November 25, 2007

Lessons Learned

I’m closing the door on several weeks of frustration today. Since mid October, I’ve been working on a new reduction woodblock print, Gargoyle, inspired by a stone gargoyle somewhere in Prague. The image is 6" x 8". These are the results as per the grand finish today:

Actually, I don't have a photo of the last print; it's too wet to scan and N. has the camera on her trip to Seattle. But it's represented by the block, printed in a lighter gray than print number 2.

Once the prints come down from the line, I'll most likely chuck them. Somehow, even though I had a sure idea of where I wanted to go with this and how, I didn’t enjoy working on it and I’m sure that affected things. As did having to stop half-way through when it dawned on me that I needed to get moving on my Christmas card print for this year. On the plus side, between this block and the one I carved for my Christmas card, I learned a hell of a lot as far as actual carving technique goes. I keep being reminded of how different working with wood is from lino. It’s been a learning curve but one I think and hope I’ve climbed now. The bummer is that neither the Gargoyle print nor my Christmas card one turned out to be keepers.

This is the Christmas card as it turned out and yes, it really is lumpy and textured like that though clearly not in a good way.

I still like the idea, I wanted something simple, but troubles with execution have resulted in what looks like a potato print. The cards are in fact hideous and certainly nothing I want to put my name to and send out to people. I’m guessing it’s ink issues I’m dealing with here: I tried to get more transparency in the blue and rose inkings and added transparent medium to my ink. Very weird stuff, rubbery and oddly sinuous, it rolled out very thick, printed so thickly that I had to daub off the excess with newsprint (resulting in a fuzzy edged print), and dried lumpy. After that, the yellow and green both went on wrong and ended up lumpy. In ultimate irony, neither of the inks I added the transparent medium to came out noticably more transparent. Grrrr.

Last week, trying to endure a three-day long mind-numbingly boring exercise at work in a sub-temperature room, I kept myself conscious by thinking about my prints and, specifically the disastrous Christmas cards. I hate the idea of store-bought after so many years of making my own. That’s when I came up with plan B. I sketched out the image on Friday, carved out the matrix yesterday afternoon, and printed it last night – enough for 40-plus cards. The image is roughly 3” x 3” and will be pasted on some nice card stock to set it off properly.

It’s done in the Opus house brand of Mastercarve – I forgot how easy it is to work with and how fast it goes. Roughly two hours to carve the image and an hour to print 50 copies; I used permanent rubber-stamping ink. Can’t beat that, or the pleasure of working with this stuff, though it really isn’t suited for larger work and wouldn’t make a good print going through Max (yup, finally named the press). Thank God there’ll be Christmas cards afterall.

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