Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

I wish I could say that making art is all smooth progress and constant inspiration. Alas! Sometimes there are bumps in the road.

My current speed bump concerns my print of Moby Dick breaching. It all began when I ordered the linoleum for the pair of prints, of which the breach is one. I wanted to use a specific type of linoleum, and found some of the right type and size online. Imagine my dismay when the wrong blocks arrived! It turns out the link on the supplier’s website pointed to a different linoleum than that described. (Silver lining to this story: the customer service rep to whom I complained followed up and discovered this bad link, and had the company fix it; and I got my money refunded.)

Well, since I had this block, I decided to use it anyway. Bad idea. The piece of linoleum is not very robust. The core is crumbly, and in order to clean up the crumbs that erupt when carving I have carved almost all the way down to the canvas backing. Here you can see the crumbling linoleum.
Crumbling lino block

And the edges of the block are seriously degraded after only two test prints.
Lino block edge failure

So now I get to start the block all over again. I really like how the first try was coming along, so I will use the magic of printmaking to transfer the image to a new block. How? I’ll ink the first one, run a print, and then take the still-wet print and run it through the press onto a new block. Each run through the press reverses the image, so two reverses will put the image onto the block in the direction it needs to be. It’s kind of like those double negatives your English teachers used to warn you about. (And this thinking back-and-forth is one of the things I love about printmaking; it’s like a giant puzzle!)

In the meantime, progress is still being made in other areas.

While rummaging about in the midden pile that surrounds my desk, I discovered a partially carved block that I had put aside months ago due to lack of insight as to how to proceed. I took one look at it, and saw immediately what my next steps in carving should be. A morning of carving, a test print, some corrections, and I’m ready to run with my Paul Bunyan print, the first of what I hope to be a set of American myths and folk tales. Photo to follow once the ink has dried!

And yesterday I began carving my skeletons in a balloon print for the La Calaca International Print Exchange. (Follow the link for some fabulous prints; I’m very much looking forward to getting a set of 15 of these.) I’m thinking this will be a 3-color print, with blue for the sky and mountains, green for the fields, and black outlines to define it all.
Skull balloon

Linoleum block workshop!
Have you always wanted to learn how to do linoleum block printing? Have vague memories of elementary school arts & crafts, but suspect there’s more to it than that? Here’s your chance to learn more!

I’m leading a weekend workshop on linoleum block printing, May 12 & 13, at Michael Angelo Studios here in Santa Cruz. Click here to learn more and sign up. Hurry; class size is limited to 10.

Author: Melissa

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