I eat a lot of chocolate. There are worse vices to have.

I don't know how long that will last with climate change altering our ecosystems, but in the meantime, it's something of an ambrosia for me. I prefer dark, so usually once a week I buy a bag of chocolates and ration it out.

Perhaps I was a magpie in a previous life, because I can't help but notice the shiny foil every time I unwrap one of these little delights. Thinking they might be useful for a future project, I've started hanging on to them. I've long had an interest in leafing, but I'm too cheap to buy gold or silver leaf, so I thought the foils would suffice as a substitute.

As it turns out, those little foils came in handy when I used them on these tree prints:

For the past few weeks, I've been experimenting with controlling the shape of my marbling. In other words, rather than marble an entire sheet of paper, I've been tinkering with ways to restrict the inks to a specific area. So far my most successful attempts have been with simple, rectangular forms, but I'm hoping to eventually be able to expand into more complex shapes, such as the sycamore above.

The cheapest way for me to do this is to hack up plastic bags and tape them down to the paper. Grant it, I think plastic bags are evil, but if I find one blowing around outside I'll take it home and use it.

The ink slides off plastic, but adheres to the exposed paper. Here's an early experiment:

The white areas were covered by the plastic when I dipped the paper into the marble bath. Obviously I didn't tape it down that well, hence the bleeding and leaks. Primarily I just wanted to see whether it would work at all.

Why all this experimentation with marbling, you ask? Primarily I've been wanting to test the limits of this new medium, but I also wanted to combine it with a recent linocut I'd done of a sycamore (once you've seen in a previous Sketch of the Week). I thought the marbling would effectively suggest the mottled bark, but I also wanted to evoke the tree's inner energy, to allude to not only the coursing of its xylem and phloem, but also to offer a hint of its consciousness.

I started by tracing the outline of the linoblock around my papers, and covering the edges with plastic, as I only wanted to marbling to occupy the area of the linoblock, not the entire sheet.

I was marbling bigger pieces of paper than usual (this time I was using 11.5" x 15", up to now I've been working with 6" x 8" pieces or so), so I used one of my plastic storage bins:

Then I marbled:

Just out of the tub.

Plastic removed. Note the white border.

The next day I went down to the Museum classrooms to print the linocut on the press. The result was attractive, but I wasn't finished yet, because I wanted to restrict the marbling to the tree itself to emphasize its inner energy flow.

This was where the foil came in handy. I could have used ink, paint, or some other medium to cover up the background, but I liked the dynamism of the foil. Just as the ink had responded to the movement of the water and my swirling stick, the foil would respond to both the light reflecting off its surface and the viewer's position in relation to it. It would give the print additional visual energy while providing clarity.

Once I returned home, I started the long process of applying the foils to the background. I had a lot of negative space to fill, but I'm a patient person when it comes to my work (in other aspects of life though, not so much).

Just starting to add the foil.

About half finished.

It probably took me about five evenings to leaf all three prints. The first one was the slowest, as I was figuring out of to do it, but by the final print, I was working pretty quickly. Two of the prints I did in silver, but I did the final one with the purple side. I envisioned the last two prints as a pair that complemented one another with their various warm and cool tones, whereas the first one was really a standalone print intended to see whether this method would work at all.

The first one to be finished.

This one was second.

The final one to be leafed.

All in all, this was a good project because it allowed me to experiment with a few different ideas, visually and conceptually. Eventually I'd like to carry out something like this on a grander scale, but until I have access to a larger press, I'll make do with what I have.

Besides, I think I've more than justified my weekly chocolate indulgence.


  1. I was thinking that Masking fluid, of the type that watercolor painters use, might be a good, removable resist for the marbling.

    1. I'll have to give that a shot. Thanks for the suggestion!


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