block printing video 03.06.14


Yesterday afternoon, my friend, Randy Greenwell, photo director at The Virginian-Pilot, shot this little video (link below) of yours truly making the last block print (Robert Cray) in my series of 25 portraits of the greatest musicians from Hampton Roads. The series, beautifully written by staff writer Rashod Ollison, will kick off this coming Tuesday with Numbers 21-25 and count down throughout the week until Sunday, when the Number One Greatest Musician will be revealed in a giant, colorful 2-page poster page of all the prints together. Each day, I’ll post the block prints that run.

I started each portrait with a photo reference which I cropped into a 4X4″ square. Then I would freehand copy it at the same size in pencil on another piece of paper. When I was satisfied with the sketch, I would draw over that with black ink using a fine brush – this would give me the look of the final block print. Once I’d transferred this (I would cover the back of the sketch with black pastel, then trace over the front of the sketch with a ball-point pen) onto a block of SpeedyCut, a soft linoleum material made by Speedball, then I would carve out the white areas with a gouging tool. I used oil-base etching ink to brayer onto the block, then printed an edition of 4 onto 9X12 acid-free paper. The prints took overnight to dry, so I’d come in the following morning, title, sign and number each print and select a print to be scanned in black-and-white for publication.

I knew going into this that it would be difficult – I had to commit myself to it over and over, urging myself to concentrate and focus. Even as hard as I tried, several of the blocks were carved twice or three times to get it right.

It was a challenge which would’ve been impossible without the support of Paul Nelson, my friend and director of presentation. He freed me up for 7 days in order to get this done, a tremendous hardship for a staff that’s already pretty maxed. But the design staff at The Pilot is the best in the biz. Also my thanks go to Jim Haag, features editor, who postponed the Sunday page a week because there was an ad scheduled for the front. Robert Morast, entertainment editor, fellow designer, Luis Vilches and Rashod, gave me the encouragement to finish on time.