Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Moving "right" along

I've been lurking in the background of a few printmaking forums lately, and finding myself amused by discussions about reduction printing. They remind me of conversations about watercolor painting, which is to say that they are full of "shoulds" and "musts" and declarations about the innate difficulty of the process.

Certainly at this point I do not consider myself an expert, but I have enough experience with the process to feel reasonably comfortable and, as I mentioned in a previous post, ready to try to a little more experimenting. I shake my head at the folks who insist ink layers must be added in a certain order, who proclaim a limit to the number of workable layers or, better yet, who are adamant that thorough planning is imperative.

Giggle along with me: Planning? PLANNING? Who has time for PLANNING? If I spend 15 minutes outlining a basic idea of colors for an image and the order in which I might print them, I consider that pretty darn thorough. Which probably explains why most of my images end up with at least 2 more colors than I imagine and why my image development is all over the map sometimes. But since nothing ever turns out the way I imagine it in the first place, it seems either overly optimistic or futile to think too hard about the whole thing.

Granted, that's just me. I have to learn by doing, not by thinking about doing. A lot of people do like to plan, and they do so quite well and with fabulous results. But making set-in-stone proclamations about THE "right" way to do something... well.... For someone like me it's just an invitation to be contrary. ;-)

Two blended layers of ink and then a dark orange. "Oooh... pretty..." I think.

Which is, of course, why I next put a layer of very pale brown back over all that nice orange. "Hmmm.... interesting. Kind of a nice feel. Now what?"

A little bit darker tan, saving only small dried grass tips worth of that lighter color....

And next? Just one more layer, I think. Maybe. Probably. Could be. That's the plan. Right?


  1. planning has never quite fit in with the process of creating...for me either.
    it's all rather a series of reactive decisions: does this look good, does that?
    the process is the exciting part about artwork.
    to know how it's going to look in the end seems to defeat the purpose, I think.

  2. Hi. I've been following your prints for a bit and really like the odd color combinations/juxtapositions you end up with and am often baffled by how you get there.

    As I'm working with watercolor pigments and rice paste--very transparent...I've been hesitant to try a reduction print--using just one block as I can't go back and cover up a previous one. So I keep cutting a block for each color.

    But I keep looking at your prints and thinking Hmmmmm.
    That looks like fun.

  3. Contrary? We wouldn't have you, or your art, any other way!

  4. Hi Sherrie

    This is an interesting and thought provoking post.
    For me part of the attraction of printmaking is the anticipation of that little bit of magic when you peel back the paper from the block. Whatever is revealed then to a large extent determines the next course of action, which may be contrary to whatever preconceived idea I started out with. This for me, is an important part of the creative process.
    As for a plan, when I start a print the only definate idea is which parts I want to leave white, and a usually more hazy idea of where I want the darkest darks to be. Everything in between is just a happy accident waiting to be taken advantage of!

  5. Oh, goody! The Tribe of Stumblers gathers! Stuart and Barabara.... PRECISELY: The whites are the "easy" part, the darkest bits seem evident, and everything that happens in between that is reaction to what went before.

    Gabrielle, THANK you. :-) This made me smile and exhale contentedly.

    Andrew, welcome! I actually saw your tasty "pi" the other day, and envied your transparency (which I have only barely played with). Reduction IS fun, a little nerve-wracking to post the process publicly when danger of serious crash and burn lies around every corner... but at least I only have four crates of used blocks stacked in the closet instead of 40!

  6. planning is over rated lol better to just dive right in. I figure you can always start again if a mistake is made :)

    the colours in this piece just glow :D

  7. Hi, Sherrie,

    You have a lot of artists voicing their sound and expert (expertly sound?:) opinions. I'm not an artist - I just know what I like and I really like your work.


  8. Hi Sherrie,

    I love your prints and I can identify with your experience with the reduction prints! I start off with a drawing and my color ideas but things can certainly change as you go along. The color combinations!