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!


  1. de l'eau p├ętillante ?
    lovely print!

    1. I like it, but I don't think I can pronounce it! I thought about something with champagne, but the color palette isn't right.

  2. So great! The water depths and the bird - you are a master at this and I am in awe again. Thank you for sharing your process, it never gets old.

    1. It's the little things that can really trip you up.... that bird gave me a lot of anxiety, so part of my pleasure in finishing this piece is just plain relief! :-)

  3. Fishing the Sparkling Blue. Beautiful work as usual. You are amazing!

  4. Impressive... this is also beautiful

  5. that water is absolutely gorgeous!! it shines so much :)

    just 7 (10) passes is a new low record I think lol