Monday, October 03, 2005

Easier but not necessarily better

I majored in studio art in college. My primary interest was graphic art, but the school I went to really didn't consider graphics to be a valid discipline - you were either a classical artist (painting, ceramics, etc.) or you weren't an artist.

Anyway, one of the traditional art discipline courses that I enjoyed and have used the most since graduating was the intro to printmaking class. In that class we explored most forms of printmaking: relief (woodblock, linoleum), intaglio, and lithography. Unfortunately we didn't learn screenprinting, which is something I'd love to try sometime.

At home I've enjoyed experimenting with block printing. Todd and I used to make our own Christmas cards every year - something I hope to start up again - he selected the text for the inside of the card and I did the artwork. I had a lot of fun trying different mediums and styles. Here's a linoleum block print Christmas card we made a year or two after we were married:

Linoleum is a great relief-printing media because it holds a nice crisp line. But it can be a little tough to cut, and it takes time and is a little bit dangerous - if the blade slips you can easily slice a finger. For smaller areas and for homemade rubber stamps I've often used Staedtler Mars Plastic erasers, which you can cut with an exacto knife and are a lot of fun to carve into cute little shapes. That's what I used for the little red A inside the above card.

And that's why I was so excited when I noticed these new (to me, anyway) blocks at Pearl Paint a month or so ago. They're like giant erasers you can cut for block printing! It was so easy to cut the shapes, and I was really looking forward to printing some greeting cards using this new material.

But argh! The blocks are so soft that the shapes distorted when I printed. The cards turned out ok (as you can see), and they were much easier to print than linoleum blocks are, but I'm a little disappointed with the quality of the prints. The lines are thicker than they should have been. I'll probably continue to use the blocks because they are so much easier, but now that I've experimented I'll have a better idea what the materials can and can't do.

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