Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Wow? What just happened?

My submissions for this year's Project Postcard event at the Woodson Art Museum.

It's a cloudy and cool-ish day here in midcoast Maine, with a few rain showers moving through. Sure, we're still having days of heat and humidity, but yesterday when I drove to town I noticed two large maple trees with a distinctly orange tinge to their outermost leaves.

Summer is winding down.

While I know some people try to avoid thoughts of summer's end, this year I feel inclined to embrace it. I gave myself a rather ridiculous schedule these last three months and by golly I'm tired.

There's still plenty to do... and I'm even starting to put things into place in my 2020 schedule already... but the pace seems more reasonable. I should probably emphasize the word seems, since I know looks can be deceiving.

But I've managed to squeak out some hours in the studio the last couple of weeks. Both projects were "secrets," however, so I don't have much to show at the moment. The photo here is a distorted view of my linocut submissions for this year's Project Postcard event at the opening of Birds in Art at the Woodson Art Museum.

Birds in Art artists donate small (4x6 inch) artworks which are installed in a secret location. Patrons pay $50 for the opportunity to spend one minute (!!) in the company of the many lovely (and anonymous) pieces and to choose one to take home. The museum uses the Project Postcard funds to purchase works from the exhibition for its permanent collection... a win-win-win for museum, artists, and collectors.

In addition to small print projects I have finally managed to ship the last of my works to major fall exhibitions, so whew! I can check that off the to-do list, also.

So what's next? Oooooh! A big, not-so-secret project! I've been asked to be the poster artist for the 2020 World Migratory Bird Day events! It's an exciting opportunity, although a little bit daunting due to the short production timeline. But I had my first design conference with the organizer yesterday, and I'll be jumping in to some rough sketches the rest of this week.

And of course I've got linos on my mind... I'd like to get some smaller works going before the end of the year... although right now my brain seems stuck in ideas that demand a larger scale. Hopefully my creativity will start cooperating in more practical ways soon.

So stay with me as I switch gears and head back into the studio season. Make sure your wood pile is well-stacked and your tea supplies ready to go before the cold arrives! We've got some linos to make...

Monday, July 22, 2019

The Summer Sessions....

After a solid month of workshop facilitation I finally see light at the end of the one-thing-after-another tunnel. I've got two more short workshops coming up in the next week, but then, whew! I'll have some time back at home and in the studio, catching up with framing and shipping and getting ready to start some new linos.

The past few weeks have been great, though... a lot of time outside in the field! Right on the heels of my exhibition opening at the Museum of American Bird Art I had a grand group of field sketchers at the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland.

Farnsworth Field Sketchers in a friend's garden.

We enjoyed a busy week visiting the beach, the farmers market, and the garden of a friend who lives just a couple of blocks from the museum. We also spent a little time indoors working on drawing and watercolor skills.

Watercolor skill-building at the Farnsworth Art Museum

A few days after that class finished I was off to my annual gig at Hog Island Audubon Camp. "Back in the old days" when I lived in Colorado, coming to camp involved a couple days of travel on either end. Now I live 20 minutes from the camp's mainland dock! I'm still not sure if that's good or bad.

The Arts & Birding team: me, Jean Mackay, Derrick Jackson, Drew Fulton

My first week on the island was for the Arts & Birding session, which I co-facilitate with the fabulous Jean Mackay. If you don't know Jean's work, you owe it to yourself to check it out.

The photography section of our week is led by filmmaker Drew Fulton (he who made the short film about my work in the previous post) and photographer/journalist Derrick Z. Jackson.

Evening salon at Hog Island

One of the highlights of the Arts & Birding week is the evening salon. Every night, just before dinner, anyone who wants to share puts out sketchbooks or laptops with slideshows running, and lively conversation ensues. It's a lovely way to come together and see what everyone has been up to during the day.

My second week on Hog Island was for the high-energy Educators' Week. About 50 educators serving the spectrum of learners from PreK to college, schools to nature centers, came together to share ideas and experiences for outdoor education.

Sketching in the gardens at Hog Island

Of course I always make sure there are opportunities for field sketching at camp! We also make journals, and this year I even managed to squeeze a quick printmaking session onto the already-packed schedule.

And in an amusing twist, a few of the new printmakers decide their prints could translate well as temporary tattoos...

I came home this weekend, did the laundry, paid some bills, answered some email, and now I'm ready to pack a bag again! I'm headed back down to Massachusetts for another quick little workshop at the Museum of American Bird Art, and I'm looking forward to catching up with folks in the Boston area. Then it's back to Maine for a printmaking class at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens... at which point it will already be August! Stay tuned.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

New video about my work!

Whew! What a great opening weekend for Under Pressure: Birds in the Printed Landscape at the Museum of American Bird Art. I was delighted and touched by the turnout and support for me and my work. Thanks to everyone who came to the museum, asked questions, and shared their delight and curiosity with me. I appreciate all of you.

Now that the show is up, I would like to share the short video made by filmmaker Drew Fulton that accompanies the exhibition. Drew did a great job, and I appreciate all he did to create this great overview of my linocut process and inspiration.

So what's next? This week I'll be catching up with sending some work to a few galleries, plus preparing for next week's 5-morning field sketching workshop with the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland. I think there might be a spot or two left, so if you'd like to join us next week for adventures in sketching outdoors along the Maine coast, pop on over to the Farnsworth website and register!

Saturday, June 15, 2019

"Under Pressure" is underway!


It was a busy but lovely day today here at the Museum of American Bird Art in Canton, Massachusetts. This morning started with a gallery talk and luncheon for museum patrons, a quick little printing demo, and then the afternoon public opening of my exhibition, Under Pressure: Birds in the Printed Landscape.

Talking prints with museum patrons

The show looks so lovely in this beautiful venue. It's the first opportunity I've had to mount 50 pieces of my work in one place, which was exciting and a bit unnerving.

Upstairs in the mezzanine my inner educator got to have fun creating an area all about the reduction printing process.

All about reduction prints!

The table case on the left has tools and lino and registration jigs... the panel just to the right of the table has photos of me at work in the studio and a description of each step of the process. Across the center are four prints from which I pulled one sheet at each stage... so viewers can see the print develop. And on the TV at right, a short film produced by Drew Fulton, which I will post here shortly.

The show is now up through September 15. MABA is open Tuesday through Sunday, 1-5pm, so if you're in the Boston area, do stop on in. (Bonus: Museum admission is free to MassAudubon members.) The museum sits on 120 wooded acres, with walking trails and plenty of wildlife to enjoy, too!

I expect you'll read more about this show later, but for now I want to extend my deepest gratitude to the MABA staff, who have been so supportive of me and my work, and who pulled out all the stops to make the exhibition look fabulous. Thank you all!

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Under Pressure: Birds in the Printed Landscape at the Museum of American Bird Art

"Dinner Party," reduction linocut, 24 x 24, © Sherrie York

In less than a week I'll be loading up almost 50 framed linocuts and heading south to the Boston area, where I will install a solo exhibition at the Museum of American Bird Art in Canton.

The show, which opens June 15, will include work from across my printmaking career, including some early pieces made in the 1990s! (Practically ancient. Certainly vintage.) The brand-new harlequin duck piece, "Fourteen at Two Lights," was dry enough to frame yesterday, so this will be its first public debut! (As well as the first view of "Spring Calling," the new red-winged blackbird piece.)

Please join me Saturday, June 15, from 1:00-5:00, for the opening celebration. Show continues through mid-September.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Linocut in Progress: Ducking Out

Okay... after the previous stage of the current linocut in progress we were left with a rather large question: What to do about the fact that the shadowed whites of the birds were not visually shadowed enough?

At this point the potential solutions were:

1) Scrap the entire thing. This is almost never the correct answer. Reduction printing is exacting and a bit unforgiving, but who's in charge here, really? Well, okay... the art is charge... but who is the managing editor? Me. And I will find a fix.

2) Cut a second block that only includes the "white" shapes. This is a perfectly plausible solution, but it would take a lot of time. I'd have to cut and prep a new piece of lino the same size as the first, then redraw the shapes and carve the block, and THEN print. I could avoid some of the carving by cutting a mask, but either way... that's a lot of time to invest when I'm on a deadline.

3) A third solution is to employ pochoir, which is "pouncing" or "stenciling" color directly on to the prints. I've used this a few times... but never this extensively. Pouncing color will take a lot of time, too, although not as much as solution 2.

It took an entire day with a small stencil brush to color all the prints, but it probably would have taken two days to work out a second block, so win-win!

reduction linocut in progress, Step 7

As a reminder, here's where we were at the end of Step 6:

reduction linocut, Step 6

You should be able to flip back and forth between these two images by clicking on them...

It was the right decision, and I was satisfied with the color, but I wanted one last subtle dark in the birds. Some of the white shapes on the harlequin duck have dark bands around them, and I wanted to suggest that without resorting to solid black. I spent a day doing the final cutting on the block.. making some marks that would appear as subtle feather texture as well as add the dark bands. I knew this would hardly show in the finished prints, but I just wanted to know it was there.

Wait! Did I just finish that in 8 steps?

Okay then! Finished! And, surprise of surprises, I finished in fewer than ten color passes! When was the last time THAT happened?

As expected, this piece is turning out to be a complete pain in the neck to photograph... all that blue and high contrast. But here's a pretty fair version that's a little bit bigger, so if you click on it you should get a better idea of the finished piece.

Whew. The prints need a few more days to dry before they can be framed, but I have plenty of other framing to do before I'm ready for this one. I leave to deliver my show at the Museum of American Bird Art in just over a week... nothing like having everything come down to the wire.

As for what's next... Expect a studio pause while I finish show prep and installation. And then? I've got a hankerin' for some smaller pieces... stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Linocut in Progress: It's the little things

Time is ticking away, but so is progress on harlequin duck linocut-in-progress. In fact, after a marathon weekend of printing the finished piece is hanging on the drying rack in my studio. It's no fun to just barge on through to the end in a single blog post (well, maybe it is for you, but remember...  dragging out the drama of a lino is sometimes the best fun I have all week)... so here's a look at the next... um... three steps.

Reduction linocut in progress, Step 4

The male harlequin duck (aka most of the ducks in this image) is largely a rich blue color, with a rusty cap and sides and crazy black and white markings. Ultimately I'm aiming for a strong effect of back light for these birds... so details of color will hardly be visible... but across the tops of their crowns there are some tiny, bright rust areas.  I didn't want the influence of the rust color across the entire block, so I cut a mask, did some spot inking, and printed this sort of rusty ochre color. Unfortunately I neglected to take a photo of the mask, so you'll just have to imagine it.

OR... you can extrapolate from this mask, which was used on the next step:

But I've gotten a little bit ahead of myself here. After the rust bits it was clear that I also needed to warm up and lighten a few areas of bird backs, as well as the faces of the three female birds in the foreground. I mixed a very pale tan from a semi-transparent sepia and opaque white inks. Like this.

It was unnecessary and undesirable to have all this opacity interfering across the entire block, hence the mask of the previous photo.

And the result. (This photo slightly embiggenable if you click on it.)

Reduction linocut in progress, Step 5

The next step would add a ton of drama, so I was anxious to jump on in. Unfortunately anything mixed with white takes a bit longer to dry, so I had to cool my heels and spend an entire day catching up with other work. SOOOO hard sometimes!

In fact I did try to print prematurely... got a mess of wet rejection on my testers (as I figured I would)  and cost myself an extra clean-up session without the satisfaction of actually getting anything done. But at least I had my color mixed and ready to go for the next day.

Step 6 color rolled up.

In this photo the color looks black, but it's really a lovely deep blue-green. Transparent, as always. It was rolled up over the entire block... my assumption (and hope) being that the rust-colored areas that hadn't been carved out of the block after Step 4 would be darkened but stay warm.

It's hard to tell from the photo, but it worked.  It was all so close to being finished at this point, except for one rather major problem.

Reduction linocut in progress, Step 6 printed

The shadowed whites are not shadowed enough.

This is a problem because their current color was the very first one printed and those shapes were carved out of the block long ago. This is one of the things I find most challenging about reduction printing. Each color and value printed is visually influenced by subsequent colors printed around and over it. The blue-violet printed in Step 1 seemed like it would be dark enough, but by the time I got this dark printed it was clear that that first color had been too, too pale.

What to do? Bwah ha hah ha! Wait! You will have to wait to find out the solution, because creative cliffhangers are sometimes the most fun I have all week.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Linocut in Progress: Feeling Ducky

Ah, deadlines! It seems like spring is full of them. Some of the furor is about mundane things. Since I moved in to my home and studio here in Maine last May this is the time of year for car registration and inspection, insurance renewals, and for making sure I've got someone lined up to bring me some wood for next winter's heating.

It's also the season for a number of major museum exhibition deadlines, and for the opening of new seasonal shows at galleries. 

But this year I've got a REALLY big deadline looming. In less than three weeks I'll be delivering work for a major solo exhibition at the Museum of American Bird Art in Canton, Massachusetts. At the moment it looks like I'll have 45-50 linocuts on exhibit, representing my printmaking career from some of my earliest experiments... right through to brand new work created this year. 

In fact I've got one more piece in process to debut at this show. Harlequin ducks! I was so excited to realize that I now live in a place where I can see "harley ducks" in the winter, because their colorful, graphic plumage seems to have evolved with printmakers in mind. 

Of course for my first harley duck piece I'm not going to celebrate the color of these handsome birds! (What?) Instead I've been getting really excited about the idea of a group of birds backlit in water so bright it's almost white. 

Which meant the first step of this piece involved a lot of cutting away of a lot of lino. Luckily, I was having some challenges with the recently-finished blackbird piece, so I could work on the harley carving whenever the blackbird wasn't cooperating.

I also started printing while the blackbird was still in progress, which was a little bit of a space management challenge, since the duck piece is fairly large: 12 x 24 inches. But hey, I'm all about sorting out complications... since I'm so good at creating them.

The first color was a transparent blue-violet that would ultimately only be kept in the shadowed white markings of the birds. 

Reduction linocut in progress: Step 1

Pretty fun, eh? I was happy with the arrangement of the birds (good thing, since it can't be changed now), and satisfied that I got pretty consistent ink coverage over this long, thin print. This is the first time I've tried to print something longer than 18" on my press, but it all seemed to go smoothly.

Step 2 color rolled up and ready to print.

I didn't want the water to be that sort of lavender color.. something more blue and perhaps even a bit "seafoam" would be nice against what will ultimately be very dark bird shapes. Over the lavender it would look more blue than green, but I hoped the color temperature would be okay.

Reduction linocut in progress: Step 2

Okay! So far so good. I like that color for the water... but I do need a few areas to be a bit darker without changing the color temperature. Time for a nice transparent gray.

Step 3, transparent gray rollup

Reduction linocut in progress, Step 3 printed.

Alrighty, then. Things are looking rather... alarming... at this stage, but we must keep in mind that this teal-y color is only going to remain in the water, not the birds, and it will (hopefully) appear less... like 1980s wall paper when the next colors go down. (The images of the print so far can be viewed slightly larger with a click...)

The next two stages will be a bit fussy... with some rather extensive mask-cutting. Stay tuned.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Linocut in Progress: Mistaking my way to the finish–or–Oh no! Not another learning experience!


This particular linocut is going to go down as the best example of what NOT to do that I've had in a long time.

Mostly it's a problem of rushing! I've got a huge show looming and I want to get this piece and one other finished by the beginning of June... two weeks away! So I've been working weird hours and poor light and not waiting long enough for things to dry and...

Well... look at what I mean.

Step 11 was fine. Another– darker– transparent gray over the entire block.

Step 11, transparent gray rollup

That should create the final dark in the foliage and the second-to-last dark in the bird, right?

Step 11, printed

It all seemed reasonable. It also didn't seem like I needed to take the time to cut away all of the foliage for the last step, since I could just mask out everything but the bird. I cut away some of the plants nearest the bird to keep the edges clean, rolled up a fairly opaque black, put the mask in place, and... @#$%.

Step 11 was still too wet and the mask stripped away the color from the print. Plus the black was just too harsh.. too much contrast with the foliage. The bird looked like a cutout pasted onto the scene.

I had two choices: Stop and wait for the Step 11 ink to dry more (the better solution).... OR carve everything out of the block except the bird and hope I could mix a black of the correct value to print (the faster solution). With all of the other material off the block I wouldn't need a mask, so it wouldn't strip the still-wet Step 11 ink.

Since I really, really, really wanted this print to be finished, I went for option 2 and carved away everything but the bird. A nice, semi-transparent, darker gray-black and it was ready to go.

Step 12 rollup.
I had better get this right, because there's no going back to tweak the foliage now!
Step 12 printed

It seemed pretty good, so I continued to print all those "testers" at the front of the queue. I pulled the registration tabs off each print as I went, convinced that this was the end. But then...


You can't see it in the photo, but the red of bird's epaulette runs beyond the shape along the top edge. I had printed the shape a little larger than necessary to avoid making it too small and risking an uneven edge... the final black would cover it, right? Right.

Except that it doesn't, exactly. From a distance you can't see it, but up close there's the ghost of a red shape under the black and it disturbs me. (Sigh.) What to do?

I don't want to make the entire bird darker... I'll be back to the problem of too much contrast between the bird and leaves... and I don't have the leaves on the block anymore to make any corrections there! I decided that perhaps a small blended roll along the right side of the bird could be good... just enough to darken the side of the face and the area just above the epaulette and the edge of the wing. I carved a bit more into the bird to keep the shape interesting and...

Rejection... on so many levels.

Wet rejection. Some of the new ink clung to the print, but most of it did not. AND... some of the Step 12 ink peeled up off the print and stuck to the block instead. So. I saved myself zero time, plus I now have no fallback position for correcting the foliage because all that material is removed from the block.

AND... I don't have my testers available anymore because I already took the registration tabs off of them.

I will still get good prints, although the edition will be smaller than I wanted.

The moral of the story? Rushing is never a good idea.


I forced myself to wait a few days, and shifted my attention what I think will be the last new piece for the upcoming show at the Museum of American Bird Art. I hate waiting when something is so close to finished... and in fact looks finished except for some nit-picky problem that probably only I will ever notice. But you know I can't let it go... it has to be fixed.

To my great relief (printmaking pun not intended... or maybe it is), the prints were finally dry enough last night to put one more transparent gray into the bird.

Lucky Step 13. Finished... and who can tell the difference? Only me.

It's foggy and gray again today, so this natural-light photo is a bit questionable, but trust me. The problem of the bleeding red line is solved and there are a few more tiny details in the feathers. And it's FINISHED.Whew.

In the end I think the edition will only have 10 of the 20 prints I started with. Most of the rejects occurred in the first two steps of the process, when I had so much trouble with residual bleed from the yellow ink. 

But now I know a little bit more about a new brand of ink, I've discovered another printing pitfall to avoid, and I did manage to walk away from a too-wet print before I destroyed the entire edition. I also learned a nifty use for "mixing white" ink. 

So, yes. I guess this print qualifies as one of those (@#$%!) learning experiences. 

Even after 15-plus years of printmaking I've still got a lot to learn... so if you're new to the process, don't despair! As a friend said to me decades ago–when I was standing terrified at the top of a mountain with skis strapped to my feet–"If you're not falling down you're not trying hard enough." 

So off I go... back to the studio for more falling down... and getting back up again, of course! 

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Linocut in Progress: Almost There, or Not

Oh! Finally I am in the studio without the huge distractions of out of town meetings or show installations or framing or deadlines. Well. Sort of. I have a HUGE deadline looming that involves all of those things: my solo exhibition at the Museum of American Bird Art in Massachusetts. But I do have (MUST have) a couple of weeks in which I am able to focus.

The morning after I returned from Chicago I marched straight downstairs into the studio, still in my pajamas, to take care of the small detail of the spot-inked red in the wing of the blackbird in the current linocut in progress.

Reduction linocut in progress, Step 9

This was surprisingly difficult, although it shouldn't have surprised me since I always struggle with reds. It's a good thing I have all those "tester" prints, since I used all of them trying to get this color right.

But I got it eventually, and went to work carving for what I hoped would be the last pass on the foliage. My plan was to roll a transparent gray once again over the entire block... darkening the bird and the plant in one go.

Transparent gray roll-up

And it worked! I now have three values of green in the image, but only used green ink once, on the first pass. And the bird has a mid-tone gray that will work great for the final black pass. Nifty trick, eh?

Reduction linocut in progress, Step 10

Except that it's not ready for the final black pass. The foliage really needs one more darker value or when the bird is finished it will look like it's just cut out and pasted on there. It won't be cohesive and there will be too much value contrast. (sigh) One more intermediate gray pass will be necessary... so two more color passes before the print is finished.

I'm still aiming to finish this week so I can get the next lino on the press right away. These will be the last two new pieces for the exhibition... and then... wheee! Framing. <wince>

Monday, May 6, 2019

59th Art and the Animal

Last week I was in Chicago (or thereabouts) for the twice-yearly board meeting of the Society of Animal Artists. At the same time, the jury committee met to select the works that will be included in the 59th Annual Art and the Animal exhibition, which will open in September at the Briscoe Western Art Museum in San Antonio, Texas. 

It's no small thing to have work included in this prestigious show, so I am of course delighted to share that "Chasing Daylight" got the nod. 

"Chasing Daylight," reduction linocut, 12 x 18" © Sherrie York

Watch for more details about the show at the end of the summer. In the meantime... wahoo!

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Linocut in Progress: Second Green, in absentia

Through the magic of technology I'm going to catch you up with what happened last week in Maine before I came to Chicago, the day before I go back to Maine and pick up from here again. Didja get that?

Linocut in progress, green roll up, paper mask, sunshine!

After the adventure of the previous "fix-it" pass I figured the extra layer of "mixing white" would slow down the drying time, so I was pleasantly surprised to discover I could procrastinate packing for a few more hours and print the second, mid-tone green.

I had saved the leftover too-yellow-green from the first pass at the locust bush (I think that's what it is!), so I pulled that back out, added a good dollop of blue and some more transparent base and voila! It looked about right. And, hey! It helped that the sun was shining enthusiastically into the studio and I could feel confident about how the color would appear on the print. I cut another set of bird-shaped masks and was ready to (ahem) roll.

Reduction linocut in progress, Step 8

I am delighted (or perhaps relieved) to report that Step 8 went smoothly... good ink coverage, satisfactory color and value. The only troubling thing about it was that I then had to go back to packing my suitcase, knowing it would be more than a week before I could get back to work!

I think I can get this wrapped up in just two more color passes and a spot inking: Spot ink the red in the bird's epaulette, then a transparent gray over everything to create the third value of the greens and a mid-tone for the highlights in the bird's feathers. Theoretically that will bring me to the final black of the bird and I'll be finished... but of course theoretically is the operative word.

Tomorrow I'll be on the road (and in the air)... but look for me Tuesday with carving tools in hand and a determined-to-finish-before-Friday look in my eye. I've got another piece ready to go right after this, so the lino chips will be flying!

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Linocut in Progress: A new tool in the printmaker's fixit kit

In the previous post I outlined a few ideas for dealing with a green that was both too yellow and too dark on the current linocut.

As a reminder, here's what the print looked like at the previous stage:

Step 6: The Problem Child

What was NOT included in my list of potential solutions was giving up and starting over. Novice printmakers frequently ask me if I ever abandon an edition before it's finished because I make a mistake. My answer? "Not anymore."

I can think of a few times when I walked away from editions in the middle of production. Most frequently this was because of technical problems... I was getting the ink too thick or printing unevenly, which caused problems on subsequent color passes. Once I gave up because the paper I was using was blowing so much loose fiber that I had to stop and clean the block after rubbing each and every print. Once or twice I got all the way to the end and had fewer than 5 good prints. And I can remember pitching a stack of almost-finished small prints into the trash because my original drawing was bad, and no amount of ink was going to fix that.

It happens. But these days, unless I am having serious technical issues, I try to work with whatever creative issues come up. There's a lot of ink and paper and time involved in printmaking, and I've learned that very few things are completely unsalvageable. Sometimes all they need is a re-think.

The Cranfield Traditional Relief Ink line has something called "Mixing White," in addition to their "Opaque White." I didn't know what a mixing white was, so I bought some. It turns out that it's a kind of nice, semi-transparent, NON-CHALKY white. Hmm. Could be useful.

Since I have so many "testers" (read: bad prints) in the line-up, I thought I'd go ahead and experiment with this mixing white. I rolled it out all by itself... no additional transparent base, no other pigmented ink. Just the white.

I cut some more bird-shaped masks, just to keep ink build-up out of that area, and then gave it a try.

Block rolled up with straight mixing white, bird-shaped mask in place.

Well. Whaddaya know.

Reduction linocut in progress. Step 7, the fixit step

That's pretty fine, don't you think? The value of the green is lighter and it's less obnoxiously yellow. And the bonus? The "mixing white" was an easy clean-up! Opaque whites can be really hard to clean off of blocks and brayers without a lot of elbow grease, but this little gem was no problem.

Whether or not it's leaving a white residue on the block I don't know yet, but I can't imagine that it will cause the problems that the yellow residue did at the beginning of this print, if indeed it leaves any.

Whew! Forward from here, with a new trick in my creative problem-solving arsenal. Although ARGH! I'm leading a workshop tomorrow morning and leaving town for a week on Tuesday, so I'm not convinced much more will happen before then. I hate leaving us all in suspense, but sometimes ya gotta do what ya gotta do.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Linocut in Progress: Progress, Problems, and bad Photography

First: I've been told it's bad form to draw attention to failure by apologizing for it before anyone has noticed, but, hey. Brush and Baren readers deserve better photos than these. Even if they're not getting them at the moment.

Why this photographic ineptitude? Because I just don't have a consistently good spot for photographing work in progress in my current space. Especially at night, which is when I've been taking aforementioned (and belowposted) photos. So... apologies. And onward.

Linocut in Progress, Step 4. 

Step 4. How the heck did we get to Step 4 already? It hardly seems possible, but sure enough... here is a second blue pass, adding more interest to the background sky. So far, so good.

Except for the small issue of that first yellow. You might (or might not) remember that I carefully masked the area to print in Step 1. It worked great, but when I was finished printing and cleaned up, the yellow residue spread into other areas of the block. (You know how it goes... you're wiping something up, it spreads out, you wipe some more. Normal. No biggie.) But surprisingly it became a problem.

I still blame Daniel Smith. How many years has it been since they discontinued their ink line? Four? Five? More? Because I use so much (Graphic Chemical 1911) transparent base and so little straight-up pigmented ink I've been able, for the most part, to keep working with my stash of DS inks. I've been forced to experiment with a few other ink brands from time to time, but I've been thoroughly grumpy about it and haven't committed to anything.

However, when we were filming for my upcoming online linocut course, my producer rightly pointed out that I should be using inks readily available to students. I know a lot of artists have switched to the Caligo SafeWash, but I hear horror stories about slow drying times AND I am suspicious of water-miscible oil inks and paints. How do they make them water miscible? No doubt they add detergents or something.. and I just don't like the idea.

So I've been experimenting with the Cranfield Traditional Relief Ink, especially since it comes in nice, small tubes. In general I'm finding these inks surprisingly transparent straight out of the tube, which is both good and bad. I find the viscosity is a bit thin... requiring a lot more time to build up good color on the block... but printing has generally been okay.

The problem is clean-up. I know a lot of people switched to water-miscible inks because of the ease of clean-up, but I've never really had much problem cleaning up regular oil-based inks. Well, maybe the Hanco white... which is horrible... but that's another story.

The Cranfield inks seem to clean up easily, but they leave behind a stubborn residue of color. This became a problem when I printed the gray after the yellow... because a yellow stain just kept coming off the block into the sky area! I stopped to clean the block some more... no luck.

By the time I sorted it out I had six trashed prints on my hands. I was irritated, but figured the first two worst offenders would have been destined to be "testers" anyway. The others I hoped would be less obvious when I printed the second blue... but no such luck. So I decided I'd print a third blue... not in my original "plan*," but okay. (*Long-time readers will know that I don't ever REALLY plan.)

Reduction linocut in Progress, Step 5

I tried a darker blue at the top of the image, blending to nothing below the bird, but I didn't like it. I decided to just carry on as-is with a straight transparent gray across the entire block and conceded that I'll either have a half dozen losses from this run, or I'll figure out some other sort of fix.

It's possible I should have just stopped there for the day, since it was already getting late and the light was fading in the studio. (And it's been raining here for almost a week, so it's extra-gray in there in the evenings.) But I wanted to cheer myself up, so after clearing all the lino from the sky around the bird I mixed up a nice green.

Masking out the bird... no green there!

See? Perhaps a bit scarily bright, but other colors will go over it, so okay. There's no need to have that green in the bird, so a mask protected that area of the print.

Step 6... hey, where did my green go?

It all seemed okay, although maybe a little dark, so I cleaned up and went to bed.

This morning, by the light of a sunny day, my green seemed too yellow. How did that happen? If anything, over the blue it should have gone more green. Hm. And definitely too dark.

My problem-solving options, as I see them, are:

1) Run a lighter, more opaque green over the top of the current green before I go on...

2) Design something interesting to do with a second block to print over the top of everything before or after going on...      OR... and this is a tricky idea...

3) Consider this my mid-tone green. This means I would carve away the areas where I want to keep this color, then print a lighter color, then go back to thinking about the next darker color. I have done this before, with marginal success, but it can be really confusing to remember what's what.

Of course I could always decide that I'm fine with this yellow-green as my lightest green tone and go on from here, too.

So I'll let the prints sit for a day and take on some other tasks. I do have another block already carved and ready to go for a different image, but we'll see how I feel about that after I go take a walk. We're getting one day of blue sky before the rain starts again tomorrow, so clearer skies seem like just the thing to clear my head. (And perhaps my mental color palette.)