Experimentation and Layering with Acetate

Since creating my last hand coloured images using felt tip pens I have undergone further research into artists that have already employed the idea of hand colouring the photograph. Additionally, I have developed a theme for my images when I found an image where my great grandfather coloured his image. This lead me to want to colour in more of his photographs that he didn’t not colour in. This to continue his legacy and in doing so I have found many of his photographs taken in about the 1950’s and I thought it would be a good idea to scan and enlarge them to work on. Below is a contact sheet of some of the images that I found and scanned in to choose from. From doing so, I have decided to use images 1, 2, 3 and 5.

Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 16.54.36I decided after looking at these archival images that I wanted to experiment with paints to try and achieve a similar effect that my great grandfather achieved with paint or ink. From this I went out and purchased tube water colour paints and palette water colour paints to see if they could create this same effect. Then I found an area downstairs in my accommodation building where I could lay out all my work and experiment with these paints.

Below are the results from this experimentation. On the left I used watercolour paints on glossy paper and on the right I used watercolour paints on matte paper. As you can see, the results were not very successful when I used glossy paper and it made the paper crinkly and produced a dry powdered effect on the paper which took of the glossy layer of the paper. However, when I used it on matte paper it worked much better. I do like this effect and I took extra inspiration from Felice Beato and Dianne Poinski. But this is not the effect that I want to create for my final image. I wanted a much more translucent effect that still resembles the photographic effect that an actual colour photograph could produce.

Moving on from the idea of using watercolour paints I purchased a variety of different pens that could create the effect that I wanted to achieve. I made sure that I did this test sheet on a piece of acetate to make sure it applies and dries properly. These are shown below. From these options I decided that Sharpie markers, Letraset tria markers and glass paint to outline were the best options to use for my prints. acetate test

The following photographs I decided to experiment with layering a sheet of acetate. I decided that it was best to use the Steadtler felt tip markers to colour some elements in on the bottom layer then using Letraset Tria markers on the acetate layer on top. The images I produced are featured below:


This photograph taken in Venice. It was originally a black and white photograph and as I was not there when the photograph was actually taken, this meant that my experimentation was left completely up to my own imagination. As I have done in some of my previous work, for this photograph I wanted to exaggerate and create a new interpretation of reality. I did this by using vibrant colours that would not normally be associated with the items they are with. The use of the Letraset Tria markers were successful in adding colour without covering the original image. Allowing for the shades and tones to still show through. By only using colour on particular areas this allowed for me to show the aspects that jumped out at me as being most significant in the composition of the photograph, much like Dianne Poinski. However I am not very pleased with the overall outcome of this image as I don’t think that it is as striking as it doesn’t not have many details to be coloured meticulously.


For this photograph I wanted to keep it quite realisitc, almost to the extent that you wouldn’t have realised it was hand coloured at all… like the work of Kusakabe Kimbei. When I applied the blue colour to the water on the acetate, the spread of colour was not entirely even so I experimented with using finger my blend the colours together by dabbing it whist it was drying. This turned out to be a successful method and one that I will try and use more in my future images. I like the subtlety of the blue and how it adds to the photograph, almost without recognition, like the sea in Dianne Poinski’s image. Additionally, I think that the red pathway is very eye-catching and leads the eye to explore the photograph, coming across the different coloured boats along the way. This image has improved from my previous image but not to the extent that I am really happy with at the moment.


I used the same process of using one layer of acetate on top of the original print for this photograph. This proved to be very successful. And I am really pleased with this image. I used a mixture of Sharpie Pens, Letraset Tria markers and Steadtler felt tip pens in the production of this image. This image was also taken in the 1950’s and really represents this time period with the choice of clothing and with the plane. As this was a key element of the successfulness of the photograph, I wanted to emphasise this. But also putting a modern twist by using these vibrant colours. Although I didn’t like the fact that you could see the pen marks on the plane at first. Now that the whole image is complete I think that it works well. As it is obvious that it was not an original colour photograph, this effect contributes to the handmade, crafted effect. I chose to use my finger to blend in the pen to create the sky as I liked the effect this had on the previous picture. The selective colouring lifts individuals into the foreground and produces an effect that is eye catching for the viewer.

In conclusion, I have experimented with many different techniques in the production of these photographs. But now I want to create a final print that encompasses all the good parts of these images to create a more interesting final image. To do so, I will produce a image using multiple acetate layers. As I have discovered that there are 4 pens/paint that work well and look good. I would like to use a different pen on each layer, so that when put together it produces an all round successful final print.

© Kirstie Wilkinson


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