Friday, February 22, 2019

Linocut in Progress: When Good Ideas Go Bad

Insider tip: If you want the artists in your immediate vicinity to be your friends, do not... I repeat... do NOT use the phrase, "But at least you're doing something you love," in response to their frustrations. Not in response to creative struggles and certainly not to financial or existential ones. Because let me tell you, friends, there are days when love has absolutely nothing to do with it.

I think it's safe to say that many artists have compulsive tendencies... and printmakers perhaps more than most. There are plenty of days when I am driven more by anxiety and a sense of impending disaster than happy, fluffy, rainbow-colored clouds of affectionate joy. Take yesterday, for example.

Oh, wait. We have to back up another day first.

After the last color pass of brilliant (one might say bilious) green I threatened a lavender ink to tone everything down. I wasn't kidding.

Sadly I neglected to take a photo of the color rolled out, but this was a very transparent lavender-ish color mixed from a lot of transparent base and a wee drop of violet. I rolled it over the entire block and voila! Toned-down greens.

Reduction linocut in progress, Step 5

Tiny bits of bright green were still showing and I felt satisfied enough with this stage to decide to add some textural interest in the background. I spent many hours chipping away small bits of lino to create a sort of stippled effect.

It was tedious, but I assured myself it would be worth it. And besides, I had in mind one of my favorite color combinations for the next color pass. It would be glorious!

A good blend about to go bad.

See? Isn't that pretty? Lavender to ochre blend... it will gray down the greens in the upper part some more, warm up the greens below and, most importantly, warm up the sides of some of the fence posts that will soon be pushed into shadow. It's a brilliant idea.

Except it wasn't.

Bad photo of bad color pass and bad carving leading to a bad mood.

In fact it was wretched. The upper portion got TOO gray, my background stippling was distracting. The ochre was too bright, and along the left side of the image it was all too dark. It was just going to have to go. I was, in a word, cranky. That's probably not the most accurate word, but it's the most suitable for family audiences. Love this? You've got to be kidding.

So I scraped up all the ink. (Saved it, but scraped it.) Cleaned the block, the rollers, the inking slab. Ate some chocolate and went back to carving table. With my largest sweep gouge I removed all those hours of little lino chips. Well, almost all of them. I cut some new masks to preserve the color in the birds.

And I mixed some new ink. It had taken a very long time to mix the first colors because the studio was cold and the ink very stiff, but thankfully I had those earlier inks to use as the base for this new attempt, so mixing went a little bit faster. There was still a lot of anxiety and one more lost print on the way to finding what I wanted. (That's five losses in six color passes. That hasn't happened in ages.)

Second color blend. Not as pretty on the block, but hopefully better on the print.

So here we are at Step 6:

Reduction linocut in progress, Step 6

It's been a long time since I've spent 8 hours trying to get one color pass finished, but it's finally done and I can move on, even if I'm not completely pleased with it. It's all too wet to print again today, so I'll carve for the next stage and then give some attention to a few things that were neglected in yesterday's studio skirmish.

And then I'll take a deep breath and go once more into the breach. Because, after all, I'm doing something I love.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Linocut in Progress: I know. I said no more green. But....

It's been a lovely few days here on the coast of Maine, and I am finally feeling as though I've turned the corner on this whateveritwas that had a stranglehold on my health the last two weeks. I got out for a good walk yesterday, and today managed some town errands (like laundry and groceries) and a nice printing session before I fizzled out. Hooray! Progress.

I did also have a little printing session on Friday... and, as, predicted, I did another transparent gray pass.

Linocut in progress, Step 3, transparent gray.

This served to add some more details in the fence and tone down the ochre from the last pass. So far so good.

I was feeling so confident that I jumped on in to another gray pass yesterday. Oops. Bad idea. I was trying to avoid cutting masks, and just got myself into a corner. The background got too dark, everything looked dull. Bleah. After two test prints I decided it was in my best interest (and the interest of my edition) to clean up and walk away.

But before I went to bed I cut those masks I was trying to avoid.. so I would be ready for today. Instead of gray.... let's print GREEN!

I know, I know. After the last print I swore off of green for a while... but I decided this needed some brightening up.

Inked up and masked for Step 4.

Whew! And I wasn't kidding about bright. That there green borders on fluorescent. But over gray and ochre it should be okay. Shouldn't it? It's got a boatload of transparent base in it....

Step 4 printed.

Yes, see? Not bad at all. Not much of this green will remain, I don't think... There's a lot more work to do in the fence and the birds, but I think small bits of it in the background will be nice. At least I hope so. I've gone off without a strong plan for the background... so I'll just be sort of winging it. (As usual.) Bird pun not intended.

The potentially amusing thing now is that I think my next color pass needs to be lavender. Transparent lavender. I've used this trick before to tone down greens... so stay tuned to see if I can make it work this time.