Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Failure is an Option

It seems like, in general, most people (including myself) share our success stories on our blogs and in our social media realms.  This is fine and nice to let others share in our joy or to be an inspiration for somebody else.

But how often do we share our failures?  Why would we want to do that?  Failure in our society isn't seen as a positive thing.  But aren't we suppose to learn from our failures?  Then, how can we learn if we never fail?  What if someone else could learn something from our failures?

"I have not failed.  I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." - Thomas Edison 

You have probably heard this quote before.  Edison must have learned a lot from so many attempts which eventually led to something that did work.

I am going to share one of my recent art failures with you today.  As most of you probably know, I have been getting into printmaking for the past several years (thanks to the local printmaking studio, Wingtip Press).  Wingtip hosts a print exchange every year (this is the fifth year) and I have participated every year.

This year I wanted to attempt a reduction linocut.  I have just done a few of these in the past.  You can see the one I did last year here. This time I wanted to do a four color reduction.  Starting with the lightest color, I printed yellow.

As you can see, there wasn't much I needed to carve out of the block.

Printmakers also call the reduction linocut the "suicide" print.  This is because you continue to carve out sections on the same block for each color.  If you mess up, you cannot go back and print more.

I started with about 26 prints hoping to get 14 that would turn out o.k.  Here are all the yellows printed.  So far, so good.

Then I carved some more and printed the second color, orange.  Already I had missed the registration of some of the second color as you can see by the middle one on the bottom row.

More carving and the third color was green.  

On one of these, I actually printed the plate in the wrong direction.  I guess I wasn't paying attention. The registration is also off on many.  At this point, I pretty much knew I wasn't going to get enough good prints, but continued on.

Finally, the last color was black.

They don't look too bad from afar.  But take a closer look.

Above you can see that the registration of the colors is off from the edges and the stems in the middle.  The extra lines on some of the leaves are what printmakers call "chatter" from the block. Often I don't mind the chatter, but I don't like it for this piece.

Out of 26 prints, I got zero that were acceptable to me.  A complete failure!  I was so bummed because the Leftovers deadline was looming and I now had nothing for it.  (I did manage to do another print for the deadline and will share that in another post.)

What I learned from making this print:

1)  Reduction linocuts are hard!  I already knew that but they get even harder with more colors.

2)  I need to figure out a better way to do the registration.

3)  Thin lines don't work very well with this technique.

4)  This design probably should have been in a different process altogether.  I'm thinking maybe as silkscreen print (or hey, how about fabric!).

5)  I think I liked this design better with just the three colors (yellow, orange, green) but couldn't just stop at that point as the design wouldn't have been complete.

6)  Practice, practice, practice will probably never make it perfect, but it will make it a lot better!

7)  I need to figure out a way to repurpose failed prints into new art (collage?) so I don't waste the paper.

And here is an artist that really knows how to do it - Stuart Brocklehurst.  He shows the progression of steps of the pieces he is working on, on his blog.  He prints his by hand (without a press).


Anonymous said...

What we as artist see are the errors; Looked ok to me; but you have a certain standard that you did not achieve. Glenn

Linda M said...

They look wonderful from a distance, love the design. Look at how much you are learning, each of your designs gets more complicated and interesting, it's fun watching the progression.

Leigh Wheeler said...

Wow! How cool! that would definitely be a trick to get the 'chatter' out. Stuart B is quite amazing! 13 colors in his - it boggles the mind. Well, mine anyway. Best of luck with the process and getting your registration to come out properly.

Lisa Flowers Ross said...

Thanks for the comments.

Glenn, I think as artists we know and are concerned with all the details of the pieces we work on. The viewer sees the "big" picture and doesn't know what we were aiming for.

Linda, I am learning something. Hopefully I can apply it and get better.

Leigh, Stuart B boggles my mind, too. His work is great. Even when he shows the steps on his blog, I still wonder how he does it!