One of the thinks that I love about prints is the malleability of the medium. When you are working on an image, you can change it in so many ways… you can add or remove plates, you can rework plates (some processes adapt to this more readily than others), you can change colors, you can change print order, etc. Each of these can have enormous impact on the image.
Unlike a painting, however, once you have put ink to paper, that particular proof is difficult to change. Ordinarily, this is not a huge problem, but as the size of the work increases, when things don’t go quite as you expect them to, this can get expensive.
My current work in progress has been causing some problems along that line. The first color (of three) is a very transparent light green. When I did my trial proof to look at colors, registration and the balance of the image, I printed on 40lb butcher paper. This is my normal approach, and the trial proof when fine. When I began to proof on edition paper (Rives BFK, 300 gsm) I discovered that this more absorbent surface resulted in significant roller marks in the large flat areas. A change of roller, tweaking the ink, and a lot of care yielded some improvements, but I still wasn’t happy. I had four proofs that were close, but not close enough.
I could reprint with a more opaque ink, but I had already invested quite a bit of time and money in these proofs. I could over print these, but unless the registration was perfect I would get a bit of a double image, bluring the crispness of what was there. With some thought, a solution presented itself. This is a pseudo-reduction woodcut, so some areas would be hidden under subsequent layers. There were however, some large flat areas that would remain exposed. I mixed some additional ink very close in hue, value and chroma to what I had already printed, but slightly more opaque. I then marked on my plate the areas that would be exposed. I then rolled up those areas thinly with this new ink. I then took a pad of tarlatan (a stiffly starched cheesecloth like fabric used to wipe intaglio plates and make ballet tutus), rubbed it over my ink slab to get it inky and lightly buffed and patted the inked areas of the plate. This smeared the ink and provided a bit of texture. I then took a clean rag and very carefully wiped the ink away from any of the cut areas of the plate. I then overprinted the existing proof.
The result is a very subtle texture in the flat (the inks, as well as having different opacity are not a perfect match) That texture obscures the roller marks in the underlying layer. Since there is no ink at the edges of the cuts or in the texture of the cuts, there is no tendency to show a double image. The proofs are saved.
You could say that it looks now like I intended for this texture to be there. While it wasn’t my original intent, I did make a consious decision (there is that word again) to add some. Another case of rolling with the punches that the medium throws at you. You just have to figure out how to make it work.