For the past seven years, I’ve participated in international print exchanges. Exchanging work with other printmakers has many benefits – it’s a way to feel connected to like-minded folk, an opportunity to appreciate, up close and in my hand, the work of others, their styles and techniques, and an interesting history lesson, looking back at my own growth and progress as a printmaker. It’s also a lot of fun, being challenged when there’s a theme involved. The current exchange, with members of the ssnw/swns print exchange (a group that conducts two exchanges per year, at the time of the solstices – Northern and Southern Hemisphere) has the theme of ‘circus’.
After an intense two years, it was a bit of light relief (pun intended) to do a lighthearted print. There were challenges, of course, but that’s part of the appeal for me. Combine working in a relatively small size (14 x 19 cm paper), wanting colour but not hand-colouring, getting carried away with detail in the initial sketch (and modifying where necessary), and the application of 11 colours for an edition of 18 prints minimum, and there was more than a bit of head-scratching during the process.
Reduction printing is not called the suicide method for nothing. At one point I ‘lost’ the smidgen of lino that formed one of Star’s eyes. Too heavy-handed with cleaning the block. Oh, panic! I could not have a half-blind acrobat. Ever tried looking for a single chip of lino in a sea of lino chips, on work table and floor? Fudge. Thank the Goddess for Mister Google. Some kind printmaker called ‘Rich’ at Boarding All Rows had posted tips on How to Deal with Linocut Mistakes. Thank you, thank you. Okay… Superglue and a modified chip of lino. Needless to say the cap was securely glued to the tube, but a pinhole sufficed, and needle-nose pliers aided in the positioning of the new lost-found, lost-found chip. Once more my acrobat had 20-20 vision…woohoo…and the Superglue on my arm would eventually wear off.
Normally, I use a fairly heavy weight paper for reduction printing, mostly but not always for easier registration (lining up paper with block). This time, I wanted to try out a thinner Japanese rice paper Gyokuryu. Possibly not a good move, as the more I cut away the block the less it adhered to the ink, and once pulled, the prints wanted to roll themselves into cylinders. Yeah, right. Another lesson.
Having done what I thought was the last colour, the dark blue, I pondered. I wanted the Star in the spotlight. Going against the ‘rule’ of working from light colours to dark, which I’d already broken previously during the process, I opted for adding a white (with a hint of blue, not that you’d notice) outline and suggestion of spotlight. Another challenge.
The print is not exactly as I envisioned, but it puts a smile on my dial, always a bonus, and I ended up with 22 usable prints out of 26. Not a bad result. Can’t wait to receive the exchange prints to see what others have done.