By February of each year, the round of art shows, competitions and exhibitions has begun. It’s a busy time, at least in this region of Downunder. Artists of all persuasions keen to get their work from studio (or kitchen) out into public view, are either busy creating or allowing ideas to germinate into projects.
To start my personal year off, there was inspiration from the Koalas of Portland Art and Photography Exhibition 2015, organised by Fringe Arts Portland, currently showing at the Tea-Tree Gallery in Portland, Victoria. The smiley subject of the woodcut was a koala rescued by volunteers of Statewide Wildlife Rescue Emergency Service (W.R.E.S.), and later released. In actual fact the handsome fella wasn’t as cheerful as he appeared while snapped during a medical examination, but he certainly looked a happy chappy. For some time, I’ve been itching to do a print based on the ‘happy snap’ and the Koalas of Portland exhibition provided the motivation.
The print was created using the reduction method, also known among printmakers as the ‘suicide method’ – there is no stepping back from the abyss, once the process is in progress. The very nature of this method means that each print in the complete edition goes through each stage simultaneously. In this case, all eight were printed in pale pink and subsequently over-printed in further colours – minus relevant areas, which are carved from the block between each colour progression.
Mistakes can happen, and do. I began with an edition of eight prints – one turned out to be no more than a ‘test’ print (always advisable, anyway) and one other I messed up with lousy registration (getting the layers aligned) by being too heavy-handed with the rolling pin, causing the paper to slip on the block. I then discarded the rolling pin in favour of burnishing like crazy with the backs of a wooden spoon and metal spoon. Hand-pulling prints is not for the faint-hearted! Even with a small edition, you know by the end that you have arms and shoulders.
I’m fairly new to the reduction method, but it is one I thoroughly enjoy. It happens in layers of colour, much like a painting is developed and, there is always an element of mystery, the final print only guessed at until the final layer is applied. Unlike painting, there’s no fluffing around to get it right – it is what it is, the end of a magical mystery tour using wood, paper and ink.
For those interested in how it happens, I’m including (below) the various stages of the printing process.