Is it tedious…or meditative?

“That looks tedious!” exclaimed a tall fifty-something man recently as he watched me carve a linoleum block. I was working at Gallery North, the cooperative gallery to which I belong. I find that between visitors I can sometimes get some carving done.  After a deep breath, I smiled and replied, “On a good day, it is meditative.” He harrumphed and finished his browsing.

My newest print at an early stage of carving.

I get asked the question”how long does it take?” all the time. I envy the people who can participate in the “a sketch a day” or “daily painting” rituals. There is simply nothing quick about my work.  Here’s a list of the steps involved in making one of my prints:

1) Get an idea
2) Noodle the idea around for a while looking at other images
3) Sketch thumbnails of the idea then make a more complete sketch
4) Enlarge the sketch at Kinko’s
5) Make a tracing paper transfer of the enlarged sketch
6) Mount linoleum onto MDF board and cut to size
7) Tear Rives BFK paper (25) and practice sheets (3) to size
8) Attach the registration tabs to each sheet
9) Carve away anywhere that stays white
10) Mix ink and print my first color (on 28 pieces of paper)**
11) Clean the block and roller
12) Paper dries (overnight usually)
13) Transfer graphite marks from the tracing paper to the block
14) Carve the first layer away**

**Repeat this series of steps 8 – 10 times carving away and printing new colors

(This list does not include the time spent staring at the various stages, obsessing about the decisions that have been made, and worrying that it is not developing as I had envisioned.)

In an age of instant uploads and overnight shipping, printmaking can seem tremendously anachronistic. To me, there is value in a practice that involves the repetitive motions of carving and the always surprising results of color layering. My process informs both my image and my message. Consider the long term. Take time to examine the unexamined. Perspective is everything.

Removing the temporary weld feels like we are going backwards!

Work on my press is proceeding at a similarly meditative pace… we are slowly turning and trimming the inside part of the rollers. Here’s me removing some spot welding after we finished the first circle. We need to remove this circle from the rod so we can turn the second circle on the lathe. Later we will weld these circles inside either end of the big pipe to hold the center rod in place.

The coils of removed steel are fabulously colorful.

I discovered that steel when it is shaved off by a lathe can have this outrageous royal blue hue. I would never have seen this if I had ordered the press from a catalog. Nothing tedious about that.

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4 thoughts on “Is it tedious…or meditative?

  1. Mom

    Had not remembered this article so it was a treat to read. It is mind boggling
    considering all the steps involved in making one print. This makes me love
    my collection even more.
    Love, Mom

    Reply
    1. Elizabeth Busey Post author

      Printmaking is very much a process. Nothing too fast — and you can only carve for so long each day. Glad you enjoyed reading!

      Reply

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