Strangely, as I’ve been working I’ve noticed that some of the cut lines are changing. I would say I have quite a distinctive style of line and texture, but a lot of the marks are new or have a different level of detail to older designs, it’s hard to describe. I wonder if it matters? Will I reach a stage and suddenly decide that all the previous work is now redundant because of a particular mark I have started making, and have to re-do everything!
I am certainly talking more like a craftsperson at the moment. Which is interesting because I’m a visual artist, and more recently a performer or at least director of performances. So how do these factors impact on what I am doing?
I imagine that the way I am taking photographs is influenced by these other fields, and perhaps the way the figures pose, and the way that I imagine landscapes or backdrops will look.
Anyway, today (day 8) will be mostly cutting out one of the leg colour layers, and arranging all the colour blocks I have so far. I’m also keen to do a full figure rubbing from some of the parts I have so far.
Cracking on with the colour blocks today, this shape is a lattice with coloured diamonds sitting inside it and a dot inside one of them.
I’ve been using a bandsaw to cut-out sections for the colour blocks. But I am finding, much like with the carving, I get areas flaking back or lifting away. This is obviously infuriating, as it reduces the amount of potential detail I am going to get out of the blocks. One saving grace is that I am laying-out the colour blocks to slightly overlap the guide-line of the subsequent black layer to come- so they will be covered by a few mm at their edges. But this won’t save areas where a large piece has disappeared.
At the moment wherever possible I am immediately gluing it back on with waterproof PVA and clamping it (again if possible). But often the piece flying across the room or disintegrates as I try to pick it up. Sometimes it just refuses to lie flat which will just cause more problems that it’s worth.
Before I get to inking up I am thinking about coating the entire set of blocks in thinned-down layers of waterproof PVA as a kind of varnish that will prevent any flaking while printing, cover any small flaws (I could add material or filler here) while still allowing the wood grain texture to print, and of course take less ink to coat the surface. But what if the boards warp by being coated…?
One solution to the flaking issue with the bandsaw is to carefully grind away each area with a Dremmel which is what I have been doing since 10.30.
But it is sooty, smokey work- scorching the cutting surface up quite badly. I have some metal discs I can try, and some sanders, but the dust and smoke is still fierce!
Day 7 Fast-Forward to come later today, and it’s a good one!
This week I am going to try to create a set of interlocking colour blocks for one of the torsos. Then if there is time I’ll go back to carving the basket designs at the end of the week.
It’s funny, but I really needed the weekend to let my hands recover! Even though a lot of the larger areas can be taken away using the power carver, and I keep the tools pretty sharp, I still have to use a huge amount of force. A few times you can see the birch plywood bowing on the Fast-Forward videos, despite it sitting on top of 32mm MDF board. I am putting most of my bodyweight behind me as I carve. I’m also going down quite deep- through the first 2mm layer and often through the second, in order to make-sure no drooping paper contacts areas I don’t want to print.
Many friends and colleagues suggested I create the whole process mechanically- either with routers, or at least with detail and power carvers. But I’ve chosen to keep handmade drawn lines in the work, as they look so much more like the source material – the early wood engravings.
This project is called “Off-Press” because it’s an attempt to create enough pressure and accurate registration without a printing press. It is also called “/Printing Restraint”, because without a press it feels important to reduce, “punk” if you like, the complexity of the printing process to reflect its origins, at the same time as attempting something considered almost impossible using standard print techniques.
But I am far away from seeing ink on paper yet or building the components of my punk press.
To the bandsaw!