Just a Small Byte, Please

Recently there’s been some discussion on the Baren Forum — a printmakers’ networking and email group — about drawing by hand vs. using computers, and this has spread into a discussion about computers and art in general. I won’t rehash all the points of view here, but will take the opportunity it presents to talk about how I use computers in my printmaking process.

Right now I’m working on a group of reduction block linoleum prints. Reduction prints use the same block for two different colors (plus the paper makes a third color). First you carve what will be the lighter color, and print as many sheets as you need (more than you need!) of that color. Then you carve away, from the same block, down to the surface you need for the second, darker color. This means there is no going back, and it also means you have to always visualize how you’ll use the same surface for multiple layers. It’s a bit of a puzzle, which is what I find to be the fun challenge of this method.

However, I am also cautious. I don’t want to make that cutting commitment and find out that I’ve made a terrible, terrible mistake. This is where the computer comes in.

My original drawing is always by hand. But once I’ve made my first set of cuts, and have made a test print, I use the computer to determine my next steps. Here’s the print I’m working on now, based on William Blake’s Proverbs of Hell, from his Songs of Innocence and of Experience.

FIrst, I scan the test print. I’ve done the test in black ink, even though the first layer when I really make the print will be in ochre.
Black and white version of the print

Then, using Photoshop, I copy the layer and fill it in with ochre, and then delete areas that will remain black. The last step, and the reason I’m doing this, is to add some white highlights to the tops of the furrows. White is the paper color, which means that I will cut it away from the very first layer, so I have to know up front how much to cut.

Do I want a lot of highlighting?
Large white highlighting on the print

Or do I just want some individual pieces of hay to be highlighted across the furrows?
A touch of white highlighting on the print

I’ve made my decision, and am ready to print! Stay tuned for final images.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *