Friday, February 13, 2015

Printing, numbering and cutting the artwork

I got side-tracked by living life and choosing how I spend my energies, but I have finished this year's crop of Valentines!

2015 Valentine 001/240
(For: Drew Stone, Love: Drew Stone)

These are the blocks that make the finished Valentine (top of the post)

I use a tempered glass door from an entertainment center on which to roll the ink out. I use a water-soluble block print ink from a well known manufacturer, as well as an amount of drying retarder (approximately 15-20% of the total ink, its the off-white stuff), which helps blend combinations of colors and prevent them from drying while I've got a good thing going. 
A single-pump-misting of water can also revitalize ink that is almost gone.

I use the brayer to smear the ink together, and push the excess to the far end as a reservoir for replenishing the ink when the brayer runs thin.

This is about the right level of ink to be used; not so thick on the brayer,
and it makes a nice "schllleepppp" sound as the brayer picks up ink.

I am starting with the background block (inside) of the heart design.

I apply the ink from the edge, as to keep the brayer on the smooth
surface of the uncarved areas of the block.

With an even layer of ink applied, I align the corner of the paper with
the corner of the block to guide the placement of the print.

Like so.

Using the corner and far edge as a guide, the block is gently placed.

An initial hand-pressing helps the block stick to the paper.

I then carefully flip the block and paper over together.
If there's not enough ink on the block (or too much), there is a tendency for
the paper to shift or slip during this part of the process.

I have found that an overturned shot glass is my favorite burnishing tool to press the block evenly without dipping into the (carved negative-space) of the block. I press evenly and use a circular motion to ensure I get a good print.

I have learned to peel back the paper from the block in the center margin of the page,where it's unlikely for wet ink to be (which is a constant concern).

The grand reveal....

Hooray, a good print!
Now to repeat this... a lot.

Aligning the other corner, again, with the edge of the page.

It is a kind of rhythm that I get into; I listen to music, have a nice view,
and drink coffee while enjoying the creation of every print.

I have found efficiency in moving from one color to another (directly on old ink),
which also helps create smooth non-standard colors. Above I'm adding yellow and retarder right on to the white which is no longer giving me the coverage I need.


Eventually though, the block's details get filled with ink that gets smooshed in
from repeated pressings. I use toothbrush (specifically for this) and quickly run the block under warm tap water to clean it up and reveal the details once again.

This is the selection of red tones that I have, and I really like to mix a
custom colors as a blend to give an evermore unique look to each print.

 Who says custom-mixed Yellow Ochre Valentines aren't a thing?

This is about 45 minutes to 1 hour's worth of printing.

This is the collection of each background print, sorted into categories of
light and dark foregrounds (ink) on light and dark backgrounds (paper).

Fast-forward about 10 hours of printing, where I have begun
printing (2nd block/foreground of) the heart design.

I have planks set up in my studio so that I can let the pieces dry before the next step, which is to spray each finished set with clear acrylic to fix the pigment,
to prevent the blocks from smearing by handling, as the ink is water-soluble.

I used foam-core strips and pushpins to hold the pieces together in sets of 6 pages each. I sprayed them outdoors with clear acrylic, and now they dry further here in the laundry room with the fan on to help alleviate the off-gassing chemical smell, and to let drying happen.

All of the printing has been finished! These 11 represent my personal favorites.
I choose my favorite, list it as 001 of the series, and give myself a Valentine.
(Hey, if you don't love yourself, why would anyone else?!)

It was such a tough decision, I picked my favorite of the 11 by
whichever one looked the most striking to me with 3D glasses on.
True story!

Ok, now for numbering each in the series, and signing them all.
I have a system for setting the total number and increment the counter for one for each Valentine. I test the alignment of the numbers on another piece of paper before committing to the back of each print (this has been a learned lesson). Music again, and I drink beer for this part of the process.

Once each has been printed with a unique number, I come back through
and sign each one with my initials and the year.

Almost finished! Now to cut the cards to size.

I used a circle-blade-ruler tool to align the cuts to be 4" wide,
and then again to be 6" tall.

This year I finished JUST IN TIME!

Thanks for having interest in my process.

Please feel free to follow me on twitter, ello, snapchat, and pinterest @stonedrew

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