There are days when I wonder why I am so enthralled with printmaking, days when nothing seems to go right. At least when working with acrylics on a painting, it’s possible to rework a section until I’m satisfied with the end result, or even paint over the whole thing to get it ‘right’. Printmaking is not so forgiving.
The latest print exchange with the SSNW Solstice Mini Print Exchange proved far more of a challenge than I anticipated. I learned a lot with this one, lessons I hope I won’t have to relearn in the future. It was the largest exchange I’ve been involved in, so far, and there fore the largest edition (46 prints) I’ve done.
The desired result of printing an edition of prints is to produce a number of prints which are not only printed from the same block with the same process, but also to be clones of each other. Easier said than done, even under normal circumstances. The amount of ink rolled onto the block and the amount of pressure exerted to pull the print – lifting the inked image from block to paper – can determine whether or not the prints are consistently the same. In this instance, there were more variables to deal with.
As part of the exchange process, participants are asked to include information for the colophon. This is a record consisting of thumbnails of the prints and accompanying details of the prints, giving participants an idea of others’ methods and the materials used.
My comments for the colophon say it all…
Title: And then there was one
Artist’s name: Jenn White
Technique: Hand coloured Woodcut
Paper: Handmade (recycled – adjusted to increase acid freeness)
Ink: Charbonnel etching ink
Discussion: As Catherine Aird once said, “If you can’t be a good example, you’ll just have to be a horrible warning.” This quote kept repeating in my head as I came across one stumbling block (pun definitely intended) after another. First there was the initial choice of a lousy piece of wood, resulting in the block having to be re-cut. Then came the issue of a combination of now living out in the sticks, too-few sheets of printing paper for a large edition, albeit small scale prints, and with not a supplier within coo-ee. Research ensued, resulting in the construction of a mould and deckle, to size, and umpteen sheets of handmade paper that varied in thickness and strength, cockled to buggery, and either took ages to dry or dried too quickly, depending on the weather of the day/s. Naturally, when it came to pull prints, Mother Nature tossed a heatwave into the mix. The water-based inks were drying on the roller and glass (no retarder and no supplier within coo-ee, again), and when I did manage to ink the block, the paper fused so well it had to be soaked rather than peeled off. With plenty of oil-based ink, there was no alternative. Prints proved unpredictable on the handmade paper. Then, of course, the weather changed to cool and damp, making drying interminable. I apologise to all for the erratic quality of my so-called edition for this exchange. A horrible warning I’ll just have to be!
Has this experience cooled my ardour for printmaking? Not on your Nellie. Yesterday found me once more ranting internally while trying again to produce an edition, albeit small, from a new woodblock. Even with machine-made printmaking paper, weather stability and lessons newly learned it is still a challenge. But one that I would rather face than miss out on.