Saturday, June 9, 2018

Linocut in Progress: When purple + green = yellow

When watercolor was my primary medium I used to complain that I painted like a printmaker. I love the soft, subtle effects that are possible with watermedia, but no matter how hard I tried my paintings still came out graphic and (I thought) kind of flat.

So I started making linocuts... arguably one of the most boldly graphic of the printmaking techniques. And what am I doing with it? Treating it like watercolor, overlaying transparent and blended color.

The surprise, delight, and (sometimes) frustration of working with transparent color is that one's rudimentary understanding of color theory can sometimes be pushed to its limits.

When chartreuse over lilac results in... yellow?

Take this step, for example. I wanted to start work on the background of these iris, which is not going to be lavender. I will, of course, be putting a lot of green around the blooms, so adding a green seems logical.

I didn't add any transparent base to my ink at this stage, because I wanted a light yellow-green color and knew that my yellow inks tend to be fairly transparent as they are. The chartreuse-y color at the top of the photo was mixed from a little permanent green light added to a couple different light yellows... dregs of an old Daniel Smith stash plus some Cranfield. I didn't expect the color to appear green when printed over the existing lavender, but I was a little surprised by how yellow it was!

But after one print I (of course) decided I needed one more darker violet pass in the blooms before I went all crazy with greens, so I cleaned off the block, cut MORE stencils (sigh), and did one more transparent blue pass.

Color is a little too... contrast-y... in the photo, but you get the idea.

Okay, onward. Back to the green. Some of it will print on to the flower blooms, which means we're about to enter an "ugly duckling" stage, but there's nothing to but dive on in.

Linocut in progress, Step 6
Geez, can you believe we're already at color pass #6 and we still haven't gotten away from the flowers? A bit ridiculous, really.

But in one pass of the bright green I now have an ochre, a yellow, and a dull green. Pretty good trick, eh? Now for some head scratching while I figure out where I'm going next.


  1. So smart, brave, adventurous, crazy, exciting and lovely. Watching with much anticipation. Xoxo

    1. Well.. things went a little off the rails this afternoon... my first adventure with my new damp climate causing ink not to dry... and some wet rejection. (sigh) I'm glad I'm experimenting with something little!

  2. ok this mix of colours is messing with my head, it shoudn't end up that colour lol (need to find my colour wheel lol)

    1. It's that transparency thing that messes with our heads! Yellowy green over a pinky purple would have made sense if it went to something more brown... which it started to do at the top, but at the bottom where the lavender was really pale it just went to yellow. Brain freeze!

    2. my first thought was wait where is the brown lol
      the whole transparency thing is hard sometimes lol I'm going to have to mess around with my watercolours now to see if I can get a similar effect lol

    3. I used to love to mix cobalt violet with yellows when I was painting watercolor... it would make a nice ochre but also the violet would settle out a bit grainy in some areas and make interesting textures.