January 31, 2010

Mandala Print Variations

Sometimes, an idea that seems so great in theory doesn't turn out that way in reality.  The Mandala print I've been working on is definitely a case in point, at least as far the whole embossing powder idea goes.  I really thought it would be a cool thing to do.  I really did.  I got it all ready: ink, a selection of embossing powders, heat gun, and I pulled a series of prints I was going to emboss.  
I then sprinkled some powder onto the damp ink, carefully shook the print around to distribute the powder to where I wanted it (just in the very center of the print) and heated it.  It worked like a charm, the powder melted beautifully, but it looked awful.  Totally disappointing.  At first I thought this might be because I chose the wrong colour of embossing powder so I tested a few more prints, with different colours.  But, no matter what, the results were still awful.  Sort of like a beautiful woman with way too much make up on, the natural appeal of the print was overpowered by the embossing.  
At that point, I was just about ready to trash what I'd done and call it a loss but in a last attempt at some kind of save I sprinkled contrasting colours of embossing powder over the rest of the inked areas and heated that too.  Nah, still nothing special.  The photo below shows the best of the bunch, there were six in total, and I'm keeping them just to turn into cards maybe though they'll have to be BIG cards.  Each print is 6" x 6".  
Luckily, I also printed this print as a two colour reduction, three if you count the background, and I'm very happy with the results.  I almost didn't add the second colour in and toyed with the idea of keeping just the dark brown ink and adding in some water colour.  But the block's now been carved away to almost nothing and it's in the trash so there's no going back. 

Before I reduced it for the second colour though, I did an embossed version of this print also.  Clearly, there's something that really appealed to me with this block and I wanted to try all the options.  I used BFK Rives heavy weight paper and dampened it so it would conform to the relief as much as possible and then used the press to get the version below:
I've added a very light wash of gray-blue watercolour in some parts to emphasize the shadows.  Plus, I really pressed the hell out of it and ended up with indents from the edges of the block so I had to take a spoon and, with the paper still damp, rub most of them out.  It worked well but by the time I was finished with the teaspoon rubbing I was pretty glad I only pulled six prints in this version.  My arm felt like it would drop off.  Really made me appreciate the folks who print by hand and with a barren.  I wonder if they develop "print-wrist" after a while. 

Anyway, not bad for a couple of weeks work even with the failed experiments.  Just as well, since who knows when I'll be printing next.  I don't image I'll be doing much beyond focusing on the bare necessities of life until the end of February anyway.  After three years of trying to get mentally psyched up for it, this coming month will be a heady mix of 12 hour work days and 12 hour graveyard shifts.  The 2010 Winter Olympics are here: Sleep deprivation here I come...


northwoods trekker said...

Hi Kat
beautiful embossing and really love your design
sorry to hear that you didn't think the powders worked very well
the ones you posted look good

Eraethil said...

I hate it when a concept doesn't seem to be coming together. But really that is just an opportunity for your creative side to get to work, and you did just that. I think they are lovely images. Am I just not seeing the extra heavy "make-up" in the photos?

BTW, did you do enough of the embossed prints to experiment with touches of just-barely-off-white colour in one of them? I've always wanted to do that myself - using watercolour so diluted that the viewer wonders if it is just a trick of the shadow on the pristine white paper.


Katka said...

Thank you both very for your positive comments guys.

It's funny, despite my initial dislike of the embossing powder prints, they're not looking as horrible after some time has passed. I may just try another experiment with the stuff at some point in future.

I only made 6 of the embossed version and used the watercolour wash for one of them. I will most likely do the same thing to the remaining 5.

Eraethil said...

That blue wash - that I didn't see before and obviously didn't read carefully enough - really looks lovely!