Wednesday, January 30, 2019

What's-It-All-About Wednesday: Homeward Bound

The snow/woods/woodpeckers linocut is SO CLOSE to being finished, but unfortunately Monday's ink was still too wet to print the last bits on Tuesday. One day. That's all I need to finish it, one day! It's very hard to be patient.

I've pulled the drying rack in front of the fire in the sitting room to try to speed things along a bit, so while we're waiting I thought we'd take a look at another favorite from linocuts past.

"Homeward Bound," reduction linocut, 8 x 10", edition of 17

You probably recognize at least a portion of this image, since it's the background of the header here at Brush and Baren. I could have called this the second print I made after I got Presston, my Takach etching press, except that my first run at this concept was a disaster and I scrapped the entire edition. I was still getting used to working with the press, and I had problems with pressure setting, bad color choices, and fumbling attempts at masking. You know... it was one of those @#$% "learning experiences" that people get so excited about. The end result was that the prints were sub-standard and they went into the scrap pile.

I walked away from the image, and didn't revisit it until a year later. I still liked the concept, and after a year had gone by I felt a little more confident in my press technique. I'm glad I tried again.

In my mind the title "Homeward Bound" has always been deliberately ambiguous. Is it sunset and are these geese going back to a lake or pond for the night? Maybe it's migration and they're headed to breeding or wintering habitat.

Or maybe it's the viewer who is headed home, watching the sky change and anticipating a cozy evening in front of the fire. (With or without a rack of linocuts.)

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Linocut in Progress: So close, and yet.....

So far.

I really hoped to have this wrapped up before the weekend, but alas I was foiled once again by my own compulsive behavior. As you'll see....

Reduction linocut in progress, Step 11

Oh these trees and this green! Argh. I swear my next piece will have no green in it whatsoever. But before that can happen I have to wrestle this one into submission. Or perhaps it has to wrestle me. Whatever. We have to come to some sort of conclusion. The Step 11 color pass was a transparent browny-gray over the entire block. Some of the texture is starting to resolve in the foreground tree trunks, and if you click to slightly embiggen the image you might see some of the needle texture in the greens of the trees.

At this point I had to face something I had been avoiding for a couple of color passes. There were a few of the middle-ground tree trunks that were reading as too green. I had hoped that the warmer color of Step 11 would bring them into line, but it didn't quite work. So... a mask and some spot inking were my best solution.

Mask in place... Step... 11B?

Luckily, this mask was far simpler than a lot of my efforts and the areas that needed to be inked were small, so this step was relatively quick. Let's just call it 11B... okay? Sort of a half step.

11B. You probably can't see much difference, but trust me. I am happier.

And THEN I thought I was ready for the last color pass before the details of the birds. Woohoo!

Reduction linocut in progress, Step 12

Oh.
Nope.
Not quite.

It took me a couple of tries to get this color right... again it's very transparent, and it's a warmish blue-gray, if you can imagine such a thing. And it's close... oh so close... to being the last one. But I think to really push the background into... well... the background... I need just a few more darks in the foreground trees. Not so dark that they will ultimately interfere with the birds... which will be almost black... but... something.

The good news is that this means I can wholesale take out the background. The bad news is that it is darn scary to remove this much material. I mean... look:

Eeek!

That little bird's got no more cover! Totally exposed! Eek! No going back now...

Printmaking gods permitting, I'm planning to have this all wrapped up by the middle of the coming week. Keep your fingers crossed for me. I need to keep mine UNcrossed so I can get the work done.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Linocut in Progress: Sneaking up on it

So much for my belief that things would be quiet in January and I'd be able to get consistent studio time. I've been so wrong about my schedule that I am actually looking forward to the blizzard we're expecting this weekend. PLEASE let me be snowed in so I can get some work done. (But not so snowed in that we lose power, which is a potential problem if the forecasts which include sleet in our future are correct.)

Still, things are moving ahead on the current linocut, if not as quickly or smoothly as I had hoped.

After all the mucking about with masks of the last few color passes, I really wanted a couple of straightforward steps. This is challenging because of course I'd like to keep too much green out of the tree trunks and too much brown out of the tree needles.

But my masks haven't been precise (they never are), and things were starting to look a bit scattered, so I wanted a color pass that would be unifying without destroying the color temperatures. Hmm. What about a nice transparent gray?

Reduction linocut in progress, Step 9

Yes! That will do nicely. Browns are still brown, greens are still green, and it all seems more coherent again.

Now what?

I would really like to resolve some of these trees better.. and soon... but I am on the fence about the background. Will I get a better effect from keeping the darkest darks in the far distance... or should I leave the distance sort of middle-value and the foreground trees darker? Decisions, decisions.

And since I still couldn't decide, I took a risk with the next overall color pass and mixed a lovely gray-green.

Transparent gray-green rollup

Purdy, isn't it? It looks alarming on the block, especially over the tree trunks, but it's very transparent and I crossed my fingers that basic color theory would be my friend. The existing trunk color is a sort of reddish-brown. Transparent green over that should become more brown... shouldn't it?

Reduction linocut in progress, Step 10

Oh, whew! That worked.

So now it's back to the carving table. I think the focus now will be on the trunks... to get some of their texture established. I'm on the fence (again) about what the next color pass should be. I really want to wrap this up soon, so I'm considering one transparent brown pass... or maybe gray? Or maybe blue-gray. Or....

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Linocut in Progress: Begin as you intend to continue

Happy New Year! 

Begin as you intend to continue. I can't remember who first shared that idea with me, but it's always my mantra for the first day of a new year. So how did I spend January 1, 2019? Watching birds, enjoying the sparkling, windswept day and taking a walk along the coast with friends. Taking care of a little administrative work, answering a few emails. Bringing in more wood for the stove and tidying up...

And carving and printing lino, OF COURSE!

But let's back up a day or two first...

I'm at the stage when progress becomes a headscratching exercise, thinking inside out and wrongside 'round more than usual as I try to sort out questions of warm vs cool colors, transparency vs opacity.

I like to keep my inks as transparent as possible for as long as possible. It's a habit left over from my watercolor painting days, and I really enjoy the luminous quality one can achieve when light gets to bounce off paper. But in practice this makes for some headaches. To wit...

I was ready to put down a middle-value green, but didn't want it to exert too much influence in some areas, particularly the larger foreground tree trunks. So I cut a stack of masks that looked like this.

Masking for Step 7

Not the most intricate masks I've ever cut, but having to align four pieces of newsprint for every print pulled just adds time and tedium to the process. But what else are ya gonna do?

Here's Step 7 printed:

Reduction linocut in progress: Step 7 printed, embiggenable with a click

Okay. Not bad. Not orderly and harmonious anymore, but at least moving forward in a good way. But, ugh. What to do from here? Another green? That risks getting too dark too soon, and putting too much green in the background tree trunks. So. Of course I had to cut another set of masks... essentially the opposite of what I cut before.

Step 8 masks

This as actually a modified version of the masks at this stage. There were originally two more, but I decided that was overkill and was so near to the border of ridiculousness that it was only not ridiculous by virtue of... Well, let's face it. It was just plain ridiculous.

So there are five paper shapes instead of seven, and a semi-opaque light brown ink. Yes, I know it looks sort of... puce... but trust me, it's a brownish ink if ever I mixed one.

Step 8 printed

See? Told you so.

So where to go from here? That's a good question. I THINK the next color will be another green, and I THINK I will try to avoid masking, lest the whole thing becomes a visual train wreck. Well, I'll probably mask the birds. But that's all. Except maybe a couple of trunks. But nothing else. Except I do like some of this color in the background...

Yeah. You and I will both just have to wait and see what happens. Beginning 2019 the way I'd like it to continue? Let's just say that some things will change, but some things, like my work process, will remain absolutely the same.