will surprise yourself by making dry-point plates ‘freestyle’. This approach removes some of the decision making associated with planning and designing a print – the message here is  “just do it”.


Leave your sketchbook behind

There are many different starting points for new prints, some people prefer keeping a sketchbook, some take photos, others play around with found materials till something clicks. Whichever your chosen method, why not just miss it out for a change and get straight to the heart of the matter?

This post describes the process of making plates in situ out of doors, (or “en plein air” if you are feeling fancy.)

Working directly on an image outside is liberating, and sharpens all your senses, so even if you only have half an hour in your lunch break you will feel the benefit of this activity.


Walking and printing, alone or together

"<yoastmarkWalking and printing is a good collective activity to do with friends, as well as something to have a go at on your own. It can be particularly interesting to try it out on a walk you do regularly in a familiar place, you will discover new views and previously un-noticed details.

Equally it is a great way to explore a strange environment and record the impact of your first impressions.


Enjoy a creative walk with friends

Inkers Printmakers have an annual weekend away together and every year we do a printmaking activity. Last year was lino etching, this year we decided to try walking and printing together. We stayed at Worfolk Cottage, near the east coast north of Scarborough. The house is just above Hayburn Wyke, where a short walk through a beautiful wooded valley leads you down to sea. Happily it passes right by the Hayburn Wyke Inn; naturally this atmospheric traditional pub was an essential part of the creative process….

The event only took a little bit of planning – each of us shoved some beer money, blank plates and dry-point tools in a bag, (add something to sit on if you are a bit soft.)


Dry-point on acetate and metal printing plates

We used simple, portable materials to make the printing plates. Most of us had stiff acetate and there were also some aluminium plates. (Remember to take something to press on if your plates are a bit flexible).

To mark the plates we had a selection of tools; coarse sandpaper, a proper roulette or two, and homemade drypoint tools made by gluing darning needles into wooden handles.

The highlights on some of the metal plates were done with floor varnish afterwards.


The same place, different points of view

Making dry-point plates in the woods

Making dry-point plates in the woods

The fascinating thing about doing this as a group is realising how differently people see the same things. We all walked the same route at the same time, and everybody noticed different aspects of the environment. When we sometimes chose a similar viewpoint the prints still expressed varying perspectives.


Inspired by rocks

One of my favourite activities is beach-combing and looking at pebbles. I like the idea that each pebble contains a mini version of the landscape it originated from, and echoes of its history over millions of years.

Tracing a rock onto a transparent printing plate

Tracing a rock onto a transparent printing plate

My previous attempts over the years to draw stones illustrating this concept were not very successful but when I put my acetate plate down on the beach at Hayburn Wyke I realised it was framing a ready made landscape. All I had to do was trace it!

"To see the world in a grain of sand" William Blake

“To see the world in a grain of sand” William Blake

If you aren’t keen on drawing views this could be an interesting approach to sketching outside. Why not explore an environment by laying a transparent dry point plate over different surfaces and using this as a starting point for a print?


Printing the dry-point plates

Printing the drypoint plates

Printing the drypoint plates

As we were in a holiday house our printing studio needed to be very portable, we used X-cut Xpress presses and stuck to simple monochrome intaglio prints.

Imposing or accepting limitations always stretches your ingenuity and is generally a good thing to be aware of. Our basic materials led to experiments with different ways of wiping the plates, please  see the post on ‘inking a plate’ for some more details.


A lively set of prints

The final 'walking and printing' show

The final ‘walking and printing’ show

The final set of rough prints had as much variety as the printmakers who made them, but also a feeling of coherence, being produced at the same time and in similar ways. Working directly onto the plates meant the distance between subject, eye and hand was short and the finished effect was spontaneous and lively.

This activity provided us with an absorbing and interesting day – a lovely mix of printmaking, beer, fresh air, woodland and beach, and a satisfying group show at the end of it all.


I hope it encourages you to have a go, or even to make walking and printing a regular part of your creative life.

The “walking and printing” exhibition

Rocks at Hayburn Wyke

Rocks at Hayburn Wyke

The woods at Hayburn Wyke

The woods at Hayburn Wyke

Steps near Hayburn Wyke

Steps near Hayburn Wyke

Beach and sea at Hayburn Wyke

Beach and sea at Hayburn Wyke


Cliffs at Hayburn Wyke

Cliffs at Hayburn Wyke

Work shown here was made by Inkers Printmakers:

Cath Brooke
Ruth Fettis
Lucy Hainsworth
Emily Harvey
Paul Hudson
June Russell


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