I took the name for this traditional linoleum block print from the ancient Greek legend of the singer Orpheus and his wife. Orpheus and Eurydice were deeply in love and happy, but on the night of their wedding Eurydice ventured out into a field (some say to dance) and was bitten by a snake and died. Orpheus then descended into the Underworld and got Hades to agree to allow him to take Eurydice back to the realm of the Living, provided he did not look back at her on the way. Tragically, Orpheus looked back almost as he and Eurydice were about to be reunited, and she remained in the land of the dead.
The high heel shoe implies dancing to me and a beautiful woman, and the bear trap in the field shows the misfortune and the sudden snap of deadly jaws that sealed Eurydice’s fate. Below are the different sketches I made before making my print and adding watercolor to it. Eurydice was originally made for Hand Prints 2012 and went on to appear in mixed-media collage form in last year’s Earth Day Art Crawl (above).
A couple of months back, I got back into linoleum block printing again after an absence of more than a decade to participate in Hand Prints. I started with five different designs: Eurydice, Daedalus, Tentacle Raccoon, Bait, and Angel Rex. They were easy enough to create digitally (my current primary method of making art), but things changed once I faced the task of carving them, inking them, and getting them onto paper. It was quite the logistic challenge to figure out where in heck to do the printing and what I needed to do to make each piece come out all right. I took some photos of my workspace during the process.
I cleared half my kitchen table and made different stations for each activity. From the foreground: 1) rolling ink onto the brayer, 2) inking up the plate, 3) pressing paper onto the plate and burnishing and 4) wetting the paper.
As you can see I have an incredibly exact method for measuring out 8×10 inch sections of paper for printing.
I used the same method to measure out 5×7 inch sections.
To cut the paper all I used was a metal ruler and a cheap mat knife. I also have an old Xacto knife I use for that stuff.
A random glass casserole dish I can’t remember ever using makes a lovely surface for spreading ink. I have no idea where I got the cardboard either, but I think it used to be an appliance box. I found that putting paper onto the plate and then holding it in place with my hand while burnishing it really hard with the slightly convex top of my pepper grinder worked best.
I used a bathroom towel and another random casserole dish for wetting and then blotting the paper for the 8×10 “Eurydice” prints. They needed damp paper for the solid black sky to really come off the plate well. The 5×7 “Angel Rex” and “Bait” prints were much crisper and better using dry paper, as I discovered.
At the time my youngest son was still in a bassinet in our room, so his un-used crib doubled as a drying rack.
Millions of Rexes!
(My oldest son served as my cheerful and handy assistant.)
I’ll post images of the actual carving process next time around!