Monday, November 9, 2015

Linocut in Progress: The vagaries of transparent color

I've mentioned a few times that I've been using a transparent lilac ink in this piece... which might seem odd, given that there's not really any lilac showing. For the next step I took the leftover lilac ink from the previous print pass, added some blue and some black to make it darker and cooler, and printed this:

"Fleeting," reduction linocut, Step 8

It still looked decidedly pink, although if you isolate some of the background you can see that it does have a violet tinge.


I wanted some of these trunks to "read" purple-y, and I wasn't sure that I had it right. But I was also starting to worry that everything was getting a little too dark too fast to risk another pass of the lavender ink. Enter blind faith. I decided to leave it as it was and move on.

I intended for the next color to read as a soft brown, but my first attempt was frightening. Straight transparent brown over the lilac just read as... red! Not what I wanted. I tried adding a little black. Better, but still not right. Ack!

And then I calmed down and engaged some basic color theory. The current color layers are all warm– building slowly from yellow to orange to the lilac. Which means that every pass is gaining a bit more red (even though I haven't touched any red ink.) How does one "gray down" red? By adding the complement, which, for those of you who haven't thought about color mixing since kindergarten, is the color opposite red on the color wheel. Green!

So I added green to my existing ink color until I got this lovely olive tone, still very transparent.

 No, really. It's lovely!

Fingers crossed, I pulled another print... and, voila!

"Fleeting," reduction linocut, Step 9

 It's brown! AND, even better, the trunks that were intended to read as purple, DO! This particular shot is embiggenable, so I encourage you to click on it and see what I mean.

From here the temptation is to just barrel on ahead and get those background darks placed, but there's a secret little surprise in this image that's going to require me to digress for a few steps. It's going to increase my ink count, but only in a tiny portion of the print. Curious? Me, too. Fingers crossed I can make it work.


  1. Sorry if I shouted at you, Sherrie...but I was bouncing in my chair, yelling "Mix the complementary!" And , of course, you did.Because you *know* colour.

  2. and this is why I stress colour theory to people, its too handy not to know

  3. thats fascinating, like magic! - methinks I need to study some colour theory
    Any pointers where to start would be gratefully accepted...

  4. Dinah... I am chuckling at the image of you bouncing in your chair and yelling color theory like a beer-fueled sports fan.

    Yep, Jen, you are right... "too handy not to know" is a perfect description.

    Hm. Jane... it's definitely like magic. I admit that I have not really "studied" color (colour) theory since one college semester several decades (!!) ago. Does anyone have any suggestions of good places online that discuss (and more importantly for visual learners, SHOW) color ideas?