Whether to save money, time, or to explore creative options in your art, hand colored gum bichromate prints might just be the answer.
I have always loved film. My first roll was purchased back in 1970. To this very day, almost all of my gum and casein prints begin as a film captured image.
And I love film cameras, especially those which require no batteries, are fully manual and have only essential controls. From my prized meter-less Rolleiflex E3 to a fleet of Agfa Clacks, vintage manual cameras figure prominently in the regular workflow of my gum printing.
But have you seen the price of color film lately? And the cost of black and white is not far behind. In fact, the cost of most everything is through the roof! They tell me there is not much relief in sight.
So, the current state of the economy has forced me to revisit my beginning forays into gum bichromate printing from thirty-five years ago. Back then, before the dawn of the ubiquitous digital miracles of technology we have today, I hand colored simple monochrome gum prints made from one humble black and white darkroom negative. Like training wheels on a bike, hand coloring was a straightforward means of adding hue while learning to improve other gum printing skills. It wasn’t long until I realized my dream of creating three and four-color prints completely from negatives. Perfecting my tricolor printing, I put away the hand coloring technique.
But now it’s back. My bank account demanded it, and my wallet cheered me on!
It’s simple. Straightforward. Expressive. Versatile. And easy on the pocketbook.
You can use watercolor pencils, water-resistant colored pencils, watercolors, gouache, and more to add patches of color or broad areas of hues. My favorite approach right now is using Caran d’Ache Luminance pencils and then blending with 91% alcohol. Sometimes I scan the hand-colored print and produce color separated negatives for reprinting in full color. This creates another layer of nuance and expression to the finished piece.
Here are some recent examples of work. I trust these photo snaps will give you an idea of the process.
Will I continue producing tri-color gum images originating from expensive color film? You bet. But there will be no binge printing until further notice. Moving forward, my gum appetite must learn to be satisfied with smaller bites and leaner projects.
One can only hope for better times.
2 thoughts on “Hand Colored Gum Prints: When Art and Economics Collide”
Thank you for taking the time to write and ask questions. When I print with hand-coloring in mind, I will make at least two copies. One will be of “normal” density, and one will be lighter or lower in contrast. I find the lower-contrast images will permit color to be rendered well in the shadow areas. But sometimes the denser images, when colored, have a charm of their own. Hence, I typically make a few variants of each image I create.
As for blacks, they are always mixed, usually an ultramarine with a burnt umber.
I hope my response is helpful.
Hand coloring the gum prints is a great Idea!
What is your preferred pigment for black-and-white gum prints, please? Also, the b&w prints look thin and low contrast to my eye, and I wonder if that is by design, with the hand coloring in mind?