Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Linocut in Progress: A weird, wild, wacky mess

Why, yes, it has taken a little bit of time to recover from the bufflehead print.

Even more annoying than my slow return of energy, however, is the edition's reluctance to finish drying. More than one print has the bonus personalization of a vague Sherrie fingerprint ghosted in a section of dark ink:

"Surely it's dry enough to take down by now."
 (Light finger tap applied to print.)
"Oops. No."

There are many factors involved in the rate at which ink dries: the particular pigment (Daniel Smith traditional black is very slow), the addition of any ink modifiers (in this case I used lots of Graphic Chemical transparent base and a wee bit of Setswell compound), the number of ink layers already on the print (15, I think), and the ambient temperature of the room (cold, because it's spring and I refuse to turn up the heat). All have combined to slow things down for the buffleheads.

I wasn't troubled by it a week ago because I had to turn my attention to an illustration contract and was quite happy to let them hang. But this week I wanted to get on with something else and they were hogging up all the space in my high-tech custom drying rack*. (*More about this in tomorrow's post.)

Fortunately, the buffleheads are finally dry enough to allow for back-to-back hanging, and I was able to free up the top row of the rack to accommodate new prints.

And that's when the weirdness started.

I decided to work on a very small (5" x7") flower linocut... something "simple" and about an eighth the surface area of those buffleheads. Easy peasy, eh?

HA! It's ME! Let's make something easy into something hard!

Right off the bat there's fussiness. The flowers are a lovely periwinkle blue and the surrounding foliage has elements that are bright yellow-green. These are not colors likely to interact gracefully if printed one on top of the other, so before anything else could happen I had to cut spot inking masks.

Here's a sloppy ink-up of the second color. (If you look closely you can see a few tiny marks already removed from the block.)

And here's a newsprint mask placed over the block before putting the print in place:

I worked five colors into these tiny spaces. Carve, ink, mask, print (x 30 prints)... Carve, ink, mask, print... Until I had this:

A collection of strange blue shapes. The edges aren't perfect, but ultimately they will be surrounded by dark shapes, so they should be fine.

But then things got REALLY weird. There are a few areas that require a really light, bright yellow-green. I could cut another mask and do more spot-inking but A) I am sick of messing about with paper masks right now and B) green under everything else on the block isn't going to hurt anything. I don't think.

So I mixed up a bright, transparent lime green and printed it.


It looks very yellow in the photo, but the biliousness is about right. What's nifty is how this transparent yellow-green printed over a few purple-blue areas created that lovely mid-tone green!. Had I realized it would be so pretty I might have saved myself some time and not fussed about with the masks so much. Oh, well!

The effect of the rest of it is pretty obnoxious, though. I really hope I know what I'm doing.


  1. I agree that fussing with stencils and masks is an annoyance that's sometimes necessary. I'm struggling with the same situation at the moment so I can really identify...and don't get me started about colors! I always seem to make things difficult when it comes to logical layering. Looking forward to seeing this little print develop.

  2. that is really interesting the colours did that, wouldnt have thought they would have

  3. I'm with you, Melody... if there's a way to make color layering complicated, I'll find it.

    Jen, I remember the first time I put a transparent lime green over a pink and got an orange-y color. 'Twas magic. And annoying, since I didn't expect it. ;-)