Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Linocut in progress: Will it "tern" out?

Despite very little material remaining on the block, I still have several colors to go on this crazy linocut. It was well past time to work on the water and background trees, so that base color went down next.

Common tern linocut: Step 10

Some context for our speedy tern was nice, but it pointed out the need for another value step in the bird. There are some very dark bits to go in the wing tips and the top of the head, but overall the tern felt a little bit lost against the sky. Part of me wished I could go back and darken all the shadows in the underwing and body, but here's where the limitations of reduction printing come in to play. Almost all of the material used to print the bird body has been carved away, so the only way to darken the overall value would be to carve up a second block. I wasn't ready to go down that path yet.

So an intermediate step was made using what little material was left on the block.  Yes, this seems to work.

What's left? Darkest darks in head and wingtips, but I'll have to wait a few days for that. Inks are entirely too tacky. But the background needs a second blue in the water and a greenish tint in the line of distant trees, so those are next.

I'm headed to Wisconsin for the opening of Birds in Art at the Woodson Art Museum next week. Really hoping I can have this one wrapped up before I go. I have the next piece almost ready to begin!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Linocut in progress: Tern-ing slowly

Ink is drying unusually slowly, so this piece seems to be crawling forward. That may or may not be a good thing. Too much time to think between steps can be deadly to enthusiasm.

Common tern linocut, Step 8.

But I'm carrying on anyway. Here I've put another slightly darker gray in the underwing and body of the bird. I waffle a lot about whether these tones are too dark or not dark enough. I'm looking at a reference photo in which the shadows are almost black (a common problem with photographic reference)... and I don't want that. Instead I'm worrying that I've gone too pale.

Common tern linocut, Step 9.
But there's nothing to be done about it now, so I entertained myself with this little orange bill. It looks completely out of place at the moment, but there are some darks to go into the head and around the edges of the primaries, so I'm reasonably confident it won't be so obnoxious in the end.

The reduction linoleum block to this stage.
Not much left on the block at this point... so why do I think I have at least three colors to go?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Linocut in progress: Step 7, a subtle tern

Oh dear. The puntification is only going to take a tern for the worse, I'm afraid. I'm glad you all can handle it.

I realized today that I've been approaching this particular linocut in a more "watercolorly" fashion: I keep applying transparent glazes as one might do with a brush. Except that this way takes longer. Of course.

Steps 6 and 7 for comparison.
Perhaps you remember I wanted the bird to come forward of the background without looking disconnected, and that I was considering whether a slight warming of the shadow might accomplish this.

I think it's working. I don't want to make the shadow too dark, but I think this subtle temperature shift is okay. There's one more layer of minor darkening to apply to the trailing edges of the wings... then the higher contrast of wingtips, head, and bill. If there were any other colors going into the background clouds this shift might be TOO subtle, but...

Probably the next step will be to work some of the water and distant trees along the lower part of the image. The bird itself will be too tacky to apply any more color for a day or two.

Monday, August 19, 2013


The tern linocut needs a little more time to dry before I can print the next color, which is good because I have another project that needs some attention. (Read: Started it yesterday, must ship it on Wednesday.)

This tiny piece is supposed to be a secret, so I'm only going to show you a vague corner of the block and ask you to pretend you haven't seen it for a couple more weeks.

I haven't worked a straight-up black-and-white piece in a while so it took me a little bit to wrap my head around what I was doing.

The image needed to be printed on fairly substantial paper, so I decided to put little Elvis Press-ley to work. Elvis can't manage blocks mounted high enough for my usual hand-printing jig, which meant that I also needed to work on unmounted lino.

All of these elements together (b&w image, stiff paper, Elvis, umounted lino, short deadline) made me feel like a beginner again. A curiously satisfying experience...

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Linocut in progress: common tern Step 6

Yeah, I'm ready to be done with this sky. I think the next step will be to try to work the shadow of the bird back around where I want it... then water and distant trees... bird details... Ooph. Ways to go yet.

But first another blend. This time from an opaque blue to a transparent one.

Reduction linocut in progress, Step 6:

It seems a little bright in the photos, but I think it's going to be okay in "real life." We'll know soon enough. The water on this day was a deep, almost Prussian, blue. The light was sparkling, but clouds were building... and by the next morning everything was socked in with fog and rain.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Linocut in progress: common tern

Wow. Clearly I haven't printed in a while, since I seem to be hosting some new neck and shoulder aches. You what that means, don't you? Right. MORE PRINTING.

Common Tern linocut: Step 4
So here we are at Step 4. The image is emerging slowly, and I can't decide whether this is a function of thoughtful design or a chickensh#t approach. The first three grays are now swinging into the blue range.

Step 5
It took me several tries (and therefore several ditched prints) before I hit this value/color where I wanted it. It's still a transparent blend of blue and gray, more blue in the middle part of the image.

I like the idea of a delicate and graceful tern against all that crazy sky, but I have my doubts about my ability to pull it off. My goal* (*not plan, Andrew! ;-) is for the bird to come forward in the image but not seem like it's disconnected from its surroundings. More contrast in bird and less in background? Hopefully. There's also some color temperature to consider. If I warm up the shadow on the bird a bit, will it come forward or just look hokey? Stay tuned.

It's likely there will be many opportunities to try this bird-against-sky-and-waves** combination in the next few months, as I've committed to an exhibition of work about seabirds next summer. More on this as details come available... but think Maine in the summertime!

(**What? You don't see the waves yet? Don't worry, they're coming.)

Friday, August 9, 2013

Constancy and change

Why, yes. It's been an unconscionable amount of time since we've seen lino and carving tools on this blog.

Summer workshops and exhibitions always disrupt studio time, but this season has been filled with more upheaval than usual.

In May, after many heart-wrenching months of indecision, my partner and I agreed to separate. Shortly after we reached that decision the house we've been renting went up for sale.


D moved at the beginning of July, but I've been unable to find a new place for myself yet. Part of the problem is that I've been on the road for most of the past four weeks, but there are larger economic issues at play, too. Limbo. It's not a fun place to be.

Despite profound sadness and uncertainty, it is imperative that I keep working. I have contract projects that need attention and linocuts to create for upcoming exhibitions.

No surprise, then, that getting started on a new linocut today went a long way towards easing some of my mental and emotional uproar. Like a stiff-legged rider on a long-neglected bicycle I stumbled my way back to familiar motions and routines and found some satisfaction there.

Step 1: I think I forgot how to take decent photos of early stages.

Step 2: A second, transparent gray and a little better photography effort.

Step 3: A blue-gray, and already the image starts to resolve.
The drying rack is full now, and I feel a little more like myself. As is typical, I jumped into this lino without a firm plan and I already have problem-solving to do. Yep. Lots of other things might change, but THAT, at least, is a constant.

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...