Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Printmaker abhors a vacuum...

.... or a least an empty can.

But there's good news in the studio: Yesterday I received notice that two cans of tint base are indeed enroute, so this sad state of affairs will not prevail.

Encouraged by that thought, I scraped the last bits of base onto my inking slab and mixed up the next color pass for the magpie linocut-in-progress.

My (necessarily) miserly approach to ink mixing was problematic at first, and I rolled up colors too harshly opaque and contrasty. I pulled two prints and then decided to scrape ink slab, block, and roller and try again. I eventually settled on another tan-to-green blend.

From here I think I'll start bumping up the contrast in the foreground. My intention is to settle the magpie into some foreground shadow... But we all know about roads paved with good intentions!

Where we were on the left and where we are on the right.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Tweak and roll


Time to tweak the color temperature a bit on this linocut. I mixed up this nice tan color... transparent on one end of the roller and a little more opaque on the other. (A function of that unfortunate can of transparent base going AWOL.)

Because all the inks have been so transparent, the color in application doesn't look tan at all, but it still keeps the palette a bit warm. I'm liking the feeling of light so far, but my intention is to make the foreground feel "shadowy." I'm not at all certain how to pull that off, but not knowing what I'm doing hasn't ever stopped me before.

Color pass four on the left, five on the right.
The good news is that I spoke with the manufacturer of the missing tint base this morning and they assure me that although my distributors are backordered, they have plenty to send me early next week. So there's still hope this will wrap up in time to make the framing deadline.

Here's the lovely thing about all this tooth-gnashing over ink modifiers, though: Several artists have chimed in with offers of help: tracking down alternate sources, suggesting alternate materials. I shouldn't have been surprised– most artists, especially printmakers, are a generous breed– but I was. Thanks for the reminder that we might be flung far and wide but we are a community. I needed that.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Next steps: Mystery linocut in progress

Too bad I combined color passes three and four in one photo. This could have been a longer post. ;-)

Can you spot the critter that's about to emerge from the foliage?

Another green-to-green blend for the third pass, and yet another for the fourth pass.

And now there's trouble in the studio because the transparent base I ordered at the beginning of October has been backordered until the end of November. I've tried to order from another source, we'll see if they come through.

If it's backordered everywhere I'm in a world o' hurt, 'cause I'm OUT and I use a lot of it. I was sure I had another can in the closet, but it seems to have sprouted legs and scuttled away. I do have some from a different manufacturer, but I don't like it... too sticky. Hmmm. Good thing I'm prepared for a little more ink opacity in the upcoming color passes.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

What's goin' on?

A little of this, a little of that, and a head cold, that's what's goin' on. (sigh) Not enough of a cold to put me down for the count, but enough to be annoying and energy-sapping.

Still, there's plenty going on in the studio. I've got another little 5 x 7-inch linocut on the bench right now, and I'm pushing around images and ideas for some larger works to come.

Like all my pieces, the current work-in-progress involves plenty of experimentation. The first color pass was a blend, but it was so light that I couldn't really get a good shot of it. Here are the colors on the inking slab and on the roller, if you can believe it.


The brightest green in the upper left corner of the slab wasn't involved in the rollup, except as the base color for the other two. It didn't look like much on the paper, but it was enough to get things started.

Next, a green and gray blend, also very transparent. But at least now there's something to see. Sort of.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Calling it done...

For entirely too many weeks now I've been frustrated by unfinished projects, mostly contract illustration and writing jobs that have all bogged down simultaneously. So even though I had a new linoleum block drawn up and paper trimmed down and ready to go today, I just couldn't bring myself to start a new print. I had to finish this one first.

The previous ink layers were still a little tackier than I wanted, but I decided to dive in anyway.

As a reminder, the linocut was at this stage:


The diffuse band of darker pigment was working nicely, but I still wanted a bit more.

I (almost) always save the remains of the inks I mix at each stage of a print. Very often those scraps become the basis of subsequent color passes, and that was the case here. Monday's transparent gray went back on the inking table today, with a little more black and blue pigment added for this final pass.


Unfortunately this isn't a great shot– there's glare across the right-hand image– but you can see the blue-black in the lower right corner defining a few more twigs and adding more depth.

I thought that would be it, but I wasn't quite satisfied with the shape of that dark.

I decided I wanted the entire corner to push back more, not just the swatch below the largest leaves. So I inked the corner again and printed the final dark clear to the edge of the block on the right side.


This futzing and tweaking could go on forever, but I think I'm going to call this one done at last. Now all it needs is a title. Ummmm.....

Monday, October 8, 2012

Slow crawl to the linocut finish

The little leaf linocut continues its slow evolution. I'm happy with the way the yellows and greens are working together, but I'm struggling to find just the right value balance. I'd like enough contrast to give the image good depth, but I don't want to resort to too much drama.


After the last stage I carved a few more twig and stem shapes into the block and then rolled it up with a transparent gray. The aim was to deepen the contrast of the background without losing color.

Previous pass, #6, on the left. #7 on the right.
 Okay. Nice. I liked the twiggy bits. But it still seemed to want a little more dark. Just a little. I added a bit more pigment to the transparent gray and inked up the roller with a blend that left smudgy pigment only in the center of the brayer. Does that make sense? From left to right on the brayer I had straight transparent base, then transparent gray, then more transparent base. Instead of a hard-edged, brayer-wide rectangle of ink I had a diffuse band of gray in the middle of the brayer. I applied this in a curving diagonal across the block.

Pass #7 on the left. Pass #8 on the right.
I like it, but I still want a little more oomph in the lower right corner. (sigh) It's all very wet now, however, so it's going to have to wait a couple of days before I can try anything else..

But that's okay. I started drawing up another block today that will provide plenty of new challenges. I'm thinking pale, indistinct background and contrasty foreground... maybe blends going in opposite directions.... yeah... that's it... and then maybe....

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Happiness is a full drying rack


There are few things that make me happier than this nice, full rack of drying linocuts. Okay. Maybe if it were a rack full of FINISHED prints I'd be happier, but this is good enough for today. Let's see how we got here, shall we?

Steps 1 and 2 were shown in the previous post, so let's start with Step 3:

Step 3
The second level of leaves has been carved, and a layer of transparent yellow ochre applied to the entire image.

Next, more leaves were carved and another blended ochre-to-green pass printed.

Steps 3 and 4 side-by-side
More leaves, but this time a darker green was applied only to the lower half of the image.

Steps 4 and 5 side-by-side
Whew! That was a lot of dinky little carving. Thank goodness this is just a 5-by-7-inch linocut, otherwise I'd still be carving and not making a blog post.

Enough with the leaves, it's time to get the background going. It's a solid, but transparent, tan color.  It has some nice variety and dimension because of the way it's interacting with the previous blended layers.

Step 6

I did say I wanted to keep this image to 5 or 6 color passes, but I think it needs one more dark to punch it all up. Perhaps some sort of top-to-bottom blend again. There's not a lot of carving to do, just some twigs and branches that I hope will read as part of the background. Stay tuned.