Saturday, March 26, 2011


Earlier this month I was thinking about the color woodcuts of Frances Gearhart

Double click on images to see enlarged. Just finishing another beveled plywood woodcut (above) with water reflections in the foreground, a shaded bank in the middle, and some foliage over that. Wondering how a solid color could be added behind that image and what that might look like.

Woodblock artist Ansei Uchima described the way he made sure one print was carefully lined up on top of another. His solution was to secure his woodcut block to a printing board "with nails flush against the bottom edge and the corner of the block." There was more to his method, but it dawned on me that printing a second impression on top of the first one would take some thinking and lots of trying. 

This particular post is about not having all your facts together. Sometimes you have to jump into it, and try something, follow your hunch, do it, not know everything, just "try it out." 

The hunch that came to me was to ink the blank side of the plywood plate and print that on several separate sheets of paper. Then, after those were dry, possibly ink the top woodcut, line it up, and print it on top of the solid color background.

One day I had the right kind of energy to do some inking. I set out my long boards for the prints to dry on. I had typing paper to practice on. Some nice brown Kraft paper and some American Masters 90 lb printmaking paper from Utrecht. At the beginning, I drew an outline of the woodcut block on my printing board. I centered a sheet of typing paper on the uninked block, and drew an outline of that sheet on my printing board. Both of these marks served as guides for lining up my prints. One of my goals was to line up prints BY USING MY EYES AND MY HANDS.

This is what a print can look like when the plates do not line up.

Click on the right hand X on the Google ad (when it appears) and it will disappear. This six minute video shows inking solid blocks of color. I am mixing water soluble white acrylic tube paint with water soluble black Speedball ink. You will see the pattern that the burnisher makes on the print when I pull it up. To get an even print one must apply even pressure all over the back on the print. The first print usually has no color, not enough ink reaches the paper, or the ink is not the right consistency. The more I used the Speedball ink, the richer the print looked to me. 

 Here is one try at a solid color block.

Another try on Kraft paper. Notice the uneveness of the ink, where I did not burnish the back of the paper. Some print makers might like that particular effect. I was trying for a solid color.

Click on the right hand X on the Google ad (when it appears) and it will disappear. This three minute video continues the process. I am trying to line up a dry print in my hands with a second impression on wet ink. Technically two colors. You notice I am mixing ink as I go. I did not analyze the results until the ink had dried. Merely spreading out prints to dry overnight, and gathering them up the next day. Figuring each step out takes a certain kind of energy. Work at your own pace.

An example of two color print or one print on top of another. Double click on image to see color variations.

This is two passes of blue and one upper pass of green. Three impressions in all. Top image was printed on Kraft paper. Bottom image was printed on typing paper. The green swatch would make the top of the water reflection image look more like foliage. In the end it did. So this was a good calculation.

Click on the right hand X on the Google ad (when it appears) and it will disappear. This six minute video has me building up the consistency of the ink for the water reflection woodcut. You can see the first "impression" or print is garbled. I am trying to ink it a little bit more each time. The person rolling on the ink controls the amount of ink on the plate.

Notice the little dots on this impression. The paper was not even burnished on the back.  

The same impression was printed twice.

The same impression was printed twice. Blue ink the first pass, black ink the second pass.

Click on the right hand X on the Google ad (when it appears) and it will disappear. In the Block Color 4 video I am ready to print the reflection woodcut on top of colored background.

 One attempt. 
Are the blocks lined up right?

Another attempt.

Another attempt.

Click on the right hand X on the Google ad (when it appears) and it will disappear. One minute video.
Below are Glidden Road and Quarters prints on top of various solid color blocks. 

In the "trying and attempts" there is experimentation, and you find out if your hunches were right or not. Some of the images above are slightly tipped, well, yeh. But I discovered that prints that were created toward the "end of my trying" looked the best. So, lining up prints with EYES AND HANDS can work.

A week later I examined my sixty four dry prints. There were not enough prints that looked so much alike that they could be part of an "edition." Just to illustrate this point take a look at the two prints (above). Double click on images to see the detail. An edition of numbered prints can not and should not have this much difference between the prints. As I am still learning about inking, burnishing, printing...rather than "fidget over what I have printed so far".......I have decided to move on.

Now I am putting ideas down on paper (above) and using a black marker where the darks should be. My interest lies where light regions turn into dark ones. A better place to work out the design is on paper. It is time to put some thought into my next piece.