April 13, 2008

Firebird: Orange you glad I didn't say "banana"...

It's amazing how quickly weekends go by. Specially when you try to cram as much as possible into them. Yesterday, being the first really nice Saturday all spring, I couldn't procrastinate away from the gardening anymore. It was definitely time to remove the last signs of winter still laying around here and there and R and I worked hard at it. So it starts again; next weekend we'll be blowing money at the garden centre.

But, half a day of housework and the other half of yard work, last night I almost didn't touch the Firebird block to get it ready for printing today. Guilt finally drove me to it, the thought of a Sunday going by with nothing printed wouldn't let me relax until I sat down to work, chisel in hand.

I also spent a good half-hour making three very clever little masks for the block so that I wouldn't have to do so much wiping today, particularly around the tail feathers, but when it came time to actually print, the masks were just as much hassle. I did use one of them, something I should have really thought of the last time already given how rough the tail feathers are looking right now. I'm really hoping the rough bits will even out once the other colours and the key block come into play.

After I finished printing the Firebird, I turned to the MDF town scene and the dancing girls I worked on last week. Hugely ambitious, I got my paper ready for both and got ready to print, and that's when my ambitions snuck out the back door. My DS black water soluble ink, barely used in the last year and a half, was a huge problem. It had developed an odd rubbery and slug-like quality and it rolled out into dozens of tiny jelly-like blobs instead of velvety ink. It wouldn't take to the block so I misted it a bit with water which made things marginally better but still not good enough; none of the proofs I pulled gave me any reason to go on with printing onto good paper.

The images show the poor ink results and this is clearly a big problem I have to solve soon; I planned to use the same ink for the key block of the Firebird print eventually.
My next step will be to e-mail Daniel Smith and ask for advice. Depending on what they tell me, I might try using my black oil-based ink next Sunday.
Ink issues aside though, I'm really not happy with the actual print I carved out of the MDF either. It's probably a learning curve; the lines aren't as clean as I'd like them to be. I'm not used to the material and its quirks, one of which is that it tends to crumble a bit. I'll try using a V-gouge for my lines on the next block I do and see it that'll help.

The other experiment, oiling the MDF with mineral oil to make the block more resistant to water and cleanup, seemed to work OK. The oil soaked in well enough, but since my image was two-thirds carved already when I oiled it, I had to work around the relief bits and didn't really get the oil to penetrate as deeply as I wanted to. Consequently, as per below, once I began clearing some unwanted parts of the block, I also ended up clearing away the oiled parts.

The next block I work on will need to be oiled before I begin carving.


Eraethil said...

Lots of work happening in your studio. That's great!

The latest colours added to your print are making it look better and better. Must be exciting to see the result of the latest colour on the first pull after each reduction. :)

I'm brand new to reductions, and wondering why you are having to mask out certain areas of your block? Or for that matter ink only certain parts of the block? Are you streamlining the process by doing this?

Katka said...

Thanks for your comment, Rick.

I'm not sure if it's really streamlining since wiping ink away from areas where I don't want it is a bit of a chore. And, in theory, the block doesn't have to be masked off or have only certain parts of it printed. I've read somewhere -- not sure where -- about another printmaker masking of their blocks as well but I'm sure it's not a given.

I do it because I haven't had huge success with achieving the purity of colour I want when certain colours are printed over top of too many others, particularly with colours of equal intensity. For example, in this block, I want to have some rose edges around the leaves. I was worried that the rose colour might be corrupted by the orange I used for the bird's body if I inked up the whole block with it. (Or vise versa, if I printed the orange on top of the pink then my orange wouldn't be as pure). I'm not sure if that makes sense.

I've also found that, with as many colours as I'm using (this print will end up with somewhere around 12) the layers of ink tend to get kind of "bulky" and the ink tends to get splotchy in the places where all of the colours get layered on top of each other.

Finally, not rolling ink onto areas where it's ultimately not needed, saves on ink. And that's a good thing since I hate paying those shipping costs from the States (LOL).

Eraethil said...

Thanks very much for the answer Kat! It all makes perfect sense. :)