printmaking

BACK TO THE BLADE

Man, it’s been ages since I made a print. Life caught up with me and kept my attention elsewhere the past few months. However, it felt really great to do a sketch, carve it out and print it. I forgot how much I enjoy the process.

This is a pretty basic image. I started working on my drawing skills this week to try and up my game a little. This is also a woodcut, the second I’ve done. It’s a reduction cut, so I carved out the white areas, then printed the blue, carved out all the blue I didn’t want and finally printed the black. I made 5 prints of this and this one is a bit off register but I like the way it turned out the best.

Hope to do another this weekend but have a pretty busy schedule. We’ll see…

FV

 

WOODCUT

While I've enjoyed doing linocuts, I've been a little frustrated with the results I'm getting from the material I have available to me. Something about the stuff I buy just isn't holding color well. It's often uneven and if you look at the ones I've posted you'll probably notice it, like a textured look, which isn't what I'm looking for all the time.

So I tried my first woodcut yesterday as seen above. It was just a cheap block of wood from the art store, like a thick block of plywood I guess. My first impressions were it felt much better to work with. Definitely more tactile. The first prints I made of the circle were much more jagged and rough around the edges. I was able to clean them up to the best of my ability easier than on the lino material.

I intentionally tried for a easy design but not being good at circular shapes gave myself that challenge. I found it a bit easier to make the cuts and as I mentioned clean things up. I was a little intimidated thinking it was gonna be kind of beastly but found it enjoyable to work with. Definitely a little more work required and my hands are a bit sore as I had to carve away all the white you see in the print. 

I have another block of wood that I'm gonna start on soon, hopefully this week. Probably try something with more detail to get a feel for that. Then I'll likely go to the home center and buy some various woods and see what's what and what suits me.

Don't think I'll give up on lino but I don't have the patience at the moment to seek out a better material. Wood variety is more plentiful here so that's the direction I'm gonna head in for now.

Btw, I follow this guy Hernan Arevalo from Costa Rica on Instagram. I love his woodcuts and he's a real inspiration to me since I started printmaking a couple months ago. Check him out.

FV

 

LINO 13

Time has not been kind to me the past few weeks. We've been planning a pretty big exhibit at the gallery and all the little things seem to eat up the most time. Suffice to say, my printmaking has been on the back burner unfortunately. 

This is the latest print I did and my personal feeling is that it looks rushed, which it was. It's also unfinished, though I think I'm gonna let it go and move on to something new. I was pretty happy with the color scheme I chose and managed to get. However, my original plan was to do with the reddish tone you see on the corners and try to make a gradient towards a lighter shade towards the center. In my rush I laid down the darker color without thinking it through properly and now that's the lightest shade I can work from. Oh well...

I also had plans to carve out more patterns across the top and bottom stripes and I still could but the blue won't show. My cuts were kind of ok but not really what I was hoping for. I was aiming to get a bunch of thin lines close together to create a kind of shading above and below the X's. Again, oh well...

I still like the print and got handed some lessons again. Planning and time are pretty important. I was stupid doing bits here and there with my eye on the clock and not at the work in front of me. I'm juggling too many hats at the moment. I feel like I'm going to do some simple designs in monochrome to be able to give the attention it deserves. 

So that's where things are at regarding my printmaking. If I can ever untangle my schedule and get more disciplined with my time, hopefully things will improve in a more definitive, concrete and noticeable way.

FV

 

LINO 12

Another week, another print, same problems. I had a real simple concept for this print which I'm sure is easy to see. I wanted a succession of squares from light grey, to a mid grey, to black within each other and against a bright background.

Obviously I'm still having trouble cutting a straight line as those are some wobbly ass looking squares! I guess it's gonna take some time and more practice just drawing the lines, let alone cutting them if I want something more symmetric. Who knows, maybe I'm more a free form guy but I'm gonna keep up the practice. I'd like to get a good grip on making shapes.

Inking is still giving me problems, You can see the light grey barely held and that was true for the 5 prints I made. I think I need to experiment with putting some kind of binder in with certain inks. The ink is very thin after I mix it and while that textured look can be cool, it's definitely not what I wanted.

My registration is getting better. I rigged up a decent system to try and get the paper aligned each time I ink the plate. Speaking of the plate, this was also the reductive method, cutting each color out from the same plate. I'm gonna shop around for some other linoleum as the stuff I'm using is kind of flimsy and I have to cut it down to a square. I want to try multiple plates to see if I can get some better results and I think I might need stronger material for that. Maybe not.

It was an interesting kick in the balls not being able to make some simple squares. It's a large reason I like doing this. It humbles me and gives me something to problem solve. No definite plan for the next print, but simple and minimal seems to be in the back of my brain.

FV

 

LINO 11

For such a minimal print, this was actually a lot of work for me. I wanted to try something inspired by Kazemir Malevich cuz I really love the suprematism movement he founded. He mostly used paints and stuff so getting this as a lino print was tougher than I thought.

I don't like using rulers to draw out shapes so I wasn't expecting perfect squares but carving them out also proved to hard for me. Getting a consistent straight cut still isn't in my bag of tools yet, so I had to finesse these shapes the best I could with patience and an assortment of knives. I'm more or less ok with what came out.

Printing was a bit of bitch as well. First I laid down the grey background and as you can see, it's not completely smooth. It looks like texture but that's not really what I wanted. While I like the look of it, I'm still having difficulty laying down inks. Same goes for the squares, especially the red one. It might be the ink I'm using as it seems kind of thin and tough to get on the surface. I did my best with it. The black was better and by the 7th or 8th print I was getting a clean well inked shape.

So another one done. I have quite a few prints of this so I'll probably lay down another layer of red and black over the shittier ones and might experiment with adding more shapes kind of freestyle on a couple others. We'll see...

Overall, another satisfying exploration into printmaking. I learned a few things and got a few new ideas as well. As always, looking forward to the next one and the challenges it likely will provide.

FV

 

LINO 10

My latest print. Took about 4 days to make as I used 4 colors and the reductive method on my plate. As always, I'm pretty happy with the results just because it pretty much worked the way I envisioned it.

My wife's advice about adding about 10% white ink to the colors after the first layer worked out  decently. A lot better than my last attempt, as my reds stayed fairly red and not bright orange and my blues sort of held though do look a bit purple. But again, trying the technique with a more proper approach for the first time, I'm not complaining.

So, the things that are still a problem in my eyes are:

  • I need to experiment more with adding the white to my colors
  • As you can see, my registration from top to bottom was pretty much spot on but I fucked up not making a corner for left to right with the paper so the colors bled. I have a fix I'm sure will work for next time though
  • As far as my carving goes, I feel like I need to slow down and think things out a little better (note the giant yellow line that cuts of the texture in the dude's face)

Those are the big things I see. Otherwise I'm happy with the outcome. It was a cool learning experience. Gonna just keep on doing my thing and enjoy the ride.

FV

 

COLOR

This is an earlier print I made (original here) that I colored the other day. I'm waiting on some paper to be delivered to make new prints and since my success using multiple colors in my prints isn't so hot, I took the opportunity to try something different.

The technique was basically using watercolor pencils and then wetting the pigment with water. Conversely, I also wet some areas then applied the pencil colors. It turned out ok overall considering I didn't know what I was doing. One thing is the paper wasn't to heavy so it was hard to use too much water at any one time. I also was a bit impatient which is not a characteristic to have using watercolors.

It was an interesting experiment and something I'd like to try again using watercolor as well as pastels or acrylics. I got plenty of prints that don't look to good to play around with to see what looks good and what doesn't. Hopefully my paper comes soon though as I have a couple ideas waiting to work on.

FV

 

LINO 9

I suppose this is technically number 8a since it's the last plate I showed but turned it into a new image. As you can see the basic structure is the same but I added some new colors and additional line work.

I learned about adding colors on top of each other. I was under the impression that you put down the lighter colors, let them dry and cover with your next darker color and it'd just cover the lighter one. Wrong! It mixes colors like if you were trying to make a new color. I was trying to have that yellow pretty much the way it is and I wanted to layer a basic blue next. Well, as you probably know blue and yellow make green, which is what I was unpleasantly discovered when I pulled the first damn print. Initially I was pissed but the more I thought about it, I am using water based inks, so it makes sense they mix...I guess.

Well, that changed my whole plan for the direction I wanted yo practice. Was gonna lay the blue, then red for the lips but that wasn't meant to be. So I changed some of the areas I was gonna cut and what not and salvaged this as the best of 6 attempts. The others all have muddy areas or ink bleeding where it shouldn't. 

So what I really need to do is:

  1. learn a technique to overlay the colors without them changing
  2. work more on quality of smaller cuts
  3. improve my inking technique on the plates

Basically a fail but I learned some good information on how to reduce the colors mixing and changing colors. I may try some masking off areas on my next attempt or my wife told me adding white to the overlay color somehow helps. 

FV

 

LINO 8

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Went pretty simple again for this print. In fact, I don't think I'm done with it but maybe I am. I like the thing as a whole and think I did okay but not good executing it.

Things I'm still battling are making circles without getting jagged edges as you can see in the eyes. Also, I'm still not getting the consistency in my lines yet in regards to width and straightness. These are all due to a lack of practice as my time has been tight lately and this stuff is at the bottom of my list.

But, not making excuses. I'm going to manage my time a bit better and devote more practice to my knife work. It really is something I look forward to doing and I get a big kick when the print is made. As a wise man once said to me, "Nothing to it but to do it". So with that, we'll see what next week brings.

FV

 

LINO 7

Was very busy this week to be honest and didn't have much time to practice doing cuts or anything like that. I did have some time to sketch out a few ideas I want to make into prints. This was the least detailed one so I did all the cuts yesterday and printed this morning.

Even though things felt kind of rushed I'm real happy with the results I got. Again, it's a pretty simple and not detailed image at all. But I did get in some practice on doing some fine cuts like on the head and this dude's crazy mouth. The other thing I wanted to try was to create texture using a big u blade and while I didn't plan it out well (all the texture lines are pretty haphazard), I got a feeling for what's possible.

I should mention that after I made my sketch on the plate I was careful with the fine lines but stayed loose when doing the texture stuff. I was gonna try and be more deliberate but I don't know, once I get going I really enjoy the freedom of letting loose. I'm sure that's because I still have no skill at what the hell I'm doing. It's all god though. A productive and instructive print for me this week.

FV

 

LINO 6

Went real simple this week. A square or block that is supposed to be blocking light all with what I intended to be roughly equal sized lines. As elementary as it is I encountered a couple of problems.

I mainly free styled this. I drew out the square-ish shape that's the focal point and then just cut the rest of the lines by eye. This obviously accounts for the uneven spacing and asymmetry with the lines, which doesn't bother me too much.

The bigger problem I had was inking the plate. I'm still not getting how shallow or deep to make my cuts, so as you can see on the upper right of the shape, the ink was too much I guess and bled out. This was the best of probably eight prints. I even cleaned the plate completely after a few tries and still got that muddy or pooling problem.

Overall, no big deal since I'm seeing what's wrong at least. This was pretty much a technical exercise, though I do like the idea and will likely give it another try down the road. Interesting how something so seemingly basic can create a challenge. I like that.

FV

 

TEST DRIVING

I'm a little happier with this attempt than the one I did last week. Starting to get an idea of what's possible but still feel like I'm test driving a new car.

I tried to create a little texture in the cloud and did ok I guess. The black areas could have used some work. I thought it would look a lil different than what resulted. Since it was a reduction print, once a made the decision for the whites and reds I couldn't change it.

The scale is a little off as well. I wanted it to look like the guy was just getting ready to fall to his hanging but obviously he looks like he's just standing there on the ground. I'm not a very good drawer anyway but I could have changed this before I started carving. No big deal but I shouldn't be a lazy ass and plan things out better. You know get into good habits from the start.

Otherwise I enjoyed making this print. I'm building confidence and not so hesitant to go light with the knives. It feels like you have to dig in there to have a chance for a line to show but that doesn't really seem to be the case. You can always go a little deeper later but not the other way around. So, I want to start building up shading and texture now that I know I can hack something out.

Oh yea, since I make quite a few prints just to get one good one at this point, I'm planning to use the throwaways to experiment adding watercolor, pencils or other stuff to see how it looks. I have a few other ideas for the future once my technique is more up to snuff.

FV 

 

 

MINIMALISM

So this week I went very minimal and cut out almost all the lino to get the white in the image. It was a pain in the ass. Not so much because of the time or anything, but I learned this a difficult thing to do with lino or wood prints.

There were always some areas that were slightly raised and catching ink that showed up when I printed. I'd go back and cut more and more thinking it was just right, but nope. I must have done about 10 of these with varying degrees of lines showing up. It doesn't look that bad but wan't what I was going for.

My wife took a look and said many people completely cut out the area they want to be white. As in just removing large sections of the plate. I'd had enough by then so took her advice and made 2 last prints with the areas cut out and it did the trick more or less.

It was an interesting experiment but I don't think I'll be doing it again any time soon. I think the time I invested wasn't really worth the result, though I do like the image. Probably using lines or crosshatching to create varying shades would be a better way to go. Live and learn.

FV

 

SLOW AND STEADY

Been practicing my cuts and printing. Again, even though it's looking rough I'm really happy with what I've been doing the past couple of weeks.

As you can see, I'm having a little trouble with the tools and getting somewhat even and straight(ish) lines at this point. Also my inking of the plate is pretty inconsistent, leaving some blotchy areas.

But, what the hell. I find a lot of meditative qualities to the process and contrary to popular belief, I'm not stupid and don't expect anything good for some time. I'm just glad I haven't lost a finger or something shitty like that yet. 

You may have noticed this is in black and red like the last print I posted. That's because I only have red and black inks right now. No sense in getting crazy with a bunch of colors until I get a little more proficient and confident.

This print is also just a single plate. I carved four sections of lines, each going in a different direction, thinking it would look dope. It didn't. The idea was good, but those shitty lines were all spaced funny and it looked not too terrible but definitely was kind of boring. My wife liked it though and suggested doing a second press with the lines crisscrossing. A good idea and one that brought a little life and interest to the print I feel.

This is maybe the best of about ten that I printed. I'm kind of blurry eyed at the moment so there might be a better looking one, but you get the idea. So tomorrow it's back to getting a feel for the blades on the lino and making cuts. I'll have another print by next week no matter how good or bad it is. Slow and steady is the way to go I think.

FV

 

LINO PRINT 2

Pretty happy with my progress this first week. Nothing but learning how the knives work and practicing cuts. Finally had the confidence to go forward with a design a couple of days ago.

This is a two color print (obviously), done by a method called "reduction printing" or "suicide printing" (which definitely sounds dramatic but I like it). The basic idea is to carve away the highlights first and print the first color, usually the lighter shade. Then you carve away whatever you want to stay that color and print again with your darker shade. This requires you to register the plate and paper so things match up. The result is the darker shade covers the lighter one in certain areas and you get your cool ass print.

So the "reduction" or "suicide" name refers to the fact that the process is done on a single plate. Once you carve something away there's no going back to replace it. You've committed yourself to that area receiving no ink or remaining a previous color. Now, this happens to be two colors but you could certainly go with more.

Another way to achieve the same results without the commitment is to do sets of plates carved for each color. Definitely something I'll be experimenting with in the future but for now I kind of like the excitement of the "reduction" method. Seems like good practice and a good way to think about what you're trying to accomplish.

FV

 

FIRST LINO PRINT

My first attempt at doing a lino print. Not very impressive but it was exciting for me. A few takeaways:

  • First and most importantly, it's fun. Process over product all the way.
  • I felt similar excitement when I first did darkroom work ages ago. The feeling of not knowing what's gonna happen.
  • Mad respect to the artists who do this well. I have a newfound appreciation for you all!

I'll try and post once a week or so with updates and images of my progress, or lack thereof, whichever the case may be.

FV

 

LINO PRINTS

Along with a lot of things these days, I find I'm not having any real luck expressing myself through photography lately. I like the stuff I do and still enjoy photography a hell of a lot. But, I'm full of rage and disgust at so many things in the world that, for whatever reason, I can't seem to get it out of my system with photography.

I've never been a conceptual photographer in the sense of setting up props or using models to create a narrative. Maybe it's a failure on my part not to try and use the medium I'm most familiar with to start doing that. It just seems complicated and uninteresting to do. I enjoy photographers who do it well and, the likelihood of me ripping them off seems too easy. In any case, I'm not into it at this point and time.

Instead, I decided to try something new: lino prints. It's a form of printmaking similar to a woodcut where you carve out an image on linoleum (or some similar material), ink it and print it on paper. My wife being a printmaker has given me a lot of chances to see some great work from her friends who use the method and I'm a huge fan of the look of a final print.

Another thing that's got me all jazzed up about it is the process. Printmaking is old and has a rich history. It's visceral. You use knives and touch things. I've seen powerful work that is not very intricate and amazingly fucking mind-blowing work that is insanely intricate. So, I think I can get something satisfying to myself out of the process without much skill.

I have all the stuff I need to get go going, as seen above. I'm itching to make blunt, unambiguous work right away. But for the next little while, taking a piss on things is gonna have to wait till I can use these tools without cutting my fingers off. Starting after I write this I'll be making some basic shapes and seeing what's what.

FV