Thursday, 19 July 2007

Printing the Woodblocks...

A long day printing a run of 40 prints, using 3 Cherry blocks, 2 of which were carved on both sides to give a total of 5 passes; light blue, yellow, red, blue and black, printed in that order.

I printed the light blue first because in a test I'd done the secondary colours created by the over-printing looked better with the red and yellow passes printed on top of the light blue rather than the other way around. I was after a blueish yellow and a blueish red rather than a yellowish and reddish blue.

I worked from light to dark with the colours following the same order when producing a watercolour painting, finishing with the black.

I know the black is usually printed first to assess any changes in registration, but I didn't want the colours to over-print onto the black and weaken it and mean I'd have to print the black again, so I risked it. I suppose I could have printed the linework in a very pale blue first, and then printed it finally in black, but I didn't have the time.

Printing is scary! There are so many considerations; keeping the paper consistantly moist, (probably too strong a word. I would use "water cooled") constantly assessing the amount of pigment and paste to use and regulating it throughout the print run, clearing bits of the block away when it started to catch the paper (my fault - I should have done many more proof prints before my print run to correct things like that. Again, so short on time.), and many other things.

Anyway 13 hours later with only 30 mins for lunch I had my 40 prints. I layered them between dry cartridge paper with my heaviest books on them and closed the door on them for the night wondering if any of them were good enough.

A couple of days and a couple of changes of cartridge paper later the prints were dry and ready to sort out. I've managed to select the best 31, and I hope they meet with the approval of the Exchange participants. Some have come out well, others have blotches and marks that I wish they didn't have. On the whole though, I'm pleased with how my second woodblock print has turned out.

Had I known how difficult it would be to produce such an odd shaped print in a minimum of 3 colours I may well have not signed up, but I did, and I'm glad I did.

I've learnt so much producing these prints; much more than is possible to read in books. The subtle amounts of pigment and paste, so much a case of less is more, and how easy it is to use too much. The use of the baren and how much pressure to use, again slight variations make a world of difference to the finished result. I was only just starting to get the hang of it by the end of my 5th block. A book can't show you how much pressure to use. One man's heavy pressure is another man's light touch; you can only discover that by doing it.

So I hope all the participants of Baren Exchange #33 will be kind to me. You can only improve by doing something and the pressure of a deadline is perfect motivation.

Right, what should I do next? I'm going to concentrate on linework next. I want to improve my carving skills for detailed lines...


Diane Cutter said...

It's a beautiful print, Mark, and I'm delighted to be in this exchange! I love the way you left the colors around the edge. It's a very nice touch... and thank you for the step-by-step process. I never tire seeing how other printmakers work.

Sue said...

Fascinating to follow your process, Mark. I'm only just starting to get to grips with wood engraving but I do fancy trying woodcut one day. I enjoy watching the process so thanks!

peggy said...

Your print is beautiful, Mark, and the process is always goor to see. I'm participating in the current Exchange and this will be my first as well. I hope to have as much success and insight as you've experienced.

Lee said...

I agree, it's beautiful! I wish I had signed up for this exchange just to get one! :-)
I can commiserate though, I felt the same way about my print for exchange 30, but as a friend of mine always says to me, "we are more critical of ourselves than anyone else will ever be, so relax and enjoy!" :-)

Mark Mason said...

Thank you to everyone who's posted such nice comments. It's such a boost to get on with my next print.