There’s a freedom in painting, working with acrylics, that is not present when I embark on a new print, particularly when starting a new reduction print. As passionate as I am about printmaking, there are times I yearn for that freedom, and faster results.
For a recent art show, I decided to paint a picture for the pleasure of the medium, the quickness (compared to printing) and the challenge of creating a portrait, albeit of a myth that has long held appeal, and the simple joy of creating something from nothing. Pan, the mischievous forest god gets a bad rap from many, equated to the Christian ‘devil’. He’s the untamed tempter, sometimes trickster, represents raw instinct with a penchant for seduction, but I see no ‘bad’ in him. Elements of Pan reside in us all.
While working on Pan I received some strange looks from my canine housemate, no doubt wondering what inspired my chuckles and laughter. There is always a degree of fascination, watching a piece of artwork come to ‘life’. It’s as if there are two of me – one who is the creator, the pedant with O.C.D. tendencies, wanting to be the best I can, and another, the observer, delighting in the mystery of how something (or someone) comes into being with either paint or ink.
My Pan may not appeal to everyone, but he puts a smile on my dial. Completed over two days, he emerged far quicker than did the small linocut portrait of a hawk, again done for the love of it.
Carried away with the bird, I neglected to plan the progressive colour sequence. In a coloured print, the general rule is to work from light to dark. Duh… I ended up with a solid colour of brown for the background, where I wanted a much paler blue as the sky. With the greys of the beak still to go, I inked up for the palest grey, crossed my fingers for good coverage, and went for it. More or less satisfied, I was still uncertain how the graduated blue would cover, wiped off ink from the bird where I judged the black would over-print, and again went for it. With a rudimentary registration system (for lining up of subsequent printing), I was thrilled when it worked.
For a small print, only 8.5 x 10 cm, the hawk portrait took a week to complete, including cutting, inking and drying time. There is satisfaction in overcoming obstacles, and the finished print, but none of the delight inspired by a myth. Maybe I should try a myth in linocut.