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how to get started

The first step in any printing project–really any art project at all I suppose–is sketching out a plan for the project. In printmaking, unless you draw directly on to the block, once you’re happy with your drawing you’ll need to transfer the image over the the block somehow.

Before image transfer I sand the block down slightly with a 250 grit sandpaper block. Once this dries I take a copy of my image on tracing paper and tape the sheet grafite side against the sanded lino block. Being careful to keep the image from shifting transfer the grafite onto the block by directing pressure on the back of the tracing paper–I often use the bottom edge of a lighter but many things will work here.

Once the grafite image is transfered go back over everything with black permanent marker. With the outline complete on the block stain the surface with red ink. Lately I’ve been using Higgins drawing ink, but whatever works is fine. The red stain creates a strong contrast which helps guide you in the carving process.

From here you’re ready to carve out the first layer or, in some cases, the only layer. I tend to work in multiple blocks.

Once the master carving is complete the process for getting the image to any additional blocks is a process I’ll cover in a later post.



what a clown sees

My entry into the Dark Art Society sketchbook project is titled What A Clown Sees. This was a fun print to work out.

The original design had a bathroom sink and more distinct mirror encasing the reflected face and there was an arm holding up a toothbrush. A large area of that version was black. When I began working the image out for the sketchbook project I found myself slowly scrapping  detail and with it most of the black areas until I came down to a pretty minimalist maybe abstract sort of concept.

Here are two color build videos. One is closer up and the other a more full shot of the sketch book. I’ll get some progress posts up here in the coming days explaining the process.

Next I’ll make slight edits to a few of the blocks then edition out the different versions sometime in the near future.





upcoming updates

As I make a bit of progress I’ll get updates posted on current projects.

Current projects include a submission to the Emerald Print Exchange which is put on annually by Whitaker Printmakers and Print Arts Northwest. You can read about the Emerald exchange and see my past submissions along with the whole catalogue of years here.    

 I will once again be submitting work to the Relief Conspiracy print exchange. This exchange has been put together in recent years by the talented printmaker and educator Scott Minzy.

In the past few days I have completed my submission to the Dark Art Society sketchbook project. At some point a website for the sketchbook will be made public, but at this time we have an instagram account set up for eventual updates. The sketchbooks are going out to nearly 80 members of the DAS who will each add their contribution. The end goal seems to be auctioning the books off (there are three total) to raise funds for the Dark Art Society. And I’ll tell you now, from what I saw in the only handful of pages filled out before the book I’m contributing to reached me, this is going to be worth every cent.

finished revolver #2

Here is verison #2 which I think of as the standard or baseline for this image. I suppose because it was the first color scheme I settled on before exploring alternates and likely because he comes out looking more “human” than some of the more what I would call colorful versions.

finished revolver #1

Here is the first in a variable edition of Revolver.

Over the coming days I’ll post the rest of the edition before I go through them for quality control before finally signing and numbering what I decide to keep. I always see room for improvement in my work, but am very happy with the way these turned out. I used up to ten blocks per version.

Revolver took so many blocks due to a need for swapping out colors for a number of isolated areas which would have been a nightmare to print from a single block.


revolver comparison shot

Tomorrow I’ll begin posting photos for the completed Revolver edition. In the meantime I wanted to share a comparison between a carve I did in the same veign as Revolver matched up against the version I settled on. The final version came after a bit of studying the human figure from online tutorials. I hadn’t ever really sat down to do this foundational work and, as you can see, doing so has quickly improved my work.

weird little nude figure

Today I’ve got this strange little naked figure.

This print comes from a notebook sketch when I was practicing different aspects of the human figure. I carved this sketch up into a woodblock and thought it might be fun to add some color layers.

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Alan Smith Printmaking