Sunday, December 9, 2007

Christmas Card Chaos

I couldn't decide on what to do for Christmas cards this year. I usually do something for family & friends, as well as for customers who have purchased my work during the year (so that translates to roughly 60 cards altogether), but this year I also had two print exchanges for an additional 40 cards. After Goosey's demise, I had wanted to do something to commemorate him again, but the idea I had was more complicated than I felt like working on (especially for so many prints).

Sketch for card using Goosey as the subject
(those are snowflakes in the background)

I had worked on another image a couple of years ago in acrylic that I was never very happy with, but I liked the idea:

Acrylic on board, 8"x10"

I really like the feeling of the finch sitting on the cold, bare, slightly snow-dusted branches, so I took the same source photo and simplified the overall look to get this year's general (i.e. to friends & family) card:

I carved the image into wood-mounted linoleum and printed it using the Adana 4x6 No 2 on Strathmore Bristol paper using Speedball water-soluble inks. The image is 5 1/2"x3". I was pretty happy with the text (first time I've used it really in a print - have to write backwards for the text to read correctly; cheers for computer software & printers!!). It performed sufficiently, but I still wasn't 100% pleased.

I thought I'd try my hand at chine collé. So I printed the piece first on kitakata green paper (a thin Japanese paper), then mounted it (using nori paste) onto Cartiera Magnani "Pescia", a stiffer, supposedly "creamy smooth" printmaking paper, although it's really rough (cold pressed) with quite a tooth, and very thick. I'd ordered it from Dick Blick in a "what the heck" moment, but I don't really think it's appropriate for relief printing, or at least not what I do.

Really, for the chine collé, you're supposed to place your fine paper on top of your inked plate, dust with nori powder or paste the back of the fine paper, then place your mounting paper on top, and run everything through a press. As I don't have a press, this wasn't going to work. And the whole point to using finer paper was so that I wouldn't have such a hard time burnishing to transfer the image. Unfortunately, the Speedball doesn't ever really loose its water solubility, so the moist paste spread very thinly on the back still slightly activated the dried ink on the front, resulting in a few of these with a couple of tiny smudges here or there.

The card will be folded between the text & image, so that the image sits facing forward. The fold is not centred, so you end up with kind of an interesting card. I love the pale green of the kitakata paper, and it has a beautiful finish that's just a dream to print on. I'm definitely going to use it again.

Finally, I had one more image I wanted to play with. I have been working on this image in various print media over this year. First was a stone lithograph, then an acrylic monotype, and now I've done it in a linocut relief print.

The original image was a pencil sketch of a photograph I took up at Dad's one winter. I really love the contrast of the aspen against the conifers in the background, and the neat textures of the bark on the aspen.

aspen sketch

For this relief print, I wanted the image smaller, so I scanned the sketch, reduced the dimensions, mirror-flipped it, and printed it off, then stuck it onto the lino block.

Pays d'Hiver - working sketch

I used graphite paper to trace the image onto the block (so the graphite paper is placed between my working sketch and the block). This is great stuff because the resulting line is quite fine, and I can erase the graphite before I print, so that I don't get graphite transferring onto the final paper.

Pays d'Hiver - graphite image on block

I removed all the areas that I wanted to stay white using wood carving tools to carve away the linoleum. Here's a photo of the inked up lino block showing the carving details:

Pays d'Hiver - inked lino block

I ran a few proofs and fiddled a bit with the image, but then was happy with the result pretty quickly. The final prints (so far only 20 for the second print exchange, but I think I'll do more), are on Rising Stonehenge grey paper, and the image size is 6.25"x3.5", printed using Faust's AquaLine water-soluble "Carbon Black". It's very buttery to use, a bit stinky, but I really like using it, and it seems to print quite well on heavy paper with hand burnishing (an unusual find, for me!).

Pays d'Hiver (Winter Country)
Pays d'Hiver (Winter Country)

I'm very pleased with the end result (this photo is somewhat warmer than the actual print), and will be doing more than 20 for the edition. But my arms have given up tonight so I won't be doing any more prints for a little while.

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