I just finished this print last night and thought I might go through the start-to-finish with you. It all starts out with an idea in my sketchbook. In this case you're getting something special because you get my idea and also some vegetables that I drew and some weird squid-thing (does anybody else look back in their sketchbook and wonder what their train of thought was at the time?). You'll notice that the mushroom has a mean face, that's because mushrooms are mean. I don't like them. I'm pretty obsessive-compulsive about the whole process and from the beginning I figure out composition and at least the ballpark where my colors will play. I figured out that I was going to carve two blocks and what would come from each of the blocks and then I started carving.
First thing I did was put the brown in the background of the portrait. I added some vertical lines to break it up a little bit and kept the brown pretty transparent so it wouldn't be too overpowering but help separate it just a little bit from the wallpaper. Then I laid down the light gold color that would end up as highlights in the frame and the lighter color in the pattern. The pattern was heavily inspired by a pattern I saw on a poster in Switzerland last summer.
From there I cut out a stencil that would cover the frame so I could finish the wallpaper and not get any green on the frame. After the two greens were run all I had left with that block was the darker gold color in the frame.
Now, one thing I've learned about registration: when working with multiple blocks it's generally easier to wait until you're finished carving the one block, trace the image from the actual print and then transfer what you need on to the second block. When I haven't done this I've noticed that quite often things tend to shift a little bit during the carving and then you end up with areas that don't register as nicely as you may want.
My original plan was that the second block would only be the grey, used for shadows and as fill for the fur, and the black linework which would (hopefully) pull everything together. But after printing a couple with everything black (including the linework around the frame), my teacher, Kathy Puzey, suggested that I do a darker brown on the frame because it was too harsh a contrast with the warmer colors that were in the frame and were taking away from the portrait itself. And so one last color quickly became two, but in the end I think it turned out quite nice.
And here it is. A print of a portrait of my cat, Capital G: