Obsession, or Printmaking as a Coping Mechanism

Things at my house are in a state of upheaval. For the most part, positive changes are happening, and since my house and studio are intrinsically intermeshed, I am constantly surrounded by emotions and preparations. None of these changes involve me directly, so my job is to be present. When I have to center myself and be present — especially when I have little control over the situation — I draw circles.

Circle drawing from a long committee meeting.

I have no idea why circles are my current source of inspiration or obsession. In my college and graduate years, it was arrows. I do not have the appropriate degree to analyse my choice of doodling, but research shows that doodling actually allows you to keep your mind focused during a time when it would otherwise wander. Right now, the circles are keeping my mind present, but not allowing it to worry.

My latest print is all about these circles. It is a large block (28 x 28in) and is a close-up inspired by plant vasculature. I carve at a drawing table in our “great room” which encompasses our kitchen and dining room and hanging out space. Most of life happens here. As the planning and emotions continue…I have been carving circles.

Circle, circle, circle …

The entire print is made up of circles, with the addition of some shapes that are really squished circles. I use graphite pencils and colored pencils to guide me — with the pink circles meaning “don’t carve here!” I stand with one earbud in, listening to podcasts, and empathizing as best I can with what I call “the emotion of the day.” Things come and go throughout the day, but I remain centered carving…circle, circle, circle.  I carve until my hands scream enough!

The Tama To makes carving circles pleasurable.

The reason I can be so meditative with my circle carving is thanks to the Tama To from McClain’s Printmaking Supplies. The tool has a pointy bowl shape on the back which I am trying to keep sharp using my honing block. I have no idea how to sharped this tool, and am hoping to never find out. You push the tip of the tool in the linoleum at the rim of your circle, and rotate the tool around its circumference. I use both hands to accomplish this. The tool makes circles of a particular diameter — 1/8 to 1/4 inch work best. If the circle is too large, I use my small u-gouge.

Sometimes I look up from my growing pile of tiny circles and wonder if I have lost my mind. This is a large print and is taking a long time to complete. But I suspect that a long, involved print is just what I need right now. Circle, circle, circle…

3 Replies to “Obsession, or Printmaking as a Coping Mechanism”

  1. I can picture it all just as you describe it. Your coping mechanisms and philosophy are perfectly pitched for the needs of the moment. Before you know it, it will be quiet, perhaps too much so? Hang in there. MKP

  2. I love how this lino plate is looking – are you still working on it. Makes me think of afiend (printmaker) Marilee Salvatore – do you know her work?
    By the way why don't you enable the FOLLOW BY EMAIL gadget in the layout area on your dashboard ? Let me know if / when you do and I will sign up to get emails of your latest posts

    best wishes with the printmaking


    Aine Scannell

  3. Hi Aine,

    I just finished carving the rest of the cells today. I have to different versions going at once, I've already printed it in parts, since I work in the reduction method. Now I need to maximize my used of blended rolls and stencils before I carve any of the cells away! I will take a picture and post it in my next blog.

    I had seen Marilee Salvator's work — I'm inspired by her installations.

    Thanks for the suggestion: I've added the Follow by Email gadget. I've added your blog to my blogroll as well.

    Happy Printing,

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