Sometimes, during a busy work-week, my art time is so limited that I feel I must make the most of it by only working on my serious projects. What a mistake. This limits my creativity and opportunity to try new things and learn, because I am afraid I might botch up a piece. Lately I have been striving to incorporate more time into my schedule to playfully experiment with my materials and techniques and to be okay with failing if it helps me improve.
This month, I found the perfect project to do this with. I take part in the printmaking forum on WetCanvas, an online artists’ community, and decided to take part in this month’s printmaking challenge by doing a reduction linocut of some apples. This project is challenging me in several of ways. First, the whole purpose of this project is to have fun–a sometimes difficult endeavor for me when I feel there is so much other work to be done. Second, I am used to doing works based on wildlife and landscapes and something as simple as fruit is a new subject for me. Third, and most important, I have never tried a reduction linocut before.
In a reduction linocut, the block is cut away as each new color is printed. Because the block is destroyed in the process, it is a very committing technique, and one that I have been afraid to try. What if I made a mistake and wasted all my time? Enter the apple project. This has given me a fun venue to try this style of linocut, and I like the technique so far. I am finding it is not as scary as I thought, and the cutting efficiency and perfect registration is a big advantage over using multiple blocks to add color. So far, I have done three colors and would like to add two more. Sure, I see things in my design that I would like to have done differently, but finally tackling a reduction print has been a invaluable learning experience. I can’t wait to try another one!
Finally, I have a whole day to spend in my studio. After carving my latest block for what seems like forever, it is finally time to get my ink out and play with the press. I have just started using oil-based inks due to their longer working time. At first I was fearful of their reputation for being messy and hard to clean up. I soon discovered that by using veggie oil and eco-cleaner, tidying up was a snap. I was also afraid that the odor of the inks would bother me, but I have found the opposite to be the case. I love the smell of the inks–they remind me of an old-time art studio and take me back to high school art class–my creative haven from lesser-loved subjects like calculus and physics.
My first step today is to make some proofs to see if I like the final image produced from the block. Then I will use this “key” block to transfer images to my other three pieces of linoleum. I will use these blocks to produce the other colors in my image. A lot more carving lies ahead, but the blocks for the other colors will be less detailed than the black one. Using multiple blocks is a new technique for me, but I am eager to learn.
Yesterday, I carved the last bit of my most detailed block for the Maroon Bells print. Next up, the plate that will provide the blue color to the piece.
Today it was too beautiful outside to stay in the studio. Doug and I took advantage of the 65-degree temperature to climb at North Table Mountain in Golden. The sun was cooking the cliffs and it felt like a hot summer day instead of the middle of January.
On Christmas Eve, Doug and I took our dog, Molly, who lost one of her front legs in August to cancer, hiking up near St. Mary’s Glacier. We weren’t sure what to expect, as she hadn’t hiked the trails since her surgery. Wow, were we surprised. She galloped along ahead of us and we could barely keep up. The wind was blowing at 40+ mph, and when we got up to the lake we couldn’t even see the scenery because of all the blowing snow. After a sad and stressful autumn dealing with Molly’s cancer, her amazing progress has been the best holiday gift.
My other days off around Christmas were spent snowboarding and working on my latest print of the Maroon Bells. I did a proof of the upper part of the image and still need to add some reflections. I am tempted to stop here and tint the black-and-white image with watercolors, a style I really enjoy doing. However, I want to challenge myself with a new technique and want to add color to this image using multiple plates instead.
The minus-15-degree temperature this morning killed my snowboarding plans, so I spent the day carving on my next linocut—a scene of the Maroon Bells near Aspen, Colo. I am hoping to make this a five-colored design using multiple plates. The plate pictured will be the most detailed.
I’ve added two new block prints to WildernessInk that I hope you’ll enjoy.
The first is a hand-colored wood-cut of a mountain goat titled “Mountain Surveyor.
The other – a linocut – depicts the approach to the east face of Longs Peak, referred to as “The Diamond” by climbers.