Houston we have a problem

landscape two layers
Two layers printed of my latest linocut featuring clouds.

Today was one of those studio days that makes you question all of your decisions…and all because of ink. I have been working on my latest linocut, a landscape with broody clouds and dark early spring fields, with a hint to clearing in the middle. Here is the underprinting of lighter colors before the contrast…

Now I needed to print a darker cloud layer as I begin developing the spring storm clouds, and a dark purple over most of the landscape. What should have been a straightforward printing session turned into a problem solving session, as the dark purple refused to stick to the yellow and green rainbow roll.

blotchy purple
The mystery of the patchy purple ink…

Patchy. The ink was patchy — and that is an adjective that has no positive connotations. I tried everything — I changed the pressure, I mixed new inks, I used tack reducer, I used some burnt plate oil to reduce viscosity. Nothing worked. I sent an email to Gamblin asking if they had any advice.

This type of trial and error is heartbreaking, because with reduction printmaking, every failed experiment costs you another in your series, I finally decided to try one thing that has worked with dark colors — printing a second layer of ink immediately after the first. Here is the result:

blotchy purple 2
Two layers of ink yields less blotchiness…

It is certainly less patchy. I’m leaving it alone right now. Hopefully I will hear from Gamblin soon about what might be going on. But just when I was leaving, I noticed another problem at the top of the paper: dots.

Rows of dots from the manufacturing process mar my linoleum block.

If you look closely, you will see rows of light dots. These are the marks that sometimes appear on the linoleum. My only guess is that they are associated with the burlap backing or the manufacturing process. I vigorously sand my blocks to try to get rid of such marks, but apparently I hadn’t sanded enough. Luckily this area will be all textured clouds, so hopefully the dots will not be noticeable.

Too many problems for one studio day! I’ve cleaned my tools, turned off the light, and am leaving everything to mellow over the weekend.

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