|Making Morning Mist|
by Laura Wilder
Note: To order this print, please scroll down below the narrative.|
"It started with an early morning walk through a park. The (autumn) colors were peaking, the sky was clear, the sun was rising and turning the tree tops gold. And there was a thick layer of pale blue mist on the ground. I had to keep stopping to take photos. It was an extraordinary scene. I resolved to make a new block print.
"So I pick my favorite photo, mentally reduce it to 8 colors, plan the order in which they would print, which colors would overlap and which would fit together like puzzle pieces, and started carving.
The first carving would print the sky. It would be a gradient, fading to white as it reached the trees, with holes cut out of it where sunlit leaf shapes would have to fit.
"Above is the finished carving (in linoleum mounted to MDF for stability) and to be the right height for a letterpress.
"It's been nearly two years since I have ventured into the Flower City Arts Center to get on a letterpress and make a new block print. It seemed unwise to hang out with other folks in an indoor facility during the pandemic. But artistic inspiration, combined with a plan to use the press when no sane person would consider being there (4 or 5 AM) has now sent me back.
"Bob and I get to the printer center at 5am and I mix up a sky blue ink. By the way, I use soy-based inks, which are better for me and the environment than petroleum-based inks.
"Above is the finished sky print. To make the blue fade out at the bottom, I had to create a gradient/fadeout on the ink roller. Then I made about 260 prints hoping to end up with between 150 and 200 good prints.
"Now comes the challenge of carving shapes that will fit perfectly in those funky white spaces in the sky (see above). Plus adding some treetop shapes below I trace those shapes with a Sharpie onto a piece of clear acetate, flip it over, and transfer it onto a new piece of mounted linoleum. I carve for many hours. Carving finished, I mixed up orange-yellow ink and make some prints (see below).
"OH NO. I missed several spots (see white spots above)! How did this happen?? Probably in the transfer process. Gotta do that Sharpie tracing, transferring and carving all over again!
"This time I am very very careful not to carve away any important shapes. (With relief printing, you carve away the negative space and leave the shapes you want to print.)
"Back to the press with a new carving for the top portion of the picture. As always, at the beginning of a printing, I use trial and error to find the perfect position of paper and carving. This is no easy task: a millimeter makes a big difference. But finally, all the orange shapes perfectly fill in their white sky holes. Spend 4 hours making about 260 prints, (see below).
"Hopefully about 200 prints of those are good. Save the imperfect prints for trial next time.
"Next time I want to print little red-orange leaves inside the light orange shapes, and a few red-orange trees in the grouping.
"I lay a sheet of clear acetate over a print and do a Shaprie drawing (above) for the next carving. To transfer my Sharpie design to linoleum, I flip that piece of acetate over and lay it face down on the carving below. Why face down? Because carvings must be a mirror image of the design you want to print.
"We are transferring my Sharpie design onto the previous carving (above) rather than a fresh piece of linoleum.
"The new shapes will all fit within the last shapes I just printed, saving carving time. And when I take it to the press, lineup shoud be easier. Now slip a sheet of transfer paper face down under the Sharpie and re-draw all those tiny leaf shapes. The shaded area in the tree line below also get transferred, see below.
"A close up of part of the carving with everything transferred is shown below
The press print is shown below.
But after 100 prints, "I notice something strange happens. The red trees on the left are gradually moving out of position and not registering anymore. I run several prints re-adjusting the paper positioning but nothing works. I finally realized that the small linoleum shapes are gradually being pushed out of position by the pressure of the rollers. There is no way to fix this.
So I "must cut the little shapes out of the carving and print the rest without it.
"Next I want green foreground grass that blends right into the green trees in the tree line. I lay a sheet of clear acetate over the print and do a Sharpie outline of the parts that shud be green. I have to be very precise with the edges of the sunburst and some tree tops. I transfer it to a new piece of linoleum for the next carving. I draw a horizontal line where the ground mist meets the base of the tree.
"I spend a lot of time trying to mix a correct green adding yellow, brown and red. Tons of more yellow, brown, red and white makes a nice muted green, the color of grass and trees at dawn when it's mostly in a shadow. Here is the latest print.
I had to "cut out the tree trunk shape because afterwards it will extend through a color line caused by overlapping ink colors of ground and tree vs. sky. I trim down the large sunburst
With a "Sharpie drawing I decide the next shadow color will be brownish purple, see below.
"Every time you run a new color pass through the press, registration is difficult. Check the paper grippers and side guides. Tweak the position of the paper and/or the carving. Relief printing is never perfect and you have to settle for the best possible.
"Now it's time for the mist. Both exciting and scary. Do a simple carving and mix up a pale blue ink. The overlap of inks present a problem. There is only one green layer of ink and the dark blue is a second layer so I ended up with two colors of mist. I had planned for a second pass of mist anyway, so a second pass of mist ink improves the outcome, see below
"So for every mist second color pass, I added ink to the roller, run it thru the press, wipe the top edge of the carving to reduce residue ink and run the print through another pass. It took 6 hours to do all 240 prints.
"Now it's time to do the tree. Sharpie, acetate and transfer to the current linoleum carving. So many leaves. Lots! Plan for three days to carve the tree leaves and negative space. It took 10 days, not three to carve all the leaves and remove the negative space.
"Here is the tree carving inked in blue-black ready for printing.
Nice results except Laura also "wanted some brown leaves as well. Another acetate, Sharpie drawing and transfer onto a new sheet of linoleum.
Here is the brown leaf carving
And oh, we also missed a carving to overlay the horizontal white line in the middle of the mist. "This line has been left plain, so the multiple layers of mist ink didn't blend that line in with its surrounding.
"But the white line was still lightly visible so another mist carving to create the mist being more dense at the middle to hide the line. But this additional mist print pass could not have straight edges, so the edges of the carving had to be wiped after inking before printing.
Now I also "want dark leaves and I need to touch up some shiny areas where the tree trunk slightly overlapped previous ink, darken the tree trunk to overlay some color changes due to ink overlaps, add some black leaves. Sharpie, acetate and transfer to the carving. The original tree trunk was blue-black ink. This carving also included modifying the narrower tree branches so when printed in just blue, it gave the dimensional effect of light wrapping around the branch edges.
Here is the carving.
"Now to refine the grass area. New carving cutting grass blade lines and another press pass.
And finally, another touchup: the top third of the tree is darker than the bottom two thirds, so a modified tree craving and printer gradient correction; it worked!
And now something NEW to block printing: a hand painted sunburst in white, orange and pink.
VOILA! Here is the final print!
Handmade, hand-signed limited edition block print, with hand-painted sunburst!
Edition size is 150 prints.