Monday, February 29, 2016

Linocut in Progress: Still ugly

(Sigh) Sometimes I think I should take up some other occupation... like... I don't know... bottle cap collecting or something. Surely it's less stressful than printmaking.

These ducks are testing my bravery, and as a result I am procrastinating in the worst way. Or maybe I am just a great example of approach-avoidance behavior* in action. I want to finish this piece (good), but the next steps are awkward and scary (bad). I just keep walking up to the table and then away from it, afraid to take the plunge.

Step 11 wasn't so bad... it was a transparent gray applied over all the uncarved areas of the block. It unified everything as I had hoped, but it also made the female ducks a bit darker overall.

Bufflehead reduction linocut in progress Step 11

The color isn't bad... in fact I like it, but there isn't enough value contrast between the birds and the water. In particular, the head of the foreground bird is lost against the waves. I could (and probably will) darken areas of the water behind her head a bit more... but I don't think it will solve the problem.

Hm. More procrastination.

Bufflehead linocut in progress: Step 12

Yesterday I finally decided to add some lighter color back in to a few places on the female ducks' heads. I cut a stencil and did some very selective inking. The result is patchy-looking AND it's also not quite light enough. Argh. The patchiness is okay, it will be dealt with when I apply one more transparent gray layer over the entire bird, but I'm going to have to reprint a few of these lighter bits. Ugh. Fussy.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, says the procrastinator) I'm headed out of town for a few days again. I'm going to try to hit these light bits tonight before I go and then hopefully it will all be dry and ready for the final steps when I return. And maybe I'll have my courage back by then, too.

(*Wikipedia, that fountain of information that may or may not be correct, explains it this way: Approach-avoidance conflicts occur when there is one goal or event that has both positive and negative effects or characteristics that make the goal appealing and unappealing simultaneously.)

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Linocut in Progress: Ugly duckling stage!

Work continues on the female buffleheads, with a couple of new brownish ink passes achieved by a combination of spot inking and masking. For readers who might be new to Brush and Baren, this time I remembered to take a couple of photos of what I'm talking about!

It's probably overly generous to call this "spot inking," because I've been pretty sloppy about it. It's more like "messy blob inking" than "spot." In this case it's okay, because I'm going to keep those messy blobs from interfering with the rest of the print by putting a paper mask over the block before printing. Like this:

After printing this tan-ish color the prints looked like this:

Bufflehead linocut in progress: Step 9

Coming along, although I find this stage rather nerve-wracking. The color harmony of the first few layers is disrupted, and it all looks awkward. (The ugly duckling stage.)

Some more carving, some more "messy blob inking," another mask, and a slightly darker brownish color brought the print to this:

Bufflehead linocut in progress: Step 10

The female ducks finally started to gain a little form and settle back down into the water, rather than looking like flat light shapes floating through space.

I think the next step will be to try to bring some of the harmony back with an overall transparent gray. Birds, water (the areas that haven't yet been carved away), everything. Hopefully this will give me a sense of where everything is value-wise. With luck I'll be able to accomplish that tomorrow.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Linocut in Progress: Going from dark to light

Most of the time in the reduction printing process I apply color layers from light to dark, but not always! It's true that darker colors cover lighter ones more readily than the other way around, but sometimes it's desirable (or just plain neccessary) to put a light color over a dark.

Enter the female buffleheads in this image. Overall the females are brown, but on their breasts and bellies they are light gray, almost white in some places. Up to this point every color pass has been very much on the blue end of the spectrum, and I want to warm things up a bit. I could have, and probably should have, masked some of this blue out in earlier stages, but I was so involved in thinking about the water that I just let it slide.

Now I have to contend with that decision.

I cut a newsprint mask that would cover every part of the block except the two female birds and the beaks of the males. I inked only the birds before printing, but the mask helped to keep extraneous color from going where I didn't want it, AND it protected the prints from the uninked areas of the block.

This pass was a solid white.

Bufflehead linocut in progress: Step 7

You might be saying to yourself, "Um... I thought she said she printed white?"

I did, but I didn't want to apply the ink too heavily (I've got at least three more colors to put on these females) so the thin layer of white looks gray. I thought it would be okay, but I was out of the studio for a couple of days and when I got back I decided it was a little too dark. And still too blue.

So I hit those same areas again with a white that had just a little brown added.

Bufflehead linocut in progress: Step 8

THAT's the tone. Not much of this will remain, except in beaks and the breast of the lower female, but it's a good undertone for the light brown bits that will come next.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Linocut in Progress: Contemplating water

One of the biggest challenges of reduction printing, for me, is judging color value (lightness or darkness). I can't tell you how many times I've put down colors that looked strikingly different from each other, only to have them look like the exact SAME color two or three passes later.

If I were printing multiple blocks... or better yet, if I were a painter, I could go back and "fix" the offending color. But with reduction printing, once I've gone on to the next step I can't really go back.

In some cases I've been known to cut a second block, but most of the time I just do a lot of scowling and try to figure out how to live with the problem. Remember that when I show you where we are now with this bufflehead linocut.

Bufflehead linocut in progress: Step 5

At Step 5 things are looking pretty good. This pass was just a transparent light gray; my intention was to both darken the underlying colors and to tone down some of the brightness. Yep, that worked.

And then came Step 6. I really like the feeling of transparency in the water, but I want to build some more depth. After another carving session I put a little more black pigment in my existing transparent gray ink and made a print pass:

Bufflehead linocut in progress: Experimental step

Whoa! WAYYYYYY too dark! This might be okay in a few areas, but not everywhere like this! Ugh. Scrub off the block, remix the ink. Try again.

Bufflehead linocut in progress: Step 6

Unfortunately the photo doesn't really seem to show much difference between steps 5 and 6 now, but maybe you can tell the some more of the brightness has been taken out of the darker areas.

So now what? I'm on the fence about the water. It seems to me that it could use a wee bit more dark in some places, especially once the darkest bits of the male birds are in place. (Male buffleheads are pretty strikingly black and white.) But I don't want to overpower the birds, either. Ugh. What to do?

I need to cogitate for a little bit, but I think what I'm going to do is go ahead and turn my attention to the birds. This will require a bunch of fussy masking that I wanted to avoid, but I don't see a better way to handle it at this point. Wish me luck!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Announcing two new gallery affiliations!

Since it's Valentine's Day, it seems appropriate to announce two lovely new relationships in my linocut life! This past week I delivered work for the first time to these fine galleries. Please stop in and say hello whenever you're in the neighborhood:

Ann Korologos Gallery
211 Midland Avenue, Basalt, Colorado

"The best gallery in Aspen... is in Basalt!" The Ann Korologos Gallery specializes in art and artists of the West, and represents a wide variety of styles and media. I am especially excited to join three other respected printmakers also represented here: Leon Loughridge, Joel Ostlind, and Paula Schuette Kraemer.

Tam O'Neill Fine Arts
311 Detroit Street, Denver, Colorado

Nestled in the heart of the Cherry Creek neighborhood, Tam O'Neill Fine Arts is all about works on paper! With an emphasis on antique prints and historic maps, this gallery is a print-lover's dream stop. And yes... they carry original Audubon prints. What could be a better match?

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

And now for something a little different

Here in Heart of the Rockies I'm still carving away for the next color pass on the bufflehead linocut, with periodic time outs for things like framing and packing finished prints. Later this week I'll venture up the Front Range and over the Continental Divide on a three-day road trip to deliver the aforementioned framed and packed work to galleries. More on this soon!

Since there's not much to see on my block, I thought I'd share some vintage relief printing from British Pathé. I love these old films, even with their eye-rolling narration. This one features print blocks carved by a woman wielding a router, the effective "beat-it-with-a-stick" method of creating flocked wallpaper, and William Morris designs. You're welcome.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Linocut in Progress: Slowly

Today's progress was the printing of a transparent blue-to-green blend. The green seems a little bright, but most of this will be covered by one more darker layer. Which of course means more water carving. I love carving and printing water... but right now I'm starting to get a little impatient for faster progress. And I'm getting nervous about the ducks.

Linocut in progress: Buffleheads, Step 4

I think that once the water is resolved I'm going to need to overprint white on all the birds. Or at least on the females. Eek. Don't know. Will have to give it some serious thought... but I know there's going to be a rather intense ugly stage. (Ugly duckling stage, of course.) Stay tuned, could be a choppy ride.

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...