October 6, 2015

Mix and Match Butterflies

        Last week I described the “mix and match” block printing project I did with my students.  Today I’ll share the mixing and matching I’ve been doing myself.  Over the summer I carved 3 small butterfly blocks, plus a flower.  (They aren’t real species of butterflies, by the way, although they’re certainly based on actual shapes and patterns in the world of lepidoptera.)  I made them to print in multiples in different arrangements, but I also wanted to try something that showed each of the butterflies on its own.  So the first way I printed them was to paint watercolor backgrounds on my paper, and then print them on top with black ink.  Because I use water-based ink I can’t paint on top with watercolor, hence painting the paper first.  Of course that means it isn’t easy to get the color and the printing to match up exactly.  I made myself a template and painted with the template showing slightly through the paper from the back, but even so, it was hard to get things lined up.

        To experiment with different colors and patterns of arranging lots of butterflies, I tried two things.  First I printed plain black butterflies and scanned them.  Then I printed a bunch of them on my printer, cut them out, and played around with arranging the little bits of paper.  When I’d decided on a few patterns I liked, I moved back onto the computer.  Again using my scanned butterflies, I arranged them in photoshop, where I could easily change colors, and add and subtract entire layers of butterflies and flowers.  Here are some of my assorted designs.  You can see that I haven’t gotten too wild with it, and I’ve stuck with symmetry.  (I did try a variety of brighter colors, but didn’t like any of them.)  I guess I’m really just not terribly wild and crazy!
        The one with the yellow flower in the middle is an actual print which I did during my summer class, while all the students were busily at work, too.  The others are on photoshop, but include a couple of designs I have decided to print.  I started printing this morning and finished a round of blue and lavender background flowers, but with all the different colors of ink it’ll be a while before I’m done with it all.  I’m planning to do three different variations based on some of the designs here, so I thought I’d go ahead and share the designs without waiting until I finish the actual printing.  After all, the point here is to see what happens when you combine small blocks in multiple ways.  Although I hope to have some finished products before long, the point today isn’t the finished pieces but the process.

[Pictures: Bright Butterflies, rubber block print with watercolor by AEGN, 2015;
5 patterns using rubber blocks of 3 butterflies, 1 flower, and a leaf, by AEGN, 2015.]

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