The Bird comes off the Block

After having worked on this print of one of my cream legbars for over a month (I began it on October 23rd) it was time to print it this morning. I showed up early, set up the press, cut my paper, scrubbed my block and rolled out the ink. All of these actions take on the significance of ritual when you have been looking forward to seeing a print as long as I have been anticipating this one. I held the inked brayer over the clean block briefly and savored the moment. And also my heart beat a little faster. I won’t hide that from you. Printmaking is magic and one should approach it with the proper wonder and trepidation.

Here’s a cool cock-eyed picture to show I’m hip and that I get the pun in “cock-eyed” when it comes to a hen.


Here we are before the plunge. There’s no ink on the block yet, just the original drawing. And also many, many hours of drawing and cutting.

I took my time, building up the ink on the block slowly so as not to fill in the finer cuts and then put it on the press bed. No matter how carefully I make my cuts, it is always a surprise when I see the ink rolled on the block. It’s always so much blacker, so much richer than I thought it would be. I pulled the first proof and I loved it. I even had a very small (very, very small – vanishing actually) catch in my throat! I was afraid that I had not handled all the different textures well and that the chicken had blended in with the busy, busy background; but it looks to me like everything stands out properly with all aspects of the print being clear.

One thing that always gets me about linocuts is the fact that the final image is the reverse of the image as drawn on the block. I spend hours and hours – probably 25 or 30 for this image – looking at it one way and then have it suddenly reversed at the last minute. I always have to do a double take.
Like I said before, this is magic, pure and simple. I have the idea of a chicken, make a drawing of it, cut out and refine all the lines and then – BOOM – something that looks like what I drew, but not quite, is sitting there on the paper, fully made as many times as I care to print it.
Success! We have a chicken prowling the front yard!


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