I worked all week on carving my wood block. To my dismay, I discovered a flaw in the wood. In a couple of spots something about the layers in the plywood wasn't adhered right, so that I would make a single cut and whole chunks of wood would flake off. The first couple of times it happened, I thought I'd messed up. The next couple of times I thought I was just unlucky. Then I realized what was going on, and that there was pretty much nothing I could do to stop the wood from flaking off. (You can see some of the areas in the first picture.) I tried gluing wood back on in a couple of places, but with limited success. I don't know whether the flaw was due to the age of the wood, or the fact that it was "student grade" quality, or what, but it was obviously pretty frustrating.
Other than that, the carving was fun. And then I went to print… and realized I had no oil-based ink. I made a quick trip to the nearest art supply store, but it's a small shop and didn't carry oil-based printing ink. So I came home to print with water-based ink. The problem with that is that you don't want to be wetting a wood block any more than you have to - especially not a wood block that's already compromised, and has had glue applied in places! And that meant when areas got a little smudgy or over-gunked (I'm not sure that's a technical term) I couldn't just wash the block and start again. I also hesitated to make any additional changes to the carving because I couldn't wash the block if tiny bits of wood got stuck in the ink. In the end, however, I did decide to take out an area where my carved lines and the grain lines had become indistinguishable. (The original state is shown above. The second state, in its entirety, is below.)
So, here it is. Is it a complete disaster? Frankly, I can't tell. I know too much - too much about the details I carved that don't show at all, too much about the lines that were supposed to be bold and instead broke off completely, too much about how far this image is from my original vision. But then, I did know going into it that it was going to look rough and imprecise. So, is it an appealing, attractive image in its own right, without comparisons to what I was hoping for? I just can't see it with objective eyes yet. I'll have to come back and look at it again later and see whether I like it then.
[Pictures: flaking plywood,
detail of first state printing,
final state of half-timbered buildings (as yet untitled), wood block print by AEGN, 2012.
(All photos by AEGN, 2012.)]