Street Printing: Roadworks Steamroller Event at SFCB

My carving is done. I let it go and brought the three-foot-square piece of linoleum over to San Francisco Center for the Book, where it will be printed in the street on Sunday, September 23, 2018 at the Roadworks event. I am both excited and a little nervous. Excited, because I've been wanting to do this for years. Nervous, partly because most of the work I've seen has been precise and in an illustrative mode, and I tend toward the expressionistic and work in a looser style.

I also work small, or assemble the large out of the small, so this was a terrific challenge for me. First I drew a rough sketch, about nine inches square and submitted it for consideration. Accepted!

I scanned it, blew it up in Photoshop, reversed it, divided the sections, printed out the pieces, and taped it all together. Big bird!

Tracing over some artist's transfer paper (coated with graphite), I transferred the image to the linoleum, then worked on the drawing with ballpoint pen. The drawing is the most important part. The carving, I knew, would go pretty smoothly.

As I mentioned in this post, I bought some new carving tools to facilitate the big bird's emergence. How is it possible I've been using the cheap Speedball tools for over thirty years? The new tools made carving so much easier. And they include a larger gouge to clear away larger areas. I worked from my original screen shot, which was a still image from the Osprey camera, as well as my own large drawing. For company, while I was carving I was chatting.

Eventually, it was hard to tell what the image was going to look like. The wings had to be right! Because I do all my printing on my letterpress, I don't have a large stand-alone inking roller, but I do have some small ones. I inked up a little four-inch brayer and inked up the linoleum. After thirty minutes (or was it an hour?), I could see what it was going to look like. I pulled a proof, knowing it probably wouldn't print well. Not enough ink, not good paper, but it would give me a good idea. (Photos from the second time around, after the words were added.)

It took another hour to clean. I went back to carving. Time to add the words. I took a walk and the voice came to me: it's Richmond the male Osprey, talking to his offspring. I could include information I had learned from the Live Chat on the Golden Gate Audubon Society Osprey web camera as well as from what I'd read in several books. I included the book titles in the carving.

I inked and printed it up again. This would be the last time for hand printing. I did a little finish work, touching up the marks. And decided it would be best to stop now. There would be no Undo.

In Photoshop I could reverse it, so this is pretty much how it will look when printed, but without the glare!

"How to Build a Nest"

I really enjoyed working on this, probably because I have been so engaged watching the Osprey nest now for the second season. Richmond is like a character in a story, and I feel like I know him and Rosie, his mate.

If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area on Sunday, September 23, I hope you'll stop by. I'll have a booth at the fair: a book art and printing block party in front of the Center. I'll be at the event all day, from 11am to 4pm. I hope to meet you there!

Addendum 7.14.19: here's Robin's video of my print being pulled.


Laura Allen said…
I really enjoy seeing your process posts, and this is an awesome walk-through of a large carve. Did you hand-carve the script too? Any tips on that?
dinahmow said…
Alisa, it's looking fabulous!
Alisa said…
Thank you so much, dinahmow!

Laura—yes, I hand-carved the script. As a kid I practiced writing backwards, which turned out to serve me well as a printmaker. That's what I did here. But that's not required!

Really the best tip is to write it out by hand on paper (or computer), scan, reverse it, then use the transfer paper to trace it onto the linoleum. Another trick is to write it out onto tracing paper and turn it over, then trace the back.

When you carve, follow the lines and think slightly ahead of the cut so you know where your line is going. Turn the linoleum so you are carving away from you, if you can, so you don't contort your hand. And lastly: sharp tools and medium light touch! Clean up any lines or overcuts with X-Acto knife. That's pretty much it.

Alisa said…
One more idea: type the text in a typeface you like, reverse it, use the transfer paper with the script you've chosen that way.