Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Most Recalcitrant Print

In my long history as an artist there have been numerous times, maybe two or three times a year, when I have battled a work. I don't know what else to call it. From one perspective it's a battle of wills. From another perspective it's an unwillingness to admit defeat, something that is not true of all artists. Some have the sense to just destroy or abandon the troublesome work and move on. From one other perspective it's a chance to learn, to face difficulties and come out having either conquered them or at least have learned something in not conquering them. When I was a graduate student one professor/artist said, partially I think because he wasn't that fond of my painting in its current state, that one of my most admirable qualities was that I'd press on to completion with the work, one way or the other.
What he said I think is true. It's not a badge of honor though. Sometimes it's far smarter to just abandon ship and find a new more seaworthy vessel. But I'm now stuck on the current dinghy, headed I fear for capsizing on the rocks.
I ran out of an oil based black ink about two weeks ago. Perhaps partially because of that, but I think also just because of the appearance of the print I decided it needed a third color. So I printed the brown that was in the last print. It was far too dark and didn't really indicate the true color of the Solitary Sandpiper. I showed that version in last post.
But I hoped that once I received my new jar of Gamlin Portland Intense Black that I'd be fine. I could remedy the problems with the black, especially in the Twelve-spotted Skimmer. Well to make a long story short that didn't work. The results are at top. I eventually cut away all blacks except for the skimmer and the eye of the sandpiper. Everything else just looked like a fuzzy mess.
The black was supposed to be the last color. But I see that it will never work as is. So I hope to add a fourth color now, a lighter brown for the sandpiper and perhaps for highlights in other brown areas. I don't have high hopes for this but you never know. Sometimes artists tend to be too critical immediately after making something. A few days later, especially with some modifications, things may look better.

You could say that this print has been snakebitten though. I did the first version of it about four months ago, just in black. By the time I'd taken this photo I'd already used ink that was too tacky and that convinced me to recut the lino more deeply, losing much of its original crispness. Just a day or two earlier it was much crisper than it is above. All in all this print has been going downhill for four months now!! But I've always loved the composition. So that's why I decided to redo it in color. It has been a real, and very lengthy, struggle. But as I said this will happen a few times a year, just as financial advisors will tell you that your investments, if you're fortunate enough to have them, will go down at times. In the long run though, if you're not constantly buying and selling, you'll come out ahead. I think that's true here as well. But I'd prefer to come out ahead, RIGHT NOW.

Due to the smell of the solvents in oil-based inks I try to avoid them in the initial stages of a print. I've found that Dick Blick's Water-based black ink printed on copier paper is perfect for proofing as I develop the print. But towards the end I like to change to the ink, and eventually paper, that I'll print the edition on. Above is the first proof of the Hermit Thrush and Sandhill Cranes lino using the Gamblin ink. It looks very good and gives me hope for the edition. It will be printed on Rives Lightweight paper which is nowhere near as willing to accept the ink as the copier paper. Still I hope it will do well enough. That is the next challenge ahead, outside of color number four for the dragonfly and sandpiper print
Finally I got my new ink, and a new Japanese carving tool, from McClains Printmaking Supplies. Along with them came a catalog, the first I've seen from them. My eyes are still BIG from looking at the tools, papers, etc.

1 comment:

Shelley Whiting said...

Your pictures are very dramatic and bold. Beautiful and striking work.