Friday, September 23, 2016

Linocut in Progress: Slowly

Chip, chip, chip... little tiny pieces of lino everywhere. And then... an unplanned delay. Too many days of intense carving plus a 350-mile day of driving combined to create one of the most frustrating conditions for someone whose every interest involves looking up, down, and to the side.

Neck spasm! The worst of it is that I was trying to avoid this problem by stretching when it happened. Nothing to do for it except lay around with alternating hot and cold compresses and grumble a lot. Today it's still tight and painful, but I can hold my head upright and look at least a little bit to the left, so I'm trying to get a few things done with lots of breaks in between.

The good news is that being forced away from the carving table allowed me to decide which pieces I'm going to try to complete before the December exhibition deadline. The bad news is that the amount of work required will cause continued strain on my neck and shoulders. But I guess the other good news is that I've had my "you are not invincible" reminder NOW instead of, say, the first of November when the pressure will really grow. Printmaking pun not intended.

Printmakers and all whose work requires controlled, repetitive motion... take a break RIGHT NOW. I know I'm going to. And then I'll get back to work. Slowly.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Linocut in Progress: An autumnal endeavor

Things ramped up considerably in the studio this past week. Multiple deadlines loom and once again I'm hearing the relentless drum beat. Gotta get it done, gotta get it done, gotta get it done.

It's not my favorite way to work, let me tell you. But it seems to happen with annoying regularity. Every few months, in fact. There are a raft of exhibition deadlines in April, and now... A stack for November.

No time to waste, so as a reminder, here's Step 1:

As I began this new linocut I remembered a promise I made to myself:  No more blended rolls on the first pass, especially on a piece that is 18" x 18." Clearly I am completely untrustworthy, since I broke that promise and did it anyway.

It was with Step 2 that technical problems appeared.

A couple of things are happening here to create uneven ink coverage. The first issue was the use of a too-small roller. I used an 8" instead of 18," because I was feeling lazy about clean up.  It's just one solid color, won't be a problem, right? 

Um, wrong. I found it really difficult to get ink evenly on the block with a too-small roller. And...

I've been struggling to get ol' Presston to set even pressure on larger pieces. I zeroed out, and zeroed out again, and still there were problems. The dark line down the middle of this print is caused by a single sheet of newsprint, placed under one side of the block in an attempt to even out the pressure. Seriously. That's how much difference one newsprint-thickness of pressure can make. 

I pulled up the collar of the adjustment dial and jammed a screwdriver into my thumb trying to get it back in place. Panic mounted as I hunted for a bandage and considered whether I would have to print all these deadline-driven pieces by hand. But finally, somehow, I got it all settled. 

Step 3. Another solid color, but this time I got out the big roller. No problems with ink coverage, and the pressure problems have been solved. You can still see the newsprint mark in this particular print, but it's less pronounced and it's going to be covered soon anyway.

And then the fun started. By fun I mean tedium. I spent large portions of three days chipping tiny chunks out of a large area of the block. Chip, chip, chip, chip through several documentaries about 1960s sitcoms, and the 50-year history of Star Trek, and the making of Star Wars. Oh, and a bunch of old Dean Martin shows. Honestly. It's all on YouTube, which is important, since I haven't had a television for several years.

Saturday night I pronounced myself ready for the next color pass and Sunday morning I mixed up two lovely colors: a sort of minty green and a pale yellow ochre. And by lovely I mean kind of questionable. The ochre will be dry grasses, the green is for aspen leaves that haven't yet turned yellow. The blended roll helps make a smooth transition between background and foreground.

And see? The green doesn't look nearly so obnoxious with the yellows under it.

Time out now for thinking... How much of this light green will remain? How will I start to approach the grasses? And what time is lunch?