Week Two of Linoleum Block Cutting was finishing the sampler and printing. My sampler had me conceptualizing, sketching and using nearly all of the gouges – a real run through the creative gauntlet, but a practical adventure!
The printing exercise is more practical adventuring in water-based ink, several kinds of papers and different methods of ink transfer. I imagine that Victoria’s house must be a lot like Victoria’s brain – every corner stacked with “options” for art. Not in a pack-rat way, but in the visionary’s way of seeing the world. Living your creativity like that, you are literally surrounded by opportunity to make art.
Up a narrow staircase to a bare-brick wall room in this old firehouse, a dollar store cookie sheet is my palette, where I’ve rolled out a sheen of water-based black ink with my brayer. I ink up my sampler liberally, or so I think. The first print comes out so-so; a lot of light spots on my brown craft paper, which is another example of seeing opportunity – it is simply the paper that separates expensive sheets of rice paper.
I squirt out more black ink onto my cookie sheet palette, feeling a little like I’m dispensing some kind of macabre toothpaste. It seems like too much, but it is exactly what I need. Another laborious application with the brayer and I position my sampler again for printing, this time using a Baren rather than the wooden spoon. Shaped rather like a hamburger press, I prefer this method of transfer as the handle is more comfortable than a spoon in my usual fear-of-failure death grip. I rub away.
Lo and behold, we have a print!
I’m not great at this. The linoleum often crumbles under my gouging; marring what little third grade level design I was able to transfer. Unlike my attempts at guitar and knitting, however, linoleum block printing hasn’t yet felt unattainable as an art.
Our next project is a bookplate, this time carving on softer, “gummier” linoleum. I transfer my simple sketch and realize that due to the fine lines I will need to begin with the “veining” gouge – the narrowest of the carving knives. A.K.A., my nemesis.
What’s this? My gouge gliding along, smoothly slicing out the thinnest of lines and behaving for me on a curve? Is this me carving linoleum? Gummy linoleum…I think I love you.
I received an envelope back from The Sun magazine this weekend. It was fat, and the addressing was in my own handwriting. Not a good sign. My story had returned to me, read, but unaccepted.
Difficult things are usually worth doing and if it’s worth it to me I suppose I have to keep trying. I’m not the first writer to get a rejection letter (though, it was more of a kind apology), but this is my first.
There are worse horrors in life. I guess I roll out the ink, and try again.