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!


  1. I really empathise with this. I don't fully plan my reductions I just problem solve as I go along and like you I sometimes boz myself in!
    Should we plan it all more carefully? I don't think I have the discipline and some of the joy would go out of it. Beautiful print by the way.

  2. its subtle, but I can see the difference :) and I agree it was way too dark for the whole thing

  3. It would be very interesting to mask the ducks, and print them, which will make them pop, and increase the contrast between water and focus.(buffleheads ).......... printing both the Experimental print, and the No. 6,. On my screen the Experimental print the tone shows up as very similar across the whole print, but if there were still room to pop the baffleheads' black, I think it will soften the "black" water. ( Sherrie, when you mask and print the ducks, that leaves the water plate as still repeatable, does it not??????? )

    do you ever work in multiple plates???

    Thanks for this great instruction.

  4. Plan, Lisa? What's a plan? I think if I planned too much I'd lose interest before I started. Flying by the seat of my pants is risky, but most of the time I like the challenge. (The key word in that last sentence being "most." Not "all.")

    Tonight I masked the females and the beaks of the males and printed a straight white. It of course doesn't look white, but a sort of blue-gray. I think this will ultimately be fine, but we'll see what it looks like in a couple of days. I'm headed out of town for a little bit, so there will be time for a little drying. I might have to do another white layer when I get back, but I might not. Then a gray, a brown or two, the darkest bits of the males... and I still have the water shapes intact. We'll see how it goes!

    (Multiple plates are a rare thing for me, Fay. When I've used two blocks it's most often been because I worked myself into a corner and couldn't find another way out!)


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