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.


  1. ah good to know if I ever need white ink :)

    1. Never too late to learn a new trick... says Skye. And Sherrie.


Linocut in Progress: All the little ending bits

Okay, wow. I have at least four steps remaining to show you, but they are kind of a snooze. AND... full disclosure... I was trying to finish...