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.


  1. very moody looking and the ducks seem to actually bob up and down in the water :)

    1. Thanks! I'm happy with the composition... the concept seems to be evolving, as always. It's a lot of white space for me!

  2. Great post I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this interesting and knowledgeable article.


Linocut in Progress: Let's wrap this up!

 Okay...  Remember that cartoon in which a couple of scientists stand at a chalk board filled with complex equations, at the bottom of which...