May 31, 2010

New Kid on the Block

Last October, my super talented friend Lindsey sent me this block printed card. It's a fanged cupcake with bat wings. Isn't she the coolest?

I didn't know what block printing was at the time but I knew I needed to find out. I LOVE carving pumpkins . . . I go nuts every Halloween and spend hours carving them. The thought of having a craft I could carve all year long really appealed to me. I love getting lost in a project and when I'm working on a pumpkin I'm seriously somewhere else. Planet Pumpkin. It's not unusual for me to spend 8-9 hours (collectively . . . I do have a kid to take care of!) on one pumpkin.

When Lindsey explained it to me I realized that I had seen my husband carve one when he was in art school (both my hub and Lindsey graduated from SCAD). At the time, I was in school also . . . and up to my eyeballs in Faulkner and Shakespeare so I had no time to take an interest in it. But now that I dying to try block printing . . . we couldn't find John's old tools. The tools really aren't that expensive but if we already had a set I couldn't bring myself to buy a new one (especially when I had already spent a lot of money on purse supplies).

On Mothers' Day, I found this note on my dresser:

The inside:
What I found:
Isn't he the cutest? The hub always knows what to get me. I'm really lucky to have him!

Basically, "block printing" (also called "linocut" or "lino block") is where you carve a (usually) linoleum block to make a stamp. You then "print" it by rolling special ink and stamping it onto paper (or fabric, etc.). Here's a basic rundown if my lame explanation makes no sense!

My first block print came out really great. I picked a very simple image: the outline of a raven. It's not just any raven . . . it's a very specific raven (no, it's doesn't have to do with Edgar Allan Poe). I'm very excited this came out because it's for a special project not to be revealed at this time. ;) If you recognize this image, you get 1000 cool points! If not, it's cool . . . you see it again soon . . .

I did another block soon after but it was sort of a disaster. I tried to do a portrait of (get ready) Robert Pattinson. Let me get this straight. I'm not a fan of "Twilight." I'm just a sell-out trying to make money OFF of "Twilight." Okay, it's not just for the money. I just really like carving portraits (last year's pumpkin was Johnny Depp as Sweeney Todd). With "Eclipse" coming out soon, I thought I'd try to do some cards, etc. I dove into the block blindly and it came out looking like Corey Feldman. If I do another Robert Pattinson block that comes out right, I'll post the "before" and "after" pics. It's pretty bad.

I said something on Facebook recently about trying out block printing. My sis-in-law Laura then requested a block print of a matryoshka doll. I actually laughed out loud for real because it was so random. (How many of you literally "LOL" when you type it? I think we need a new system like, "NIA" for "nodding in acquiescence" or "SS" for "sarcastic sniff." It's just more honest.) Laura was an exchange student in Russia and loves Russian culture, so I guess it wasn't so random for her. Anyway, it was an awesome suggestion and here's what I came up with:

Left: My sketch. Right: An early "print" midway through the carving
The finished block.
Finished print.

The block I used wasn't linoleum but a softer, pink material (by Speedball). They are a lot more expensive but so much easier to carve. Although, I have to admit that the color of the block is just too close to human skin and it freaked me out to carve it. Sorry, my mind thinks gross things sometimes. Another perk of the pink blocks is that you can easily transfer your image to it by ironing it. Although, be sure to pour all the water out of your iron because steam can melt the block. I made that mistake . . . that's why the bottom of the doll print looks a little funky.

I'm fully aware that matroyshka dolls are traditionally "nested" with smaller and smaller dolls. I just couldn't bring myself to carve the same thing over and over only smaller. BUT, I'm working on some new matroyshka prints where each doll is wearing something different. I'll be sure to post the results when I'm done.

If you're interested in block printing, be sure to check out this great tutorial from a pro. I'd love to see your block prints!


Tina said...

Wow, I never knew such a thing existed. Very cool.

Laura said...

i love it!!! i love the doll too! i have plenty of matroyshka dolls if you need any ideas. i have an apron of one that i'm thinking about framing to put in my dining room so i will have to have you make me some cute plates or something to go with it. love it and your crazy talent.