Never one to shy away from a challenge, I have been working on just the piece of art to perfect the craft of inksmithing that I began several months ago.
This block has been in development for about a month, and was one I knew from the beginning I would print in color. Much of my artwork is printed in black, but I wanted this block to have a softer, more nostalgic look. I was looking for a sepia-type color, a beautiful earthy brown on a natural colored paper.
It was the perfect print to go down that road of making my own ink once again. So, I dug out what I learned from my last inksmithing adventure, and got to work with the dry pigments I had in my art studio.
This weekend, I completed “Spring Returns”, one of my most complex blocks to date. The block features a bird in a leafless tree, with a tangle of branches and several buds obvious in silhouette. It’s based on one of my photos, and I love the graphic look of the darkened tree against a bright sky. The birds and the buds remind me of springtime before the leaves bust out.
I took this block with me as my demo at the Rimrock Resort Hotel recently when I was there to show my art, and demonstrated how I cut my blocks and create the piece I print from.
I don’t normally take my blocks with me to shows, preferring to work in the solutitude of my studio, but I loved the way carving the block in front of others became the opener to talk about the joy of being a printmaker. The physical demonstration certainly helped others better understand the somewhat unusual art of making prints.
To mix my own inks, I again started with only Burnt Plate Oil (#3) and dry pigments. This time, I used a recipe that was more pigment than oil, and found that although I needed to mix it more vigorously, the final result was much closer to printmaker’s ink than the last time I attempted this.
The other nice thing I discovered in the process of making my own ink — this ink is a combination of burnt umber and raw sienna pigments — was that it allowed me to create a rich brown that printed with slight variations. Manufactured ink is much more consistently opaque (an effect I actually want when printing black prints) but the more “oily” nature of homemade ink allows the color some transparency while maintaining a very rich pigment color.
Below is my process. When pulling the final prints, I noticed some areas where the natural-colored paper shows through more than others. These lighter and darker areas are not imperfections, but rather the artwork saying: “This print is hand-printed”. It is not an exact reproduction every time, and each print is unique.
And that, of course, is the charm of any hand-crafted piece of art. Each of my “multiple originals” (I came away with only 12 in this series) is indeed an original print, made by a person, not a machine.