For the past couple of years I have been experimenting with making my own printmaking ink. I have been gathering charcoal from the sites of some of the catastrophic wildfires that we’ve had recently, grinding it finely, and mixing it with #5 plate oil. It’s a very simple, basic process, and creates a rather rough ink that I have really enjoyed using. This print is made with a recent version of that ink, which I mix fresh for each experimental edition that I make. The image is a linoleum relief print of a fire-bug, a species of buprestid beetle which is evolutionarily adapted to fire and has specialized organs that allow it to detect anomalous heat-signatures up to 80 miles away. These beetles require freshly burned landscapes, and freshly killed trees, to lay their eggs in. Sometimes wildland firefighters on the frontlines of fires will report being swarmed by these gleaming black beetles, whose carapaces shine like fine graphite, as they are beating their way through the roaring fire front. What would it mean for us to adapt to fire again? The west has burned regularly for millenia, and only in the last two hundred years has fire been absent- and the raging torments we see around us now are the result. These landscapes need fire- just like the beetles, just like us.
Printed on a Vandercook 3 manual letterpress in Portland, OR.