Saturday, February 18, 2017

Linocut in Progress: Predictable Working Stages (PWS)

There are some things about reduction printing that I find more or less predictable, given that I so often employ the Seat-of-Your-Pants Method of image development.

My Predictable Working Stages (PWS) usually unfold like this:

  1. The first few steps and color passes are cohesive and enthusiasm is high. 
  2. Four or five steps along I am obliged to print a color that upsets that cohesiveness.
  3. Doubt and anxiety rise, avoidance behavior begins.
  4. I find a way to print some OTHER color first.
  5. See Stage 3.
  6. I finally find my spine and print the scary color.
  7. I remain scared until the entire thing resolves at the end.

This image proceeded happily along Predictable Working Stage 1 until I finished the previous color pass and abruptly collided with Predictable Working Stage 2. PWS 2 gave way immediately to PWS 3: Avoidance behavior.

I did the laundry. I washed the dishes. I finally took the overflowing recycling to the drop-off center. I took some long walks, and voila! I found my way to Predictable Working Stage 4: Avoid the problem by printing something else.

Many carving hours later I printed a straight-up transparent gray:

Linocut in progress, Step 5

Satisfying. Everything was still cohesive and I had a better sense of the overall rhythm of the image.

And then I was on to Predictable Working Stage 5, which is essentially Stage 3 all over again. Avoidance.

I did some online research for another project. I went to the grocery store. I checked on the dog of a friend who is away for a couple of days.

The question at this point was whether to start work on the ducks, which are suggested by three blobs right now, or to cut some complicated paper masks and print a scary color.

I finally made it to Predictable Working Stage 6: Find a spine and print the scary color.


A collection of masks for Color Pass 6

But first I had to cut a lot of masks. The little ones will protect the "duck blobs" from the scary color, the others will protect large portions of the rest of the print.


Ink rollup for Color Pass 6

Naturally the rollup wasn't entirely straightforward. I decided the tone along the bottom of the print was too dark, so I rolled up some white. Scary bright blue selectively inked elsewhere.

Masks in place on the block

Block is inked, masks are in place. Time to print.

Masks stuck to the print. Do not panic.

Most of the time when I use masks they lift away from the block and stay attached to the print after I run it through the press. This is no big deal, it's just the damp ink holding it in place, but it looks like a mess. The little bits over the "duck blobs" can be tricky to remove without smudging ink, but a delicately applied Xacto knife helps me lift a corner to get them started.

Carefully lifting the masks from the print.

Seven masks to put in place and remove for every print really slows things down, but in the end it's worth it. The scary color is where it belongs and the rest of the print has been protected through the process.

Linocut in progress, Color Pass 6 completed

A lot of this bright blue will be moderated by the next color, but it's still quite scary to see these up on the wall. Yep. I've reached Predictable Working Stage 7:

Remain scared until the whole thing is finished.

6 comments:

  1. No, that's an ancient map of the Eastern Atlantic/Mediterranean, before the Atlantic Ocean wore Portugal's southern point away.
    Or possibly a printmaker's nightmare...

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    1. Ooooh.... that's a nice idea. If I can't pull this one off maybe I can repurpose it as a map. ;-)

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  2. dont be scared it is looking great. like the sense of movement the blue gives the blobs :)

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    1. Movable blobs. There's probably something profound in that... but I can't think of it at the moment!

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  3. THATS how you do masks! (I could have done with knowing that a few weeks ago when I had a print to do for our son's wedding invites)
    A quick question, although I think I know what the answer is going to be: new mask for each and every print? Thanks!

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    1. Hi Jane... the answer is... sometimes! It really depends on what you're doing: how complex the mask is, how much ink is on the block (which will grab masks and make them hard to remove), how tacky the prints are (because the slightly tacky ink can grab masks, too). Sometimes I can use the same mask 5 or 6 times, others I have to change every pass. Looking at the photo above I'd say I had already used that particular mask at least once, maybe twice before. It looks inky and out of register, since I find it nearly impossible to get a mask in the exact same place every time. I try to cut them so it doesn't really matter.

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