Years before I really went into business at home and I’d just begun freelancing, I designed and printed my own cards each year. This initially meant in the 80s I created a design in black and white and copied it on a copier at work…then when I got a computer in the early 90s I printed them on my black and white laser printer, then my color printer as the years marched on, and then finally had them digitally printed as I do with most of my cards today.
But every so often I want to print a card by hand and I go back to my love of block prints—in fact, my first block print designs outside of classes in school were for holiday cards, not for wall art. I have pulled out and reprinted the half-dozen non-feline holiday card designs I have and still enjoy on new papers with my new press and will begin to offer them again, but for the past few years I’ve printed a limited number of two designs featuring cats.
I designed this linoleum block print for my holiday card in 1996. Back in the day, if you were a graphic designer using clip art, the “wood cut” look was really popular, and it also helped to really revive my need to create block prints. At first I was drawing illustrations that incorporated the signature patterns of long and short incised lines for both decorative pattern and dimension and shading as in the illustrated card I featured yesterday, “Peace” on “Earth”, hoping to actually sell some of my little illustrations to clip art companies, and, of course, cats were my first subject. I wasn’t successful at selling but still loved the look and decided to take it to the real thing because printing was, and still is, so much fun.
My hands have always had a little touch of arthritis and tendon issues, even before heavy computer use, and while I love wood blocks and the exceptionally fine details you can achieve, I decided to go with linoleum blocks since they were easier to cut and that put less stress on my hands. And then there’s the immediate gratification of being able to print the block that much more quickly.
I’ve earlier referenced losing two of my cats in 1996, Kublai and Allegro, and all the things I’d done to work my way through my grief that autumn. This was really my final big project in that process, and while I’d initially decided to try to avoid the subject of cats in my holiday cards, I could take joy in them again, watching them in their everyday play and activities, and thought I’d celebrate them instead, my whole household at once.
In brainstorming a clever visual or verbal “headline” in all the commercial art I’d designed I like to twist words, and “Meowy Cat’s Mess” came up as I thought through all the phrases connected with Christmas and other winter holidays. I worked my way through a few sketches with the text and the cats and pretty quickly came to this, with all these happy busy kitties waqlking all over and making a mess of my design!
I took the little feline silhouettes I’d designed years earlier, then stylized them for block printing in 1993 when I designed the “Tabbies” series. In this case, however, I wanted each of the cats to be a little different and more or less representative of the cats in my household at the time including a few prior fosters, so I designed them with stripes, spots, specks, white paws and solids, dark and light.
The design is derived from playing around with fonts then hand-lettering. I liked the design, but it looked to be floating on the card so I added a border with a bow because I liked how the cut lines in the bow and ribbon used for shading looked. Then I had to turn the whole thing backward to cut it out, which I could have done on the equipment at work, but instead traced the whole thing with tracing paper, then used green colored pencil on the “right” side of the paper, tracing the design onto the blog from the “wrong” side so the design would show up as a green outline on the gray/tan block.
Here is a close up of the corner of the design. The flecks of color you see are stains from the ink.
The linoleum sheet that’s cut is mounted on a piece of particle board which helps to keep the linoleum perfectly flat so the ink can be rolled onto it without missing spots and will evenly cover the paper when printed.
I keep all the blocks stored wrapped in a test print to protect the surface and identify the design.
Just in case you haven’t read this in prior posts, block printing is a technique wherein the artist carves the surface of a piece of linoleum, leaving raised areas which will become the image. Ink is rolled onto these raised areas, then a piece of paper is pressed against the block and when it’s lifted away the ink remains, leaving the image on the paper. Because of this process, each print is slightly different and therefore unique. You can see a little slideshow of the process in a recent post, “Featured Artwork: “Fawnball”. Because the block is inked before each card and individually printed, each card is slightly different.
I’ve also recently found an economical little Speedball printing press which enables me to print cards faster. I usually print only a dozen cards at a time because I have to have a place for them to dry for at least a day, out of the reach of curious paws…and that means hanging clotheslines in my studio and bathroom and clothes pinning them to hang to dry before I stamp my information on the back and fold them.
Where to find this artwork
I have this as both a card and a wood-mounted wall plaque.
This card is 5″ x 7″ and is printed in water-based acrylic ink on card stock in four variations, with several choices of envelope:
- cream card stock with red ink, cream or red envelope
- cream card stock with green ink, cream or green envelope
- kraft card stock with red ink, red or kraft envelope
- kraft card stock with green ink, green or kraft envelope
Cards are blank inside and can also be framed. In addition, this year I made a set of 5″ x 7″ wood-mount prints of just the prints.
Mewsette may look like she’s sleeping, but she is ready to get up and give instructions or even a helping paw at any moment.
Take a look at other new merchandise and featured artwork.
Once a week on Thursday I feature something new in my “shop”, whether that’s here on The Creative Cat, in my Etsy shop, on my main website or even at one of the bricks and mortar shops that carry my work.
Read about creating custom items
Find out more about creating custom items for your own home using the images you see here. Visit the “Ordering Custom Art” page to see samples and read bout how to order.
Find out about events and festivals where you can find me and my work.
Sign up for my e-newsletter (below), check the widget on the sidebar on my home page, or sign up to receive posts on Portraits of Animals Marketplace. I plan on plenty of events this coming summer in the Pittsburgh area.
I designate four portrait certificates each year for donation to benefit animals, and also donate merchandise, prints of artwork and even originals to rescue and shelter benefits. If you are interested in a donation for your event, please email me with the details of your event and your organization.
It’s all done under the close and careful supervision of my studio cats!