Tone Tests

Do you remember that, tucked firmly in the back of my mind is a goal to find ways to introduce “tone” to my woodblock prints. I used ghosts in my first set of leaf prints a while back as a first try at creating areas of ink color in between “no ink” and “fully inked”.

Then, in my workshops with Robert Canaga, I learned another few techniques. Finally I squeezed in a whole day between cloth production and shows to try some of the materials and techniques that he had introduced me to.

In the collagraph portion of the workshop, we learned about all kinds of acrylic media with beads, pumice, and fiber in them. They impart interesting texture and tone to collagraph prints, and I thought that they might do the same for woodblock, too.

[Medium Pumice Gel on Woodblock]
[Fine Pumice Gel on Woodblock]

They do. This would have to be one technique combined with others, but this initial test showed me that it is possible to create a stippled “tone” using relief ink application onto this pumice medium.

The next thing I tried was simple, just wiping the relief plate with a tarlatan in the way that intaglio is done.

[Wiping A Woodblock]

It worked, too. Again, I would probably use this technique on only one or two layers in a complex print, but I can see here that it works.

The last test was the most complex. The goal here was to replicate the effect of a ghost print, but without creating two other “throw away” prints to get the block inked up for the ghost. To achieve this effect, I first rolled pumice medium onto the original plate. Then, using a clean roller, I lifted some of the medium from the original block and transferred it to the main block.

[Block with Pumice Medium]

The result is a smooth wooden block with a pattern of “schmutz” on it. The trick comes when I wipe the block of ink before printing. In the smooth areas, the ink wipes off easily. In the rough areas, the ink stays on the plate. The boundaries between these two areas are kind of “smoky”, depending on the tarlatan texture, and the wiping pressure and speed.

[Complex Pumice Ghost on Woodblock]
It’s exactly what I wanted! Again, this print on its own is not very interesting, but combined with the other techniques in a multilayer print, I can see that this would give the hazy, smoky, tonal richness that I’m looking for. I can’t wait to see how these techniques eventually get folded into my work.
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