As part of the ‘Preservatory’ theme for my recent open studio exhibition, I wanted to ‘preserve’ the innocence of children. To me, kids are the spices of life, which was another consideration, and with that in mind I first carved a block of an old style spice bottle. Then, it was onto the kids.
Also as part of my personal theme, I wanted to use as many recycled materials as possible – I’m an avid recycler and repurposer at the best of times. After intially sketching the child’s face, I transferred the image with tracing paper over carbon paper and tried carving the block from a piece of unknown soft wood, a bit like Balsa wood. It was a disaster. The wood gouged, dented and tore, rather than cut. Curves and details were impossible to achieve. So, I turned to some MDF off-cuts.
Rather than sketching and transfering the image, as I usually do, I drew straight onto the block – after first giving it a coating of acrylic paint. The contrasting colour of the paint allows me to see the progress of the carving, the lighter colour of the wood standing out against the uncut sections. This time, I got a much more satisfying result.
Following the same process, I carved two more images of children’s faces, on a single block, which I sawed to separate.
I had what is called the first state of the three blocks. There is always some tweaking and tidying up of the woodcuts that need to be done after the initial proofing print.
I proof the woodblocks on newsprint. Printmaking paper is not cheap and, being relatively new to the art of both printmaking and woodcuts, there is enough wastage without using the ‘real’ paper for working up to the final state of the block.
Okay, so I had the blocks. Registration (lining everything up on the paper) was the next hurdle to form one print fro more than one block. Just to complicate matters for myself, I decided to add another element, a label for beneath each bottle, which required another block.
It took me a while to work up a jig from corflute board. This enabled me to cut down on the amount of steps involved in the pulling of the prints. What amounted to having the same sheet of paper on and off the different blocks, nine times, the registration jig, with appropriate cutouts, reduced the steps to six to produce the print pictured below. It’s all an adventure in learning!