Thursday, January 30, 2020

World Migratory Bird Day: The film!

Well... not film, really. And I guarantee it's not Oscar-winning material. But I put together a little 4-minute video about my linocut process for the World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD) poster. Basically I propped up my phone, shot some footage, and taught myself how to use iMovie. (Thank goodness for YouTube tutorials!) Considering I put it all together in less than a day, I think it turned out okay!

Actually... working on it seemed to awaken some latent film-making-wannabe gene... but who has time to start a whole new career right now? I'll leave it to the experts, but I hope you enjoy this just the same.





Tuesday, January 28, 2020

World Migratory Bird Day 2020!

Embiggenable with a click!

At long last we are settled on a poster design for this year's World Migratory Bird Day! Twelve linocut birds connect conservation efforts across the world, and hopefully bring smiles to bird-lovers along the way.

I'm honored and excited to be part of this year's global conservation education campaign. While the "official" date will be celebrated in the Americas on May 9, there are hundreds of events taking place throughout the year. For the poster design I created twelve different linocut birds-- species of focus for this year's theme. The birds were printed in black on watercolor paper and then hand-painted. (I also painted the map!) Watch for a video about this later this week!

In addition to the poster there will be t-shirts, stickers, buttons, temporary tattoos.... the works! Items will be available through the WMBD shop.... I'm guessing maybe late February. (Posters go to print early in the month.) The website also provides lots of resources for event organizers, so if you'd like to celebrate in your own neighborhood, the folks at WMBD can help you out!

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Linocut in Progress: Finishing the tern

Drying rack full of prints, turbo edition

It's a snowy day here on the coast of Maine, but I'm cozy and content in my little house... especially with a drying rack full of linos pulled into the sitting room so they can enjoy the boost of some warm, dry, wood stove-generated air.

The last steps of the current linocut offered some serious challenges. I was satisfied with the water, but the little bird needed several details that required a delicate touch. It took me all day to make three small changes to an area roughly 1 x 2 inches in size. Here's where things stood with the bird in question after Step 7:


The shaded underside of the bird is almost, but not quite, the correct value. I debated a long time about whether or not I also wanted to warm up this shadow, even though the bird wouldn't necessarily be reflecting warm light in real life. I want the bird to fit into the seascape... not stand out from it... but right now it's fitting in a little too much and is getting lost.

Step 8, masked

Ultimately I did decide to warm it up just a skosh (that's a technical term). I inked bird and reflection, and cut a newsprint mask to protect the rest of the print when it went through the press. Here's a (terrible) photo of the result:

Unfinished tern with light glare and bad color.
Hey... nobody said this was a photography blog.

You can't really tell from this detail photo, but warming up the bird was the right decision. It's standing a little more away from the water without being too contrasty and obnoxious.

I did think the bird's body needed just a little more detail... one more tiny bit of dark in places... but it also needed a black head and red-orange bill and feet. Not too much of any of it... more of a suggestion. And all of these bits are TINY. Ooph.

In the end I decided the best way to tackle the beak and feet was to pochoir (stencil) the red directly onto the prints. I did this, and then immediately rubbed a little piece of newsprint over the stenciled area to strip off any extra ink. This dulled down the red-orange so it was just a suggestion rather than a strong color. Sorry, no intermediate photo here. But trust me, it worked a treat.

With the beak and feet finished I was faced with the conundrum of still needing two additional dark values but not wanting to do two more color passes. Because, really. How ridiculous can you get? Thankfully the lightbulb came on and I realized I could print it all as one dark, and then strip off the color in the bird's body. This would leave the head and the reflection dark and still give me an intermediate tone. So...

Last step! 

Here's the ink roll-up... such tiny shapes! And my masks are getting worn out, too... this one has a tear. It's definitely time to wrap this thing up.

The finished tern! Yippee!

Oh, WHEW! It worked. I left the head and reflection dark, but stripped off the color in the body and underwing with a small piece of newsprint. Just enough of everything..... and if you don't believe me, here's the final print!

Finished reduction linocut, 12" x 12" © Sherrie York

Technically I suppose the final color pass tally was 10... Seven to complete the water and an additional three to finish the bird. It's hard to call those fussy little things color passes, but for the purists keeping score.... well. Okay.

But here it is! The first new linocut of 2020. It still needs a title... something to do with "sparkling," I think, although so far most of my ideas are a bit on the corny side.

So what's next? This week I'm finishing the poster art for World Migratory Bird Day, and continuing work on my online course. Yes, that's still happening! It's just taking longer than expected. And then... hm... I do think I want another bird-and-water adventure.... we'll see where it takes me!

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Linocut in Progress: Everything but the bird

It's a good thing I like blue, because there's been a heckuva lot of it going on in the studio for the last week and a half.

I entertained this vague hope that the next color pass on the water would be the final one, but, alas. T'was not so. But it was still satisfying to continue pushing the sense of depth by strengthening the foreground contrast.

It took me a couple of tries to get the dark right, and in the end I had a two-value blue blend across the entire block. Of course this was the one stage at which I forgot to take a photo of the ink rollout, so I can't show it to you. My bad.

Still.... it's looking pretty good, eh?

Reduction linocut in progress: Step 6

I'm rather irrationally happy about all those greeny blues in the background. It's a color palette that's new to me... a sure sign of the influence of my Maine surroundings.  And, hey! Lookie there. Can you finally see that there is, indeed, a bird in this image?

The problem I had at the conclusion of this step is that it was all just TOO blue. Yes, of course it's water and it's blue, but it all seemed a bit bright. One more color pass was in order, and it needed to accomplish the tasks of adding one more bit of oomph to the value contrast in the foreground, and cutting the overall brightness of the entire block.

This was a job for SOOP-er Neutrals.

Reduction linocut in progress, Step 7 rollup


At this point I didn't want to add much contrast to the background, so the upper 2/5 of the block was inked with a pale, transparent gray. The lower 3/5 got a transparent warm browny-black. Nary a blue in sight, because of course the colors already present would influence anything placed over them.... especially since the new inks are as transparent as the previous.

Step 7 printed, just the bird to finish!

Yes. That's it at last! The water is finished. I remain happy with the sparkly, bubbly feel, and the tonal gradation from background to foreground.

But there's still a tricky little bit to finish: the tern. A delicate touch is going to be needed to give it just the right amount of contrast. Too much will make it jump out of the environment, and will run the risk of the bird looking like a cutout. Also, if the bird is as dark as the foreground wave, it could flatten the feeling of depth in the entire image.

I really want to finish this now, but the ink is too wet to risk printing the tiny tern shapes. It's likely to need two days before I can safely tackle it.... ugh. Torment.

But in the meantime I have plenty to keep me occupied. The two biggest priorities are tax deadlines AND reviewing the videos for my online course. Did I mention I have plenty to keep me occupied?

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Linocut in Progress: Pressing away the blues

One often hears people describe art-making as a means to express themselves and their emotions. Personally, my process usually is more of an intellectual puzzle... and sometimes a distraction from emotional upheaval. This week brought sad news from back home in Colorado, and it was comforting to focus on the routines of working while I processed the loss of a friend. 

It seemed appropriate that the image was now calling for blues. It took a while to find the right tonal range, as evidenced by the many ink mixes across the top of my work area. Because I am working with so much transparency, all of these colors will be influenced by those already on the print... and none will look like what I've rolled out on the glass. Did I mention the intellectual puzzle aspect of working? What color is on the print already? How do I want it to change in the next color pass? What color do I need to put on top of it to achieve that change? Is that change one of temperature or value or both?

And of course using blended colors multiplies all those questions, since layering blends creates even more color relationships. Wheeee!

Reduction linocut in progress, Step 4 ink rollup. Three blended blues.

But it's fun when the puzzle pieces start to fit together. My goal at this stage was to hold on to those lovely greens at the top and create small halos of lavender around some of the bubbles. (Hopefully this will soften some of those contours.) A three-value blend seemed to be the solution.

Reduction linocut in progress, Step 4 printed

Okay! Good. Mostly. I see now that the lavender color could have been brighter, but I was afraid of going too far and creating something visually jarring. That it ended up a little too subtle... well, that will just have to do. 

Step 5 ink rollup, two blended blues

As much as I loved these soft tones I did need to beef up the value range, so after some more carving I pulled out all the leftover blue inks from the previous printing session and started mixing them together. The goal was to get some good mid-tones and unify the foreground and background, so this time I just mixed two shades of blue and crossed my fingers. 

Step 5 printed

Whew. That worked out okay and it's looking pretty good. I think there's just one more pass to be done in the water, and then a couple of spot inking passes for the bird and voila! We might actually make it to the finish in fewer than 10 steps this time! (But you know better than to hold your breath on that one, don't you?)

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Linocut in Progress: In the pink!

Zooming right along... or perhaps, since the current linocut in progress is a seascape, I should say things are splashing right along. Whatever. Progress is being made.

It didn't take too long to get the block ready for the next color pass, as the first gray was really meant to show only as some subtle shadowing in the whitest bits of the wave, and the green is mostly under-color. But I wasn't ready to abandon that green yet, so for the next color pass I created a slightly darker and grayer version of it and blended that into a transparent blue-gray.


Step 2 rollup

Nice, eh? Very cheery colors to be printing in the winter.

Reduction linocut in progress, Step 2

It's all rather satisfying at this point, as it often is when I'm only two steps along. Now I really have to start thinking. Oh, dear.

As I work on this piece I'm interpreting a section of a (typically horrible) photograph. Most of these little white dots are the result of sun glare off the water, and around many of the larger spots in the foreground the camera lens created a sort of lavender aura. Hm. I wonder if I can suggest that in some subtle way....

Time to get out the pink! I rarely use pinks and reds... they just don't come up often in the sorts of images that I find most appealing. But deep in my ink stash I have an old tube of magenta.... let's give that a try. Why magenta? Because the color underneath it is blue, of course! And I am trying to get to lavender.

And oh, right. There's some gray here, too, blended alongside the pink to add another layer of value to everything else in the image.

Step 3 ink rollup. Transparent gray and magenta

Aaaannndddd..... success! I am pleased with the variety of hue and tone in the image so far. It's all rather pastel-y, which is an unusual palette for me, but that will change with the next color pass. For now it's more carving, a little bit of drying time, and a good amount of cogitating on what comes next.

Reduction linocut in progress, Step 3 printed


Thursday, January 2, 2020

Linocut in Progress: First of the New Year!

New Year's Eve on the coast of Maine was snowy, rainy, and icy- good weather for spending the day carving a new lino block. The image is one that I had started work on before I left Colorado at the end of 2017, but never got back to after the move. This new version is a little smaller than my first inclination... 12 x 12 inches... with a more intimate view of the water. (Because of course I have to start the year with a bird-and-water piece!)

Linocut in progress, first carving stage

With the intial carving stage complete, I was able to stumble downstairs on the first day of the new year and embark on my inaugural "pajama printing*" session of 2020. I started with a pale transparent "seafoam" green-to-gray blend.

(*What? You don't print in your pajamas? You should try it some time.)

First color pass: pale green to gray transparent blend

Not much of this color will remain in the final image, but hopefully the green will influence the colors that go on top of it in the ways I envision.

Inked block ready to print

This time of year in Maine we have that slanting sort of late afternoon light... pretty much all day. Nice, eh? But I digress...

Step1 printed, reduction linocut.

There are a lot of little tiny white bits in this image, but with the pale color pass it's not easy to sort out what's going on.  That will resolve itself as the piece progresses (at least I hope so), but for now there's not much to see.  Except a lovely drying rack full of fresh, new prints.


New year, new print!

There are a lot of other projects already underway in the new year, but I'm glad I spent the day with this one. Readers, I hope you all enjoyed a fine holiday season and are ready to (ahem) press ahead with joy and enthusiasm. I'm glad you're along for the adventure.