Saturday, May 10, 2008

"Xocoatl" - Exchange Print Spoiler

OK, not strictly true. I have actually done a little art lately.

I've signed up for the Four Oceans Press "Food Alphabet" exchange, and I'm doing "X". Why? Because I like a challenge. So a good chunk of my "art" time the last few months has been devoted to researching "xocoatl" (also "xocolatl"), the Mayan/Incan bitter hot chocolate beverage, and scheming how I'd use all this stuff in an image.

The other bits of "art" time have been spent procrastinating because I didn't really want to do almost 30 prints hand-burnished with my wooden spoon in reduction. So I was dithering about a design that would look good in monochrome, and that I wouldn't hate by the end of the process. Unfortunately, I was getting stumped. I also didn't really want to pull something 6"x8" entirely with hand-burnishing for that many prints; that is way bigger than I normally do, and it was somewhat discouraging.

Fortunately for me, we recently did a field trip to Seattle (and, Daniel Smith), and I got a very early birthday present. I am now the proud owner of a Richeson baby press.

Baby Press!!!!!

And it's lovely. And it did a beautiful job on the prints. Except...the press bed racks at the end of the pull. It's just the metal bed that came with the press, and it's not perfectly flat. When it racks, the print smears just at the end. So I don't have perfect registration on my prints (which really chaps my hide, but I'm just letting it be).*(see ed. note at bottom) The prints are actually really nice, they're just not perfect, which, I suppose, underscores their hand-made-ness.

Printing Xocoatl
holding the press bed in line to prevent racking

Dave has a scheme to make me a new press bed; I know I could just buy a replacement, but I really like his idea and am anxious to try it. Hopefully, he'll have an opportunity to make it before I do more printing.

Incidentally, not only is this the first print edition pulled on my brand new press, it's also the first time I've used the Daniel Smith water-soluble relief inks, and I think, really the first reduction edition I've pulled that is a) that large an edition in number and b) that physically large a print. So, all of these "firsts" add up to a bit of a learning curve, but I'm still really happy with the print.

By the way, darn Daniel Smith for not having 1 lb cans of transparent medium in this product any more - for all of you out there who use DS water-soluble inks, do you not use transparent base? Do you realize how much pigment you get with even about a half mix of each? Not to mention the lovely "glow" of inks layered through each other... I wish they'd bring the pounders back, but not enough people were buying them. Sigh.

OK, enough excuses (I seem to be doing a lot of that lately!), here's the process:

First layer was just a solid block of very subtly greened yellow. I used the back of my carving block to do it, and there were some interesting contour lines in the material that showed through in the print (but not enough to show on a scan or photo, unfortunately). Next layer was just red (with lots of trans base):

Xocoatl - 2nd state

Next layer was a rusty brown colour. Here's a shot of the inked piece of black linoleum, using a square at one corner for block registration, and pieces of tape with "t-bar" markings to do t-bar registration (I use the t-bar registration for lithographs and it seems to work pretty well overall).

Registration layout

Xocoatl - 3rd state

The final layer was a deep dark chocolate (of course!) colour:

Xocoatl, 2008
8"x6", edition of 30
Daniel Smith water-soluble relief inks on Strathmore Bristol

The elements of the design are what, arguably, the ingredients of the original xocoatl drink would have been made from. Clockwise from top left, vanilla bean, maize, achiote, chili pepper and of course, cacao. I'm very pleased overall with the print (save for the less than perfect registration, grrr), and I love the "noise" marks in the images, especially the pepper. I think that pepper is my favourite part of the whole print.
Ed: It's not the press. The bed wasn't racking, it was the stupid "black linoleum" (vinyl) stretching under the pressure of the press. I just tested it again with a mounted block of linoleum; paper first, then block face down, and a heavy cardboard sheet to protect the roller, and voila! It worked beautifully. Baby press wonderful, vinyl I'm starting to hate.


Eraethil said...

Congratulations again on the new press. :) Wonderful first result with it and the new inks Amie! Your composition for this piece is really great - the colours in particular.

Anonymous said...

Your prints are impressive! I'm especially interested in your experience with the DS water soluble ink. I, too, just started using it. The consistency was fine (except for the yellow), but the drying time was crazy slow unless the paper was damp. Do you print successive colors right away or wait for each to dry? I keep thinking everyone knows something I don't!

The Wandering Blues said...

Richeson makes the blick presses. That being said, take a look at the phenolic bed. It's light and will not warp. Pretty happy with mine so far.

As for presses, I used a huge Takach press last weekend. Wow!!!

Anonymous said...

Wow, I love the way Xocoatl came out... the composition and colors are splendid!

Congrats on the baby press too. :o)

I had a phenolic bed for my press and sent it back. I like the steel one I got MUCH better (my press is a Blick 906, I think). The steel just seemed more rugged and sturdy- the phenolic was just like a thin chipboard- I (personally) just didn't like it.

Look forward to seeing more of your creations! :o)


Robin said...

just started using the water solubles as well. i was surprised they didn't have the big tub of medium! love seeing how you layer colors. i am an beginning relief printer (usually oil painter) so learning to work in layers is fun and new. love your press!

Carols Original Prints said...

I've relally enjoyed looking at your latest images and your thoughts on vinyl etc. Very useful as I have recently started using vinyl to teach workshops with and have found a similar problem but put it down to wet on wet ink ... which is probably also part of the problem when doign a weekend workshop.