Friday, June 22, 2012

The Bather - Story of a Reduction Linocut

Summer is finally here with a wiff of ink and rustling of paper from my studio. Aila has done a great job at keeping me busy, but I managed to sneak in some time in the studio and finish this lovely bunny print. I've been working on it since before she was born 9.5 months ago, and feel so accomplished to finally have it done. Whew!
Since it was a long time in the making and reduction prints are generally more complicated, I wanted to share with you how it was printed and some tips how to make your life easier when printing reduction cuts. It's not the first reduction linocut post I am doing, but you always learn new tricks to solve problems. I managed to even put together a two part video of the whole process! 
Just a quick update on whats been happening in our lives before we jump into printing. Aila has been a great source of joy and laughter to us even with ear infections, heart surgery and keeping me up every night for a month now. She had surgery to repair a hole in her heart and now that it is done, she has been very active and curious and even learned to crawl yesterday. 

As far as studio news, I wrapped up shows in Seattle and Turku and have an ongoing show at the Asheville Bookworks- Wood Engravers Network Juried Show. The next opening will be at Galleria G on Jun 27, 2012. The exhibition runs until Jul 20th and offers a great selection of contemporary Finnish prints. On the illustration front- I completed watercolors for a children's book about a little singing wren several months ago. The book is finally being printed this week and I should have copies at our house in a couple of weeks. So exciting! I'll post some images of that when we get back from our trip to Finland in August.  

And now for your daily dose of printmaking.

I got the inspiration for the print from a photo of a rabbit grooming itself from (great resource for candid copyright free shots). The round shapes, red color and jutting ears were irresistible to me. They just begged- print me, print me! Incidentally, I had also aquired a new press, the Korrex Stuttgart (just Stu between friends) and wanted to test the limits of what I could do with it right off the bat. The size of the paper is the largest I can fit through (11.5x15") and getting large flat areas to print evenly were a challenge too. The printed area measures about 12x9".

Here is the first video that shows carving and printing the first color:

The biggest issue I had with te first color was that it was printing horizontal rollermarks on the paper. Since it was the first color and most of it was going to be hidden under the successive colors it was not a huge issue, but it needed to be fixed for the next colors. The fix was rolling forwards and then back a little bit before going all the way to the end. You see me doing it every time I print. It only took me about 40 prints to figure that out! I also had a lot of issues with the plate not printing evenly, but that was fixed in general with some strips of paper under the plate. I find that a lot of times when printing linoleum and resingrave plates attached to this kind of board the plates change during printing and need to be spot-filled with paper underneath as I go. Guess there is just a little bit of give in parts of the wood that is squeezed in during printing. Here is an image of all the first color prints drying pretty after a night of printing.

Here is the second video with the rest of the steps to complete the print. I hope it is fairly self explanatory. Please let me know if you have any questions.

The first two colors printed.

The first two colors went over pretty well. I had a booboo in the middle of my run, where I had originally adjusted my plate and forgot to push it all the way to the right. So half of my prints were 1/8" to the left compared to the other half. This caused several misregistered prints before I figured it out... It should go without saying, make sure your plate is in place before you lock it up after you've been stuffing the underside.

Since reduction cuts are a tricky business and I did not want to ruin any nice prints by proofing successive colors on them, I had to figure out how to see what the next color looks like on the print without actually printing on it. Thanks to a large piece of mylar that I normally use to register my etchings with, I was able to solve that problem. I rolled up the plate with ink, and printed it the mylar and then was able to fit the mylar over one of the prints to see what it looked like. I was glad I did that, since the plate needed some more carving.

Below is the third color being proofed. The first state is on the left. You can see how much darker it is in areas, and after proofing, I went back and carved some more areas out. At that point I also resolved to make a 4 color reduction cut instead of 3. The Black was too harsh on the first two colors and the image needed another middle brown to soften it.

Why am I so stingy with my prints? When you do a reduction cut, you destroy the plate by carving it a little bit more every time you print. So I started by printing about 90 images, and every time one was misprinted, it was one less for the final edition. I can't go back and print the first colors any more because the plate for it does not exsist anymore. In the end I had about 50 good ones left. 

Rolling the last state up by hand for mylar proofing.

Last color on mylar by itself.

Fitting the mylar over a print to see how it looks. 

All done and ready to print. It was really exciting to shuffle the mylar on the image and see how the final print was going to look.

For the last color, it seemed like every other one of the prints were slightly off register. (Thanks to my booboo in the first round and insisting on printing on deckled edge paper.) To fix that, I cleaned the mylar off and printed the final color on it again but this time well registered. So now I was able to position the mylar on the feedbed and the printable paper underneath it. Register the prints there, remove mylar and then print. This was more time consuming, but after all the hard work I put into it, I did not want to mess up half of the remaining prints. Next time I'll be sure to have clean edges and make sure the plate stays in one place...

Here are the last two colors side by side. You can see how the extra layer of black really punched it out.

The final state and a detail underneath it. 

I hope you enjoyed seeing how the print was made. I love the way the fur turned out and the colors too. I find carving *very* therapeutic and look forwards to working on some engravings and more problemsolving as printing commences. Miss bunny is titled "The Bather" and prints are now available for sale on Etsy. Have a great day!


Anonymous said...

This turned out splendidly. Gorgeous.
Mary F.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mirka,
It came out amazing! I would like to have a try but wanted to ask you if you carve based on a detailed drawing and if yes how do you avoid the drawing beeing hidden by the leftover ink?
Many thanks! laura castell

Mirka Hokkanen said...

Thanks for the question. Yes, I mostly carve based off the drawing. I dont rememeber if I mentioned it in this post, but what I do after the initial drawing is done, I use hairspray (drawing fixative works probably better, but I have none in Germany) to fix it on the plate. After you are done with printing the first color I use a piece of a t-shirt to wipe the left over ink, no solvents, and that usually saves enough of a drawing for the subsequent carvings. By the last color for this one, i did not have much drawing left, but at that point you have to go based on the finished print more than what you have on the plate so it works out well.

Anonymous said...

Many thanks! It is very helpful. Laura

Dawn Rossbach said...

Gorgeous print!

Humungus said...

Splendid Job Mirka! Your site have good insights on Printmaking. Discovered your blog through an image on pinterest. thanks for sharing your process.