I have been asked to do a couple of talk and demo sessions next month regarding my “practice” (more details will be on my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/colinblanchardprints/)
So rather than just showing a few bits of work and explaining how they were made, I thought I’d expand the theme of ‘Table Top Printmaking’ and take along the wee XCut press and also one of the simple screen printing set ups I have made (from scrap wood and some cheap, but highly efficient, Chinese hinge clamps) and actually do some printing there and then; in order to show what can be done in a ‘non-professional’ printmaking studio setting.
I therefore set out to come up with an idea for a combination screenprint/lino print; that would also show how I sometimes use a computer to initially manipulate images in preparation for a print.
I will not show the whole process now, as that can be better done in a later post – after I have prepared the talks. What I want to talk about here is an example of the potential disparity between what we plan and hope for when making a print – and what we finally get!
I have mentioned before that I believe that no printmaker worth their salt really knows exactly how the image they plan so carefully will actually turn out. If they do, I suggest they have either become formulaic or are simply reproducing something that might has well have been copied by a machine. I venture to suggest that this is a huge part of the appeal of the occupation to many of us: the constant challenge of trying to achieve a planned goal – but without the advantage, as with painting for example, of being able to scrub it all out, or just go back a step or two and change direction.
So I had this idea. It would be of an image I’ve thought about for a while; a wading heron, reflected in the water. It would utilise the ability of computer graphics to ‘wobble’ the reflection and use the control of screen ink blends and transparencies to suggest rippling water by overprinting the reflection. Moreover, it would have to be produced entirely on the XCut and use only one small screen; on a homemade non vacuum bed.
All went well to begin with. Initial pencil drawing; composition and size planning; initial carving; computer manipulation; another great printing performance from the XCut; the use of the same Ternes Burton tabs to register and secure the paper for screenprinting….
The end result though, was – well, I wanted to say disappointing. Indeed I nearly binned all fifteen, such was my frustration on realising the several wrong turns I had made earlier in my carefully planned journey. However, after a day out of the studio and some thought, I realised that this would make an excellent addition to my talks; as an example of the magic of the ‘controlled unpredictability’ which drives us printmakers. Sometimes it just don’t turn out right!
However, I will keep and sign the edition and see what the reaction of others might be. I will though, recut the block and make a new set of screen stencils and try a second version.
What was wrong with it? Well, just two things really – but both irretrievable without a restart: the reflection as it is might have worked as a smaller (black and white only) print. Here, there is just far too much of it. Also the screen ink colours are just wrong; too strong and the wrong colours in the wrong places.
Of course I could be wrong.
That’s what keeps me going!