During the process of working a reduction block I frequently make "mistakes" that cause me to rethink my next steps for carving and printing. Most are small and they're either not critical or they're solvable through subsequent ink passes. Every once in a while, though, I make a mistake on the LAST pass... and that takes a bit more headscratching.
A few days ago I printed what I expected would be my second-to-last color on this autumn landscape linocut. I wanted a little more interest in the middle-ground dark trees than just a flat color, so I thought a few highlights would do the trick.
So far, so good.
But for some reason I just couldn't wrap my head around how to make the sort of marks I wanted for the highlights, so when I started printing the final color it just looked too spotty and busy. The marks were too similar to those in the background.
Okay, I thought. I'll just join some shapes together and vary them more and it will be fine. So I carved some more and printed again.
These shapes seemed overbearing, and rather than bring dimension to the trees, they seemed to flatten out. What the heck?
And then I realized what the problem was. The trunk of the second-from-left tree had been cut out at the wrong step... and the background green was showing through the middle of the tree instead of the highlight color. Damn.
There are ways to fix these things. It's possible, for example, to "pounce" color over an area with a brush and stencil (a technique called pochoir)... but I'm not experienced with pochoir, and the idea of having to do that over an obvious area in the entire edition with unknown results was not appealing.
This looked like a job for wood filler.
I've never used wood filler to repair a block, so this also seemed a bit risky, but I figured I could always carve it back out again if it didn't work and try something else.
Then I sanded it smooth. The patch still seemed a bit shallow at this point, but I am not a patient person so I decided to go ahead and print anyway. I did recarve one spot that had gotten filled in during my overzealous application of goo.
Well, whaddaya know? It worked. Probably would have worked better if I had applied filler one more time-- I had to rub a little harder on the patched spots to get good ink transfer because they were just a skosh lower than the rest of the block surface-- but in general it worked out just fine. It's not a technique I intend to employ on a regular basis, but it's good to have in the arsenal of back-up plans.