Thursday, December 17, 2015

Linocut in Progress: Small beginning steps, and then a big leap!

It's amazing how long I can avoid committing to a new linocut when I don't have a deadline looming. Ridiculous, really, since I am totally happy to be working once I begin. But becoming brave enough to make that first cut can sometimes take a while.

I wish I could remember who it was who said, "I begin when the pain of NOT working becomes greater than the pain of working." (Or some words to that effect.) I tried to Google it but just got a bunch of references to ibuprofen and morphine. Draw your own connections if you wish.

Sure enough... the pain of not working hit me last week, but I haven't made any posts because the first couple of passes didn't really show much. And, to be honest, I wasn't sure my idea was even going to work. But now I'm four passes along and fairly confident that I'm headed in the right direction, so....

Step 1:
Detail, first step of new linocut

See? I told you there wasn't much to show. But this is the reason I paced along the edge of the cliff for so long. The first marks are random white dots in a pale gray background. These dots will be there now for the entire print. Geez, I hope this works.

Step 2:

I carved a few more random dots and printed a slightly darker gray. I'm not sure now that the first gray was dark enough to make a difference, but okay... onward.

If you have a bright monitor you might be able to see the outlines of the subject. On a few of the prints in the run I had some bleed out from the Sharpie marker with which I drew the image on the block. I'm not worried about it because this will all get covered in subsequent steps, and the worst offenders get rotated to the front of the line as "test" prints.

Step 3: 

I decided that I didn't like the flat gray background, so added a slightly darker gray-blending-to-nothing in the top half of the print. This is a wretched photo! The bottom of the print is NOT blue, it's all gray. Which you'll see a little better in.....

Step 4:

NOW we are getting somewhere. The bones of the entire image are now in place... which for me is pretty surprising after only 4 color passes. At the moment I think the white dots might read a little bit like stars until one realizes that some of them are in the foreground.. carved in front of branches and bird. It's the beginning of a snow storm! Just the first few flakes.

I was afraid of putting in too many snowflakes, but now I think I should have done a few more. Oh well, next time!

It was kind of a scary commitment for me to remove so much material from the block at this point, but it was a great opportunity to fall in love with the widest "sweep" gouge in my new Pfeil tool set. I am really, really happy with these new gouges. There are a couple that will take time to find regular use for, but so far I am smitten with 4 of the 6 in the "B" set.

There will be a pause of a couple of days now: Friday to deliver work to an exhibition and Saturday to chase around for our annual Christmas Bird Count. But I should be back to work on Sunday and... fingers crossed... I am hopeful that I can wrap this one up before the end of the year!


  1. Looks like a Great Horned Owl on a branch in the snow,yes?

  2. A wonderful start, lovely to see the owl emerging!

  3. 'Tis a smaller species of "eared" owl than great-horned, the flammulated! (Psiloscops flammeolus). It usually hangs out in pine forests, but in early spring this one was right in town!

  4. I love where this is headed. Saving the whites is so different in linocut compared to watercolor. I'm not sure how you do both mediums without getting it all mixed up. I can't wait to see this one finished.

  5. “”Artists don’t get down to work until the pain of working is exceeded by the pain of not working.” – Stephen DeStaebler” was that what you were thinking of?

    owl is looking great :)

  6. I get mixed up about a lot of things, April, don't you worry! I've just gotten good at "Oh, look! Squirrel!" before anyone notices.

    That's the one, Jen! Although I don't recognize the name, so I must have read someone else quoting him. I'm the third-or-fourth-hand version, I guess. ;-)