25 January 2006

Not This, Not This

With A Black Outline

I decided to try a black outline on the birds. It was fun to carve. I wanted it to be off-register, and since the prints had alread dried, I tried printing one dry just to see how much off-register it would be. It's off a lot! Amazing how much the paper expands when wet.

At any rate, this print isn't "right." This is an interesting statement to make and consider, because how in the world do we as artists know when our work is right or not right? "I like it" or "I don't like it" is only the tip of the iceberg. What I experience is that there's some kind of inner touchstone that creates a felt sense of rightness when I reach it. There's a feeling of "yes" when the image hits the spot. But what exactly is "the spot?"

Big questions. At any rate, I know I'm off the mark on this one. It's too heavy, there's too much pigment. I'm trying to capture my sense of how it feels when the "knots of the heart" are loosened and the heart begins to open. This is too much about the knots and not enough about the loosening. I want it to be lighter. I want it to be more beautiful.

It's also a little hard to let you see my "mistakes" and struggles. It's embarrassing. But I know I learn so much from seeing other people's struggles. When Lynita Shimizu showed me that she has stalled, unfinished and unloved prints I was so relieved. I felt more permission to fail, to learn by trial and error.

Anne Lamott wrote in her book Plan B: "You never know exactly where the knot is going to release, but usually, if you keep working with it, it will."

So I will keep working with it.


keng said...

Perhaps the solution is to use black selectively instead of as a continuous outline. In other words, perhaps add a line along the feathers and as a "shadow" along certain edges.

tom said...

Hi Annie,

Interesting thoughts on "rightness". Progress is unlikely if one is too easily satisfied with one's own work. I think it is essential to be prepared to restart a project.

Regarding this print, I think too much weight went into the background prior to the foreground being printed. I think the design is fine, but the tones are too heavy. You probably should have printed your spots first, perhaps in light sumi, or pale yellow. Then the green overprint would have bought colour unity to the background, making it less dominant.

At risk of stating the obvious, perhaps you should try trialing your prints before printing a whole stack of paper. The balance of a print is very hard to predict, a finished print will give you many ideas for improvement.

Thanks for being brave and sharing your misadventures.

Mike Lyon said...

Hey -- your print is WAY better than you let on! My two cents:

You can rewet the paper in the usual way(s) after it's dried without a problem -- I Like the black outlines (very traditional), but for the depth and business of 'background' I'd like to see the birds in very pale yellow, orange and/or blue -- perhaps with just the narrowest of bokashi into deeper color at the edges... Then more sensitive variation in width of the black contour so the birds fill and turn a bit...

-- Mike

PS the goma-zuri in the background stencils is pretty charming!

Renee said...

I don't see the problems you do. I think that this image is the one before the knot opens. When the excitement and joy are starting to flutter around, then the knot opens slowly like a flower.

lydia said...

Fascinated with woodblock printing. Will come and visit often.

ken said...

for what it's worth, i love it, it reminds me of some african batiks (correct spelling?) i've seen. the birds lead my eye away from the knot, so the picture seems to open up as i look.