Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Gannet linocut: Last steps. Sort of.

I was feeling reasonably confident about the gannet linocut after the last pass... and then I discovered a rather large-ish mistake. I'm not going to point it out yet because I still need to come up with a solution for it. But I will. I hope.

Instead of freaking out entirely I decided to go ahead and finish the background. I rolled up this nice blue-to-greenish blend, with a second brayer employed to roll solid dark at the bottom of the block, since I don't own a 12"-wide roller. Yet.

Pretty, huh?
And heeerrrrreeee's the result. Wahoo! It was another one of those happy-to-be-a-printmaker moments.

Steps 10 and 11

There was only one more color to go and I was impatient to see what it would look like, so I threw caution to the wind and printed one.

Steps 11 and 12
Actually, I printed three: two on sheets that are already discards and one on a "good" print. I'm satisfied, but they are all really too wet to carry on, so I'll wait a day or two before finishing the edition. In the meantime I'll be working out a fix for the error section.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Gannet linocut: Now things get weird

So far this linocut has followed a more-or-less straightforward image development: White birds with shadows. But now it's time to come to terms with the background. In a perfect world these striking seabirds will be flying across a suggestion of dark ocean waves, but I have only a vague idea of how to make this work.

Obviously the next step is to add ochre, lavender, and green where the dark blue water will go. Don't you think?

Steps 7 and 8

This had to be done in two stages because I don't have a single roller wide enough to manage the 12" height of the square background all in one pass.

Step 8 and 9

For some reason these two steps made me really happy to be a printmaker. Some moments are just like that. Roll out the ink, rub the print, lift the paper– instant cheer. When it works, anyway.

So now what? As I mentioned, I'm aiming for a suggestion of dark waves behind the birds. These three colors will only show in very small areas, but I wanted to be sure the overall background wasn't just a flat, boring blue. After another carving session I inked up the block with a lavender-to-blue blend and crossed my fingers.

Steps 9 and 10. A bit embiggenable if you care to click the image.

Well, whaddaya know? This might work. I have a chunk of carving to do and then another, darker blue in the background. Depending on how that goes it's possible there will be just one more pass for the finish: wingtips, faces, and a border.

Step 10

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Gannet linocut: Moving ahead

When last we left our linocut-in-progress we had a sense of northern gannets in a gray background. Like this:

Step 5

The underwing shadows in the foreground bird needed a little more oomph, so on went another grayish layer.

Steps 5 and 6 together

It doesn't seem like much, but it helped give some dimension to the critter in question.

Step 6
In fact, it might have been a little TOO much in the foreground bird's upper wing. I decided the big dark shape was too flat, but what to do about it? I fussed around with several possibilities and in the end opted to make just a small transition between the "wingpit" and the secondary feathers. I cut another mask to make certain my ink only went where I wanted it.

Why, yes... this ink IS lighter than the last pass. A case of having to think inside-out... this time carving away what I wanted to remain the dark already printed.

Step 7
The difference is small, but enough that I don't feel distracted by that big shape.

Time to get started on the background.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Gannet linocut: Four "quick" steps

With all the brightest whites established in the first pass of this new linocut, I turned my attention to some details of the birds' heads. After taking so long to get to the details of the coot in the previous piece it's nice to get some personality established early in this one, although the final blacks of wingtips, eyes, and bills won't happen until the very end once again.

Step 2

Northern gannets have a beautiful yellow/pale ochre tint to their head feathers, so I tackled that next. The two small areas of the block were inked with a 1-inch-wide brayer and an acetate mask.

A wee bit more carving and a second, slightly darker ochre was applied using the same mask and 1-inch brayer.

Step 3

Okay, good. And now... the gannets' bills needed to be a wee bit more blue than the color that went down on the first pass. I cut a second mask and employed the 1-inch brayer one more time.

Step 4
Enough with the baby steps! After another good carving session it was time for the next tone in the underwings of both birds.

Step 5
Five colors done and I'm feeling pretty good so far. Of course, I'm starting to realize that I haven't really come to terms with what the background will be. Dark. Blues. Wave-ish. Hm. Better start applying some brain cells to the problem.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Here we go again: Gannet linocut

It's the funniest thing: ordinarily a 12 x 16-inch lino block would feel large to me, but after a couple of weeks with a block that was 32 inches wide, this feels like nothing much at all.

No point in trying to keep the identity of this subject a secret, since northern gannets are big, white birds and all the white had to come out of the block first thing.  I'm already worried that the shadow across the belly of the foreground bird is too dark, but since the background is going to be very dark, it seemed prudent to start a little strong. We'll find out, won't we?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Steamroller Printing at the Woodson Art Museum!

That's the Woodson Art Museum's brand-new addition on the left.
It was SO new I think the paint was still wet when we arrived. ;-)

File this post under "Unexpected Results of Casual Conversations." Or perhaps "See What Your Big Mouth Got You Into This Time."

'Way back in September readers may recall that I went to Wausau, Wisconsin for the opening of the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum's annual Birds in Art exhibition. It's a wonderful show in a beautiful facility, hosted by a top-notch staff. Yeah. I like that place.

ANYWAY... during the course of the opening weekend I had a conversation with curator Jane Weinke, who asked whether I ever made large prints. I said that I had not, but that one of these days I'd like to print something REALLY big.

"You know," I said. "Steamroller-sized prints."

We had a laugh and chatted some more and I forgot all about the conversation... at least until I returned home and had an email from education curator Jayna Hintz.

"Hey Sherrie, tell me more about steamroller printing."

And the rest, as they say, is history. Or at least it WILL be history after May 5, when my recently-confirmed residency will conclude.

Beginning April 28 I'll be "in da house" at the Woodson, sharing printmaking experiences with museum visitors and building momentum for the Big Event. Saturday, May 4 we'll clear the museum parking lot for a steamroller printing extravaganza with area high school students. (Last week we already had over 60 kids registered.. and it's only February!)

I'm extremely excited about this residency, but as I haven't organized a steamroller event before I'll be happy to hear any suggestions and advice from those of you who have. I'm feeling good about it overall, but the voice of experience is always welcome. What did you wish you had known the first time the big beast thundered across the pavement?

Stay tuned!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Finished (cough) coot (sneeze) linocut

I've never bought into the idea that one needs to suffer for one's craft... or even during the doing of one's craft... especially if the suffering is unrelated to anything having to do with craft in any way, shape, or form.

I anticipated finishing this long coot linocut... oh... three or four days ago, but the microscopic organisms currently on holiday in our town apparently decided I was an irresistible roadside attraction, and here they've settled.

Yeah. I have a cold, and I'm cranky about it. Can you tell?

Standing on my feet to print has had to take place in between bouts of sitting on the sofa boosting the stock value of facial tissue manufacturers. But take place it has, and I'm pleased to report that this piece is finished! At least I think it is.

Last time I checked in the piece was at this stage:

I had just applied a middle green to the water reflection, which started to give an idea of the overall graphic quality of the image. Only two more passes to go!

The next step was to carve some major bits of the water and then try to hit the right color/value balance in the left-side reflection. This turned out to be every bit the challenge I expected, and I lost a couple of prints in the process of trying to sort this out.

In the end I hoped that this would be a color that was dark enough to provide the big, graphic statement I wanted but light enough to not overwhelm the bird, which still needed one more darker pass. It looks WAY contrastier (It is too a word, you rotten spellcheck. Leave it alone.) in the photo than it really is. (I'm finding myself more and more frustrated with my limitations as a photographer.)

And then the last step: Dark head and darkest shadows of the coot!

It needs a title. Suggestions? It's embiggenable with a click.

This has been a fun one... Lots of challenges (even before the lousy cold) and a definite stretch outside my comfort zone. The image itself is 8" x 32" and it's the longest piece I've ever printed by hand. I was very nervous about registration, but my jig worked like a champ and I didn't have any more losses than usual. As always there are things about the image I wish I would have done differently, but overall I think it's a strong piece. I'll sit with it a few days and see if there's anything that needs a (doable) tweak, but in the meantime....

Saturday, February 2, 2013

So close, and yet so far...

I don't know. Maybe the reason I always end up adding more and more color passes to my linocuts is that I'm too much of a chickensh@# to make a bold step and be done with it.

It's not because I don't want to finish this image! I've started carving on another piece and have two or three others in the Waiting-For-Sherrie-To-Get-Brave stage. (Well, there's also the matter of the Waiting-for-Paper-Order-To-Arrive stage.) But here we are, two color passes after the last time I checked in, and it looks like at least two more passes to go. (sigh)

I liked the subtle greens that appeared in the previous (transparent blue) pass, but after sitting with the piece for a day or two I decided they were just a bit too subtle. More! I wanted more.

So I inked a funky little green-blue-yellow roll that blended from left-to-right and then repeated it. This left a hard line that I didn't appreciate, so before I pulled each print I softened the "seam" with a paper towel.

I did like the way it expanded the color variety and seemed to set the bird more solidly into its environment.

(Funky photo angle. The prints are flat on the table and I'm holding the camera over my head. Apparently not a good technique.)

At this stage I thought I'd resolve the entire left side of the image in one fell swoop. Didn't quite work out that way. I carved and carved and carved and then opted to roll an intermediate transparent khaki-greenish color over the entire block to pull things together.

(Slightly improved prints-on-table-camera-overhead technique. This one is embiggenable if you click on it.)

So. From here? There's one last dark pass to go in the bird, but I think that will come at the very end. Most of that medium green on the left is destined to be a step or two darker as well, but I want to be sure it isn't overpowering.

This is one of those times when I think it would be nice to be an oil painter and know that I will be able to repaint sections if they don't work. Or even a multi-block printer, able to tackle the edition over again at a different time. But nope. Reduction printer. And the end game starts now.

Linocut in Progress: The Third Act

Time to wrap up this linocut ! And we are wrapping at warp speed (see what I did there?)... because there are deadlines. Exhibition deadline...