Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Linocut in Progr... Hey! Where did THAT come from?

A finished lino? Where did that come from?
"Homeward Bound," 8" x 10" ©Sherrie York

Surprise! Somehow in the last five days I've managed to crank out an entire linocut, start to finish.

The image should look somewhat familiar to long-time readers because I made an attempt at something similar a year ago, not long after I got Presston (my press.) (You can see the start of it here.) In fact, it was almost EXACTLY a year ago. I finished last year's attempt the same day I started this year's. Didn't realize that until just now.

Anyway. The earlier piece had given me all sorts of palpitations, mostly technical problems because I wasn't adjusting the press correctly, but also some color problems. I decided to try a completely different approach this time– Paper masks.

Unfortunately I didn't take many photos. This darn piece tried to kick my [portion of anatomy upon which one sits] AGAIN(!!) and I was more focused on keeping my bruises down than on documentation thereof.

Second step

This was the second step, the first was a flat blue rectangle. The orange color was applied to the entire block (still uncut at this point) and then I placed a ridiculously complex newsprint mask over the top before running it through the press. Like this:

Newsprint mask

This was the mask for the third step. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but since I could only use a mask a couple of times before it broke down I had to cut several of them. Naturally they weren't exactly alike. And that little loose piece in the middle was hard to get in the exact same spot each time. It wasn't horrible, but it was trickier than I expected.

After the orange I printed the blended sky (Step 4) and then cut the overall shapes of clouds and foreground (Step 5). In this image you can see one of the prints in which I had accurate masking problems. Lots of little white bits showing where they shouldn't be. Ugh.

Step 5

In total I think there were 7 color passes... definitely lots of restraint shown in that regard, anyway!

For a few days I had very little sleep, but now my deadline has been met and I can take a short break. I need one. For the past two months I've just had to plow through images without having a lot of time to stop and think about where each piece was going or whether there might be another way to approach the subject. I think I did some good work, but I didn't have a whole lot of fun while I was doing it.

The good news is that I think I have an image in mind that will be more "fun" again. I've got time to work on it, it's going to be a different sort of color palette for me, and I've got time to think about it before I start. Seems like such a luxury after the last weeks.

Of course there are plenty of other things to do, too... like write blog posts and get ready to hang a show next week. But I think the first order of business will be a book in my lap and a nap in the sun!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Linocut in Progress: The end of the end

Sometimes the simplest things can give you the biggest problems in printmaking.

After spot-printing those funny shapes of lightest green I did a bit of carving and then printed a transparent mid-value green blended to a darker blue-green. The transparent nature of the colors meant they interacted in interesting ways with the odd color shapes below them.

There was one spot that I wasn't too excited about–it developed a harsh color line rather than a smooth transition. Also, I had masked the bird to keep the greens out of it and now it looked purple. I was happy with the variety of darks, though, and relatively sure I could fix the other issues with the next pass.

"Fleeting" reduction linocut, Step 13.

Aaannnnnd... that next pass was a straightforward transparent green-brown made from scraps of previously-printed colors. Simple. (Ahem.)

"Fleeting" reduction linocut, Step 14.

It looks fine here, but this "simple"color pass gave me a some trouble. I had to leave town for a couple of days in between this step and the previous one, which meant that the prints were too dry when I returned. As a result I didn't get good adhesion on this color pass. I ended up running the same color twice on all of the prints to get what I wanted. Ugh.

Tedious, but successful. The greens are now less bright, the hard edge I was worried about has gone away, and the bird has a little more color to it. (Not purple.)

All that was left (I thought) was the final dark for the marks on the tree trunks and some of the branches. Not quite a straight black, but close.

Unfortunately the near-black that was good for the trees was bad for the bird, so I wiped that color away from the bird before printing.

"Fleeting," reduction linocut, Step 15.

Of course now the bird felt a little bit too light. I wanted it to remain subtle... a sort of surprise for the viewer who comes close and discovers he or she is not alone in the forest... but at this stage it looked too insubstantial. So I mixed a more transparent blue-gray and tried to print only the bird by masking out the rest of the block and running it through the press.

Usually this works fine, but since the blackish color had been printed mere minutes before, the mask intended to protect the prints instead stripped the black off. (sigh) I expected some stripping*...  but not quite as much as I got. Again, so much for "simple."

(*Stripping: If you want to remove excess ink from prints, place a sheet of clean newsprint on your block, place your print face-down on the newsprint, and run the whole stack through the press. You can do this with hand-rubbed prints, too, and you don't necessarily need to include the block.)

In the end I ran the over-stripped prints back through the press to fix the dark and then carefully hand-rubbed the bird's final color on every print. Ooph.

"Fleeting," reduction linocut, Step 15.5... and final.

The difference in the bird is probably too subtle to see in a web image, although I think all of the steps on this post are embiggenable, so you might be able to tell if you click on them and view them larger.

Whew! Glad this one is finished, as it's due for a big exhibition. As is often the case, it doesn't look much like what I envisioned, but I'm still pleased with it. It was the dense tangle of many tree trunks that motivated me to chase after this image... but it was the intricacies of the background that were the most challenging.

And speaking of challenge... I just received in the post a small wooden, silver-painted block on which to create an image for Abend Gallery's 25th Anniversary Holiday Miniatures show. I'm going to try to print on it... somehow. But first I have to decide what the image is! And of course it needs to be back in Denver next week... dry enough to ship and hang. Guess what I'll be doing the next few days. No rest for the wicked weary.