Thursday, January 16, 2020

Linocut in Progress: Finishing the tern

Drying rack full of prints, turbo edition

It's a snowy day here on the coast of Maine, but I'm cozy and content in my little house... especially with a drying rack full of linos pulled into the sitting room so they can enjoy the boost of some warm, dry, wood stove-generated air.

The last steps of the current linocut offered some serious challenges. I was satisfied with the water, but the little bird needed several details that required a delicate touch. It took me all day to make three small changes to an area roughly 1 x 2 inches in size. Here's where things stood with the bird in question after Step 7:


The shaded underside of the bird is almost, but not quite, the correct value. I debated a long time about whether or not I also wanted to warm up this shadow, even though the bird wouldn't necessarily be reflecting warm light in real life. I want the bird to fit into the seascape... not stand out from it... but right now it's fitting in a little too much and is getting lost.

Step 8, masked

Ultimately I did decide to warm it up just a skosh (that's a technical term). I inked bird and reflection, and cut a newsprint mask to protect the rest of the print when it went through the press. Here's a (terrible) photo of the result:

Unfinished tern with light glare and bad color.
Hey... nobody said this was a photography blog.

You can't really tell from this detail photo, but warming up the bird was the right decision. It's standing a little more away from the water without being too contrasty and obnoxious.

I did think the bird's body needed just a little more detail... one more tiny bit of dark in places... but it also needed a black head and red-orange bill and feet. Not too much of any of it... more of a suggestion. And all of these bits are TINY. Ooph.

In the end I decided the best way to tackle the beak and feet was to pochoir (stencil) the red directly onto the prints. I did this, and then immediately rubbed a little piece of newsprint over the stenciled area to strip off any extra ink. This dulled down the red-orange so it was just a suggestion rather than a strong color. Sorry, no intermediate photo here. But trust me, it worked a treat.

With the beak and feet finished I was faced with the conundrum of still needing two additional dark values but not wanting to do two more color passes. Because, really. How ridiculous can you get? Thankfully the lightbulb came on and I realized I could print it all as one dark, and then strip off the color in the bird's body. This would leave the head and the reflection dark and still give me an intermediate tone. So...

Last step! 

Here's the ink roll-up... such tiny shapes! And my masks are getting worn out, too... this one has a tear. It's definitely time to wrap this thing up.

The finished tern! Yippee!

Oh, WHEW! It worked. I left the head and reflection dark, but stripped off the color in the body and underwing with a small piece of newsprint. Just enough of everything..... and if you don't believe me, here's the final print!

Finished reduction linocut, 12" x 12" © Sherrie York

Technically I suppose the final color pass tally was 10... Seven to complete the water and an additional three to finish the bird. It's hard to call those fussy little things color passes, but for the purists keeping score.... well. Okay.

But here it is! The first new linocut of 2020. It still needs a title... something to do with "sparkling," I think, although so far most of my ideas are a bit on the corny side.

So what's next? This week I'm finishing the poster art for World Migratory Bird Day, and continuing work on my online course. Yes, that's still happening! It's just taking longer than expected. And then... hm... I do think I want another bird-and-water adventure.... we'll see where it takes me!

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Linocut in Progress: Everything but the bird

It's a good thing I like blue, because there's been a heckuva lot of it going on in the studio for the last week and a half.

I entertained this vague hope that the next color pass on the water would be the final one, but, alas. T'was not so. But it was still satisfying to continue pushing the sense of depth by strengthening the foreground contrast.

It took me a couple of tries to get the dark right, and in the end I had a two-value blue blend across the entire block. Of course this was the one stage at which I forgot to take a photo of the ink rollout, so I can't show it to you. My bad.

Still.... it's looking pretty good, eh?

Reduction linocut in progress: Step 6

I'm rather irrationally happy about all those greeny blues in the background. It's a color palette that's new to me... a sure sign of the influence of my Maine surroundings.  And, hey! Lookie there. Can you finally see that there is, indeed, a bird in this image?

The problem I had at the conclusion of this step is that it was all just TOO blue. Yes, of course it's water and it's blue, but it all seemed a bit bright. One more color pass was in order, and it needed to accomplish the tasks of adding one more bit of oomph to the value contrast in the foreground, and cutting the overall brightness of the entire block.

This was a job for SOOP-er Neutrals.

Reduction linocut in progress, Step 7 rollup


At this point I didn't want to add much contrast to the background, so the upper 2/5 of the block was inked with a pale, transparent gray. The lower 3/5 got a transparent warm browny-black. Nary a blue in sight, because of course the colors already present would influence anything placed over them.... especially since the new inks are as transparent as the previous.

Step 7 printed, just the bird to finish!

Yes. That's it at last! The water is finished. I remain happy with the sparkly, bubbly feel, and the tonal gradation from background to foreground.

But there's still a tricky little bit to finish: the tern. A delicate touch is going to be needed to give it just the right amount of contrast. Too much will make it jump out of the environment, and will run the risk of the bird looking like a cutout. Also, if the bird is as dark as the foreground wave, it could flatten the feeling of depth in the entire image.

I really want to finish this now, but the ink is too wet to risk printing the tiny tern shapes. It's likely to need two days before I can safely tackle it.... ugh. Torment.

But in the meantime I have plenty to keep me occupied. The two biggest priorities are tax deadlines AND reviewing the videos for my online course. Did I mention I have plenty to keep me occupied?