Candle in the Dark

It’s time to slowly reveal the products of this spring’s adventures in printmaking. Woo!

I’d shown my warm-up linocut letterforms before, but I hadn’t finished the J at that point. When I did, I hand-printed these letters again to practice registration (aligning the paper to the plate properly) because I figured that would be a problem for me considering my utter failure at multiple pass silkscreen printing forever and a day ago.

Printing practice on newsprint.

Once that was done, I moved on to the linocut assignment proper. The options were either do a small plate and have multiple colors, or do one large plate in one color. Again considering the troubles I’d had with alignment in the past, and in light of the time crunch (Spring term classes are only 8 weeks long but the workload is almost as much as for a 16-week course), I opted to carve one 16 x 20 linoleum plate.

Radial symmetry ♡

I got called a perfectionist for using a compass, ruler, protractor, and French curve to draw my design directly onto my plate, and it really bugged me. The other option (and what most people did) was to transfer their design with tracing paper unto the plate. But I knew that if I took my original drawing and traced it, it would get a bit distorted at that point; and when I went to transfer it from the tracing paper to the plate, the lines on the plate would be distorted yet again; then when I went to carve, as I can’t control a linocutter as well as I can control a pencil, the image would be distorted even more still, and that’s not something that looks good with a design as geometric as this one. So if I know that some distortion is inevitable, why not do everything I can to keep things precise for as long as possible? To me, that’s not a matter of being a perfectionist, it’s a matter of thinking ahead so you don’t make something that isn’t as good as it could be. Just because you can’t make something perfect doesn’t mean you should actively avoid giving it your best shot.

The second or third round of printing.

When I pulled my first print, one of my classmates said, “It looks like a fidget spinner!” I was like “Nooooo!” (LOL) The main inspiration for this design was a Gothic window with 6-fold radial symmetry, so there certainly is a geometric similarity there, but I still thought it was funny that an artist would think of a fidget spinner before thinking of Gothic architecture.

I had a hell of a time getting this to print well as I was mostly printing outside of class time and didn’t want to call the teacher to describe the issues I was having to try to figure out a solution. One evening as I was working in the studio a campus police officer came in and absolutely loved the “distressed” look of my messed up prints. I told her they were bad prints so she could have them. She asked if I was sure and I said, “Okay, I’ll sell them to you for the price of the paper. $5 each.” She said she would come back another day as she didn’t have cash. I did see her again another time but she was radioed to deal with some situation somewhere and then I guess either her patrol route changed, or we were never in the Art Building at the same time, or she lost interest, because I never saw her again and couldn’t make the sale. Oh well.

Hanging in this year’s Student Art Show

Since I had opted for only one color of ink, I wanted to try out some colored paper. This tan Rives BFK was the only “colorful” paper available at my local Blick (the only art supply store nearby). I like the extra warmth of this paper, but at the same time, I like the higher contrast the white paper gives it.

Besides the Gothic window, another source of inspiration was Carl Sagan’s excellent book The Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, which I had just finished reading, hence the title of this piece. Since Sagan himself had borrowed the title “Candle in the Dark” from Thomas Ady’s 17th century book, I figured I could do some borrowing too. But this piece ended up, unexpectedly, having one more connotation attached to it for me.

I’ve been listening to Soundgarden since before I even had the notion of keeping track of who sang what. I taped “Black Hole Sun” off the radio back in the days when that’s what you did. I was in elementary school and thought it was just a song about being sad. I didn’t really become aware of Chris Cornell as a particular vocalist until he did “You Know My Name” for Casino Royale. Since that point he became one of the few vocalists I could recognize by voice alone.

So there I was at some point in early May when “Jesus Christ Pose” came on the radio, and even though I either had not heard the track before or didn’t remember it, I knew it was Chris singing. I Googled the lyrics to find out exactly what song it was and ended up on a Soundgarden-Audioslave-Chris-Cornell- solo-and-featuring binge for a few days. Feeling glad for this beautiful, powerful thing called rock & roll. And then I’m watching the 10 o’clock news after a day in the studio and hear something about “details into Chris Cornell’s death at the MGM Grand” and I was like


He’s dead? He’s gone? But he just did a show? Right here in Detroit?

I felt angry and sad. If there’s such a thing as an afterlife, maybe he’s at peace now, is all I can hope.

When it was time to pick the best prints for my edition and sign & title them, I thought of the flame on the cover of Audioslave. I thought of changing the title to be a direct reference to Audioslave or Soundgarden or something but…at the same time that felt a little…dishonest? Or like I was taking advantage and using it as a chance to name drop or something. I mean, I didn’t even know Soundgarden was in town as I don’t go to concerts here, so I was like, it’s not like I can act like I was this huge fan that now needs to make art in tribute. Still, I think of Chris Cornell when I see this print. The little candle flickers for him and I mentally pour a libation.

Well…that was a heavy end to what had started off as a light post. ^_^;

Such is life.

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