Monday, June 24, 2013

More Lino Experiments

Black-throated Green Warbler. Woodcut proof by Ken Januski

Black-throated Green Warbler. Woodcut proof by Ken Januski

I'm currently reading Rebecca Salter's Japanese Popular Prints: From Votive Slips to Playing Cards. I've only just started it but one thing that jumped out at me was the statement that when these prints were most popular the carvers of prints were often more famous than the artists on whose work they were based. I'm sure I've heard this before but I hadn't yet tried printmaking myself. Now that I have I can begin to appreciate the importance of the carver.

Obviously I'm doing nothing vaguely similar to what those great printmakers and carvers did. But the more I print the more I realize how complicated it is and how much subtlety can be achieved. And of course there is always something new that can go wrong. I think it's the realization, through experience, of all that can go wrong that is so striking.

In any case I'm trying a few new things on this print. As anyone who has followed my two-three year lino career might guess I've changed styles to a certain degree, going from work that involves much more complex pattern, especially that achieved through hatching, to flatter planes of color. Actually I'm combining them both and only time will tell if that is a smart idea. Completely flat areas of color, almost like a silkscreen, are not really to my tastes though, so I think I'll always go for some sort of gradation, through hatching or otherwise, to break the flatness. I'm currently doing a lot of carving of line and then gouging out of unwanted areas rather than doing everything with a v gouge and leaving all sorts of patterns from the gouge but I suspect I'll always keep some of the latter.

Above are two proofs of the background color done on the Shina plywood I mentioned in the last post. I've decided that this will be the background color and everthing else will go on top of it. The final color will probably be lighter, but this gives me some idea. Generally when I proof I do so on copier paper. But I had some leftover ink today and realized I could print on the back of some rejected prints on good paper. The advantage of this is that early on I get a more realistic idea of what the print will look like on good paper. Since I'm printing by hand, rather than through a press, the color is generally not as full and rich as it is on copier paper. This can be seen above. I'm still not sure which look I prefer, the rich flat look of the copier paper, or the more translucent look of the good printing paper.

When I do color prints I normally do reduction prints, where everything is done on just one block. I have to proof on good paper as I go along because once I print a color I'll carve it away. There is no going back for later proofs of an earlier color. With this print I'm using one woodcut for the background, a linoleum block for most of the colors, and it will have some reduction, and another lino just in black for the final color. That's the plan anyway. I hope that it will allow me a little more flexibility and ease as I print. So this combination of woodcut, linocut and reduction linocut is another experiment here.

And of course color and ink is always an area of exploration, intentional or otherwise. I still have a long way to go before I feel completely in control of the ink. As I said, so many things to think about!
Black-throated Green Warbler. Reduction Lino Proof by Ken Januski

After I'd posted this I found that the hot weather drove me back to the lino -- too warm to do anything outside. Since I have three blocks going at the same time here it was easy to pick up the reduction lino block and finish off the clearing out of the background and much of the bird. I've proofed it in water-based ink on copier paper above. Since I just wanted to test it I used black ink. But tomorrow or the next day I'll proof it in the yellows and olives of the Black-throated Green and perhaps some other greens/browns/grays. This is the most complicated block since it will use the reduction method. It will print on top of the Shina woodblock at top of page and in turn have tht black master lino block printed on top of it. Or so's the plan.

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