Friday, August 25, 2017

Linocut in Progress: It's Done! I think.

Alright. Let's just wrap up this current linocut, shall we? It's time to start thinking about a new piece.

Step 11: I hit the whole block with another transparent blue-to-brown blend.

Reduction linocut in progress, Step 11

It seemed close to finished at this stage, but I didn't like that the background color seemed to divide straight across the horizontal center of the image. It felt... ungraceful. And I wanted just a wee bit more dark.

Much hemming and hawing ensued, and then much carving, and then.... much color mixing.

The final color. Finally.

Some days I can hit the right combination of hue and transparency quickly and everything moves ahead smoothly. SOME days, however, are like today. It probably took me close to an hour to get this color right. I started with scraps of the previous blues and browns and made what I thought was the perfect sort of licorice green. (LOTR fans: the color of Aragorn's coat.)

Nope. Too transparent.

I added some blue. Too blue! I added some black and then printed. Too dark! I took part of the too-dark color and added it to transparent base. Close, but too black. More green. More blue. Print. Tweak the color again. Argh!

Eventually I hit on this rich blue-green-black color and just the right amount of transparency. Unfortunately that big blob in the foreground of the photo is the wrong color... and I've got a lot of it. But perhaps I'll find a place for it in another print.

In the meantime... finished.

Step 12, final. As-yet-untitled reduction linocut, 12" x 12"

Of course, I'm discovering that greens are just as annoying to photograph as blues, but this shot is fairly close. Embiggenable with a click, and ready to find a title. Whew!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Linocut in Progress: Backwards and forwards

It's been nearly a week since the debacle of too-wet ink forced me to abandon work on the current lino. Every day since then I have checked the status of the ink and found to my frustration that the problem continued– but only on one side of the print! The previous color pass was a blended roll of transparent blue to brown, and for reasons I can't quite figure out the brown dried much faster than the blue!

I've not run in to such an extreme case of uneven drying time before, but I decided today that I'd had enough! The upper half of the image was still very tacky, but the lower half was dry. Fine. Time to move ahead no matter what.

Spot inking, pale yellow

I mixed a pale yellow ink (mostly white with a little Hansa yellow medium) and spot-inked the flower centers. I covered the block with a newsprint mask as before, then printed.

Mask clinging to the print after a trip through the press

The mask often clings to the print after it's been run through the press. Sometimes it's just static electricity, others it's a slight tack left in the previous layers of ink. This time....


You can see that the mask isn't sticking at all to the lower half of the image, but it is still stripping ink from the top half! Crazy. But I decided to just go with it.

Linocut in progress, Step 9

Here are the lighter flower centers, the intact darker green on the bottom, and the stripped upper color. Yep. The upper half of the image took a step backward and the lower half went forward. Fine. I'll just work from this.

Linocut in progress, Step 10 (this image is embiggenable with a click)

After some more carving I put together another transparent blue-to-brown blended roll. Printing went smoothly, and I feel like everything is more or less back on track now.

I'm envisioning two more color passes before it's finished, with a good bit of carving to do before I'm back to the press. I'm a little nervous that the last color pass might involve another mask... but hopefully between now and then either the ink will dry or I'll come up with a better solution. Onward through the fog! Er... foliage.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Linocut in Progress: Technical difficulties, please stand by

The best laid plans... and all that.

After Step 7 I plowed on ahead with another blended color pass on the current lino in progress. This pass was a transparent blue-to-brown, but of course it all still looks rather green. I do like the more olive-y tones that the brown created, however.

Reduction linocut in progress, Step 8

The layers of value in the leaves are looking good, but at this point I realized I had forgotten the step that I meant to do when I first returned to this piece after a long time away. Dangit.

The flower centers had all become too dark too fast, and I meant to address this before moving on by doing a bit of spot inking. Well, more than a bit of spot inking-- there are a lot of flower centers in this image! I suspect I blocked it from my memory because I knew what a pain it would be to cut a mask.

Spot inking, step 9

With no small amount of grumbling I cut the mask(s) and spot inked all the flower centers with white. (Knowing that the end color won't look white because of the colors below it.)

Here's the mask in place on the inked block, ready to receive the print.

Mask in place

The prints on the drying rack all seemed tackier than I expected after sitting for a few days, but I pulled out one of the "tester" prints and ran it through the press.

Disaster.

See the extent of the disaster by embiggening this image with a click.

The print on the left is where the image stood at the end of Step 8. The print on the right is one that had spot inking and the mask applied. Sure, the lighter centers came out okay, but the mask pulled up almost all of the previous color pass!

Yep. Everything is far too wet to go on.

I was surprised by this, but probably shouldn't have been. Our weather has been unusually cool and damp, which slows down the drying time... but I think the problem is deeper than that. Remember I was worried about ink rejection because Steps 1-6 were so dry? I'm just guessing, but I think the ├╝ber-dry first steps have created a sort of "seal" on the paper, a barrier that's keeping air from these new layers and not allowing them to dry.

So. I'm afraid my goal of finishing this piece in the next week will have to be adjusted. Possibly a lot. It's too late to add any cobalt drier to the inks... and I hate to do that, anyway. Cobalt drier is nasty stuff, a known carcinogen, plus I hate what it does to the sheen of the ink. So I'm just going to have to wait for the prints to be ready in their own time.

Rather than come to a complete standstill, I spent the afternoon working through some ideas for another print to start. Nothing is leaping up to say "pick me, pick me" just yet, but it will. And doing something... anything... is better than sitting around and watching ink dry!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Coming Up! Birds in Art and Project Postcard...

In just about a month I'll be winging my way to Wausau, Wisconsin and the annual festivities for Birds in Art at the Woodson Art Museum. This show is the highlight of every year, both for the high caliber of work in the exhibition and the high caliber of work undertaken by the museum staff to make the opening weekend fantastic.

One of the most fun aspects of the event is Project Postcard. Birds in Art artists donate original artwork in a small 4" x 6" format. These postcard-sized pieces are mounted in a "secret" room, and for a $50 donation exhibition attendees can queue up to enter the room and choose a little artwork for their very own. Adding to the fun? None of the work is signed on the front, and the buyer only gets one minute to make their choice!

My linocut contributions for 2017 will fly out in the post tomorrow. I'd love to show them to you, but they're a SECRET! Still.... I thought it might be fun to give you a hint.

(And when else do I get an opportunity to use the crazy "liquefy" feature in Photoshop?)

Whaddaya think? ;-)

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Linocut in Progress: Picking up where I left off

My two months in New England zoomed by at the speed of light, but this week I returned home to my studio and zoomed right back to work on the linocut that was in progress before I left.

Just as a reminder, here's where the print was at the end of May:

When we last left our hero: Step 6

Settling back down to carve for the next color pass was relatively straightforward, but I did have a little trepidation when it came time to print again. After hanging on the rack for two months the prints were VERY dry, which could have caused some issues. Paper shrinkage, and therefore registration problems, and poor adhesion of new ink layers were two possibilities that sprang immediately to mind.

At the end of my last print session (in May) I folded leftover ink into wax paper and tucked it away. I was pleasantly surprised to find both little packets still viable, so the colors from Step 6 became the base for the next pass.

Wheeeeeeee! Rainbow roll!

This green-to-blue-to-green blended roll looks quite dramatic on the block, but both colors were very transparent. Thankfully I had absolutely no issues with ink or registration, and subtle complexities of foliage started to develop.


Reduction linocut in progress, Step 7

It's all looking rather alarmingly green now, so it's time to sit back and assess what needs to happen next. My inclination is to try to moderate some of the brightness, so maybe I'll try something crazy like a transparent red layer over the entire block! Or not.

It feels good to be back to work... and I'm even happy to have a little ink under my fingernails. Onward!