Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Another tool for the Plan B arsenal

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.

Who knew there were so many kinds of wood filler? I stood in front of the shelf at our local hardware store for a longer period of time than I expected, and finally settled on this small tube of Elmer's brand "Carpenter's Wood Filler." I applied several "mooshings" of filler in the cracks... each time it dried it shrank (shrunk?) a little.

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.


  1. Very clever repair! Thanks for showing us.

  2. Thanks for sharing - really good idea!

  3. Thank you for sharing such inspiring blog posts. Really interesting reads! Your prints are fantastic.

  4. Congratulations on resolving the problem and aren't artists a resourceful lot?
    The print looks great and I have never heard of pochoir so am looking it up. We learn something all the time. Thanks for a good post.

  5. What a great idea! And Alison's said everything else I wanted to say, so +1.

  6. good to know the wood filler works :) will use it in the future if i need to

  7. This print is really lovely Sherrie!
    I won't be afraid to use wood filler in the future. :)

  8. Loved this post, Sherrie. I don't know any printmakers here, so I have to stop over and explore your world every now and again.

  9. The print looks awesome! I learn so much coming here.