Block Printing 101
Every so often, I need to take a big step away from the familiar practice of applying paint to canvas and enter a completely different creative world. One time a few years ago, I decided to explore miniature book making, an enormously satisfying diversion partly because of the precision required but also because I discovered the delicious, tactile joys of playing with beautifully delicate but surprisingly strong hand made rice paper. This was the antithesis to how I was wanting to paint, flinging the stuff around as freely as possible. For some reason, moving in the opposite direction for awhile enabled me to focus in on painting in a whole new way once I found my way back to it, multiple books later. Plus the “diversion” was really freeing and fun.
This past winter, I have painted a bit less than usual, for a variety of reasons, but I recently felt the pull to step once again out of my comfort zone to see what lay beyond. This time, it is block printing. I headed off to the art supply store and armed myself with the necessary tools – pieces of rubbery softoleum for the plates, a variety of carving implements, a big pot of thick black ink, substantial thick sheets of printing paper, a 4″ roller, plexiglass on which to spread the ink before applying it to the lino and a tool for pressing the paper into the plate. As soon as I returned home, I set to work and made the first of my black and white prints. I have to tell you that peeling the paper off the plate is a marvelous thing. Not only does the plate “hold onto” the paper more than you might have thought but the thrill of seeing what each piece looks like is once peeled back is quite exciting. Was there enough ink? Too much? Do the details show up well enough? Are the black areas as black as I’d hoped? Are the edges as crisp as I’d wanted? The whole thing was a blast and I found myself inspired and excited to get back at it each day.
It didn’t take long for me to want to add colour to my experiments and that is a whole different kettle of fish. One of the processes requires a fair amount of forethought and is finite. Once you’ve gone from one step to the next, you can’t go back so there are only so many prints of that image that can be made. To be honest, I find this a bit intimating but it was also SO fun. Each time I peeled back the paper, a surprise was revealed and I became very taken by the unique imperfections on each print. Eventually, I found a way to add colour to some of my prints which was not finite and the image here is a case in point. This one is 12″ x 12″ and looks amazing in either a black or white frame. Drop me a note to arrange to come and see the real thing. And if you’re interested, I can show you the tools of this new trade.