I have been spending this winter developing a number of new prints and I want to share about one of them. "Midsummer Feast" is a hand colored linoleum block print, based on a meal of chanterelle mushrooms and summer squash over egg noodles. I have been following along with the #printersolstice challenge on instagram, and one of the early prompts was "in good taste". It made me think of this meal which was possibly the best meal I had all last year. Jamie and Rayna and Daisy and I went to Lincoln to hike along the river, and while we were there Jamie found a patch of chanterelles. Rayna had never found them before, but she and her daughter Daisy have always loved to look for mushrooms together, so needless to say everyone was very excited and suddenly we were on a chanterelle hunt. Rayna and Jamie both found a bunch and we stashed them in an empty chip bag (that is a tip for you if you want to keep your foraging spots secret, or if you find yourself without a basket, as was the case with us). Back home we collected some summer squash from the garden to cook up with the mushrooms. I can't even tell you how delicious it all was! A true midsummer feast.
I started by sketching the meal itself. To the left you can see how I started to envision a series of three panels to tell the story of the meal. Color felt important to this piece from the beginning, but I didn't yet know if I would achieve it through reduction, multiple blocks, or hand coloring. Chanterelles are known for their matte orange that can call to you from across the forest, and the squash we grew last year was colored like the inside of an avacado.
In my next sketch I started to work out the composition for the three different panels. I use drawing as a way to think and problem solve, using extremely simplified forms so I can quickly try out different compositions without getting lost in the details. In high school our art teacher always urged us to make lots of little sketches before starting on a final piece, and I never did! I just couldn't see the point. I think it's because I hadn't yet learned how to simplify my forms. Now I couldn't imagine making a print without working through my ideas in this way.
With the basic composition laid out, I proceeded to work out the details. On the right is my final sketch, and on the left is a tracing of all the major outlines that I used to transfer the design onto linoleum. You can also see a tiny drawing of Rayna and Daisy that I considered adding into the top panel. I couldn't make them fit, but it's possible they will come back if I ever make another chanterelle print. (I believe this is my 4th chanterelle attempt, one of those things I keep coming back to in my prints, like birches and wood-heated cabins.)
Once I transferred the outlines of my final sketch onto the linoleum, I went over them with a brush and ink. A sharpie is honestly mush easier to use for this purpose, but all of mine were dried up. The bush and ink does have it's perks. It is hard to control the lines so you end of with different thicknesses and a distinct wobbliness, which keeps the piece loose and vibrational even though I've drawn the same picture several times by this point.
After all of that planning I finally started carving. This is an opportunity to further refine the line quality. I really liked the wobbliness of the brush and ink lines, and I emphasized that, especially in the squash leaves and stalks which are quite bristly in real life, by wobbling my tool as I carved.
And here is finished block next to a pulled print!
This one I painted as a gift for my mom's birthday. I'm really happy with how it looks once colored in! I used gouache, which I find works great for painting prints. It is water based, and my printing ink is oil based, so there is a slight resist effect, which means I don't have to worry about accidentally painting over my outlines. It also has a powdery matte texture, so similar to that of chanterelles. I learned a lot from making this piece, and I'm excited especially to work more in this comic style, and to make more hand painted prints.
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