The Red and The Black, ed 3; 16 x 18 in., image size 8 x 10 in.
Each time I begin a new medium or a new way of working, it takes me months to figure it out, to see where I'm headed with it. When I started painting on parchment rather than gessoed panel I had to decide on the format and whether or not to stretch; when I decided to stretch the parchment over a panel, how would I mount it? And that's the technical stuff; at the same time I was adjusting image and scale. And I'm still changing. So, it's not surprising that learning relief printmaking would take some time. The Red and The Black is my fourth print (see the first three here), one that's a little more ambitious with the use of 2 colors, but one that gave me enough technical trouble that I only got 3 decent prints in the edition. I've been using Daniel Smith's water soluble relief printing inks, which are very easy to clean, stay wet a long time since they are oil based, and have very rich colors. But with this print, I had trouble with the black ink, which seemed to be very tacky and dry. Because I'm such a novice, I don't know if it was me or the ink. I'm sure I'll find out in time. I used a brush for the red ink because I had only one small brayer (I ordered more). If you click on the image you'll see the unevenness of the ink surface, so I must do better.
Kazimir Malevich, Painterly Realism: Boy with Knapsack––Color Masses in the Fourth Dimension, 1915; oil on canvas, 28 x 17 1/2 in.
The idea for using red and black on white paper (the paper is Sekishu natural) came from Russian Constructivism, or in the case of the Malevich above, Suprematism, with the use of bold, simple shapes.
Ghost Square, ed. 5; 16 x 16 in., image size 8 x 8 in.
When I pulled Ghost Square, I began to feel as though I was finally getting a sense of how much water to add to the ink to make it a good consistency for rolling on the cardboard plate. Here I mixed a dark red because I wanted a strong color for the dark tan paper, Akatosashi, which is a gorgeous paper. The color gives the print something of a solemn feel. I'm also getting better at centering the block so the paper isn't crooked, and at keeping stray splotches of ink from marring the print.
Ghost Square, different orientation
The study I did for Ghost Square had the two squares in this placement at lower right, but then I thought I liked the image better with them at upper left, as above. Now I'm not sure. A main reason I use even borders around the image is so that it can be hung any way. With The Red and The Black there's really only one way it looks good, but this one works differently. Do you have a favorite of the two?
Another thing I've discovered is that this triple thick cardboard, some of which I had lying around in the studio, is great to use for printing. It is stiff and sturdy so the corrugations hold up well to inking and to the rubbing of the brayer. It has two different widths of corrugation, so I can choose which to use. I've cut plates for my next project from ordinary cardboard, but from now on, I'll be using this for any new plates. It's nice to feel that I'm making progress technically, now let's see what images I can come up with.