Onwards, finally with my ‘Farm Girl’ series nearly ready to release, I can share with you how I spent my winter.
I like to stretch myself. I had been watching @biginkprints in USA and Printapalooza at the @tekowhaiprint in Whangarei on Instagram with envy for a couple of years.
I noticed they mainly focused on super large black and white prints. I mean massive! Amazing!
A seed was planted and I wondered if I could pull off a super big reduction woodcut print?
Photo: My drawing on the woodblock for the limited edition reduction woodcut print.
1100mm H x 900 mm W
I had spent a couple of months thinking and drawing till I was happy with a plan that was worthy of the trouble and in the realm of possibility.
What I like about working large is the physicality. When painting I am able to use my whole body to create gestures. Inspired by that idea I was determined to make large gestural marks through carving.
I carved until my hands had trouble straightening out, as they were more used to being wrapped round the carving tool.
Then I carved some more.
At some stage my little one came alongside me, curious about this thing I was spending so much time on and said “I couldn’t do that Mum”.
I replied ‘I don’t know if I can either, we will have to wait and see”
I kept carving.
My mangle press, although beautiful, is not able to do massive prints.
I had put the idea of doing a big print into the I must do that at some stage basket.
Until one day when my cousin Mark Blundell was showing me his roller. The time had arrived! I jumped at the opportunity, measuring the roller width.
When I had the block ready to print I rang my cousin. A great supporter of my practice, I was delighted when he said he would bring the roller round the next day.
My family and friends were starting to get curious. The worst case scenario I explained was me breaking this good looking block in two.
Nightmare material! But it definitely added to the excitement!
With the school holidays starting it was the perfect time to attempt this mission. Usually I share my busy Gallery+ Studio with my students but for 2 weeks it was all mine. I knew I would need the space to hang the large prints to dry.
Getting the paper ready was hard enough. It was like wrestling with a polar bear on ice.
It made me realise I would need an assistant. Everything was too big to handle alone and let’s be honest I have always wanted a technician.
“Oh yes just how I want to spend my weekend” said my Wife. But I twisted her arm. We did some testing. All was well.
The next day I was psyched to print the first colour.
Unfortunately my new technician didn’t feel the same way. It was a very cold day and she had time to realise the magnitude/madness of the project. She needed convincing, I jollied her along promising her that she would look back on the project fondly.
Mixing the magic red colour I was thinking how much will I need?
Ideally I would make enough for the whole print run of 6 massive limited edition prints. Not an easy amount to guess/calculate.
(Note: Freakishly at the end of this day I would be delighted to find I had mixed exactly the right amount for all of the prints)
At the end of this day my technician (Wife) couldn’t help but be relatively impressed at what we had pulled it off.
Surrounded by massive prints that were already showing promise. My limited edition reduction woodcut print was well on it’s way.
Having printed the first colour of my big reduction woodcut print in a mammoth day of printing I was ecstatic but as I cleaned the studio and let myself relax I could feel my body was not so delighted.
Printmaking is a physical thing on a normal day. What I had done was completely next level. I lay on the ground exhausted and hoped I could walk the next day.
Luckily I awoke the next day feeling remarkably fine and I was relieved that the first part of the project was complete.
It was now time for the prints to hang drying and me to keep carving once again at that same block of wood as part of the reduction process.
I set goals for each day, carving for many days on end, often 5 hours at a time until finally the block was ready for the last colour.
Turns out everything is harder when you print at this scale. Rolling and lifting the block are doable but registering the paper in place for this big reduction woodcut was paramount.
Once again I needed help. Since my last technician had to go to work I roped in someone you might recognise?
Yes it is Blyth Tait @blythtait1
The moment of truth!
I had asked myself “Can I do a massive reduction woodcut print with an industrial roller?
The answer is “Yes I can!”
The pride and relief I felt when I hung up the finished prints was BIG!
The reduction process is a risky business at the best of times, as you don’t know if it will work till it’s all over.
Therefore this project was bordering on massive madness!
Each day of the many months spent on the work I would wake hopeful, telling myself I could do it.
I had a clear vision of what needed to be done and a strong belief in the magic of the process. I had fully convinced myself it would work.
But in the end, as I stood surrounded in these massive prints I was still surprised that I had managed to will these prints into existence.
‘Going round in circles’ Limited edition of 6 reduction woodcut prints on 300gm Fabriano paper, 1130mm x 920mm unframed, 2021, Katie Blundell Artist.
I hope lockdown is treating you ok? Honestly, I have found this lockdown to be demotivating. The rhythm of my normal creative routine has had to change. My Art Classes are on hold and I miss my busy Gallery + Studio surrounded by lovely people. Many great Art plans have had to be halted/cancelled. There are lots of unknowns.
So, I have a creative plan to help put the ‘Spring back in my/our step’ I am doing drawing sessions for Adults and Kids alike Monday-Friday this week at 3.30pm each day LIVE on my Katie Blundell Artist Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/KatieBlundellArtist/
See more details on the Facebook page. I hope you tune in and draw along with me.
There is good news, I was super excited to find out I am a Finalist in the 2021 Walker and Hall Waiheke Art Award and Exhibition.
As the year progresses, I will have to give you up to date details as I/we adapt to the changing times. For example:
I am still planning to be open as part of Art Week Auckland 5th – 14th November TBC
I am still working towards having my Exhibition Farm Girl with guest Artist Jeff Thomson here at my Gallery + Studio Opening 3 Dec TBC
Then hopefully on Auckland Anniversary Weekend we will have our Clevedon Art Trail Open Studio Event and Riverhaven Artland Sculpture Park fundraiser for Franklin Hospice.
Lots to look forward to.
Hopefully it can be done!
Go team New Zealand!
I look forward to seeing you later today on my Facebook page if you are free.
Katie Blundell Artist