Tuesday, June 14, 2011

DEMO - Block Printing / Linocut

"Feral," 12 x 9 on 200# cold press watercolor paper. Purchase information at the bottom of the page.

I'd always wanted to try woodcuts or linocuts, and after Brian Busch brought some prints to my studio a couple weeks ago, I had to give it a go. Here's Brian's Corvidae, about 20 x 30 inches on paper:

There are a lot of choices with regard to the relief material (the block) and the substrate (the paper). I've carved on linoleum before but wanted a bigger surface area and less wrist fatigue. This time I went with Speedball's Speedy Carve (the pink slab) at 6 x 12".  Also got the Speedball block printing kit which has  ink, a brayer, a foam tray, and a cutting tool (gouge) with 3 blades. Enough to get started. I also used some wood cutting tools I had laying around, and next time would probably start with an exacto blade.

I knew the print would be mirror-image of the drawing so it was drawn in reverse. Well, that wasn't so smart. I drew it on the card that came with the Speedy Carve since I knew it was just the right size. But it was cardstock - too thick to transfer with carbon paper or a graphite rub on the back. Silly rabbit. As you can see I mangled the cardstock trying to peel off a couple back layers. Well, it was late. What can I say?

In other demos I've seen people draw the right-facing image in dark pencil, then flip it over and burnish onto the slab, producing a mirror image. Handy.

After a while I photocopied the image and went with the graphite rubbing on the back, but the Speedy carve is so soft and cushy that it gets only a blurry impression. Working right to left, bottom to top a ball-point pen tightens it up.

Starting with the smallest blade, the parts intended to be white are outlined, then gouged out. The smallest blade produces a fine and fairly detailed line to catch a fairly sensitive line quality. Note that the harder linoleum slabs and wood boards are much better at holding detail than this material. (I picked a fairly simple 3/4 face presentation to compensate for a minimal amount of expression I would be able to get.)

After every white space is outlined, the larger blade is use to shove out greater swaths of material. Saves time. And carpal tunnel. There are braces to hold one's slab, but the pink material sticks pretty good. Please be careful you don't stab yourself. I hear that's common.

Note that for a "gray" area, crosshatching or other textures are very effective, like in the faun's shirt below.

Below is the slab about 95% done. The largest lines in the big areas are from the largest gouge. This was about 8 hours work: drawing, transferring, and carving.

The first ink pass is below. (This part is pretty exciting.) I don't have a picture, but basically a line of ink is squirted onto the foam tray, then rolled back and forth with the brayer until the brayer has an even coat. Then you work back and forth and up and down to lay on an even layer onto the block.

A "barens" is a tool used to press the paper into the inked slab. Sometimes a spoon back is recommended. I found a metal measuring cup did a great job. It's rubbed with medium pressure (whatever that means to you) back and forth and in circles to transfer the ink. This is 12 x 9 Strathmore cold press watercolor paper.

Remove the paper slowly....

After the test print I wasn't 100% happy with the faun's expression: too sardonic. I wanted poignant. So I shaved a few teeny areas away...

And victory was mine.  16 prints - 10 black, 6 blue/green.  "Feral," signed and numbered. $38 + s/h.  Want one? Click here to purchase with Paypal.


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