Sunday, January 24, 2010

While you were out... Another linocut and a flirtation with doubt

Happiness is a full print rack

It's a good thing I did my happy dance the moment I finished that little mussel shell linocut. Near-panic overtook me in the next breath, when the implications of agreeing (possibly insanely) to produce an 8-color reduction linocut in 10 days became clear.

I am pleased to report that the project moved along quite smartly this weekend. Some judicious masking means only one color remains to be pulled, although the most I can show you at the moment is the tantalizing edge of it as it hangs on the drying rack. It's due at the end of this week, so some time next week I imagine it will be the subject of a new post.

HOWEVER, for reasons beyond my comprehension, I decided to simultaneously work on another small print. I don't know why. Really I don't. It meant I spent the last three days feeling as though I were staying barely ahead of an out-of-control train.

It's a fairly simple little composition, just 5 passes. It is an obvious relative of the aspen linocut from the first week of the year, and came about for two reasons: 1) I need some very small format pieces for an upcoming show and 2) when I had finished the previous aspen/snow/shadows print I had an idea that seemed more interesting... but of course since I'm working in reduction there was no way to go back and try it.

It's all about the snow shadows.

This image represents the first two passes, both of which involved a gradation of light blue to more purple-y blue. The top inch or so was rolled and printed first, using a mask. The next pass used the same colors over a wider area. This blended inking was the entire reason for trying this image again....

The next day I carved out all the blue areas and printed gray.

This morning I printed the green in a little band across the top.

And this afternoon the black. Finished! (6" x 4")

I hoped that the blended inking of the snow would be more interesting than the flat shadow color of the earlier aspen print, and I think that's the case. Overall the composition and shapes are less complex than in the other image, but I think it's still a pleasing little piece, especially considering that it flew in the face of the way I usually work and went start-to-finish in such a short time. I don't always want to work this way, it reminds me too much of production deadlines, but it was interesting to give it a try. And I hope that "giving it a try" is the theme of the next few weeks (and months!) for me.

Some time last week I think I mentioned feeling that restless need to stretch outside my comfort zone. Maybe you know this feeling.... It's the one that says "this is okaaayyyyy, but surely it could be more/better/other." For me it's always a tricky time, because this sort of discontent can take one of two distinct paths:

Path #1: Experimentation, stretching, and growing. "Yes, this could be more/better/other and I am setting off to acquire the skills/knowledge/experience to make it so."

Or, less helpfully, Path #2: Doubt and despondency. "This could be more/better/other but I don't have the skills/knowledge/experience and there are a thousand people already doing this more/better/other already, so what's the point?"

Uh huh. We go there what? Once a week?

Path #2 is the easier trail-- Well-traveled and down hill all the way. Path #1 has thorny undergrowth and rocky terrain. It's twisty. Impossible to see what's beyond the next bend: stunning vista or muddy bog?

More than 20 years ago a friend gave me a bootleg tape of author David Viscott speaking about the creative process at the (now-something-else) International Design Conference in Aspen. I can't remember his exact words on the subject of self doubt, but the essence of it was this: Doubt is always with you. Now, get back to work.

From time to time I flirt with that seductive downhill path, but then I hike up my jeans and thrash up in to the scrub. Out-of-control trains lose momentum uphill.


  1. Looks great! I prefer the simple composition.

  2. Impossible to see what's beyond the next bend: stunning vista or muddy bog?

    But, yanno, often the journey is the important part. The destination is a bonus.

    Love that snowscape. The simplicity*, crispness and that open space between the trees are perfect.

    * The impression of it, anyway, cos that ain't no simple image.

  3. They are a pain in the butt, aren't they, that thousand other people out there doing it better. Show-offs!! Anyway, if I take my glasses off I can't see them and they don't get in my way. Walking uphill with eyes to the ground seeking inspiration also eliminates them.

    I love the simple composition and crisp beauty of this print. Talk about speedy!

  4. Thanks, Justin... sometimes I like "simpler" better, and sometimes I'm not so sure. It's good to have feedback.

    Oh, Robyn, THANK YOU! Here I have been whinging about having to wear my glasses more and more and it never occurred to me that the inability to see those thousand others was a BONUS. Good plan.

    Of course you are right, Snail, that it's about the journey and not the destination. But after a long uphill slog or flight from a train, it IS good to arrive at a place with a glass of wine and chocolate. At least some of the time. ;-)

  5. I really like the gradient on the new print, gives a better sense of shadows.

    "Doubt is always with you. Now, get back to work." this made me laugh :)

  6. Your work is absolutely amazing!


  7. Love that Aspen - gorgeous in its almost stark simplicity.

    "Out-of-control trains lose momentum uphill"

    Sherrie York

    This one goes into my "Favorite Quotes"

    Lindy :-D

  8. I try to remember this quote by Anais Ninn when doubt is slowing me down: "Life expands or contracts in direct proportion to one's courage."