December 5, 2022

Making Snow Angels

      With all the recent shows, I’ve got one block ready to print and two blocks partly carved, and I also managed to finish one new piece last week.  Since that one involved an unusual process for me, today I’ll share how I made it.
        The first step was, as usual, to draw the entire design in pencil on paper.  I then transferred that design onto a block, again as usual.  After that, however, I cut up my paper design to isolate the parts that would be printed separately.  The star, the mittens, and the face were then transferred onto separate little scraps of rubber.
        The carving of the separate detail blocks was straightforward.  The main block, however, was a reduction, although a simple one in only two stages.  The first stage was to carve away everything that was to remain white.  When I then printed the main block in light blue ink, I got the state shown here in the upper left.  I’ll note for clarification that the “normal” way to print relief blocks is to lay the block on the table face up, roll the ink across it with the brayer, and then lay the paper face down onto the inked block.  The back of the paper is then pressed.  That’s how I printed the light blue, using a registration guide to keep a consistent placement of the paper on the block, for future reference.  As with any piece with multiple steps, however, I printed a number of extras, in case of flaws in later stages.
        The next step was to print the little blocks: the yellow star giving me the second state in the upper right, and the three separate red bits giving me the third state.  The star was big enough to ink and print “normally,” although I did have to start with the paper face up, and lay the star face down onto the paper in order to see where it needed to go.  I then flipped the block and paper over in order to press the back of the paper as usual.  The little red blocks were so small, however, that I treated them more like rubber stamps.  I rolled out ink on my plate, but then instead of trying to roll across such a tiny block, I pressed the block into the ink a few times to pick up ink.  I placed it onto the face-up paper in the right location, and then simply pressed it down onto the paper.  That meant I did have trouble getting the face clear, since it’s hard to be precise about the inking with this method.
        Having printed all those extras, I luckily still ended up with enough decent ones after messing up a bunch of faces, so I was ready to move on to the irrevocable stage: the reduction of the main block.  I carved away everything that was to remain light blue, leaving only the black parts.  That left me with the chopped-down block shown here.  You can see that I cut off the entire background around most of the kid, so as to avoid black lines in the snow.  I did have to leave the one corner, however, because that’s how I registered the paper for the second layer of printing, in order to make sure the black lined up with the light blue.
        This is the first time I’ve fooled around with using separate little blocks for details of color.  As regular readers of this blog know, my favorite thing will always be the clarity and drama of straight black and white.  But sometimes a little touch of color is just what you need, and it’s always fun to try new things.  As for the subject of the child making snow angels, I was brainstorming ideas for holiday cards, and trying to come up with something that connected the everyday joys of the season with a reminder of the holiday’s special spirit of sharing love.  I hope you can find some joys and share some love this month, even while things can sometimes get hectic and stressful.

[Pictures: We Can Be Angels, rubber block reduction print by AEGN, and preliminary states, 2022;

Carved blocks for We Can Be Angels, photo by AEGN, 2022.]

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