Wednesday, September 16, 2009

My First Carving (gulp!)


I finally made it into Dakota Art Store to buy a linoleum block carving tool. This nifty little gadget by Speedball, has five different blades that all fit inside the handle when not in use. It cost about $13.00, but I have seen them online at Dick Blick and Speedball for less. I wanted to shop local so I was willing to pay a bit more. 
 I had heard that using blocks of something called Speedy-Cut would be easier to carve in than linoleum for a beginner like me.  Looking at both the lino and the Speedy-Cut blocks side by side, I could see that the lino is stiffer than the Speedy-Cut and it seemed more forgiving. So, I  got a small block (2"X 5") of Speedy-Cut to cut into. Then, I beat it home to get my carve on!!

  I decided to do a printing of an owl. I sketched out my design and transferred it to the block. To do this I turned my finished picture 
over and rubbed pencil over the area the design was in. Next, I positioned the drawing, pencil rubbed side down, onto the  block. Now the drawing was face up again and I then traced back over the entire picture again. When the paper was taken off the block, there was the owl! The drawing on the block was light, so I went back over the lines to make them stand out more. Then I added some more detail like a crescent moon, a star and some leaves on the branch. Anything you carve will be printed in reverse. Keep this in mind when transferring the image to the block. That means text will look backwards. I have not carved a block with any lettering on it yet. That will be a later post!

  This is what the block looked like with the
finished drawing on it.

Now it was time to carve. I LOVED this part of the project!!With the help of my husband (who has done block printing in the past) and a video tutorial from Urban Outfitters, I came up with this.

 I started by carving the outline of the owl first, then the rest. I used the smallest (#1)blade for the tiny details and the largest blade(#5) on the remaining image. The trick here is carve out everything that you want to be white or not pick up any ink. Always remember to carve away from yourself, the blades are sharper than they look!
Ready to print! I put a pea sized amount of red and yellow acrylic paint on a big plastic plate. You need a plastic or glass non-porous surface to roll your ink or paint onto. I mixed the colors by rolling the brayer (roller) through the paint until I was happy with the shade. I kept rolling over the paint until the brayer was tacky, then I rolled it over the surface of the block. I quickly found out that too much paint made the print blurry. Doing test prints on scrap paper is the way to go.

 This is what one of the better prints looks like. I got so excited about the whole thing, was not paying attention, and  printed on the wrong side of about eight blank greeting cards. That was my worst mistake, not too bad! I'll find a use for the misprints, don't you worry.

 My head is buzzing with all the carving ideas I have. Too bad I have to eat and sleep!