Late last Summer I took a long walk in a wooded glen, and found inspiration
for a new block print.
But that was the year of many shows and little time for new art.
So it is now mid-January, and the making of “Sunlit Stream” can finally begin.
Printmaker friend Yoshiko recommends a particular brand of extra light-fast inks, so I have stocked up.
I carve a block…
…mix and print first color, the glowing green-yellow leaf color. Make 150 prints.
Dang. Looks less like glowing leaves, more like mustard. This brand of yellow ink behaves very differently from my usual! Add this discovery to long mental list of New Ways To Screw Up A Block Print. But perhaps the color will look better when dry?
Nope. Well, perhaps that can be fixed somehow later. Carve another block and print second color, brown, and check for accuracy against handy Sharpie drawing on clear plastic.
Next is the blue water shadow. Slight panic: shipment of opaque white ink, needed to create the blue, is delayed! But blue must be printed today in order for the prints to be finished in time for the National Arts & Crafts Conference, our biggest show of the year. Say a prayer, go to printing center, and see if there might be some white ink lying around. After much searching, an old can is unearthed, with just enough white ink to mix up my blue and do this printing. Thankyouthankyou!
Now it’s time to resolve the mustard yellow ink issue. Carve a new block, with just the leaf shapes, to avoid laying another big layer of ink all over that whole area (too many layers = trouble).
Cut away extra linoleum, to save carving time…
At the printing center, my friend Rose makes birthday and Valentine’s day cards, and lends moral support as I mix up a new pale yellow-green ink. Thanks, Rose!
Now for the sunlit portion of the water. To get the right olive color, I mix green, yellow, blue, white, black, and red.
Make a print, tweak the carving a little…
For once, ink transparency works in my favor: the blue shadows underneath show through the olive, creating a new shadow.
Next is dark green for the foliage. Cut out all the little leaf shapes, mix the ink, and print.
But the edges of the light green leaves peek through the dark green.
Ehh. Don’t like it. Yet another New Way To Screw Up A Block Print.
Clean the press, go home, and carve all the leaves bigger.
Now carve shapes for darker olive water shadows, re-using parts of the lighter olive block, so shapes will match.
But the shapes refuse to match. Even Former Professional Commercial Printer Bob cannot make sense of this.
I finally realize that the linoleum shapes have actually stretched under the press, because too much of the supporting linoleum was cut away. (Yet another item for New Ways To Screw Up list.) The solution: just cut off the stretched portion; it isn’t essential anyway.
One color left to print: black. But because the black needs to register perfectly to many of the leaves, I decide to re-use the block with leaf cutouts, additionally cutting out all dark green foliage shapes from it. So this block will print the black on the upper portion of the scene only.
The final carving for the rest of the black takes about 12 hours,
a lot of lost sleep, and a little blood.
The printing is slow and tedious…
but finally “Sunlit Stream” is finished!
Of the original 150 prints, 98 came out perfectly. With just enough time to dry and have a few of them framed before departure to Arts & Crafts Conference. Phew. Say another prayer of thanks. Block printing is so very humbling!