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!
I am always relieved and pleased when I finish something. I’m a devoted list maker, and the black ink mark across a task or goal is tremendously satisfying…
The problem comes the next day or week when I am faced with the proverbial blank canvas. In my case, it is a clean studio, surfaces ink-free, drying rack without a mid-way linocut. The process of thinking of the next work, the next project, feels a little like the doldrums. In maritime use, the doldrums are a place without wind, where a sailor could be trapped for some time. We also think of it as a state of inactivity, of low energy or mild depression.
So like the sailor who is trapped without winds, I begin the process of shaking the sails to try to get moving again. While I blithely write “new series” on Monday’s to-do list, the reality is that it takes some time to come up with new ideas. My ideas lately have been circling around global climate change, especially our country’s willingness to harvest our below-ground energy sources like tar sands, rather than increasing our use of renewable energy. I live in a coal-burning state, so even my time on the computer is emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
But how to put these noodlings into actual artwork? Sometimes I have to sneak around this problem, so to get my creative brain out of the doldrums, I do experiments.
An experiment thinking about layers. The first two layers came from blend rolls of leftover inks. The current layer was a tinted lemon yellow…
I love topography. This should be obvious to even a casual reader of this blog. So I was delighted to have the opportunity to work with a local scientist on my first commission highlighting some spectacular scenery.
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.