Thursday, July 14, 2011

The vagaries of the Creative Process

Dear Pickwickians, I feel I must explain the lapse in posting. It is purely my own fault. Work has been proceeding at a rapid pace at the Pickwick Independent Press despite the drop in correspondence on this page. The shop has doubled in size; lots of counter-building, cupboard assembling, and other construction-type hootenannying has occurred.

"But what of the Valentine printmaking project?" you ask, oh normally patient Reader. And rightfully so! For did I not promise a second installment of the story in progress? Did I not lead you on into thinking that any day the project would be completed, and presented for your edification and approval? Well, I will explain what happened, and you will judge for yourself whether the reasons are sufficient or not.

Firstly, I did print a proof of the printblock as promised. However, I made a mistake, in that I opted for the quick, easily available ingredient of water-based ink. Dear reader, that was a terrible mistake. "Why?" you ask in your innocence (perhaps a few of you are nodding your heads wisely). I sigh, and must answer you by saying that I loathe water-based blockprinting ink. Yech! It does not have the sweetly malleable consistency that makes oil-based ink such a pleasure to roll out on the slab. Instead it is a sticky, chalky-colored abomination that besmirches the name of ink everywhere. Bah. Needless to say, it did not produce pleasing results.

Secondly, after pulling the proof print, in revisiting my print block to make improvements to it based on the proof image, I found that the softness of the material of this particular type of stuff is so soft that making precise alterations to the original cuts is very difficult to pull off smoothly. This is a terrible irony, since the softness of the material seems to make initial cuts very easy. Ha! So, as many artists find, the original project idea does not always work out as envisioned (a lesson to all of us on waiting until the last minute to proceed). This often leads to distraction by other, more promising (or less argumentative) processes. So in order, here is the visual trail of my Valentine travails:

1. I have inked the block for a proof print of my valentine design.

2. I use a flat block of wood to hand-burnish the paper onto the block, making a proof print. Firm, even pressure is necessary, but care must be taken not to wiggle the paper around on the block, smudging the ink and ruining the image.

3. I carefully peel the corner of the print up to make sure it printed thoroughly. Yep!

4. Now we can compare the print and the block. Right off, I can see that I definitely want to clean up some of the fineline detail, since it just seems to get muddy when printed. I also want to clean off the background around the heart and print it clean. Sometimes it's nice to have a bold, expressive border, but I don't think I like it this time.

5. I made an abortive attempt to address some of the aforementioned desired changes. Annoyance, disaster, a feeble foray into finetuning -- the results. The list is short and also annoying. Linocutting tool -- the set at hand did not have the same keen edge as the set I had used to start the block. Block squooshyness -- already mentioned. These two factors made adjustments to the fine detail of the block impossibly infuriating (not to mention just plain impossible).

6. And then the distraction sets in. Why bother with clearly not-meant-to-be-done-in-time Valentine printmaking when other tools and opportunities lie at hand? How convenient for me that I was scheduled to take part in a Valentine's afternoon bombardment of Congress Street? I and two friends had arranged earlier in the month to sit ourselves down in the windows of a 4th-story studio at the Artist Studio Building and foist a fairytale-like fluttering of paper hearts out the window in an attempt to raise the drab February spirits of the general populace. As in past years, the means were many and varied. A humongous roll of pink paper had been scavenged from the Free Table on the third floor. Glitter had likewise been procured. With scissors in hand, we determined to run amuck in the spirit of Valentine bandits everywhere.

And so, dear Reader, a positive plethora of Valentine watercolor designs flowed from my brush, painted in waterproof gouache paint on a nice heavy white paper -- my personal addition to the pile of paper love to be tipped bit by bit onto unsuspecting passersby later that afternoon.
The paper was scavenged from the paper scraps in the Pickwick studio, from the bin where paper trimmings are left, etc. After painting designs down the strip, I tore them neatly into individual valentines.

NOTE: Dear readers, something tragic happened. This post was originally put up over a month ago, and then something peculiar happened and it disappeared from the blog. All that left was the truncated version above, which ends abruptly. I promise to re-write the rest of the post at some point, because the further events of Valentine's Evening are far too entertaining to leave you in the dark about. 'Til then, ....