Monday morning, August 2. Day One of Transforming the Landscape with the amazing Jean Gumpper.
After a get-acquainted session with fellow workshopmates, faculty, and staff, we all picked up our pencils and color tools and some scraps of paper and headed out to a lush little creek behind the Anderson Ranch Arts Center campus.
Time for "Project Woodcut."
You know... kinda like that crazy Project Runway show. (Which I've only seen because I recently stayed in a condo that had cable.) Short time limit, narrow parameters, race to the finish. Our version did not (thank goodness) have the drama of personality and high stakes of potential big money. But it did go something like this: 15 minutes to collect sketches and color samples. Minimum 3 color woodcut print in an edition of 8 due by 6:00pm.
Epic. Especially since we also had bits of instruction worked in to the day as things came up. How to prepare and carve wood plates. How to mix transparent inks. How to ink up the plate. How to register for a bleed print. How to run plates through the press. How to clean up and then mix the next color. How to think about the effect of transparent inks on each other. How to keep carving tools sharp.
Did I mention it was epic?
It was so high speed that I didn't have time to take many pictures, but I do have a few to provide a glimpse of the day.
Here are my sketches from the 15-minute reference-gathering episode:
In the end I opted for the sketch of fireweed on the right because the shapes were big and simple and I had no idea how it would feel to carve wood instead of lino. It was a good choice, if a bit literal and timid. Our print size was only 3 x 5 inches, so it seemed crazy to get TOO detailed.
The first two colors were pinks, as you might have guessed, but the third was a bright lime green, which since it was transparent gave me this:
Orange! Which is what I wanted for the stems, but a nice surprise. (Surprising in that it worked out, I mean.) Jean had an extremely handy piece of old-school graphic technology which doesn't seem to be available any more: a Pantone color overlay fan book. The transparent-on-mylar kind, not the solid-on-paper kind. If you have one... oooh! I know some printmakers who would give their firstborn to get ahold of it. (Well, I know at least one who is presently searching hard.)
Anyway, the overlay book made it possible to try different transparent colors to get an idea of what might happen. I don't think I ever would have picked lime green over pink to get orange, but there you have it.
The fourth color (after the 6:00pm, 3-color deadline) was light green again, more opaque so it would stay that way, and then a fifth color, a darker green. By that time it was almost 10pm and I was more than ready to crash. Unfortunately I was also so wired from the day that I hardly slept, which became a theme for most of us the rest of the week.
On Tuesday we went on another source-material-gathering expedition and started a second print, about which more later. The sixth and last color didn't go down on this little thing until Wednesday, but OOH! I think it made the piece, don't you?
We printed on a variety of papers... very interesting to see how differently the inks responded to each surface.
So there you have it. My first-ever woodcut, concept to execution in one day (plus a little more). Yippee! At the end of the day, with what few brain cells I had still functioning, I made a list of seven Things I Had Never Done Before in Printmaking. (There were also a few Things I Haven't Done in 20 Years, like use a press.) Any day that has seven never-before-attempted skills added to it is a darn good one in my book. My mind was reeling, my feet were killing me, but oh! What a day.