I sometimes have a print that starts out one way, but once it’s finished, it can take a different direction.
Let me explain. I have always loved watercolor painting. Even when I began concentrating more on printmaking, I loved to create mixed media linocut prints that integrated both printmaking and watercolor. I was ready for another.
I found the perfect subject in a photo I took of a magpie. Although I have created several prints of magpies before, they were all black & white. I wanted to be able to create one that highlighted the beautiful dark blue sheen of the magpie’s wing and tail feathers. I figured hand-painting a print with watercolors would be just the thing.
The photo I had taken featured a magpie in a tree of green leaves. But, I wanted this print to have a bit of a Japanese woodblock sensibility so chose to make the tree a blossoming cherry tree.
Several of my blogs deal with the process of creating a block print from start to finish, so for this one, I will show just the basics of the block and a few of the steps of the process. The print — and its dual outcomes — really developed after my first test print was pulled.
This photo shows the progression of the carving of the block in three stages. The detailed flowers took a long time and lots of patience to carve (click on the image for an enlarged look). Sometimes, though, I relish a good detailed carving project!
Pulling the test print is always the most exciting — and nerve-wracking — part of the process!
This time, once I saw the black & white print, even though I had planned to paint it with watercolors, I thought it was quite strong on its own as a single-color linocut print. But, I also wanted to paint my print, so I made the decision to print the edition both on watercolor paper AND rice paper.
I proceeded to print about 30 prints on watercolor paper so I could later apply the color, one print at a time, when it dried. Looking again at the one-color print, I realized that although it was mostly perfect, there was a problem with magpie’s tail and wings.
I had removed these areas of the block to allow me to hand-paint them with a deep blue for the marvelous magpie feathers, but this left a strange looking white tail and wing in the black & white print.
So, I decided to cut two small blocks that I could use to over-print the magpie’s wing and tail in an almost solid black. I would have to line up the pieces perfectly by eye, so it was a total experiment. It worked, though! As I patiently over-printed the 10 or so prints I had printed on Japanese rice paper, I was able to register most of them by hand.
Here are the two prints with the black & white one with the wing and tail appropriately filled in (to my eye); and the hand-painted print on watercolor paper.
To paint the watercolor version, I chose a somewhat muted watercolor palette, evocative of a Japanese woodblock print. I chose to use very soft blue, pink and grey with a hint of the green leaves.
Below are the final prints, closer up. I’m happy with the results, and although it has been great fun getting my paints out again, I’m still not sure which I like better!