Saturday, May 6, 2017

Steamroller printing a Giant Linocut

Hi everyone! Things keep rolling at such a fast pace I haven't had time to write as much as I would have liked to. We will be on summer break soon, and I'll try to be good and post many of the things I've been neglecting. I still have several of the videos from the MAPC printmaking conference I wanted to share with you.

This story begins in February, with the arrival of a huge roll of linoleum.  I had organized the Bryan Art Fair Print fair and steamroller printing the previous year, and since it was a big hit, we wanted to continue and make it a tradition. The fair was on April 8th, this year, so having the linoleum in February made it easy to distribute to the teams that were farther away in the Dallas area.

Mine sat in the studio until end of March, before I had time to do anything with it. I always wanted to do giant animals, so I could really get into the details in fur/feather patterns, and it was a toss up between a pony, a bear and this hawk. After taking a quick poll from some friends, I decided on the hawk. By that time, I had just over a week time to carve it! Yikes.

It ended up being a week and a half of very intensive carving. My whole upper body was so tired by the time the print fair rolled around. Note to self: next time give your older self some more time to complete massive project. I began as I usually do, drawing with pencil onto the linoleum. Since this was huge, I used a projector to trace the feather pattern onto the block. Then I went through a second time looking at my reference photo and actually drew everything in properly. It was a challenge to keep on track with the feathers, especially on the wing. After the whole thing was drawn, I gave it a healthy spraying of clear fixative, so that when I carved, my hand wouldn't smudge all the hard work out of existence.

I attached the block on a piece of masonite with some tape, and was able to work on it propped upright. I had an office chair that could roll back and forth and go up and down, depending which angle and where I needed to carve. It was very helpful to be able to roll back and see the whole image on a glance, rather than having it on a table and seeing it from an angle constantly. It wasn't until the very end, for the background, that I set the block on the table and finished carving it there.

The day of printing was a bit windy, but otherwise gorgeous. Here is Rebecca Villarreal from Pigmint Paper Company rolling up her block.

Steamroller ready to rock n roll. It was super fun to drive!!!

Getting ready to reveal the print.

Prints were hung to dry on the large windows right by us. 

Holding up my first print. Success!

After the event, I spent some time refining the design a bit more. I wasn't crazy about the background, and decided it needed to be a bit different. I made some quick mock ups on the computer to test different backgrounds out and did another quick poll with friends to see which one they responded the best. Everyone liked #3, which was my favorite too. A friend suggested I leave the border out, which was a great idea, so the winning design was a variation of #3.

I went ahead carving the improved background, did some refining in the feathers all over, and ordered large enough sheets of paper to print a small edition. The first batch of paper (Mohawk superfine and thai kozo) was shipped flat, and got all kinked in the mail, which was a pain, because I did not realize it until I had reserved a morning to use a friend's studio and was standing there ready to print. I had to cancel everything, return the paper and order thicker paper (which they did ship rolled), so it would arrive in better condition. 

The new paper arrived a week later: Legion Lenox, 100% cotton drawing paper, 26x40". I had never used it before, and was a little apprehensive, because of the large image and fluffy texture, but it printed beautifully. It embossed heavily, which might be my only negative for it, but I needed the pressure to get it to print nicely without soaking the paper. Here are some pictures from my friend's studio, from 2nd attempt at printing. 

She has a beautiful large etching press as you can see. It's even green- my favorite color! I taped registration marks directly on the bed and also needed to tape the top of each sheet down to print to make sure it got fed in right (I was on my own, with no extra hands). The tape I was using was an artist tape, meant to tape down watercolor paper, but it worked great for this application too. Peeled off easily and is supposed to be acid free (which I am not sure any tape ever is?). You can see the whole printing process in the video below the second studio shot. 

Some images of the finished print. I am really happy the way it turned out. The background looks great and adds to the image.


At this point, the prints are drying for at least a day more. I posted a pre-sale in my Etsy store, for the first people who want to get one at a cheaper price before May 25th, 2017 before I take these to Galleries and the price goes up. I printed a total of 20, but used up several sheets of paper for proofing and carving some adjustments to the image. Then there were several that had small areas that I missed with the roller etc. so the final edition will end up being between 10-12.

I am super happy with the way it turned out. It was a long process, and I wouldn't do it again anytime soon, but I'm sure in about a year, time will make the memories golden (as we say in Finnish). Have a great week, talk to you soon!


WriterSideUp said...

Mirka, your work is absolutely UNbelievable! :D

artisjokken said...

this is great!