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Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Press-ure Pointers

I have been printmaking for over 13 years now, and one of the things I love about it is that I always learn something. Every time I hit the studio, it's education.

Being self taught is freeing, but you are also hampered by your own unknowns. If you go down Path A, you will go directly to the wellspring of all knowledge. But if you don't know Path A is there, you can get lost in the woods pretty easily.

Of course, if you take Path A, you also miss all of the crazy stuff in the woods. So there it is.

Anyway, I belong to an online group of amazing artists known as Baren Forum. They've been to the font of knowledge and are kind enough to run cups back to us morons still crawling around in the weeds. As part of this group, I am encouraged to participate in the print exchanges, where up to 30 members exchange prints. I did participate, as you saw a few posts back. And it was such a great experience. But as I was going through the work of others, I was struck by how nice an opaque some of the prints looked. Some looked like screen prints, the ink was so dense and even, regardless of the paper used.

And that led me to some serious trouble shooting in the studio last night, and some serious internet investigation. And it all came down to one thing, the thing that makes everything in the universe work: pressure.

I use an antique cast iron book press, which I have just discovered offers a raction of the pressure that an etching press does. In fact, though I turn and crank that wheel as hard as I can, it gives less pressure than using a wooden spoon, which is how I used to make my prints back in the beginning.

Here is an example of spoon vs. press.

On the right is the coverage I get from a lightly-inked block. On the left is what the ink transfer is like using a wooden spoon to burnish the back.

Well, issues with my hands prevent me from going back to the spoon, and I'm not giving up printmaking. So, I have found that by inking the block a little more, and just making peace with the effect of less pressure on the block, I can get back to some solid work. We'll see, won't we?!

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