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  • Writer's pictureChiara

A Day in the Studio

I work in a studio which I share with dozens of other students, so I’m never quite sure what I will find when I walk through the door in the morning. Sharing the studio also means that things are often not as clean as I would like them to be. The building is old—and fascinating—so even if things have been cleaned up beautifully, grit and dust are an everyday reality. So, my first job when I walk through the door is to give the ink slab a good wipe over. I gather the palette knives and roller/s I’ll need for the day and make sure they’re clean too. I like to spread clean newsprint over my work area. It contains my mess and offers me some protection from random ink blotches left by my colleagues. Then it’s off to my desk to get my own equipment.

Once my work area is set up, it’s time to say “good morning” to my prints. At this stage they have been drying in the studio racks since the previous layer was printed. The ink colours change a little as they dry. My perspective on the work I’ve done also changes a little. As I pull the prints out of the racks and interleave them with clean newsprint, I’m doing a mental audit. Some prints go on the “dud” pile to be used as rough proofs. These are the ones I’ve given up on for the final editions, but they are useful for checking my block and matching colours. Others need to be sorted in terms of colour variations for the next layer. The prints for my edition need to be evaluated and prioritised. I started with ten prints to work for an edition of five. So I’ve budgeted for a 50% attrition rate. A few of these will be lost through errors. Others will be weeded out because of inconsistencies in my printing, but they can still be used for colour variations. From the rest, I’m hoping to make five prints which are as consistent as possible. When my prints are ready and my work area is set up, I set the press ready for printing.

Mixing colours and proofing the block is the most time consuming part of my printing day. Once the block has been carved, I proof it on newsprint. There are always stray bits of lino and spots I’ve missed in my carving. I have to make the difficult decision when to stop cleaning up the carving. I like the incidental marks that speak of the lino-cutting process itself, but I don’t want them to distract from the image. I’m learning to think about the shape of the remaining marks while I carve the block, rather than simply using the tools to clear material. When the block is ready, I start proofing over the previous layers of the print. I’ve reserved some of my “duds” for this stage. This is when I discover how the new layer of ink will interact with the previous layers. I’m still surprised at what a difference that interaction makes. I’m using multiple thin layers of ink to build up the image progressively. Experiencing the transparency of those layers is one of my major areas of learning in this project. When I’m satisfied with the colour, it’s time to start printing my edition. When that’s complete I clean up the ink from the slab, rollers and palette knives. Now it’s time to play with colour variations until I run out of prints, time or energy. Finally It’s time to clean everything up and go home.

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