Underprinting. Yep, that’s a thing. I have always envied oil painters who begin their paintings with loose gestures of colors — sometimes in a complementary color. The white of the printing paper can be daunting, and I am always looking for ways to create more depth and texture in my work. Enter the underprint.
When I created my new linocut Treasure of Great Price (see below), along with the companion Pandora’s Paradise, I wanted to experiment with something printed underneath that would provide movement and depth to my topography. I have also been thinking about the topographies that humans create — like mountaintop mining — and how harmful these can be to the earth. So I decided my underprinting block would be a fingerprint.
My twelve-inch block with one fingerprint, rolled up in gold.
I cut two twelve-inch blocks for this linocut, one that had the fingerprint, and one that would be reduced in my usual fashion. Because I used gold ink, the initial gold marks created a sort of resist as I printed subsequent layers, yielding an interesting texture. The marks are more visible in some layers than others, depending on tone and also hue.
My latest large cloud-inspired linocut is in the stage I would characterize as “a hot mess.” After carving away the white highlights, I have spent the last week and a half printing large swaths of fading blend rolls to create the color changes of a setting (or rising) sun.
This is asking a great deal of the relief printmaking technique, where the options are “ink or no ink” on the block. My block is 25 x 40 inches, which means I am trying to get forty inch solid passes of color with no roller marks. The blues I am using are very transparent, which makes uniformity even more difficult. Plus the Rives BFK Heavyweight has a distinct texture which does not allow absolutely flat color when you print on dry paper. This results in the following:
Painterly, or a hot mess? This is still up for debate.
The resulting skies will be the backdrop for dramatic clouds and hopefully I will no longer obsess about the random “underprinting” of sky once these clouds begin to appear. This is the painterly quality that I cherish in other artists’ work. Printmakers will often stare at parts of a print and praise an area of interesting color or texture — “Oooh, I just love this area here…” I blame my issues on the tradition of editioning and the tyranny of the white border. Clearly some printmaking therapy is in order.
I had the pleasure of meeting two printmakers this week whose work has encouraged me to embrace a more painterly printmaking process. My work was included in Serial and Sequential: A printmakers performance” at the Argonne National Laboratory outside Chicago. I was drawn to Kim Laurel’s work on Dura-Lar film that captures the flighty movement of dragonfly. (Visit her website to see a good image of this work.) Equally appealing were Candy Nartonis‘ use of stencils and lithography to explore textures and tones within simple shapes.
Candy Nartonis with her explorations of tones and shapes.
While the quest for perfection (or at least replication) nags me, I’m going to try to celebrate the beauty that variability and texture brings. Now to carve the large block and bring on the clouds!
Vexing. This an apt description of the weather in my part of the world. Wide swings in temperature, plus punishing storms make for unpredictable living. Two weeks ago I wrote about similar trials in layering inks. After giving the linocut an entire week to dry, I soldiered on, armed with metallic inks.
I first printed a gold layer, which faded as it approached the horizon, over the patchy purple. Thankfully metallic inks are very opaque and tend to cover a multitude of difficulties. Another deeper blue went on the clouds, which did not share the inking problems. But I was concerned that the clouds might not tolerate too many more layers… (more…)
Like many creative endeavors, preparation for relief printmaking can take a significant amount of time. Unlike the spontaneity of watercolor, where the wet brush can immediately touch the pre-prepared watercolor block, beginning something new in my studio can take days.
THE IDEA: I need to have some idea of what I’m creating before I can begin. My smaller sketchbook drawings are copied and enlarged on a FedEx blueprint machine. A large tracing paper guide is made by tracing and adapting my enlarged drawing with an 8B pencil. There isn’t a way to draw permanently on the block, so this guide will be used to show me where to carve for each color layer.
Heavy layers of 8B graphite mean that I can transfer these marks multiple times onto my block using a wooden spoon and careful alignment marks.
It has been a few months since I experienced that fabulous feeling of finishing a linocut. I recently put down the last layer of ink — my favorite metallic gold — and the work was transformed. For the final touch, I want to apply gold leaf to a few of the white ripples, so the water will be rippling one way, but the sun is coming from the opposite direction.
I was all ready with my acrylic medium, my red oxide acrylic and my sizing, when I realized my folly. From my last foray into gold leafing I learned that the printing ink must be extremely dry, or the gold leaf will adhere all over the linocut and not just on the sizing. I so wanted to show the finished work in this blog, but you just can’t hurry that gold ink. Here is a partial peek at the work sans the gold leaf…
A portion of my latest linocut, waiting for gold leaf.
I love topography. Sometimes the colors are spectacular, or the rhythm of the shapes, but usually it is the texture. Unlike with lithography and some forms of intaglio, achieving texture in a relief print is tough. There is either ink or no ink. You need to get creative.
My latest linocut celebrates the textural contrast between land and water.