Monday, May 30, 2016

Back to Woodcuts, Again

Willow Flycatcher In Swamp Dogwood. Proof of Two Block Woodcut by Ken Januski.

So here it is with the unofficial start of summer(Memorial Day) and I've done just one print in 2016. Especially given what I said in last post about how much more successful I feel with prints than with watercolor it seems odd to have only done one.

There are a couple of answers. One is that migration starts in March and builds to a crescendo in May. Each day there is the siren call coming from outside suggesting I check to see what has arrived, as well as what is in bloom, what insects are also in flight, etc., etc. But more important in the paucity of prints I think is procrastination.

I've found a fairly easy way to experiment with watercolors, just do a small sketch on paper that is good but not so good as to be intimidating. That's the case with the Stillman and Birn sketchbooks as I've written before. So it is easy to make a non-committal foray. Though some people can do this with prints I'm sure, I haven't been able to. The few I've tried have looked exceptionally non-committal, too close to throwaway. The only print of 2016, the Black-crowned Night Heron with Yellowlegs and Short-billed Dowitcher was somewhat in this vein, but also successful.

Still prints can be intimidating. And that leads to planning, which can then lead to interminable procrastination. Should I do this, or should I do that? One of the great pleasures of printmaking, when I finally do resume it each time, is that I'm no longer in dialogue with myself. Instead the physical print has something to say, often pleasantly surprising me in some way or another, and all of a sudden things flow smoothly. To quote a cliché: The Possibilities Are Endless.

So now that I've proofed two colors on the woodcut above of a Willow Flycatcher in what I believe is Swamp Dogwood at Morris Arboretum I'm reminded again of how enjoyable printmaking can be once you actually get started printing, rather than just thinking (as with many things I suppose).

This is an early stage. It may be hard to believe but I intend this to be a light, bright print. But I wanted black lines to function as outlines more or less. Then I wanted a light brown gray for most of the flycatcher. But in printmaking you generally need to mix your own colors and so you don't necessarily get what you wanted. This turned out to me a dark gray-blue rather than a light gray-tan. That will eventually change but it's fine for early proofing.

Most of the rest will be yellow and green, at least that is my intention at the time. Of course the print will speak up soon enough and let me know how it foresees its future.

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