Monday, March 31, 2014

For the doubters amongst us

Avoidance of the eiders continues, so carving progresses on what I'm envisioning as both a single-color linocut and perhaps a key block for some future multi-pass experiment.

This block is a 12x12-inch square, but seems to be taking an inordinately long time to carve. Maybe it's because I'm working with texture more than shape, so it's ALL noodly. At this point it's about half carved... or we could say I've got a couple of Harry Potter movies and a Star Trek episode or two invested so far. Kind of fun, though, eh? It's the lovely assortment of cormorant postures that interested me here, and for the someday-future color version there's a great movement of color from light gray to green to dark gray, more light gray, ochre, brown as you move top to bottom.

Who knows? If I manage to print it on watercolor paper (challenging by hand) I might even add some handcoloring. But all this is completely theoretical until I finish carving, so time to get back to it!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Linocut in Progress: The eiders get scary

Lately there's been a lot of muttering on this blog about making decisions via The Avoidance Method. One would think that since it's a technique I use frequently it must have some sort of value.

One would be mistaken.  I started work on this eider linocut in order to avoid making decisions about the puffin piece... and then found myself smack up against troublesome indecision again. Nothing like Avoidance-Times-Two to make one think about starting a third piece.

Which, okay, I confess, I'm drawing up now.

In the meantime, things have gotten dicey in the eider department. I carved some more pattern into the water and printed that bright-to-dark blue roll again. 

Eider linocut: Step 7

Looking good, feeling good about it. And then the trouble started. (Go ahead guys, insert some comment about trouble-making females here, 'cause that's who's causing the grief.)

The female Atlantic eiders can have a bit more "rusty" tone to some of their plumage than their western counterparts.... so I messed around until I found a color that looks VERY orange on the block, but not so much when printed over blue.

Eider linocut: Step 8

It seemed a little dark, but I planned on a second, darker brown and a black yet to go, so wasn't too worried. I have a tendency to under-estimate value rather than over-estimate.

Or at least I did until now.

Eider linocut: Step 9
I had planned on just two steps after this... a transparent blue to add some shadows to the female and then the blacks in the male bird. But I'm worried that the hen is just too dark overall... so I'm going to attempt to bring this all around by adding a lighter color over the dark on her back. I'm not at all certain this will work... but desperation being nine-tenths of the law (or something like that).. I'll have to give it a try.

So while I'm waiting for ink to dry and my courage to return I've started drawing up another block. I'm running out of time to do any more reduction prints before the deadline for the Maine exhibition, so I think I'll be returning to my roots for this one: Single color!

WHAT?!?! Maybe handpainted with watercolor, maybe not. I'm still working out the composition. (More birds and rocks, what a surprise.) But as I'm drawing up the block I'm finding it a nice break to work without the specter of color decisions looming in the background. At least it's nice until I start thinking about how cool a green-to-ochre blend would be in this area... and a multi-gray blend here.... and OOOH... what about the sky......????

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Linocut in Progress: The final puffin

Well, it's not really the final puffin. At least not in the sense that the species is lost or I won't ever make any images of them again. You know what I mean. Final print stages. Which sometimes feel like they'll be the end of me, but that's a whole 'nuther story.

As you may recall from about 10 days ago, I had spent some time messing around with the red markings on the rocks, trying to get the shadow right.

"fixer" block
I still wasn't happy with it... so I did something I rarely do. I cut a "fixer block."

I traced the shape of the shadow on to an old blemished block I had floating around. Too lazy to clear ALL the material (and you never know when I might need one of the other corners to patch something else), carved the shape and then cut a mask for inking. I COULD have done this without cutting the block at all, but I didn't.

Because this block is considerably smaller than the full image block it made for some interesting paper management issues... but I propped some other uncut blocks around it and everything went fine.

 Puffin linocut: Step 11, shadow detail

 So.. with that problem solved it was time to face my biggest fear: The background. (Which is why so much progress was made on the little eider print. I face my fears by avoidance.)

With so much "noise" in the foreground rocks I wanted to keep the background simple... but by now there are several layers of color there already. And of course I wanted to do a big blended ink roll.... when my largest roller is 8" wide and the print is 12" x 18". Should have done this earlier in the process. Didn't. More avoidance.

I'm sorry to say that despite all this dramatic build-up I FORGOT to take a photo at this stage. Mostly I was just so tired that all I wanted to do was clean up and go to sleep. Hand-rubbing this big blend with so much ink below it took about 15 minutes per print... and I had 20 of them.

While the undocumented Step 12 was drying I went back to the eiders, AND set about the task of clearing all that background material from the puffin block.

 There was a lot of it.

But now the focus is on the puffin itself, and that's pretty fun. With less material to ink and print things went a bit faster, too.

Puffin linocut: Step 13
So... it's a huge jump now! Background in place, rocks coming together, and puffin appears! The color in this shot is way too... something. Gray. Muted. Warm. An artifact of shooting at night under a "color-balanced" lamp that I later discovered had a bulb out.

The last step took a little longer than I expected, just because I decided I didn't need as much of this darkest color in the rocks as I had on the first print. In addition, I tackled the printing a little sooner than I should have, so to avoid pulling up the previous color I had to wipe down the block on every other impression. Once I started I couldn't stop, so it was a late night... but I slept well knowing this was finished satisfactorily! All it needs now is a title. Ideas?

Puffin linocut: Step 14. Embiggenable with a click, if you want.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Linocut in Progress: The eiders emerge

I did get the next color down on the puffin piece, but it was such an ordeal that I haven't been back to look at it since I finished yesterday, so no photo yet. In the meantime, work on the (smaller, more manageable) eider linocut moves forward nicely.

Eider linocut: Step 5

The flat light blue of the previous pass was only to provide some shadowing in the male bird, so after just a wee bit of carving I was able to add this slight blend of blues... medium to dark to medium again. The female in the background remains very cryptic, but I think we'll start to get a feel for her in the next pass.

Eider linocut: Step 6

And there she is! Another slightly variegated ink rollup... this time a brighter blue on top and more gray-blue towards the bottom.

I'm pausing now to contemplate whether I want to add another layer of color in the background or leave it subtle like this. After that it should be just two browns, mostly in the female, and a black for the darkest bits of the male.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Linocut in Progress: Distracted by mystery bird

Clearly I'm feeling stalled on the puffin linocut... Or rather I feel like I'm pacing back and forth on the edge of a cliff, trying to decide whether or not to jump off!

My solution to indecision is, of course, to distract myself with another print.

Stuart B. wins the bird ID quiz... this is, indeed, destined to highlight the common eider. To my mind it's the shape of the bill that gives it away, but then I've been looking at a lot of eiders lately. Not live ones, sadly, as I live far from their usual haunts. But once upon a time I was on the Isle of May (Scotland) in spring, surrounded by the sweet sounds of eiders wooing. When I was back on the mainland (granted, a bigger island)... I felt bereft without their calls.

Nostalgia aside, some quick progress has been made.

Eider linocut - Step 2

Difficult to tell here, but a second spot-inked yellow followed the first. This will be more clear when other colors arrive, I think.

And then a lovely pale green. (More spot inking.)

Eider linocut - Step 3

Really difficult to tell what's going on here, isn't it? The shapes seem odd and disjointed. Time to fix that with an overall transparent blue.

Eider linocut - Step 4

NOW there's an eider! And surprise! There's a second bird here, too.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Monday Mystery: What's it gonna be?

I messed around with my new garment-rack-turned-drying-rack this weekend and did, indeed, manage to make it into a doubledecker.

So of course I had to fill that second layer of pins with prints! Here's the first step of a new linocut. Care to guess what it might be? I think seabird aficionados will probably be able to sort it out already, but maybe not.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Linocut in Progress: Back to the puffin

Although it would be more accurate to say the puffin has its back to us. Ooph. Yes. It's been that week.

 So let's see, where were we before we were interrupted by happy exhibition news?

Right. Exhibiting approach/avoidance behavior on a wee problem that has cropped up in this image. But first, a transparent blue to hopefully serve two purposes: creating a shadow behind the bird and bringing the background out of gray, since it's going to be REALLY blue shortly.

Happy puffin linocut: Step 8
And now the problem is discovered. This puffin is perched on Eastern Egg Rock, which is decorated on the observation blind side of things with assorted cryptic markings. These were of course placed there by biologists studying the birds, to facilitate the gathering of data. (Which bird is standing where and using which burrow when, for example.)

I wanted to include some of these markings without getting too crazy about it, but I didn't plan properly for the bright red tag in the lower right of the image.

It's difficult to explain the problem(s), but basically both the red and the blue should have gone down earlier in the process. But... nothing to do about that now except find a solution I can live with.
Another spot inking mask.
First order of business was to cut a mask and spot ink... well... the spot. It's red with white lettering, but there's a shadow cast across it. Unfortunately that shadow is already down... so things are out of order. (The shadow is also the wrong color, but that's a whole other problem to solve later.)

Puffin linocut: Step 9.
The spot is printed, but it's too dark. It's a good red for the parts in the shadow, but not for the parts in the light. The solution (you'll note I refrained from saying "the obvious solution") was to cut another mask and print a lighter red over the darker in the appropriate areas.

Puffin linocut: Step 10
The difference doesn't show very well in the wide shot, so here's a detail:

Right now it looks like the next steps will be to resolve the background and then finish the bird and the foreground rocks. Three, maybe four passes I think.

In other news, I'm feeling pretty smug about the solution I've found for the drying rack in my new, small space. I'm not permitted to put hooks in the ceiling here, so hanging the rack from pulleys as I usually do won't work. But my space is small and I need to keep as much floor space clear as possible, so my solution needed a small footprint and it needed to be movable.

Enter the garment rack. This particular one is adjustable in height and width, but the base (with casters) is only about 17" x 34".  I've got a short (48") rack attached to the top bar at the moment, with only 18 clips, but I have a second rack that's too long for the room that I can cut down to add a few more clips. I'm pretty sure I can set this up as a double-decker if I hang a second rack on chain or something below the top rail. And it's a $20 fix, to boot.

The entire room feels better without the rail hung across chairs. I've had an illustration project to work on this week in addition to this print, and no matter which direction I set the chairs they always ended up in the way of some drawer I needed to open or reference book I needed to access. Moving them while balancing wet prints was no small pain in the neck. But no more! Have movable rack... will print!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

We interrupt this linocut in progress....

To share the lovely news that my reduction linocut, Coot du Jour, was awarded Best in Show at the juried exhibition "Pressing Matters." On view at the Art Students League of Denver Gallery, 200 Grant Street, Denver, now through April 23.

"Pressing Matters" is one of several exhibitions throughout the Denver/Boulder area in celebration of "Mo'Print," the Month of Printmaking.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Linocut in Progress: Self-imposed tedium

The problem with granite-y rocks is that they are a riot of little tiny flecks of color. Of course no one said I had to try to PRINT a riot of little tiny flecks. I brought that on myself.

I don't have a lot of patience for carving noodly bits of lino right now, so I walk away from it about every 20 minutes or so. The last time I walked away I realized that I made a semi-serious mistake in the order in which I've been printing colors, so now I have tedium AND annoyed-with-myself problem solving to face. Yep. This particular step is taking a while.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Linocut in Progress: Spot inking and the puffin

In my previous post I mentioned that I was doing some spot inking in the puffin's face. I've done this on several pieces before, but just in case you're new to the idea, here's a shot to clarify.

In this instance I have cut a mask from clear mylar. The opening doesn't have to be perfect, just large enough to allow inking access in the face while keeping stray ink out of places I don't want it. I run the roller over the selected area and remove the mylar to print. I replace it to re-ink the block each time, so using transparent film helps me get it in the right place.

Puffin linocut: Step 5, spot ink gray in the face.
Sorry I neglected to take a close-up at this stage.... you can't really tell much from this photo.

After the gray was applied in the face, I carved a wee bit more and then ran a transparent gray over the entire block.

Puffin linocut: Step 6.
The rocks are starting to take form. I wasn't totally satisfied with the value of the gray on the underside of the puffin's bill, so I let that portion of the block stand while I carved more rock and applied one more transparent gray.

Puffin linocut: Step 7

This print looks really blotchy, but that's a function of strange lighting, I think. I did remember to take a closeup at this stage so you can see all that's happening in our puffin's face. The yellow, orange, and red were all applied through the same mask, I just carved away more area each time... Sort of a reduction within a reduction, if that makes sense. The gray bits were inked using the second mask pictured above.

Step 7 closeup
I like how the rock looks at this stage, so I think I'll turn my attention elsewhere for a bit. There's some spot inking that needs to happen on the rock and then I'll tackle that big expanse of background.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Linocut in Progress: The puffiny face

Three colors in quick succession today. Have I mentioned how much I love working at home again? Crikey. A long walk this morning (complete with bald eagles and lots of mergansers) and then printing... and errands... and more printing. Yay!

Puffin linocut: Step 2. Big, fat yellow in the bill, spot inked.
Puffin linocut: Step 3. Small orange areas spot inked.
Puffin linocut: Step 4. Red-orange bill and eye detail.
 Clearly I need to figure out a set-up for photography of work in progress in my new studio configuration. Light in general is spotty. Overall the room is bright, but work area lighting leaves something to be desired.

Hopefully by tomorrow these three little areas will be dry enough for another overall transparent gray pass and one more bit of color detail in the bill. Then it's on to the bird and the background!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

New Puffin Linocut in Progress: It's The Return of Pajama Printing!

Thanks to a cadre of amazingly wonderful friends the furniture contents and last bits of "stuff" were moved from my now-former studio and into to my new home space yesterday. In typical Sherrie fashion I kept plowing on through the pile after everyone left (I HATE too much disorganized clutter) and by last evening things were put away enough to get to work.

I still have to sort out what to do about my drying rack, since I am not permitted to make holes in the ceiling here. (That's where all the heat supply mechanisms are, apparently.) I'm thinking about doing some sort of wall attachment that can collapse when not in use, but not sure yet.

In the meantime:

Pajamas. In the studio this morning. Appropriately decorated with puffins. This was the first time I was able to roll out of bed and go straight to work in about six months. Heaven.

Drying rack assembly temporarily supported by chairs.

And.... first pass on a new linocut. Life is good!

There are several details to sort out in the new space: The drying rack... lighting... a couple of shelves... but overall I think it's going to be okay. After far too many months of limbo it feels great to be settling into one place and able to look ahead. Tomorrow? That crazy puffin bill!

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...