Waves Wash

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This is a new wood-block print from early December.  It was my first relief-printing work in a long time.  Print-making is a messy process, so without a dedicated space to work, it had been impossible until late November when someone special gifted me with a work-table.  After that I gave a demo at work on card-making using a variety of print-making techniques.  To provide inspiration for myself and my audience, I did this print.

It is a reduction print, otherwise known as a suicide block, because once you print a layer and cut again, you can never go back.  If you make a mistake while cutting for the last color, you have killed the possibility of finishing your print without starting from zero.  To work in reduction, one transfers the image to the block (keeping in mind things will print backwards) and then cuts out where he wants the lightest color to print, then the medium color, then the dark color, each time reducing the print-area that remains, until finally the darkest colored layer is the only one left.

This technique is a little bit stressful, but in a way it increases the value of your print because you can’t just print more like you could if you used multiple blocks to print in multiple colors.  It is also quite beautiful because there is a built-in layer-blending that happens as you print.  Most printing inks are somewhat transparent, so if you print red on top of orange, you get a luminous red, and if you print blue on top of that you get a dark deep blue through which both the red and the orange are visible.

That’s why the final print is so dark, and why there are some areas that glow more than others.

Since my oil-pastel drawings have so many layers of color, I thought it would make an interesting transfer to print-making.  The print does not have the same blended feeling that the drawings do, but its graphic rendering of similar lines and colors has a charm of its own.  In some ways the schematic outcome of the print better communicates abstract figural work.  That is: in a print, lines and colors must be simplified and blocked out which calls for abstraction, so the way the water and the ripples become schematic are more effective at communicating water in the print.  The fact that the ripples are linear does not distract the viewer in the print the way they do in the drawing because there are abstracted conventions which are acceptable in prints but not in drawings.

Perhaps at a certain point in those drawings I was thinking more like a print-maker than a draughtsman.

The image itself came to me one rainy fall in Madrid, where the sunny days had been countable on one hand.  While waiting for the bus, I was watching the water drip and had an idea how to draw interlocked ripples of color (which incidentally are also mono-linear if you do them right).  It was a daydream in artistry and topology!  There are more drawings like that in the slideshow for “Abstract” at the top or the right of the page.

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