Thursday, October 3, 2019

Sweetgum Woodcut - the BIG INK!

I recently achieved one of my life goals... I carved my first giant woodcut.  On Sept. 7, 2019 I participated in the  BIG INK.  The BIG INK was started by Lyell Castonguay and Carand Burnet to inspire greater public appreciation of large-scale woodblock printmaking.  They travel the country with their giant press printing local artists' woodblocks.    In my last post I described the carving process and in this post I will show how six intrepid printmakers spent the day printing woodcuts with Lyell and Carand at the Columbus Cultural Arts Center.

We started the day by taking a couple group photos outside. 

Then Lyell explained to us our various jobs and how we were going to help him print our woodcuts.
We also got to learn a little about each printmaker and their backgrounds. 

It was especially exciting to me to meet other large-scale printmakers and to find out what drew them to do this.  I think it takes a certain kind of person to want to do large-scale relief printing.  You have to be detail-oriented, ambitious, confident and little bit wacky.  It was clear from the caliber of work that we had all put a lot of time and effort into our woodcut and that shared sense of effort created an immediate comraderie.

“Tell your story.
Shout it. Write it.
Whisper it if you have to. But tell it.
Some won't understand it.
Some will outright reject it.
But many will thank you for it.
And then the most magical thing will happen.
One by one, voices will start whispering, 'Me, too.'
And your tribe will gather.
And you will never feel alone again.”
― L.R. Knost

We were all also very impressed by "The Big Tuna."  It is a giant portable press that can print woodcuts up to 40 inches wide and 96 inches long!

Below you can see each artist with their prints and contact information if you are interested in their work.

Leah Storrs-Fisher

Leah's print was the first print of the day and her forested woodcut printed perfectly.  Leah is a Columbus-based fine artist and printmaker.  You can see more of her work on her website  She is also on Instagram @leahstorrsfisher and Facebook.  It was truly a pleasure getting to know her and her work. Leah is like a ray of sunshine and I hope she will come visit me in Cincinnati next time she has a show here.

Jonpaul Smith

Jonpaul's incredible giant flower was the second print of the day.  Jonpaul is a Cincinnati-based fine artist and printmaker.  You can see more of his work at his website  You can also find him on Instagram @jonpaulsmithart and on Facebook.  I look forward to getting to know Jonpaul in Cincinnati and to pick his brain more about printmaking because he has a wealth of knowledge about all things print.

Kaitlyn Radloff

Kaitlyn's amazing skull woodcut was the third in line for printing.  Kaitlyn came all the way from Wisconsin to print.  You can see more of her work on her website here.  Plus you can find her on Instagram @sabertoothstudio and Facebook.  I immediately liked Kaitlyn because she has sorting hat powers and she put me in Gryffindor.  I wish I could have spent more time with this quirky, magical schoolteacher.

Vanessa Sorensen

My sweetgum woodcut was the fourth print of the day and I am going to go into a little more detail about the process.

Because I had painted my plate red, I knew it would be an exciting moment to see the plate turn from red to black when it was inked.  Below is a video of Lyell inking the plate.

After the plate was inked, Lyell brought the plate over to the "Big Tuna" and positioned it for printing.

The following video shows a summary of the day plus my plate going through the "Big Tuna."

On black and white prints I often like to add a chop signature.  George took this video of me inking and placing the chop in the bottom right hand corner of the sweetgum print.

Below you can see the final print with the chop printed in the corner.

James Billiter

James' Ohio woodcut printed after mine.  James is a well-known Cincinnati-based fine artist and printmaker.  You can view more of his work at his website  You can also find him on Instagram @billiterstudio and on Facebook.  I have been a huge admirer of his work for some time and it was a joy to get to know the artist behind the work.  And, of course, this Ohio girl loves that print!

Bill Meyer

Bill's woodcut of John Lennon was the last of the day and it turned out wonderfully.  His ability to carve what looked like scribbly lines was incredible.  You can see more of Bill's work on his website  You can also find him on Instagram @view_mr_eye.  Both Bill and I volunteered for paper duty and I had the tendency to wander off and get distracted.  Bill's steadfast and gentle nature, plus his dedication to task made sure all of our paper was ready and perfect.  It was such a pleasure getting to know Bill and I had the strange feeling that I had known Bill we were old friends.

At the end of the day I felt like we had all graduated from the BIG INK and had our giant print diplomas to show for it.  There is a special kind of bond formed from a shared experience like this.  We had all put so much work into our woodcuts and they turned out beautifully.  We are all now part of the "Fellowship of the Big Tuna." I REALLY enjoyed getting to know everyone.  Thank you for making it a magical day.

"Fellowship: friendly association, especially with people who share one's interests."
― Oxford Dictionary

I also can't thank Lyell and Carand enough for organizing this experience and creating this community.  I have wanted to print large for a long time and this was such a rare chance to realize that dream.  THANK YOU!

“When we establish human connections within the context of shared experience
we create community wherever we go.”

― Gina Greenlee

I also have to thank the three guys below for coming out and supporting me.  Also thank you to my Mom for encouraging us to stay in Columbus for the weekend.  An extra special thanks to the guy with his hand on the deer butt.  I couldn't do any of my crazy projects without you and you put up with all my wood chip carvings around the house.  A big smooch to you my deer!

This week I am going to hand-burnish a few more sweetgum prints at home.  As soon as I am finished I will be putting the prints for sale up on the website so check back soon for the final post!


I printed 6 more sweetgum prints at home!
To read the story and see the final prints click here.

The final prints are now available for purchase on my website

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