The medium used to create my artwork
Many years ago, I switched from Bromoil to the Oil Printing process. It is based on the carbon printing process, which was discovered in 1855 by Alphonse Poitevin.
The process relies upon the ability of an organic material (gelatin) to become insoluble in water when sensitized with dichromates and exposed to sunlight or UV light.
To create my artwork, I use photography, digital collage, contact printing, and lithography inks on watercolour paper. The paper is soaked in a gelatin bath and then dried. In the meantime, a digital negative is made, and contact printed under UV lights on the sensitized watercolour paper. The paper then becomes the matrix for applying lithography inks, building layer upon layer to create the desired image.
This is how the process works from beginning to end.
- Using a 4 x 5 camera with black-and-white film, I take a picture of the model.
- The 4 x 5 negative is developed in the darkroom, then scanned with an Epson scanner into Photoshop.
- In Photoshop, I create a composition with portraits and previously collected images of landscapes, architectural details, and objects in a collage effect.
- The collage is inverted as a negative and printed in the size of the final image (usually 20 x 24) on a paper negative (Pictorico).
In the meantime,
- The watercolour paper (Artistico Fabriano 300 lbs) is prepared by soaking it in a gel solution twice and drying for 24 hours to harden up.
- The paper is sensitized (coated) with a spirit sensitizer under dim light.
- The digital negative is applied over the sensitized watercolour paper and contact printed under UV lights for a certain amount of light units. The contact printed paper has now a very faded positive image on it which is called the Matrix.
- The Matrix is washed to remove the sensitizer and then dried for 24 hours.
- Now the Matrix is ready to ink. It is soaked in water for about 30 minutes. Then the inking process starts.
- Different colours of lithography inks are dabbed unto the whole surface of the Matrix, layer by layer (as a tapestry). This step takes 3-4 weeks to create the desired image.
The process can be watched on this link: https://www.frantisekstrouhal.com/videos
The bromoil process was invented in 1907 by Englishman C. Wellbourne Piper.
A bromoil print is simply a black and white photograph printed on a suitable photographic paper from which the silver image is removed and lithography inks applied. This is accomplished by first immersing the black and white print in a chemical solution that bleaches away the silver image and converts into varying degrees of insolubility the gelatin coating which holds the silver. Only a faint image remains.
The print, now referred to as the matrix, is immersed in warm water where the gelatin swells in direct proportion to the amount of silver originally contained in the emulsion. In the shadows areas, the gelatin is very hard and thus swells very little. The highlights, on the other hand, remain soft and swell considerably. When lithography inks are applied to the moist gelatin surface with the stag-foot bromoil brush, the inks are accepted freely in the shadows and lower tonal values. The highlights in the print, because they are swollen with water reject the ink, while the intermediate tones accept the inks proportionately.
As you see, bromoil is a unique blend of art and craft that allows you to produce results that simply cannot be achieved in any other way.
There are three features that make the bromoil and Oil Printing processes so attractive to creative photographers. The first is that every bromoil print is unique. The second, more important reason is that the bromoil process offers a great deal of control; during the application of the ink, there are limitless opportunities to manipulate the image and create a true work of art. Finally, the silver print will deteriorate over the years while the inked image is completely permanent. It will last as long as the paper on which it is applied, approximately 5 centuries. The same applies to the Oil Printing process which is done on watercolour paper.