Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Linocut in Progress: Burning the midnight roller

I've been working since mid-August for this exhibition deadline, creating 5 complete editions in 3 1/2 months.

A new image begins with 24-30 fresh sheets of paper. Well, really it begins with an idea and some reference and a sketch and block prep and paper prep, but let's just talk about actual production for the moment.

Five images multiplied by 24-30 sheets of paper equals 125-150 prints.

Five images with an average of 13-14 color passes each. That's 65-70 carving stages. Fourteen color passes multiplied by (let's say) 135 prints? That's 1,890 individual passes through the press.

I am SO glad I didn't have to baren print all of these. Especially the big ones.

On small linocuts (8 x 10 or so) I can sometimes carve and print 2 or 3 colors in a day. The larger (18 x 18) pieces, however, can require a day or two of carving followed by a day of printing for each stage. Even if I could carve and print one color every day I would need a minimum of 70 days for production, not including prep time and the oh-so-necessary problem-solving time. That's a tight squeeze, given this particular ticking clock.

By last week all I wanted was to be finished.

Of course good ol' Murphy and his blasted Law stepped into my path just as the end seemed to be in reach. Shadow shapes in the chipmunk's white fur had been printed in the early stages, and it turned out they were not dark enough. This is where the image stood at the end of the previous post:

Step 11, reprise

Of course those furry shadow shapes were completely removed from the block more than a week ago, so what to do?

There seemed to be only one solution, and that was to use a second block to overprint the blue. Ooph. That's going to slow things down, alright.

The most accurate way to get my half-finished image transferred to a second block would be to print the first block to something non-absorbent, like mylar, and then print from the mylar to the second block. But that's so much work! And I'd have to wait for the ink to dry on the block before I could proceed. Nope. Not a good option.

Because I needed to match only a small portion of the image and not the entire block, I decided to employ the "Sherrie Wings It Once Again" method.

The second block

I made some adjustments to the template I'd cut for all those earlier newsprint masks and traced it directly on to the second block, measuring carefully to be sure it was in the right place. I didn't want a hard shape against the chipmunk's backlit fluffiness, so I carved some little suggestions of fur along the belly edge. (Kind of a waste of a perfectly good block, but I can cut off the uncarved portions to use for smaller prints.)

I inked the block with a transparent blue, and cut yet another mask.

Second block inked and masked

Step 12 printed

Better. The color in this photo isn't very good, but if you compare the shadowed whites of the chipmunk to the previous image they are darker blue.


Well, onward after assessment. At this point I needed to do something about the excess of brown in the trunk. It detracted from the chipmunk and flattened the image out. I wanted more gray, but I didn't want the overall feel of the stump any darker than it already was. Bye bye, transparent ink. Hello, opaque ink.

 Luckily this was the easiest mask ever, since the color was destined for the stump only:

Step 13 mask

Yep. Just slap a piece of paper across the top of the block.

Step 13 printed

So, so, so close now.

Just one more dark. A transparent color will interact differently with each area of the print, but also pull everything together. I hope.

Step 14 rollup

Here's a nice licorice green made from scraps of other inks. Fingers crossed that it plays well with the stump, the background, and the darkest parts of the chipmunk.

Step 14, final.
Kind of. Sort of. Not really. But close.

Oh, thank goodness. Finished.

Hm. Or not. Something about the chipmunk still seemed... wrong.

Oh, (Expletive)! The reflection in the eye is too bright for the shadowed side of the face!

The good news is that it was nothing a little pochoir couldn't fix, so I mixed up a nice transparent blue-violet and....

"Paws Pause," reduction linocut, 8" x 10," Edition of 20
© Sherrie York

Embiggenable with a click.

NOW it's finished. I'm not sure if we call that 15 steps or not, but it's done. On Saturday I took a good high res photo (which is the one you see here) and uploaded the aforementioned photo to the exhibition website. Deadline met.

It felt strange to wake up Sunday morning and not have some stage of the work dominating my thoughts, as it has been since August. Today the prints are dry enough to start cutting mats and preparing frames, because of course I'm not really finished until the work is delivered.

Since Sunday I've been catching up with many, many things that were pushed to the back burner in this last critical month, but I'll be back in the studio in a couple of days. After all, I do have a demo to prep and an idea for big lino that I want to work up... and maybe I'll do a couple of small pieces before the year's out... and there are the spring deadlines to think about... and...


  1. Thank you Sherrie. Another darling creature. You are still my reduction relief hero-artist!

    1. Perhaps in the new year I should start wearing a cape and tights and call myself Reducto!

      Or not. Clearly I still need to catch up on some sleep. :-)

    2. Hahaha, yes, I think a cape and tights are totally in order!

  2. Steady on, old thing! If Hollywood gets wind of Reducto you know what'll happen next!
    Love the little chipmunk, with his shadowy fur.

    1. Hey, if Hollywood wants to write Reducto (or La Reducta, as has been suggested in other venues)... if Hollywood wants to write our hero a nice, big check... Well. Bring it on. ;-) I can buy more ink.

  3. Cape? Tights? I always did think you were a little batty! c);^)

    The Chipmunk looks great! Good job!

    1. Printmaking superheroes are going to be the next big thing, Mr. D. Just you wait.

  4. Fantastic piece, despite the setbacks. Your willingness to go the extra mile to get it where you want it is amazing. Every want to just pick up your watercolor brush and make that final touch up of the eye color?

    1. I have done hand-colored prints before, but in a case like this watercolor wouldn't work over oil-based inks. ;-) Pochoir works great for one little hand-colored spot.

  5. 1,890 individual passes through the press....that is insane but def saved your neck/back/arms from breaking

    little chipmunk looks great :D


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...