Saturday, July 7, 2018

Linocut in Progress: P-p-p-p-pochoir!

As I am typing this my over-full suitcase sits downstairs, ready for the long, exhausting twenty minute drive to the mainland dock for Hog Island Audubon Camp this afternoon. It's Arts and Birding week, so my bags include the usual sketching supplies, plus a few extras. When I say "a few" extras, I mean that I'm having to fight the temptation to keep throwing more stuff on the pile. It's the first time in ten years (read: ever) that I'm not having to consider air travel when packing for the island. I have to keep reminding myself that just because I can bring more stuff doesn't mean I should. I do, after all, have two big boxes of materials stashed in an island attic already. (Yes, I've been carving out a place for myself here in Maine, one pile of art supplies at a time, for the last decade.)

ANYWAY.... I had really hoped to get this linocut finished before I left, but of course this week we had record high heat and humidity. Not a great combination to facilitate working in the studio.

I did manage to get one more nice blended roll, brown to blue, printed late one night after the temperature and humidity levels fell. Sorry the photo is poor... photography happened late at night, too.

Loon, reduction linocut, Step 6

One of the most striking things about a loon, in addition to its graphic black-and-white plumage, is its lovely red eye. Of course that eye only covers about a quarter of an inch of the entire image, so what to do?

Yep, it's time to employ that century-old technique: pochoir.

Longtime readers of Brush and Baren have seen me employ pochoir before. I don't do it very often, but it comes in handy for tiny color areas like this. I could cut a mask, do some selective inking, and run everything through the press, but that's a lot of work with plenty of room for registration disasters. Pochoir allows me to apply the color directly to the prints by hand. (Thank you, French illustrators in the late 1800s.)

Mylar stencil for pochoir.

So. First I have to make the stencil. In this case I used clear acetate (mylar). I traced the major lines of the birds with a sharpie to give myself a reference point for lining things up. Then I cut out some holes. I decided that if I was going to go to the trouble of pouncing (pochoir) the eye, I might as well save myself a step by pouncing the beaks and breasts of the chicks, too.

Pochoir stencil placed over the print and in use.

I have a couple of stiff paint brushes with the bristles cut short that I use to apply the ink. I tap (pounce) the brush straight up and down in the ink and then on to the print through the stencil.

I try to use a light touch here, but if I get a little too much ink applied (which happened frequently with the red), I place a small piece of newsprint over the fresh ink and rub with my finger to strip off the excess.

Loon, reduction linocut, Step 7

Et voila! An eye and some beaks ready for the next darker application of ink color. I think I only have two steps to go now... a dark gray and an almost-black. Or maybe a full black... we'll see.

The bummer is that I won't be able to finish this until I'm done with my two weeks on the island! So close... and yet so far.


  1. well that answers my question about the eye lol :)

    if its only a 20 minute drive to the dock, if you forgot something couldn't you just go back and get it?

    1. :-) Yes, except that once I'm here (as I am now) there are no more boats back to the mainland and no time! We're running from 6:00am to 9:00pm every day. I did have to stop in town on my way to the dock because I realized I forgot my toothbrush and if I'd gone back home I'd have missed the boat. I was much better organized from afar. But I'll get it sorted out. Eventually.