November 17, 2015

Finishing Up Autumn

        My latest print is a four-block effort.  (I’m getting to be doing so many prints with color I’ll have to change the name of this blog!)  Knowing that registration is always a problem, I deliberately designed something with wiggle room.  I was picturing something much bolder and less detailed than my usual style.  The result certainly is different, and not quite how I envisioned it in my head before starting, which always makes it hard for me to figure out whether or not I like it!
        The first job was a sketch of the complete design with all four elements together.  I then made copies of the sketch and cut out a single element from each one, and transferred the four elements to separate pieces of rubber.  The carving went very quickly as none of the single blocks is very detailed.  The harder, more time-consuming part was the printing.
        Step 1 was to prepare some paper with a colored layer.  I cut and adhered the paper, and waited for it to dry.  I made a batch of prints with this chine collé layer, and another batch without, to see which came out better.  (In the end, I’ve decided to keep a mixed edition with some of each.  The subtly colored paper isn't very visible in the finished print anyway.)
        Step 2 was to print the first block, the red leaves in the background.  This was perfectly straightforward, although the texture of the colored paper made it a little harder to get strong, smooth color.  Then they had to dry.
        Step 3 was the second block, the black trunks.  After a few initial fumbles, I figured out that the best way to get the second block in the right place was to lay the printed paper face
up and then set the inked block down onto it face down, lining up with one side.  I then flipped the paper and block over to press.  Then they had to dry.
        Step 4 was the third block, the yellow-orange layer of leaves.  This brought me the problem I’ve had before with printing light ink over dark: it simply isn’t as opaque as I’d like.  Stupid me for forgetting about that little issue!  I definitely need to track down some more opaque yellow ink one of these days.  Still, the design of the block is such that it’s kind of okay to have the colors blend a little instead of being entirely sharply defined.  Then they had to dry.
        Step 5 was the fourth block, the paler trunks in the foreground.  This is the only block for which registration really mattered, because the single red leaf needed to line up with a blank area in the trunks.  That meant I had to make sure the grey block was lined up with the red block, which meant that I couldn’t line it up with the yellow block at the bottom.  Having the trunks float above the leaves doesn’t make as a much sense from a photographic perspective, and bothers my simple, literal mind somewhat.  On the other hand, it isn’t as if this was ever intended to look like “real life.”  It was really just intended to capture the glimpse of color and shape I saw framed by a window several weeks ago when the leaves were at their peak.  And then they had to dry.
        So here I am at the end of my autumnal block.  I have a plan to print these four blocks again with a summer color scheme, but I don’t feel like it just now.  All the leaves are gone now anyway, except some oaks, and it’s time to be planning new blocks to carve during my upcoming holiday sales.

[Pictures: first block of Autumn Maples;
two blocks of Autumn Maples;
three blocks of Autumn Maples;
Autumn Maples, rubber block print by AEGN, 2015.]

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