I had the best day.
First of all, I woke up and the pink roses outside my window arched along their thorny boughs in their full extravagance. Second, I made oatmeal and read the paper. Third, the house was quiet as I contemplated my day. I already had a plan, but I still had time to contemplate it. That's actually the fourth thing: a plan, and time to contemplate it.
I went to school (i.e., work), but first I went to Target (the sixth good thing). My plan, the one I had already made and then contemplated, was to finish printing the full edition of my class's publication. I had six or seven broadsides from each student that had not been through the etching press, and thus had no monoprint upon it. Because the semester (at least for English classes) has not yet started, I knew, or hoped, that the Publication Center would be mostly quiet, and that I would be able to print in that quiet.
Let me pause to say that I have not ever printed all by myself on the etching press. We got that etching press last summer, and it is a beauty, and I have printed with my colleague the inestimable Kat Allred, but I have not done it all by myself. But I really think that, with things like this, you need to have a solo adventure, first of all to summon up and practice what you actually do know how to do, and second, to recognize where you still need to learn.
I got there, and I was right: mostly quiet, mostly alone in the Center. So I began. I retrieved the broadsides with words but no images from my office. I retrieved the linocuts that would be the matrices for the monoprinting. I got out the inking plate and the ink, the brayer and the knife. I summoned up the spirit of Kat and I squeezed some ink--not too much--on the plate. I used the knife to spread the ink so that it was even, then more even, and then I used the brayer to make sure the ink was in a thin, thin layer.
I planned out how to make four prints at a time, using four different matrices on four different broadsides. I worked my way through six or seven prints of each broadside, then moved/changed the matrices on the press bed.
The ink I used was Caligo, Process Blue. It is an indescribably beautiful blue. As I used it, I learned what this ink looks like, and what the subsequent print looks like, when there is slightly too much (very blue, deep deep indigo, and a little blurry), and what it looks like when there is slightly too little (a gorgeous cobalt, a little faded around the edges). I also saw what it looked like when I had just the right amount of ink (perfect).
I made a little over a hundred prints today. I felt my amateurism as I was making them. I felt myself learning. Outside the tall windows of the Center, I could see rain falling. I fell into the spell of that blue and I washed my hands many times with blue soap, to remove the traces of the ink on my skin. Then I started again to take the tattoo of the amateur printer, blue spots on fingertips, as I moved the words to face their inked matrices, turned the crank, the cylinder rolling over it all, and lifted the pages, a little tacky, from their ineffable blue pictures.