As many of you know I get much of my inspiration from my walks around my neighborhood. A few years ago I noticed a very interesting pod growing near my neighbor's driveway. I went home and looked it up and learned it is the pod of the Datura plant. Ever since then I have been photographing it year round because the changes in the pod are quite fascinating. I knew I wanted to make a linocut of this plant but had a hard time choosing just one photo. As you can see below I chose a photo from the spring when the pod is green and spiky.
Below you can see my final sketch.
This project was a big change for me because I decided to use linoleum rather than Safety-Kut. In the past I have been hand-burnishing my prints because you can't run Safety-Kut through a press because it mushes (for lack of a better term). But hand-burnishing such large prints has been very hard on my back (plus I have been bugging my husband for help with those). So this time I decided to switch to linoleum and joined Tiger Lily Press to have access to their press.
The project started a bit rough because I had a hard time transferring my drawing to the linoleum. I tried scanning, printing on a laser printer and ironing the image onto the linoleum with no success. I also tried a transfer marker but that didn't work either. In the end I flipped it over and burnished it which barely transferred the graphite enough for me to essentially re-draw the image onto the linoleum. Next time I will uses Saral transfer paper.
In order to carve the linoleum I had to buy new tools. I ended up purchasing Flexcut's Deluxe Palm Set and quickly realized I should have bought the Micro Palm Set. Even after receiving the Micro set I bought a few extra individual smaller v-gouges. I bought the Flexcut tools because I really like the sliptsrop they sell that allows me to sharpen the tools regularly. Below you can see a time-lapse video of the carving process.
When I am carving I also like to have a reverse image of my sketch so I can look between my carving and my sketch without having to reverse things in my head. I scanned the sketch, printed it tiled, and then taped it together.
Above is a close-up of the carving and below is the finished carving before inking.
I decided to hand-burnish a proof at home to check and make sure everything looked OK before going to the press. To make it easier on me, I used color straight out of the can and printed onto thin rolled paper. Here is a video of pulling the proof.
The image below shows the plate inked after proofing.
I wasn't sure if I wanted to have the "carve lines" in the negative space around the pod. Originally I wanted to hedge my bets and print some with the lines and some without. I researched how to use a mask and contacted one of the most amazing printmakers I know, Vanessa Lubach, about how to do it. She said she prints the linocut onto a piece of paper or thin card and then cuts out the parts to use as a mask. She then uses rolled up pieces of masking tape to attach the mask to the plate after inking. Below you can see my plate masked off (some of the inked lines showed through the mask a bit but didn't print.) It was one of the few things that actually went smoothly during printing (except I forgot to use the mask a couple times).
After proofing at home I took the plate to Tiger Lily and was excited to finally print using a press. But using a press has its own set of problems. I spent three very long days of printing and really struggled to get a good print. The image kept appearing smudgy. I tried everything from changing my ink, stripping the plate,sanding the plate, changing the pressure, changing the blankets, changing the direction, using more ink, using less ink, changing the paper, wetting the paper...you name it, I tried it. I have to give a special thank you to Susan Naylor for helping me print and for endlessly brainstorming about how to fix the problem. (Susan you are a woman of infinite patience!) On the third day I got maybe two or three prints that were mildly acceptable but then the smudgy problem came back.
After a while I started to question whether I could even pull a good print from this plate. In order to make myself feel better I ended up bringing it home and hand-burnishing five or six prints. I felt lucky just to have some good prints. I am still determined to figure out how to pull a good print using the press and I think one more day of tinkering might get me there.
But for now, at least I have some good prints and can proceed with building myself a website where they will be available for puchase. If you can't wait until then and would like to buy a print now you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”