Last week, I printed the Sisters of Mercy linocut with the violet ink tinted with white. It’s on a pale blue Japanese paper with long fibres that I like. Then, on the weekend, I was out of town in Prince Edward County in Ontario. The countryside was filled with lilacs–lining the roads and lanes and in the small towns. Many were pale lavender but some were a deeper hue and even pinkish. As I admired their beauty and scent, I thought that the violet of the print had happily followed me into nature. The mercy of lilacs!
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I have finally returned to the block print inspired by Leonard Cohen’s Sisters of Mercy. Though at first glance this proof looks the same as the earlier one, I have added a few details to the mouths and hands that I felt were needed. And I’m happy with the results.
The ink I’ve been using on these rough copies is actually a deep violet though it looks nearly black. So my next step will be to pick up white ink and see if adding some will bring out the violet more. I’ll show you the results once I’ve done that.
I was ill over the past while and only got to printing a first proof of the Sisters of Mercy block print this past weekend. If you’re not familiar with printmaking, a proof is a print of a block that may not be fully complete. You can print the block at different stages to see how it’s coming along and whether the print needs more work. In this case, I’m happy with many aspects of the print and can see where I want to further carve the soft cut lino block. I’ll show you the process as I go along.
The two photos show the green and violet inked block to the right of the printed image. I’ve always been fascinated with the symmetries you can get in printed images by repeating them in different orientations. Here, I played with the block itself and the proof. Because they are mirror images, when I put them right up against each other I saw some neat (as in neat-o) patterns that show up in the last photo.
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After Leonard Cohen died, I remembered an interview I heard a few years ago with the Iranian Canadian journalist, Maziar Bahari. He had been imprisoned in Iran and falsely accused of being a spy. He was subjected to torture and didn’t know if he would live or die. One night, he had a dream that brought to mind Leonard Cohen’s song, The Sisters of Mercy. Though he had never been a fan of Cohen’s music, he felt that song had a major role in saving his life. Through it, he found a place within himself that his captors and torturers could not destroy.
Part of that interview was replayed this fall after Leonard Cohen died. I had never been drawn to The Sisters of Mercy, but as I listened to the words this autumn, I knew they would help me deal with this time of darkness in the world. So, I’ve learned the words and have begun doing some artwork related to the song. After doing several sketches, I finally arrived at one that I wanted to use. As I looked at the sketch, I could see it as a linocut and I decided to return to linocutting to create the image. I gave up linocutting around 20 years ago, though it was my favourite medium, because of repetitive strain from carving over the years. Now I considered the roving pain I have as an elder. And I thought, I already have pain, so I’m not going to be afraid of it. I’m going to return to printmaking–something I love dearly. I have found a soft lino substitute that can still have crisp lines cut into it. I’m experimenting with that and with working for shorter periods of time at a stretch. So far, this is working.
Here’s 2 photos of the carving in progress. I’m using carving tools really made for children, but that work fine! I’ll show you the print once I finish it.
Good holidays to you.
Oh the sisters of mercy, they are not departed or gone. They were waiting for me when I thought that I just can’t go on. And they brought me their comfort and later they brought me this song. Oh I hope you run into them, you who’ve been travelling so long.–Leonard Cohen