Friday, February 27, 2015

Linocut in Progress: Carving

Yep, carving. That is all.

Sing it with me now: Carving, carving, carving linoleum.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Linocut in Progress: Snow Day = Print Day!

My original plan for Monday was to make a run to the Front Range with a friend, doubling up on errands and adding some companionship to the hours of drive time.

But then snow happened.

I'm sort of embarrassed to admit what a mild winter we've had when friends along the east coast have been slammed with one major storm after another. "Unseasonably warm," as they say. Mid-60s in February kind of warm. The kind of warm that makes those of us in water-poor parts of the country very, very nervous.

So it was with mixed feelings that I watched the ominous weekend forecast. The storm's arrival kept getting pushed back, but on Saturday it finally moved in and we watched the white stuff come down well in to Monday.

Definitely not the sort of weather for driving 300 miles to the city and back.

But I've got my borrowed roller and plenty of paper and ink and lino, so our snow day turned in to print day.

Oooh... nice, wide blended roll!

I had to completely clear my work surface to make room for the 18 x 18-inch block and the 19-inch roller. In the end I added a second small folding table to the far end so I had a place to set the roller when I wasn't actively using it. My drying rack had to move to another part of the room because the larger paper wouldn't fit in its usual spot. Definitely pushing the boundaries of my work space here!

As always, there were a few challenges along the way. First of these was that my linoleum block slid as I rolled it up. It hadn't occurred to me that I normally use one hand to steady the block while the other hand operates the brayer. Not possible with a two-handed roller! The solution ended up being a piece of uncarved lino taped to the work table to serve as a stop. (You can see it in the photo above.)

The second was simply the weight of the roller itself. Four straight hours of rolling and printing gave my forearms a fine workout. I began to suspect that ol' Popeye wasn't a sailor, he was a printmaker!

The weight wasn't unexpected... in fact its owner warned me that this roller was significantly heavier than other brands of comparable size. But by print #22 I was definitely ready for a break.

Linocut in progress, Step 1

It all looks a little blotchy in the photo, but not so much in natural light. Most of this will of course be covered up by subsequent colors.

What those colors will be is still a subject of some mental debate. Something in the green/blue realm, anyway. But there's a LOT of carving to do before that can happen, so I have plenty of time to think about it.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Of COURSE there's another lino in progress

A little osprey test print
Hard to believe it's been a week already since I finished what has come to be titled "Treasured Path." It's one of those strange cases where it feels like only yesterday and ages ago.

Immediately following clean-up I was obliged to turn my attention to some contract work and other tasks that had been neglected during the several-day marathon that was the completion of "Treasured Path." But never fear! Linos are still happening.

Yesterday (Was it yesterday? Maybe it was the day before.) I spent some time futzing around with a little black-and-white piece I carved as a demo back in December. I recently purchased some Canson Editions paper and wanted to give it a try, along with having another go at printing on Arches 140# cold press watercolor paper.

It quickly became clear in both instances that I achieved better results on damp paper, at which time it became even more clear that if I am going to make damp paper a habit I need a better system. But eventually I pulled some nice prints and learned a few things, so the day was deemed a success.

I also re-callibrated Presston in anticipation of this:

Uh huh. It's what you think it is. Large and complicated.
That's an 18" x 18" piece of lino, ladies and gents. With lots of squiggly lines on it. I have big hopes for this piece... and big nervousness, too. I'll be heading places I've not been before.

But printing won't start for a few days because I have to borrow some equipment, namely a large roller. I intend to cover this block with not one, but two, 18" wide blended (or rainbow) rolls. The widest blended roll I've ever done is a scant 8," because that's the widest brayer I own. (Well, I do have a REALLY large roller, but it needs repair and I haven't used it.)

Luckily the awesome printmaker Jean Gumpper (Go look at her work. Right. Now.) has agreed to loan me one of her large rollers... so...oooh! Things are going to get exciting (and somewhat scary) around here towards the end of next week.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Linocut in Progress: What a long, strange trip it's been

Okay... I'm going to confess right up front. It was definitely not two more color passes to finish this print. Definitely not. Long post following as a result!

Aspen leaf linocut, Step 14

The light taupe-y color from step 13 was destined to appear in only a few decaying leaves and some other small details, so the next step was a slightly darker... um... taupe-y color.

Aspen leaf linocut, Step 15

Now it's time to get going on the thoroughly exciting dirt portion of this image. And... voila! Suddenly there are some more interesting things going on in the negative spaces. (I'm thinking the days of this image as potential fabric are probably gone now. ;-))

But there's a problem.** Perhaps you are noticing for the first time that there are some twigs in this image. (Look along the top edge.) The main body of these twigs should be a light gray. I kept passing up work on this little area, thinking I would "get to it in the next pass," but of course I never did. And now it's beyond time to do something about it.

(**Okay, technically two problems, because I had delusions that this print would be finished at this step.)

The solution... I hoped... was to spot ink a straight white on to the twigs.

I'm calling this Step 15.5. It's my print, I can do that.

I also had to place a newsprint mask over the areas of the print that didn't have ink to keep the block from pulling up previously printed layers. (There was another mask in the upper corner, but I didn't take a photo of it.)

I also neglected to take a photo of the print at this stage, but there wasn't really much to see. I did get the gray I wanted, however!

And then I went to.....

Aspen leaf linocut, Step 16 (or 17)

A nice, dark brown. Although it wasn't really brown... more of a transparent gray made with brown and blue. But really, who can tell?

I hoped it would be done at this stage, but I ran in to a small problem with those late-in-the-game twigs. The masks weren't precision cut and the transparent gray layer didn't cover the areas where the white went out of bounds.

Rats. One more dark.

Aspen leaf linocut, Step 17 (or 18). Final. Sort of.

The overall tone isn't obviously changed here, but in "real life" some subtle textures went in to the background with some more carving and one more pass.

So here we are at Step 17 or 18, depending on whether or not you want to count the twig whitening as whole step... which technically I suppose we should. But there's a tiny problem that's not apparent in the photo: Even the second pass of the dark didn't quite cover the "halo" of overprinting around the twigs.


Again, when viewed from a distance there's no obvious difference in the overall print, but I did some spot inking and masking across the top one more time, just to satisfy myself that the halo was gone.

 I know that I almost always end up printing more colors than I expect, but I think this image probably went the farthest "over budget" ever. My original color estimate was 10, not 19!

It was a surprise, because I really expected it to be a fairly straightforward print. But I did learn a lot, especially about the behavior of the ink colors that I don't use very often. (I tend to be a blue and green sort of person, not orange and red!)

The next lino is waiting in the queue, but unfortunately illustration work calls, so it will likely be the weekend before I get to it. I'm slowly creeping up on larger work. This piece is 12" x 18"... the next one will be 18" x 18" (46 x 46 cm). Wheee!

The REAL final. Embiggenable with a click.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Linocut in Progress: Digging myself in deeper

I realize that it's been a while since I've shared the block for this linocut. (Read: I don't think I've EVER shared a photo of the block for this piece.) I guess it's about time.

Lino underway
It's no wonder I'm getting confused. Can you tell where I am?

The image seems to still be wandering around off course. Every time I think I only have two colors left to go I find I am very, very wrong.

Aspen leaf linocut, Step 11
So here we are at Step 11. This pass was a transparent gray... straight up black in lots of transparent base. Redder than I thought I wanted, but in the end I decided it was a nice way to add some little textures to some of the redder leaves.

Of course all bets are off when we move on, so guess what? I actually stopped to do some actual planning. Please, no one faint.

Here's how planning looks in my world: I took a photo of the print so far, flopped it around backwards in Unnamed Evil Adobe Photo Manipulation Software (so it matched the orientation of my block) et voila!

As a result of this doodling I decided I wanted to tone a few areas down, so I opted for a transparent white layer.

Aspen leaf linocut, Step 12

Hm. The weird thing about it is that it did tone down the small areas I wanted toned down. But ewwww. Weird purpley color. Most of it will be covered up after this, so I had to just cross my fingers and go on.

Aspen leaf linocut, Step 13
It took a ridiculously long time to find this color. Thankfully I've messed around so much with this print that I have lots of rejects to experiment on. I also now have at least four packets of odd gray inks that I mixed and rejected. Hopefully I'll find a use for them in another print.

I hesitate to say it, but NOW I think I'm down to just two more colors. I certainly hope so, I'm losing interest and confidence in the effort so far. With luck I'll have it all done this weekend.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Linocut in Progress: Is this a print or a horse?

Sometimes in the middle of work on a reduction piece I feel like I'm drifting further and further from my original concept, headed off somewhere I never intended to go. I used to feel the same way on a certain horse I knew (a whole other lifetime ago). I wanted to go this way and the horse wanted to go that way. We'd make it to the destination, but we'd be resisting each other the entire time.

I'm tempted to name this print after that horse.

Aspen leaf linocut, Step 9

After the yellow pass I wanted something orangey. This pass was okay... and certainly bright enough with that yellow underneath it. But everything feels flat... no dimension. I keep trying to tell myself that it will be better once the darks are in place, but right now it's difficult to remain optimistic when I'm NINE colors in and nothing is resolved.

After the orange I needed a red. My first attempt was a straight red with transparent base... and all I got was a too-dark orange.

That's not right.

Next I tried a blended roll... a little darker on the top and bottom... and a richer red.

Still not right.

That's more interesting, and certainly less "flat" feeling, but WAYYYYYY too dark. Okay for maple leaves, but not aspen.

So what to do? I decided to skip any fancy inking at this point and just find the @#$% red. Which turned out to be.....

Is that Barbie pink?

Fuschia? Rose? Nope. Barbie doll pink. The sort of color that makes me shudder when I see it on little girls. (Although I confess that in my youth I chose a wallpaper for my bedroom that sported huge flowers in orange, purple.. and this pink. It was the 70s. It couldn't be helped.)

Aspen leaf linocut, Step 10

Interestingly, it mellowed to a sort of "tomato bisque" color on the print, which was more what I was after.

The next step will be a transparent gray of some ilk. I haven't yet decided if it will lean towards blue (cooler) or brown (warmer). I'd like to try the blue range just because this whole image is so darn warm right now, but whatever I try I'm pretty sure I'll get some argument. All I can do is hold tight to the reigns (or at least the saddle horn) and try to keep moving forward.

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...