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First Colors on "Freezing Over"

Doubt and faith are familiar companions when I start a new woodblock. No matter how much thought and planning was put towards the initial color runs, when those first colors appear on the blank paper, doubt nudges its way forward. Is the color too dark, or too light? But I have learned to have faith that my vision and planning will prevail.

1) For the start of the woodblock “Freezing Over”, I wanted a warm glow with soft edges on the foreground snow. So, the plan was to feather on color in two areas. I started by carving out the whites and mentally marking the areas to receive the soft coloration.

2) It is important for me to have all my tools at hand before I start printing as I want to focus on the print process and not worry where this or that tool is. The porcelain tray holds a small amount of clean water to charge the sponge.

3) The sponge was dipped into the water tray and then water squeezed out so it was damp but not dripping wet. The areas to print were moistened, making sure the surface of the block was evenly moist without puddles. I will warm up the block by moistening the surface and allowing that to sit for a few minutes.

4) A small amount of the ink mix was applied to the selected areas. A proof or two will resolve the question of how much pigment to apply. I am always surprised at how little ink one need to apply to get a good color. The tendency is to overload the area with color, so I try to show some restraint when applying ink.

5) I used a surikomi brush from McClain’s Printmaking Supplies to spread the ink. I brushed out the ink evenly in each area and then blended the edges of the ink into the moistened block. Use the first few prints as proofs to perfect the ink applicatio

Working with the moku hanga process in the Southwest, where humidity is low, the inking process needs to move along without distractions. The block will dry quickly on a hot summer day.

6) A course texture baren was used to apply pressure. Doubt comes into play when the print is pulled so I take time to evaluate the value and temperature of the color to the original sketch.

The first color printed by itself seemed stark as it was the only color on the white paper. Yet, once a few more colors were printed, that first color did not seem as bold, and took on the subtle coloration desired.

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