I’ve been experimenting with my press and trying to work out if I can get a good, clean, consistent print with crisp edges. I have done quite a few prints now (not all recorded here) and have been pleased with many of the results, but have, by my own admission, just been playing at it and enjoying the process and the fact that I can do this at home. I have been just as happy with the under-inked, over-pressed, thumb-printed prints as I have with the nice clean ones, as I like the ‘printerly’ element, where the process is evident in the artifact.
This time I decided to be a little more systematic, cut a more complex image that tested out a number of elements. What I wanted to achieve (or try to) was to get a couple of prints that had all of the following:
1. a solid area black area
2. a solid white area with no cutting marks showing
3. thin lines/detail of deep and shallow cuts
4. clean edges
The first prints were under inked, or were not subjected to enough pressure. They were quite clean and reasonably dark in tone, which allowed me judge the inking and how much ‘pull’ to put on the press as I went on. This one is the first one, and the lightest:
As usual, these images can all be viewed larger by clicking on them. The prints got progressively darker and ‘flatter, with more black tone and plenty of clarity in the details, but I wasn’t being terribly consistent in the inking up of the block, particularly around the edges.
Again, I quite like this effect of the edge breaking up for the reasons mentioned before, but I really wanted to get a solid black and white image. A more generous inking this time, being careful not to ‘fill’ the shallow cuts and lose any detail. I was also aware that too much pressure can force ink outward from under the block and spread the image. I had just about worked out the right amount of ‘pull’ but didn’t want to mess up as I felt that I was getting close. I succeeded in getting a really good black this time and was really excited, but noticed a patch on the thumb that I handn’t inked properly!
The air turned blue.
Yep. That blue. Good job the kids were in bed. A clean, crisp print, that I had not inked up fully. Mad as I was that I had missed abit, I was encouraged by the general quality everywhere else. The next print showed that I could ink up the block properly (!) but in doing so I had put some ink into the white area of the cup. As I was printing onto stiff card and the surface of the lino had been cut reasonably deep and smoothed out, I didn’t think it would pick up, so went ahead:
Again, a good clean print – this was going well, but the ink in the cup had transferred lightly to the card. This is not a real problem, and these types of mark are often sought in linocutting, but I had a very clear end result I was aiming for. I considered cleaning the block and trying again in a few days, but felt I had come so close, so I tore a small bit of parcel paper to roughly the size of the area of the cup and stuck it to the ink that was already on there!
The next two prints were spot on. Careful inking (learn from ones mistakes!) and consistent pressure, along with a steady supply of baby wipes to keep my hands clean – I was picking up the block by the edges, which were largely inked – and I didn’t want a thumbprint or a smudge as I was transferring in and out of the press. The next image is photographed just as the previous ones for comparison, but the one after is a scan that is slightly larger than the 150 x100mm actual size.
In summary, I did just nine prints and got two that I felt achieved what I originally set out to do. I also enjoyed the process (despite the frustration in the middle!) and learned quite a lot about how to use my press, as I guess all small hand presses will have their own tolerances and quirks. I also developed my own approach to inking and printing, which I believe will allow me to improve the results each time I do this. I have also decided to get a bit more ambitious too; I have a couple more images of hands I want to do in black and white first to make this into a small series. After that I think I’ll do a bit of reduction cutting, where the image is overprinted in another colour after re-cutting into the block. Eventually, the block is ‘reduced’ to print on the last colour. Needs plenty of time, and I need to consider how I will register up the prints each time! I can feel several more Pantone shades of blue coming on!