Friday was all about printing, but at 6am my fourth block was still to be cut. I decided to use the lines - perhaps in nostalgia for my "travel lines".
At class, there was still much to be done before any printing could start. Registration lines to be added, edges of non-printing areas to be beveled, the blocks checked and generally tidied up, at which point I discovered an entire uncut corner of one of them ... hmm, how did that happen!
After an hour we were ready to run the block under the tap (right) and wrap it (left) in a damp teatowel and then plastic - it would have a couple of hours for the water to soak into the wood fibres -
Having folded sheets of newsprint into a book, we wet alternate pages (starting at the back) and wrapped them in plastic - this would be the damp pack for the printing paper -
The paper was cut to size to fit the area marked out on the blocks. Because it had deckle edges, one edge needed cutting off to give a basis for measuring our little sheets -
The sheets went into the damp pack, to be taken out as needed and returned between printings.
The nori (rice starch) paste needed thinning down, stirring with a chopstick as water was added little by little. The desired consistency is reached when it drops off the end of the chopstick. Containers with lids keep the nori from drying and thickening -
Dabbing the nori onto the areas to be printed, after which a soft brush is used to smooth it out -
Then it's the turn of the pigment -
again with the brush -
Several applications of pigment may be needed, until the printing surface is properly covered.
The paper, lifted from the damp pack, is placed into the registration marks -
Being thin, it was covered with a sheet of baking paper to stop the baren rubbing loose the fibres -
Note the position for holding the baren.
Pigments: ordinary watercolours. First I wanted a pale grey for the background, the block with lines. A tube of Paynes Grey was available, and I also mixed up burnt umber with ultramarine (bottom), and viridian with alizarin crimson (top), but at the dilution I was using, you couldn't see much difference -
It was rather thrilling to see the layers building up, and to play with the colours -
A further step is to stretch the print - it dries, then is briefly dampened again, and placed on a surface (eg perspex) and taped round (in one direction, eg clockwise) with sellotape, which is rubbed onto the paper to hold it firm. When the tape is removed, it takes just a few of the fibres of the paper with it -
To my right, Mags
was well away with beaches and groynes and beach huts -
An important thing is knowing how to sharpen the different tools. We were given a basic set of tools to use and keep, but even these work better if kept in good condition. So, find the bevel and first use the coarse stone
then remove the burr and finish off on the finer stone -
Here's a lovely bit of cutting - look at those thin lines! The block is a work of art in itself -
Samples of the finished prints
After class I went along to Intaglio
to get a few things (brushes paper, sharpening stone) so that I could finish up my set, and perhaps play with the blocks in different ways -
When I took the prints out of my plastic folder, 24 hours after the class, they were still damp, hence the buckling. Back in a damp pack before further printing, they'll straighten out, and after printing there's the stretching process for the ones worth keeping.
The one at top right is the most complete, it has all four layers, but unfortunately it has unwanted inking -
Perhaps I used too much nori and made the block too wet? After seeing that, I used a scrap of the absorbent paper to mop between the motifs, and that helped a bit -
The yellow and violet print over the grey areas quite well, but the green is wildly misregistered on the right side -
Possibly the paper was badly placed, but it's also likely that my tracing for the grey layer was inaccurate. There's a lot needs looking out for! It's a bit like learning how to drive - you have to practice and practice till things become automatic.
Next step, making more blocks, based on a photo I took on the way to Intaglio, as a result of an idea I'd had on the way to class. Something caught my eye that just seemed right - but I must reconsdier it away from the heat of the moment. I quite like it when things happen quickly, so that you're swept up with the enthusiasm and urgency of it all.