Good Tidings, 2019 Edition

With December comes the onslaught of consumption, debate, and cheer associated with the holidays (though let’s be honest, it starts much sooner and goes away much later, if it ever does). I’ve been up to my own holiday activities too, with the main one being my annual card. Today’s post will take a look at what I’ve been printing.

Every year I try to vary my printing process, both to challenge myself and to keep things interesting for the people who receive them. The one theme unifying all my cards, however (with perhaps the exception of the first one), is the use of local or regional scenery I’ve sketched. When I was in Roswell, I featured local plant life, animals, and famous New Mexico artwork. For my first year here in Virginia, I featured one of the buildings in Colonial Williamsburg.

For 2019’s card, I decided to highlight the giant magnolia flowers that caught my attention over the spring and summer. I’d seen magnolia blooms before, but they had always been the smaller varieties that come in pink or white. I hadn’t seen the giant ones in person before though, and their luminous, almost leathery petals and strong fragrance really intrigued me. I sketched them on multiple occasions while they were in bloom, and have been experimenting with printed versions, so it only seemed fitting that I include it on the card.

This study, itself based on a quick pencil sketch I did on a bike ride, became the basis for this year’s card.

As for the actual printing technique, this year was all about using leftover materials. Initially this approach developed from necessity: I couldn’t find the supplies I wanted at the local craft store and didn’t feel like driving to Richmond. What initially started out as a frustrating lack of access, however, became an opportunity to look at what materials I already had available in a new creative light. After all, a lot of the art I’ve made takes inspiration from older, long-forgotten sketch material or unfinished prints, so why not turn the same creative eye to the actual art supplies themselves? With that, I began rummaging through my art supply chest again, and found I already had everything I needed to make my cards.

I had some leftover relief printing blocks from a workshop I taught in Roswell a few years ago, so I used one of these. I had used these to make demo carvings for my students, but they’re not the kind of block I usually like to. They have a soft, eraser-like consistency, and tend to crumble if you try to add a lot of detail, but they’d work for a small, simple magnolia.

The tissue paper after I’d cut it up.

I was originally going to print my flowers on some marbled Rives paper I’d made back in Roswell, but I didn’t have enough sheets to make a full edition (I had gone to the craft store looking for new marbling supplies). A second look in my art chest, however, revealed a whole stack of marbled tissue paper I’d done with the intention of making chine-colle prints, but never got around to doing.

Getting ready to glue the tissue paper onto card stock.

Knowing the surface would be too delicate for a block print, I cut up the tissue paper into individual squares and glued them on to a white card stock I’d gotten for metal point drawings, using Modge Podge as the binder. Once the paper dried, I began printing. I initially printed the magnolia in white ink, but it didn’t show up well against the busy marbled background, so I switched to black.

Finally, I glued the individual prints onto some card stock I picked up last year, again using Modge Podge. Here are the finished prints:

A selection of the finished cards.

I think I did a pretty good job using what I have. I’m guilty of buying art supplies while ignoring the materials I already have available, so this card exercised my creativity in a different way. Rather than just automatically buy what I wanted, I looked at what was already in my box and finally put some long-neglected materials to use. I think we’d all benefit from that kind of introspection and purposeful reuse.

Good tidings, everyone.

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