I woke up feeling a bit seedy this morning. The boys had run away to the country for the weekend, and I'd decided to ride the bike in to Dendy to catch a film from their European Film Festival: Klimt. I braved Civic with its hoards of gooey couples clutching red satin teddybears and earnestly discussing the pitfalls of their horoscope combinations, tempted to the movie by the promise of John Malkovich playing a dying syphilitic painter of some great talent. A load of tosh later, I rode home cranky at the use of revolving camera angles and naked nymphettes covered in endless snowstorms plus really boring and obscure fisticuff scenes. Lots of cats couldn't even redeem the boredom. Save your pennies.
Anyhoo, that bike ride, combined with a day of exciting energy-expending artmaking, made me wake up stiff and sore with two cranky black cats penning me into strange parts of the bed, complaining that they would have liked to see lots of cats on screen, especially one the spitting image of Mr Pooter and could you get up and feed us now please. Sigh. I ran a long hot bath full of epsom salts and made a big hot breakfast, and got on with the day.
So: Day two of wood engraving at at Megalo.
I got in there and finished the block, and this is almost how it ended up:
After this I did a bit more cutting on the front leg, but then didn't take a good close-up of it. Sorry. Still, you can see it more below.
Patsy took us through ways of sharpening the tools as you work:
This is wet&dry sandpaper taped to the glass slab, with some simple machine oil poured on. Then you can use an Arkansas stone to polish the blades. It's easier than it sounds.
Then she showed us how to roll a slab of ink that looks and sounds like silk. This is probably the trickiest part of the whole shebang.
OK. I will walk you through the printing process (in a very brief way!)
You take your block to the ink, after making sure that you have cleaned it of dust and teeny chunks or cut parings.
If you look closely at that last photo, you'll notice a little roll of masking tape. Here is a close-up. Essential for holding your block still while you ink up!
Rolling the block with ink. Roll it one way,
roll it the other way. You're trying to avoid roller marks on the block, and are building up a nice silky layer of ink.
Take your inked block to the template you prepared earlier. This can be as simple as tracing your block in the spot where you want it on a piece of newsprint the same size as your nice paper. In this case, we had a few sizes, because we had a few paper types to experiment with, so I marked a few dimensions on the same sheet.
This is a nice cross-section from Patsy's demo to show the layers of block and paper. 1) template. 2) block. 3)nice (Japanese) paper. 4) drafting film, to protect the nice paper from the tool and the tool from the ink that seeps through the nice paper.
Burnishing the print with a wooden ceramics tool. There is something missing from this image: the fingers of my left hand, holding the paper to the block. I am holding the camera instead.
This, we all agreed, is the ultimate wooden burnisher. There was only one in the room, and we all fought to have it. My late grandfather would have had one of these for his pottery, but it's probably been chucked long ago. Bugger. I will try to find one.
These are the first three pulls of the penultimate block-cut. The first (top) is faint, as it's the first inking of the block. By the third print, the block has seasoned and is holding the ink nicely.
Here's a sample of the prints I made in the afternoon. We were trying Japanese papers like Gampi (fab), Kozo (ok) and Iwaki (not so good). We also tried pulling some prints on the room's Albion press, using thick printmaking paper.
It's impossible to show the difference between the other prints and this using just a photo; it is printed under (too high) pressure in the Albion press. The blacks are very black and the whites are almost 3D, embossed in the thick printmaking paper.
And there you have it! We have decided to all go away and print an edition of 11, and then come back in a month and make a folio each with one of everyone's prints in it.
I'm hooked. I'm tracking down some tools and finding some more blocks. I'll keep you informed!