Free of all that carving malarkey, I am currently testing out inks and fluidity (many thanks to Mark Carr for his pointers on this). I’d previously been sealing the wood with waterproof PVA, and many of my peers apparently use varnish – all so the wood doesn’t absorb three times the amount of ink before touching paper! On fine lines and texture I was also hoping that the PVA would create a stronger block to handle the super high pressures they are going to go under. But I am told that sealing the wood will change the texture of the wood itself, something I’m really keen to hang onto, especially in wider areas of colour.
So having sealed areas of tester block using light washes of PVA at different strengths it appears that there is a noticeable difference in the final prints I’d be getting. In the next image (although using a very dry ink that doesn’t give complete coverage) you can see the texture difference as a deeper hue on the right (raw grain), and a more ‘pixelated’ lighter texture on the left (1 layer of PVA wash) and this ‘noise’ gets worse with subsequent layers of PVA.
So, although I have one less job to do because I don’t need to seal the entire collection of blocks, I do now run the risk of fragile areas crumbling, and having to buy at least twice as much ink as I originally estimated for!
So, the need to extend one of the basket objects means that I have had to come up with a way to attach a ‘filler’ segment without any surface area to glue it.
So far so good. Then try to disguise the joins within the basket design…not so easy.
But, with a bit of sanding back on the join and lining up the pattern, perhaps adding a single layer of paper to add a 1/4mm of extra height to the inserted piece- I think it will be passable. Which raises an important question; is it ever acceptable to bodge or repair artworks?
Surely if the work is to be respected it must be as perfect as you can make it? Yet, most viewers wouldn’t even notice the repair in the final image, and it is days of my time I would have to do again…
Personally I think if this was the final object I would have to bite the bullet and re-make it from scratch. But as the ink lines on paper are the final product, I believe with relief printing it is possible to make adjustments and repairs without any reduction of quality. Perhaps it is also related to the scale of the final work here, which might make the repaired section almost unnoticeable anyway. Am I just making excuses for not re-doing it? Perhaps…
Having so far spent about half of this project carving baskets, I am delighted to say that after a further 5 days behind the curtain, the last main basket object is done, and inking up is just around the corner!
Of course, when this is all over and I look back I’ll probably imagine this was a golden time of pleasant afternoons spent whittling away, whilst listing to the radio and sipping coffee…rather than 11 hour shifts and wrist strain! do I slightly wish these bits would have carved themselves.
But I have been able to go with quite a handmade look, doing only the most basic laying out, the rest being entirely worked out as I went along, and this was really satisfying. I also feel it better represents the origins and references that I am so keen to show.
On this last bit of basketry, I envisioned a section with little animal arms that could be slotted in between other printing blocks. but foolishly as I finished the second ‘paw’ I spotted a mistake. I hadn’t left enough room for the paws to sit either side of any of the lower body sections I’ve made so far!
So close and yet so far. I figured I would complete the piece with a gap in the centre, whereby I could cut the block in two and insert an extra centre piece, extending the paws out so as not to overlap anywhere…
… and leaving the trim un-carved so I can adapt it with whatever shape I end up with!
I’m finding myself waning a bit in enthusiasm for carving the same shape and pattern over and over again with the basket heads depicted in these new works. I probably shouldn’t say that! But it is pretty tedious work, 11 odd hours to carve the rabbit head one, and I’m on an even bigger ‘tail-head’ currently, with another to do after that… It just saps away at what is otherwise a really interesting project. But at least it is only a small section of the whole work.
I get a lot of time to think though, and having created so many disparate components of human figures and animals (woven) I now wonder if my final piece will change?
My intention had been to create one complete figure in a landscape, reflecting on its own origins of wood engravings via live performances in Bristol and in Scotland… But now I wonder if the material itself demands a really different approach. Perhaps seeing components that go well together alongside others that really shouldn’t! So that the intention of a ‘standing figure’ is lost or becomes monstrous in a more contemporary way.
Throughout the process so far I have made it clear in the carvings that the figures are me dressed up and wearing animal heads, feet and tails made of wicker or similar. But this ‘reveal’ of what is behind the ‘monstrous’ almost cries out to be messed-with further! I’m imagining gravity defying poses, multi human headed, legs attached only to other legs etc. Perhaps creating a set or collection of giant prints rather than a single chosen piece.
Only through this kind of approach am I going to be able to really challenge the content as well as the medium. Importantly though I will preserve the ‘innocence’ of the blocks I have made and I don’t intend to make any more for this project as yet. So they will feel more like genuine attempts at standard realistic standing figure compositions, that have been ‘cut-up’ and repositioned.
(love the way this image looks like an upper body carving an upper body)
Either way, I’ll have these baskety-critters finished by the end of the week (I hope!) and then its time for phase 2, rudimentary press elements…