Sunday, May 29, 2016

Linocut in Progress: The demo's end

So here we are, back in Salida with an unfinished reduction linocut demo piece that needs resolving.

I decided that the best way to prevent continual mucking about in the background was to carve it all out. So I did. From this point on the only printable surface on the block is bird and wire.

I wanted some highlights in the bird's wings, something a little warmer. I didn't want this color to influence the face, though, so I wiped it out before printing.

Step 8
The next step was a gray to keep those highlights crisp and get the twisted wire in to the proper color range.
Step 9
I was tempted, as I often am, to just leave it at this point. But the bird needs a little more definition to pull it away from the background.

Step 10
Again I thought about stopping here at Step 10, and part of me wishes that I would have done so. But the shadow on the bird's belly is so dark that to make it read "shadow" instead of "blue feathers" I'm going to need one more hit of contrast and oomph.

Step 11
The last color wasn't solid black, although it reads that way in the scan. But overall... okay. I think to be really effective the background on the left of the image should have been lighter to start with, but that color went down at Step 4 and after it was carved away I was stuck with it. If I REALLY wanted to correct it I could cut a second block and overprint something lighter, but that would cause its own problems, and this was supposed to be just a simple demo piece! Time to move on.

One thing I neglected to mention at the beginning of this piece is that it represents my first return to the printing on the thinner Awagami kozo paper since I got my press. Because I would be working by hand at the demo location I wanted something I could manage with a baren and spoon... and the 250# BFK Rives that I have been using was not going to work. The thinner paper was a little trickier to manage in the press at first, but once I got the feel for it I didn't have any problems. And I didn't tear anything, which would sometimes happen with a too-vigorous application of spoon pressure when hand printing.

Overall a satisfying experiment, even if it turned out to be a bigger deal than intended. (And I got a good set of step-by-step prints and an edition of 10 or 12 out of the effort, too!)

Friday, May 27, 2016

Linocut in Progress: When good demos go bad

For the past month several of the artists exhibiting in the Colorado Governor's Show have been presenting demonstrations of their work throughout the town of Loveland, where the show itself continues through this weekend.

As part of the demo series, I made the journey north last weekend to participate in the Print Day Open House at Artworks. Since it can be a challenge for folks unfamiliar with reduction linocut to wrap their heads around the process I usually like to have a "simple" print in progress before I arrive for a demo, with a print pulled out at each stage so visitors can see how the image evolves.


Simple. Four or five colors should be enough to get the idea across, right? Right. But longtime readers know me well enough to know that the best laid plans... don't actually exist. At least not where I am concerned. The line between creating a print example and making an example of myself is often very, very thin.

To wit:

Step 1

Step 2

Step 3
Step 4: Might be able to finish this in two more steps, except....
Squirrel!* Now I'm headed down a whole other path. Step 5
Step 6 (Which was getting too dark, so I had to go lighter.)
Step 7 (And then was too bright, so time to tone it back down.)

Yep. By the time I went to do my demo I was already at seven stages and nowhere near done. My original intention was to leave the background quite plain, as in Step 4. But then I thought perhaps it would be fun to play with blended, or rainbow rolls... and things started to get a wee bit out of hand.

I rather foolishly thought that after this stage the finish would be simple... but as you'll see in my next post, it didn't quite turn out that way. I did enjoy experimenting, however. I think you can see that Step 6 was a lighter and brighter blended roll than Step 5, and that I toned everything back down with the blended roll in Step 7.

It's my tendency to ask "what if" that sends me off on these printmaking tangents. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don't, but I always learn something along the way. (Sometimes all I learn is how to clean up messes, but hey... that's a useful skill, too.)

(* You know... it's that joke about a dog's focus disappearing when a squirrel appears. Printmaker's focus distracted by blended roll.)

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Linocut in Progress: Daisies in final bloom

Hey look! There's a pile of green ink on the glass! But don't worry, I didn't use any green pigment to make it. It's composed entirely of leftover scraps of the earlier blue and yellow inks. 

For the background I wanted plenty of variety, and to suggest that the upper portion of the image is farther back. The blend appears distinctly blue and green in the rollup, but on the block it was less effective:

"Daisies," reduction linocut, Step 9

I printed it anyway, because although it doesn't show well in the photo, there IS a decent temperature change of cool-to-warm, top to bottom.

But it was definitely time to stop tiptoeing around and get some stronger tones in there. Anyone who follows me on Instagram saw this little tease the other night:

Which resulted in this:

"Daisies," reduction linocut, step 10

Suggestion of leaves, and a more pronounced temperature and value change from top to bottom. Quite satisfying. Sadly this was Step 10, so I didn't quite make the goal of keeping this print to ten or fewer passes, but it's close.

Step 11 was also a blended roll. I intensified the "midnight" blue from the previous pass and blended it to an olive green. The olive green was a result of mixing scraps of previous transparent blues and burnt sienna. Dopey me didn't take a photo so you'll have to take my word that the roll-out was lovely.

"Daisies," reduction linocut, final step (11)

And here it is! All finished. I'm pleased with the composition, and with the range of light and dark values, but what I am most satisfied with is the range of greens created without using one drop of a pre-mixed green ink. Most of the greens were, in fact, created with layers of the same transparent blue. (In this case pthalo blue from my stash of no-longer-manufactured Daniel Smith relief inks.)

So what's next? I want to do one more small flower piece, although I don't have the subject sorted yet. And then I need to get cranking on a slightly larger piece for an upcoming deadline. But FIRST I have to prepare a demo for this:

(click on the image to embiggen it to a readable size).
My demo is scheduled from 2:00-4:00. Come on out if you're in the Loveland area next weekend. Directions to and information about Artworks Loveland are here. The Colorado Governor's Show continues through May 29.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Linocut in Progress: An Ode* to Transparent Blue

The daisies move from gold to green,
Yet of green ink no sign is seen.

Transparent blue, of course is used,
To shift us into other hues.

Daisies, reduction linocut, Step 6

A good result I do confess,
Yet more must roll before we rest.

Another pass with see-through blue,
Creates a greener green, 'tis true.

Daisies, reduction linocut, Step 7

But wait! It is not quite enough,
This print's still diamond in the rough.

Transparent blue again applied,
It's taking us on quite a ride.

Daisies, reduction linocut, Step 8

A day or two we must now wait,
For ink to dry and plans create.

(*With apologies to real poets, who will no doubt point out that while this may be an ode thematically, structurally it's more like couplets. And not very good ones at that.)

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Linocut in Progress: Back to the daisies

'Tis the season when I find myself on the road about every ten days or so... not particularly conducive to building up momentum in the studio.

This past weekend I was in the southeastern corner of the state, Lamar, Colorado, for the annual convention of the Colorado Field Ornithologists. It was fun to catch up with friends I hadn't seen in a while, and of course to put a few bird linos into the hands of actual birders.

But yesterday it was back to work... HOORAY!

The first order of business was to adjust the yellow that I printed last week. It felt a wee bit too green, which wasn't a surprise since it was printed over the top of blues.

Here's the adjusted color next to the original. You can see the change was pretty subtle... color temperature, but not color value.

Here's a bigger version of the corrected yellow:

Daisies, reduction linocut, Step 4

Most of the flower centers will remain this color, but a couple of them are in shadow and a few have slightly different color around the edges. This looks like a job for Transparent Blue.

A rollup so pale....

This shot was taken at the end of the printing session. The remaining blue ink has been scraped into a pile, so it looks dark... but the block and the roller both have ink on them, so you can see how transparent the color really is. (Or not see it, as the case may be.)

Here's another side-by-side for this step:

And a larger version of the print at this stage:

Daisies, reduction linocut, Step 5

Lookin' good! The next step will remove more of the flower centers (particularly the ones in shadow) and then it's stems, leaves, and background. Might pull this one off in 10 steps. Maybe. Possibly. Could be. Or not.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Linocut in Progress: Getting into the spring of things

Surprise! I've secretly started work on another floral reduction linocut. I'm sneaky that way.

After the crazy challenges of the Mertensia (chiming bells) piece, which in the end involved 16 color passes, I decided something a little simpler was in order. But then again I ALWAYS think that, and I'm always wrong.

But it was definitely satisfying to start work on an image that had a lot of definition to it in the first pass.

Daisies, reduction linocut, Step 1

Daisies! White flowers! Look how much material I got to remove from the block before I even printed the first color! And even at this stage I feel pretty good about it. Nice shapes, satisfying randomness to the composition. I hope I can maintain that.

Daisies, reduction linocut, Step 2

Of course I want to show some depth in the image, but I don't want to get all crazy about it. Here's a second blue, which will hopefully throw some of the flower heads into shadow when the whole thing is done.

And now the first scary thing: Printing yellow over blue without getting green. For this step I was obliged to abandon my beloved transparency and create an opaque yellow. This is did by mixing yellow (and a touch of red) with a good quantity of white.

Daisies, reduction linocut, Step 3

Ta da! Mission accomplished. I'm not totally sold on this particular yellow, though. There's still some influence from the blue that I'd rather wasn't there. (I'd like it to be a wee bit more orange-y.) Ultimately the yellow will only appear in the flower centers, but I'd really like to avoid cutting a fussy mask for all that. I'll see what it looks like after it dries for a day or two and then maybe hit it with another layer.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Colorado Field Ornithologists Convention

CFO Convention Logo by Radeaux
After four or five gray, dreary, and snow-filled days (yes, SNOW on May 1) our treasured sunshine has returned to the Heart of the Rockies and it feels a bit more like spring. (Never mind the layer of frost this morning.)

It's none too soon, because this weekend I will be headed to the southeast corner of Colorado for the Colorado Field Ornithologists annual convention. I'll have a small table with a few linos available during vendor hours on Friday and Saturday, but the rest of the time will be mine for poking around looking for spring migrants. The eastern plains sport a different suite of birds than we find up here en las montaƱas, with the possibility of some really fun species like scissor-tailed flycatcher and Mississippi kite. No doubt their spring will be farther along than ours, too.

Online registration for the event is now closed, but if you find yourself in Lamar, Colorado this weekend it's still possible to sign up at the convention headquarters at... the Cow Palace Inn! Maybe I'll see you there...

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...