March 26, 2013

Work in Progress - Reduction

        In my continuing obsession with doors, I decided that my idea for a greenhouse door would be a suitable subject with which to try a reduction print.  This time I'm going wild and crazy and upping my number of inks to three.  So I got out my paper and pencil and sketched out my design.  I had to start thinking differently when I began to carve.  First decision: should the frame of the greenhouse be white or black?  White seems more realistically common, but I decided black would give a better graphic
contrast.  Next decision: what are all the things that would normally be white, but this time will be one of my other colors?  With a standard black-and-white block I need black to define white and white to define black.  I would have carved the outlines of the different leaves; I would have carved all the textures; I would have carved the sides of the frames, and all the other details.  This time instead of carving everything that should not be black; I'm carving only those areas that should be white.
        Next up, I made a registration frame to help my three printing runs line up properly on top of each other.  Then I began printing the first color: light greyish
green.  Right off the bat I'm a little disappointed by the printing, and I have a bad feeling that I'm not going to end up with a very big finished edition.  I had paper for 18 attempts, so even though the printing was less than perfect on an awful lot of them, I couldn't do any more.  (I could, of course, just stop the whole process until I get more paper, but I'm too impatient for that.)  Still, because everything this color will be plants, I hope it will look okay with some variability to it.  But I won't know until it's finished.
        After printing all 18 of the first run, I washed everything up, and set about carving the block further.  This is the essence of a reduction print: it's the same block that gets recarved for each successive color.  So once I carve the second round, I can never go back.  This time what I'm carving out is all those areas that should be the light green in the finished print.  This is a little scary, because suddenly I'm chopping out whole plants!  Eek!  I'm also carving in the textures and outlines that are to add detail to the darker green plants.  The thought process here is very similar to making batik fabric or Pysanky Easter eggs: for each round you put wax over just the parts that are to remain the most recent color.  Of course in this case, rather than putting on a layer of wax, I'm taking off a layer of rubber, but the way I think about the colors and the design is the same.
        This is as far as I've gotten for now.  Still to come is to finish the second round of carving, print the second color, and carve and print the third color.  I'll report back on the rest of the process when I finish.

[Pictures: Greenhouse block, ready to carve;
Block in the registration frame, inked;
Greenhouse block, first state;
Greenhouse block, carving the second stage of reduction;
Pysanky (wax resist) eggs by AEGN.
(All photos by AEGN)]

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