Most of the time I love that reduction printing is a labor-intensive, time-consuming process. I enjoy putting the image on the block. Carving. Preparing paper. Mixing ink. Mixing it again. Inking the block, pulling the print. It's fun to watch the image slowly resolve... and nail-biting when you're just not sure you got the colors or the values right. Satisfying when you get to the end and it all works out okay.
Then again, there comes a point in some pieces when I start grumbling. "If I were a painter, I'd be done with this by now. In fact, I'd probably be done with THREE paintings by now."
Guess where we are with the magpie linocut.
There are a couple of problems. The first is that the shadow on the underside of the magpie's belly is too light. I'm trying to suggest that the viewer has discovered the bird in the foreground shade, escaping from the summer heat and bright light of the background. The magpie's belly is white, but in shadow it appears more gray, and even reflects some of the green of the leaves. There are also a few bright white spots where the sunlight gets through.
Clearly it needs to be darkened, but the block material that printed this original too-light gray was carved away long ago.
So here are the choices:
1) Forget the darker belly/shadow idea and just let the bird come forward. (Easiest, therefore least likely solution.)
2) Pochoir ("pounce") the color directly onto the print. (Too large a space to cover delicately. At least for my skill level with the technique.)
3) Carve a second block. (Stay tuned, we might yet come back to this because I tried option 4.)
4) Cut a stencil, use it to ink an UNCARVED second block, and print from the second block.
Option #4 it is.
I cut a piece of mylar and traced onto it an outline of the shape I would like to have print gray. I used a print-in-progress and the already-carved block to determine this shape.
Here you see the cut stencil placed over the already carved block to check that it lines up.
And here it is on the UNcarved block, ready for inking.
So far, so good. I used a small brayer to ink the block, but the stencil has some very thin shapes that the brayer couldn't reach, so I used a stiff paintbrush to make sure ink got into all the corners.
Everything was going fine and I was already composing my triumphant blog post in my head when I realized that my prints were still kind of tacky from the last ink layers. Perversely confident in my ability to burnish just the inked belly with olympic-level motor coordination skills, AND impatient to get this image finished, I plowed ahead anyway.
And promptly trashed three prints. The too-tacky ink on the print adhered to the dry areas of the second block as I rubbed, and when I pulled the prints back they left chunks of paper behind.
I knew this could happen, but sometimes I just don't want to take my own good advice. Will I know better next time? Of course. Will I make the same mistake again? Oh, probably. I said I love printmaking. I never said one word about actually learning anything. ;-)