Sunday, November 16, 2014

Linocut in Progress: The curse of beginner's luck

It's a known fact that I have beginner's luck. I can not tell you how many times my first attempts at something new (new technique, new exhibition, new project) are successful... and the next attempts are dismal failures. Seriously. It's some kind of a gift. It must be.

I had big plans to dive in to a larger print after the chipping sparrow piece, but first I took a day to finish printing the editions of two black-and-white pieces I did for my solo show at the Puffin Project Visitor Center in Rockland, Maine.

To the Horizon, linocut, 12" x 18"

This adventure was surprisingly more challenging than I expected. Single color on thin Awagami kozo paper? Piece of cake, right?

Eh... not so much. I found it challenging to get the pressure and the ink coverage just right. For reasons I have yet to sort out, I experienced good, crisp impression at one end of the block and fuzzy print at the other. An uneven spot in the press bed? Maybe. Too much pressure from the press distorting the paper? Maybe. Eventually the problem sorted itself out and I got through the editions, but it was NOT the speedy process I expected.

Given the vagaries of that experience I decided to tackle another small reduction piece before committing to something bigger. (I do have an experimental 18 x 24 block mounted and ready to go!)

The first step was a three-color blended roll with lots of transparency over an uncarved block.

Step 1

Not bad, but not exactly what I wanted at the top. The color needed to be a bit more purple, a bit darker. I'm also having trouble with a "lap mark" for the first time. That vertical line on the right side of the print? That's caused by my brayer making one complete revolution across the block and starting again. No amount of re-rolling seemed to fix it. I tried starting in the middle and rolling to either edge... rolling over and over and over from one side to the other with the brayer starting in a new position each time... I'd get everything looking okay on the block, but in the print? A line. This never happened when I hand printed!

Already by the first color run I had pulled one print out as a "reject" to use for testing. Remember this, for it will be significant later on.

Second color run was a transparent purple-blue, just across the top of the block, masked out with newsprint when it went through the press.

Better, I think.

Step 2
It will become clear on Step 3 that I'm going after another sunset image. Here comes a crazy-bright blended roll of yellows and oranges.

Step 3 rollup
With NO lap mark problems except from the underlying color. What the heck?

Step 3
It's looking okay so far, but don't let that fool you. Things are about to get ridiculous.


  1. looks great! love the sunset colours
    seems like there are phantom geese flying across the first print - extra pressure transferring the drawing too?

  2. i think they both look great but it is very odd the yellow/orange blend didn't leave lap marks but the blue did. Too much pressure for both the sunset and the puffins? First thought would be uneven spot on the press bed, but you didn't have that problem with the first edition you printed.

  3. Well, I'll be letting the cat out of the bag early when I tell you I did eventually figure out it was a pressure problem... but not until I'd trashed most of the edition. Ooph. Live and learn. Hopefully. ;-)

  4. well at least you figured it out for future editions :)