A side project at ECA

Throughout my studies here at the University of Edinburgh College of Art, we have been given briefs to do various projects. They're good for students who don't quite know what they want to work on, and they're excellent for trying out new ways of working.
     You may recall the 15 prints project I did last year - The Wild Hunt via woodcut. This year we've been assigned a CD cover, tying together the ideas of Landscape (for an upcoming conference on the theme), music from our homes, and created images. I decided to go with an Appalachian bluegrass tune from our mountain home in Epworth - "Muddy Road to Ducktown." I loved that it was so distinctly American and also honored a friend...
     The tune was written by a copper hauler trying to calm his beasts as they trudged along the Ocoee River Road, hauling copper ore to Cleveland, Tennessee via mule or oxen. If you've read my novel, A Bird on Water Street, you'll know that the area was completely deforested as miners cut down trees to feed the smelting pits that spewed sulfuric dioxide into the atmosphere and came down as acid rain, which killed any remaining plant life. In other words, the road in and out of the area was nothing but MUD.
     I've written stories (not yet published) about how the song has been handed down from fiddle player to fiddle player, a cultural treasure, but I'd yet to illustrate it. Now, Lisa Jacobi, my friend and one of the latest treasure-keepers of the song (it was handed down to her by 99 year old Bob Douglas, who played it live one year later on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry in celebration of his 100th birthday), she will get on me about the oxen - they used mules more often than oxen. But they did use oxen too, and that's what I've had in my head for ages. So, in the very short amount of time I had to do this project, I went with the oxen. Here's my process.
     It began with a quick sketch.
I refined it a little bit.
I then scanned the drawing to make sure it would fit my CD template and refined it even further. I added a third man in the wagon, and made sure I'd have room for the title. Notice this is all backwards!
Then I transferred the drawing to a piece of linocut board that I'd dyed blue (simply because I had some blue ink around). It helps me see the darks and lights better when I carve. I use carbon paper for the transfer.
Here's what it looks like, ready to carve.
Here are the tools I use - an inexpensive, student-grade set of carving tools.
I'm still not very good at linocut, but I have learned to carve in the direction things would exist in in real life. For instance, carve hair in the direction the hair would flow. It looks like this as I work.
And here is the finished carving. At this point I was covered in lino shavings and my desk was a complete disaster! :)
I wasn't kidding about the tight deadline on this. (Gads, they keep us busy here!) My carving was finished on Friday - after the print studio had closed for the weekend. No worries. I took a monoprinting workshop not too long ago. You don't need a big fancy workspace to do this. So, I bought a piece of plexiglass, a tube of screen printing ink, and borrowed a roller. I put down some newspaper and rolled the ink on. I laid the paper on top and pressed it down with a wooden spoon.
It took several attempts to get the ink dark enough and make sure the motion of my spoon wasn't obvious.
But y'know what? It did work! And I ended up with a lovely texture in the dark areas that I never could have predicted. In fact, that's what I love about linocuts - the happy accidents - of which, there are many. And I just love the energy you get with linocuts. Here's my final print.
The reason I couldn't wait for Monday to get into the print lab is it takes a good day for the ink to dry, which I wouldn't have. So, Sunday I scanned the dry print and laid it into my template, where I designed the rest of the CD. Don't forget - this is a school project and may not be completely or legally accurate with copyrights and such. But credit is given to the musicians in Lisa's band, PLAYING ON THE PLANET, and it serves the point of the brief. I turned the image to sepia to be reflective of the MUD. And here is the cover.
And here's the interior with the credits and the summary Lisa sent me (thank you, Lisa!). Oh - and I added an actual photo of one of the mule trains hauling copper. Ha!
All said, I'm quite happy with the way it turned out. But I'm especially thrilled by the breakthrough that relief printing is something I can do anywhere. THAT is exciting!!!

Update! Want to hear the song? CLICK HERE!!!!


Lisa Jacobi said...

Holy Smokes!!!! Is this what you've been up to since you got in touch with me? It's fabulous. You must sell this. There will be many, many people who will want your work. Elizabeth, this is incredible. I'm honored that you selected my version of Muddy Road to Ducktown. Thank you so much!

Elizabeth O. Dulemba said...

Yuppers - this is the project I was telling you about! Thank you for your kind words! I can't wait to present this project and share the awesome story behind it. Thank you for the text and for being the treasure-keeper, Lisa. HUGS, e