Translation: Painterly Printmaking

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?

colette's mule, flip
Mule, detail. Watercolor by Colette Pitcher.

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.)

Mule, after Pitcher, viscosity test 1 - Copy
 A. Stiff blue ink rolled atop looser   brown layer; Q-tip used to lighten. 
Mule, after Pitcher, viscosity test 2
B. Very stiff blue rolled unevenly on top of lightly inked brown layer.
Mule, after Pitcher, viscosity test 1
Detail of image A
Mule, after Pitcher, viscosity test 2 - Copy
Detail of image B