While visiting my Aunt Jean this October, I took a few photos of her black and white cat, Booger. He's very photogenic, and I really wanted to do a print including him somehow. I was perusing my resource bookshelf for inspiration when my eye fell upon Persian Designs and Motifs for Artists and Craftsmen by Ali Dowlatshahi (1979, Dover Publications Inc., London). Within the pages of this book are some spectacular designs from various sources of Iranian artwork, from pottery to weaving to tile work. I spotted a page of geometric carved stucco designs from the 13th and 14th centuries, and thought that one of those would be perfect. Also a source of inspiration is an upcoming theme show "Red & Gold" at the Federation, which had to be submitted this past Thursday. Deadlines are always a great driving force for creativity!
I wanted to utilize one of these patterns from the book, but I didn't want it to be perfect. My first layer is a golden yellow, applied in a rainbow roll so that there was a value gradient from left to right. I also had the pattern break down at the fainter end, so that it looked like the tile was crumbling away from centuries of use.
The next layer was also done in a gradient using the rainbow roll technique, but unfortunately, it's really subtle. You can't even notice it when I just printed the red alone on a white sheet of paper.
The next layer was just the cat in blue (straight out of the tube). Now, this was a bit of a trick, because I wanted to save the final carving in order to produce a black & white image. If I did the true reduction where I remove everything that I wouldn't want to print in blue, I would have had to carve away all the background tile in red that you see above, but then I wouldn't have a plate to do the black & white image that I wanted. So I inked just the cat as best I could, and carefully wiped away the excess wherever I didn't want it with a lightly dampened cloth. This was rather time consuming and exacting, so I did this layer and the next (same problem with the reduction) in batches.
Finally, I didn't want the cat to be a solid object sitting on the tiles, so I repeated the pattern in the cat's body, but reversed (i.e. the dark value was now reversed with the light in the pattern). I also didn't want to obscure the face of the cat, so I tried to show a breakdown of the pattern similar to that of the tiles on the left-hand side of the image.
This piece is done on Rising Stonehenge 245 gsm paper (white in colour) using water based Speedball inks, and carving an actual linoleum block for the first time in a really long time. I'm very happy with the composition; I especially like the echoing of the triangles just in the overall shapes of the cat itself, not just the repetition of patterns. I'm also happy overall with the way the colours worked, as that's not always easy with a reduction.
Because I'm so lazy, I haven't yet tried to set up Andrew Gott's ridiculously easy and apparently fail safe registration method, and as a result, I only have a tiny little edition size that I'm happy with (3 out of a total of 9 pulled, sigh!). This should teach me, but I still haven't done anything about it yet!! Maybe before the next reduction print :)