I see watercolor paintings every day as I walk through Show Case en route to my cubby by Lydia’s Press. My experience with watercolor is nil, but I wonder if the lovely edges of its shapes (articulated crisply, diffused or implied) could be translated to relief prints. I know I can simulate the light build-up of pigment at the edges of an endgrain block on letterpress by slightly dropping the inking rollers. But what about a hand-inked linoleum block printed on an intaglio press?
To begin translation, I was thinking about… 1) etching linoleum with lye, which breaks down linoleum’s particulate structure to make textures similar to the pooled mottling of suspended pigment. And I thought about… 2) trying viscosity inking (layers of inks mixed to different viscosities, or tackiness, printed in one run) on the flat, uncarved surface of linoleum—this is usually done with a deeply etched metal plate. More elegant and direct, in keeping with relief printmaking and the freshness of watercolor, would be… 3) a 2-brayer monoprint approach. In the case of Mule, a blue-black base color with a warm brown layer under or over it. And… 4) torn-edge stencils could be used to layer colors on the block. Of course… 5) printing dry on a textured paper could yield some of these effects. Colette sprinkles salt—like a kind of soluble stencil or mask— onto her wet paintings for a snowy effect: 6) Could tiny BB’s of a plastic lubricant (Miralax?) mixed into oil-based ink separate from kiss-printed paper as easily as salt disappears from a watercolor surface? And … 7) Would the hardness of some granular ink additives permanently stipple the linoleum to a degree that the indentations are printable? Taken once through the press with the block face-down? For that matter… 8) Couldn’t one mix a water soluble material, like salt, into lightly applied oil-based ink and print wet to dissolve the salt—something like the lithography principle applied to relief printing?
I had 8 technical possibilities. Where to begin? Ideas 2 and 3 could be tested readily with materials on hand. (Next: try brown over blue; try to get the blended purple-gray to emerge via the two layers of color; this might mean tweaking the ink colors.)