Tuesday, August 23, 2011

2011 Soft Block Printing workshop

Dragonfly soft block print • © 2003 Karen Lynn Ingalls

This summer has been a whirl of workshops! Now I'm preparing for this Saturday's workshop on Soft Block Printing - a medium I love. I get so focused on painting that scheduling workshops on it gives me the excuses I need to just carve blocks and print for a while....

If you've never done it, block printing is kind of a next step up from stamping. Any purist would be horrified by that description, mind. Block printing has a long and storied tradition, both in the West and the East, beginning with woodcuts, and moving to linoleum blocks, or linocuts, about a hundred years ago. You can also use it to print on textiles – which is actually how it originated in China, and how it is still used in India.

Iridescence, an acrylic painting created using the same dragonfly soft block • © 2010 Karen Lynn Ingalls

But soft blocks are a much more recent invention. They were actually developed when some enthusiastic rubber stampers began carving their own stamps on erasers. In fact, the blocks I generally use are pink, and are basically made of eraser material. I've used them to print cards and art prints, and I have, over the last eight years, periodically worked on a series of paintings combining acrylic paint and soft block printing (such as the painting above). I really want to combine it with relief printing and stencils, too – something I've just begun to experiment with. They work beautifully when you're mixing your media.

Angel of Peace soft block print, printed as a Christmas card • © 2003 Karen Lynn Ingalls

Soft block printing is similar to, but much easier to work with, than either linocuts or woodcuts, because of the softness of the block and its ease in cutting. In the workshop this Saturday, we'll also be using non-toxic, water-soluble inks. We'll also use safety cutters, which actually allow more flexibility of expression than traditional cutters. I'll teach students how to design and cut the block for printing, and how to ink and print greeting cards and fine art prints.

If you're interested in coming, bring along some images you might like to make prints of – drawings? photographs? We'll be carving 4" x 6" blocks.

Songbird soft block prints, with multiple colors • © 2003 Karen Lynn Ingalls

The workshop runs from 10:00 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, August 27th, at the Calistoga Art Center, 1435 North Oak Street in Calistoga (at the Napa County Fairgrounds). Bring your lunch! You can register online at the Calistoga Art Center's website, at www.calistogaartcenter.org.

You can also see photographs of the process from 2010's two-day printmaking workshop in my August 2010 blog post. It's a wonderful process, and a rewarding medium to work with. (If you learn the process, you'll be welcome to join a group of block printers for future occasional all-day, non-instructional printmaking sessions.) I hope you can join us!

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