Saturday, February 25, 2017

Linocut in Progress: Although I'm probably the only one who can tell.

Believe it or not, there have been big things happening in the progress of the current linocut, but at this scale it will be almost impossible to tell. I'm going to try to show you anyway. (Any of the photos in this post can be slightly embiggened with a click, which might help a little. But not much.)

There's been some impatience among a few lurkers who want me to get on with the ducks, but a little more "faffing about" with the water still needed to happen. (Hi, John B.!)

After the previous step I rolled up the entire block with a transparent gray. (Step 7, not pictured.) I felt okay about how things were going until the next morning, when I decided that the blue printed in the diagonals was a little too bright.

Rats. Instead of moving ahead I was obliged to back up and hit some areas with an almost-white blue. Call it Step 7.5, I guess.

Linocut in Progress, Step 7.5 

Once I felt the blue was sufficiently toned-down it was time for another transparent gray, rolled over the entire block. Again, you can't really tell what's happening here, other than a slight increase in overall contrast, but this pass picked out a few details and set things up for....

Step 8

The ducks! Finally. There are four mallards swimming towards us, three males and one female. The previous transparent ink layers have made the foreground bird a little too blue, and the female needs to have brown undertones, so I did some spot inking and masking of the "duck blobs":

Step 9

There are lots of little color bits to add to the birds now, and once that's done I think there will be one more color pass. With luck I'll get the whole thing finished this weekend, which means in the back of my head I should be thinking about the next piece. Right?

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Linocut in Progress: Predictable Working Stages (PWS)

There are some things about reduction printing that I find more or less predictable, given that I so often employ the Seat-of-Your-Pants Method of image development.

My Predictable Working Stages (PWS) usually unfold like this:

  1. The first few steps and color passes are cohesive and enthusiasm is high. 
  2. Four or five steps along I am obliged to print a color that upsets that cohesiveness.
  3. Doubt and anxiety rise, avoidance behavior begins.
  4. I find a way to print some OTHER color first.
  5. See Stage 3.
  6. I finally find my spine and print the scary color.
  7. I remain scared until the entire thing resolves at the end.

This image proceeded happily along Predictable Working Stage 1 until I finished the previous color pass and abruptly collided with Predictable Working Stage 2. PWS 2 gave way immediately to PWS 3: Avoidance behavior.

I did the laundry. I washed the dishes. I finally took the overflowing recycling to the drop-off center. I took some long walks, and voila! I found my way to Predictable Working Stage 4: Avoid the problem by printing something else.

Many carving hours later I printed a straight-up transparent gray:

Linocut in progress, Step 5

Satisfying. Everything was still cohesive and I had a better sense of the overall rhythm of the image.

And then I was on to Predictable Working Stage 5, which is essentially Stage 3 all over again. Avoidance.

I did some online research for another project. I went to the grocery store. I checked on the dog of a friend who is away for a couple of days.

The question at this point was whether to start work on the ducks, which are suggested by three blobs right now, or to cut some complicated paper masks and print a scary color.

I finally made it to Predictable Working Stage 6: Find a spine and print the scary color.

A collection of masks for Color Pass 6

But first I had to cut a lot of masks. The little ones will protect the "duck blobs" from the scary color, the others will protect large portions of the rest of the print.

Ink rollup for Color Pass 6

Naturally the rollup wasn't entirely straightforward. I decided the tone along the bottom of the print was too dark, so I rolled up some white. Scary bright blue selectively inked elsewhere.

Masks in place on the block

Block is inked, masks are in place. Time to print.

Masks stuck to the print. Do not panic.

Most of the time when I use masks they lift away from the block and stay attached to the print after I run it through the press. This is no big deal, it's just the damp ink holding it in place, but it looks like a mess. The little bits over the "duck blobs" can be tricky to remove without smudging ink, but a delicately applied Xacto knife helps me lift a corner to get them started.

Carefully lifting the masks from the print.

Seven masks to put in place and remove for every print really slows things down, but in the end it's worth it. The scary color is where it belongs and the rest of the print has been protected through the process.

Linocut in progress, Color Pass 6 completed

A lot of this bright blue will be moderated by the next color, but it's still quite scary to see these up on the wall. Yep. I've reached Predictable Working Stage 7:

Remain scared until the whole thing is finished.