Like any artist, I draw my inspiration from many sources. And, sometimes, it hits when I least expect it.
I follow a number of artist blogs on the web. I love to see how others approach art (and life) and have a peek into their studios, their own stories and eavesdrop on where they find their inspiration.
One inspiring blog is by Michelle Wilman, a talented glass and wood artist. Michelle has studios in Calgary (Alberta) and South Pender Island (British Columbia) and she often goes to B.C. early in the year for a retreat to regroup.
On “day one” of Michelle’s retreat, she posted this beautiful photo of her neighbor’s sheep, Dave. I don’t know why he tickled me, but he did. Partly it was Michelle’s composition, but partly it was just his gorgeous face (which Michelle calls ‘notoriously grumpy’).
I knew I was looking at a future block print, and I have been doing this long enough that I have learned to follow my hunch. So I emailed Michelle for her permission to use her photo as inspiration. Thankfully, she said she’d be delighted.
I developed a three-color reduction print using varying shades of grey. Though Dave has a lot of black in his face, my final inking was composed of Lamp Black printmaking ink touched with Titanium White, to give him a slightly softer shade than a straight black.
Though I don’t know how Dave would feel about being called “soft”, I was pleased with the results. The whole process took about three weeks to complete (each printed layer has to dry before I can over-print the next layer).
This print is created using a process called “reduction” printmaking. In essence, the first layer is carved a little bit, then the lightest color is printed. Next, the same block is carved away a little more — always keeping the overall design in mind — then that first layer is printed over by the second layer using a darker color. This process is continued until the final color is applied. The block left at the end of the process is only a fraction of the block I start with, thus a “reduced” version of the first layer.
A step-by-step visual of this method is included on my website here showing a similar reduction process I used when printing my “Three Sisters, Canmore” limited edition print. Click on the gallery showing “Making a multiple-color reduction block print” to see how it works.
Below I have included a scan of each layer of the “Dave” print, separated into color layers, for those who are interested. The final scan is of my “reduced” block.