March 25, 2011

A Glimpse of Paradise

        This past Monday I finally finished a print I've been working on for several weeks.  It's one of the most laborious I've done, with all the fiddly little details to carve out.  It was also probably about the longest I've ever spent on an initial sketch, since I wanted to be sure to get the perspective right on all those lines.  It reminded me of learning one point perspective in junior high, wielding my ruler and pencil.  I always enjoyed the geometry of perspective.
        The idea came to me to do a fantasy library, and I went on-line and browsed through lots of pictures of really cool libraries.  I practically had to wipe the drool off my chin as I sat there at the computer!  So my sketch has borrowed bits from various sources.  (At first I really wanted a spiral staircase in the corner.  Someday I will do a spiral staircase print because I just love them, but in the end it didn't fit in this one.)  The basic layout of the view came
from one picture, the orrery from another, the designs for floor, lamp, and all the books came from a variety of other places, and of course it all got filtered through my simplification to translate everything into plain black and white (or, technically, brown and cream).
        (In the picture of the sketch you can see that after I draw the design to my satisfaction, I draw back over all the lines darkly so that the graphite will transfer onto my rubber block.)
        Because people always ask me how long it takes me to make a print and I can never give them an exact answer, I decided to keep track of my time for once.  Of course, I didn't think of this until I'd finished drawing the initial design sketch, and that was several hours already.  However, I did keep track of my time spent carving, and the final result is that it took me nine and a half hours to carve.  That 9 and a half hours were spread over two weeks, so you can see that I didn't work long times at a stretch.  Most days I worked between 45 minutes and an hour and a half, but some days I was able to do only 15 minutes or so.

        After the carving came the printing, and the bigger the block the harder a time I have pulling
prints that are evenly and properly inked.  It took me three printing sessions to get an edition of ten that satisfied me.  Because of this, and because I was mixing brown and black, my edition has a variation in browns.  I also have a couple of pulls that have a mottled look to them.  Ordinarily I would have rejected inking like that, but in this case I thought it was kind of cool.  It seemed to go with the look of an old parchmenty library, so I kept them.  Each time I printed I spent about 45 minutes, adding more than two more hours to the total.
        And finally, after selecting the edition and tearing up the rejects, I labelled, numbered, and signed the prints, and declared myself done.  In fact, the process still has more steps.  I scanned one and made a page for it on my web site, updating all the links and everything there.  I'll still have to mat some, and frame or package them for showing.  But I won't count that time for now.  Leaving the marketing stuff aside, the final tally is that it took me about fourteen hours to make this print.
        I'm pretty pleased with it, on the whole.  I especially like how the open book on the stand turned out, and I certainly had fun with the whole thing.  I'd love to be able to step into this one and spend some time there!  I imagine there's a comfortable chair just around the corner...

[Pictures: A Glimpse of Paradise, rubber block print by AEGN, 2011;
photos by AEGN, 2011.]


  1. I'd like to step into your print, too! I think it would be much like stepping into the Boston Athenaeum--where I just saw the current Edward Gorey exhibit.

  2. Very nice. Thanks for sharing the photos of the carving and printing process.

  3. Beautiful, Anne! Your post is lovely to the eyes and to the spirit. Thanks.

  4. Thanks!... It's hard to go wrong with books! =)

  5. Very nice! I want to browse! The colour variation too really works.