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.


  1. Hurrah! You did it again. Nice tonal range, "Cool" I mean warm colors...Nice dark. and I still like the red/orange leaves.

  2. A lovely print and a lovely journey to follow! I wonder what registration jig you've invented, now that you are using a press.
    Your registration is wonderful, for example the thin yellow lines around some of the red leaves, just superb. How do you do that?

  3. Nineteen colors, plus those masks--yowza! It's a gorgeous print, but I would not have that patience. Okay, so I have spent three years writing and rewriting this memoir, but still.... :)

  4. :-) Thanks, everyone. It's so gratifying to have such a nice response to this piece, especially since there were several times during its production that I felt like I was headed down a very steep hill on roller skates with a wheel missing. (How's that for simile?)

    Marvel... I did a post about the registration system I'm working with now here: http://brushandbaren.blogspot.com/2014/10/press-experiments-registration-part-2.html

    So far it's working just fine, but I know I need to make some adjustments. Hoping to write a post about that soon.

  5. Hm. I see that the link to the post didn't work. If you don't want to cut-and-paste, check the post archive in the far right column on October 24, 2014.

  6. Another masterpiece! But what a journey to get there! I don't know how you do what you do, but keep doin' it!