I've mentioned before that I've been learning to use a printing press at a local printmaking studio. I've been going every Monday and meeting with 3-4 other people with the stated purpose of using and promoting the letterpress machine. However, we've decided that our "mandate" is quite broad and as long as we might eventually use it for letterpress, anything counts. Last week, a member offered to teach the rest of us a new skill (that may come in handy for the letterpress).
So our new skill for the day was block printing. Well, for everyone else the new skill was reductive block carving. They all did block printing in high school and college. I'm the newbie when it comes to all these things.
Regular block printing requires one block for each color you use. Each block must be carved to only print the areas you want that specific color, and getting the registration (how the images from each block overlap on the print) can be tricky. However, you can always go back and print each block to make another print.
Reductive block printing uses only one block for all the colors. You carve the areas you need for the first color, print all the copies you want of the print, and then carve the block again for the next color. You can never go back and print with the first block again because you've changed it. But you use less material this way and it's easier to line up your layers.
How about a picture?
This was my first print. I carved away everything that I wanted to stay white, then printed in red. The inks are opaque so I can cover up the excess red(mostly). The black lines are from the pen I used to draw the image on my material. :( They weren't suppsed to transfer but they did.
This is the image of the block after carving away everything that will stay red. See the differences with the red print? This layer will print in yellow, but on top of the already printed red.
When I printed the yellow block on top of the already printed red, this is what I got. It's a little orange - we didn't wait for the red ink to dry, but I liked the effect anyway. Next up will be black, and then blue.
Of course, the reality was that I screwed up the printing of the yellow layer on almost all of my red pieces, so I only have two good ones and two more layers of ink to follow. But I have lots of pieces to practice on! And the main purpose today was to learn the process, and in particular, how to think about seperating the colors and what order to print. I might carve another copy of the first layer so I can print some more and have more good ones at the end. But that is the challenge of this method - your images always line up (if you print carefully), but it is truly a limted edition.
Overall, it was a lot of fun, and I'm hoping in the next few days I can finish the print. I'll post it when I do!