I’ve never done a small test/sketch print before. I always do drawings first, but not prints. However, with the new larger size I’m working (at least part of the time), it suddenly makes more sense. That’s a huge time commitment, and I saw a printmaker I follow on IG do a test print and thought, yes! Also it’s a chance to print at several different places in the carving process and see what I think. So here is a small test print of a tree tunnel just outside of Auvers-sur-Oise, just up a small path from the cemetery where Vincent and Theo are buried together. I went two years ago and went back several days later to sketch it again. Both times I got distracted by color and texture and straightened the tree out more than I meant to. So when I went to do a print, I pulled out my reference photos along with the sketch. The sketch captures what grabbed me about the scene, the photo helped me get the shape truer to what it is. Here are the sketch plus my more careful drawing for the print.
I almost never do reduction prints because once you cut away, you can’t put it back again. And I have trouble planning in my head several layers without being able to see them put together and then adjust them. So I usually do several blocks. But for this small test print (and a simple, two part image), I printed the green at two different stages first and then cut away more for the black to go on top, printing the solo black somewhere between those two stages. I still cut away more of the green than I think was good. I’ll go back in with markers or paint and play on top of these proofs before doing the bigger one. But I think it may be possible, with that level of preparation, to do a simple reduction instead of doing two separate blocks. That would definitely be less carving and also less expensive, buying one larger block instead of two.
Here is what the two different base layers of green looked like before I printed on top of them. I wish I’d left the green a little higher along the horizon line. That’s one thing I’d like to play with and likely change in a larger version.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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