There’s a price to pay for passion, always. No matter whether it concerns the generalities of life, the love of your life, or printmaking. Sometimes the price is small compared to the delight resulting from that fervour. At other times, once the passion burns down from a conflagration to a campfire, it can make us wonder where our head was at, and why the match was lit in the first place. I had already challenged myself with doing a two-block print. Enthralled with the collagraph printing process, I’d neglected to consider placement of the linocut. What about the all-important ‘registration’? Not only were there, in effect, two prints to get right, but the two printing blocks were of different thickness and size. How was I to achieve a cohesive and pleasing image?
Printing the pale blue for the dancer was frustrating. After cutting away lino from where I wanted the light blue visible on the prints, I then had to line up (register) what would be the dark blue detail of the dancer. Thanks to my initial passion, I had no reference mark in sight. On the first (trial/test) print it was a disaster, as you can see below. Just as well the first is always a test piece!
Number two in the ‘series’ was better. From the third onward, I had some reference points from when Registration Reality kicked in. Even so, there was still the fact that the paper had been dampened to print the collagraph, and had now dried, buckled and contacted slightly.
Perfection was a fantasy. I tweaked the block and cut away the fine lines along the dancer’s arm, face and torso. Fingers crossed, that registration would not prove quite so critical, I plunged ahead. Success.
It was never my aim to print an ‘edition’ (see note following). It was an adventure into making and printing a collagraph, with the hope of getting one good print for a themed art competition. Considering I have four very different but acceptable prints out of five attempts, I am pleased with the result. Much of the fine detail, so painstakingly cut, peeled and gouged is not evident in the background. The crowds of men, women and children in ‘Stony Town’ are lost. So much for an exceptional collagraph print, without a press. Still, I like the effect, and the blue dancer is the focus, as he should be. The print I chose as my personal best was the last in the run, number five. Framed and delivered, it awaits hanging for the opening next Thursday of the John Shaw Neilson Art Prize. And, I forgot to photograph it before it went under glass. (Three of the finished prints are below.)
Apart from Registration Woes, there was a second price to pay for the passion to print – the books are still waiting to be shelved, and lino chips litter the lounge room carpet… There are times when passion cannot be ignored.
A Note on Editions – and prints set apart from the crowd
An edition is a specified number of identical prints – anything from 2 to 500, or however many the printmaker can and wants to produce from the same process and block/s. For folk who believe that Number One of any edition of prints is the ‘best’, and subsequently numbered prints must be less desirable… Most often, the very first print pulled from a block is not up to scratch. It is an experiment in ink coverage and viscosity, possible design quirks, ‘wearing in’ the block, and assessment of overall behaviour when block meets inked roller and joins with paper. These initial prints never make it into the ‘edition’. Most times, they don’t even end up as Trial Proofs – exactly what it sounds like. Nor are they ‘good’ enough to be Artist’s Proofs (A.P. pencilled on the print instead of an edition number). These are prints from the same print run, but have minor and noticeable differences, though still pleasing in their own right. Artist’s Proofs are stand alone prints. The true Number One is rarely admitted into the edition crowd. They either remain in the drawer as ‘visual lessons’, or end up as scrap paper. Another factor to consider is, if the prints are pulled by hand (without a press), try as we might to get each print identical, the edition can have slight variations. making each print uniquely the same.