Saturday, May 30, 2020

Linocut in Progress: Or perhaps I should say linocut in bloom!


Blue columbine. Delicate... showy. And the quintessential symbol of summer in Colorado. I had plans to be back home in the Centennial State right now, but of course that's all been scuppered by the pandemic.

Instead I am in Maine, which is celebrating the bicentennial of its statehood this year.

There are wild columbine which grow here also, but they are the smaller red ones. Nice. But not the blues. (To be fair... these aren't open yet...)


Not being able to visit my home state right now also means I've had to postpone some artist talks and workshops and demos that were scheduled there. Disappointing on so many levels.

BUT! Through the wonders of technology, I can at least try to make up for a little of it. I decided to start a small (6 x 8-inch) linocut of columbine, AND I am making a point to document all the stages of its development with photos and video. The goal is to create a virtual demonstration that will be shared with the good folks at Ann Korologos Gallery in Basalt, where I was supposed to present a program this week. In the meantime I can keep you up to date on progress, least.

To begin with, here's a drawing I made, based on some reference photos I have from... wow! More than ten years ago.


I decided that compositionally I liked the flowers facing the other way around. This will seem confusing when you look at the block, because the image has the same orientation as the drawing. But remember that it will print in reverse... so forwards is actually backwards.


I could have made this even more confusing by explaining that I first scanned the drawing into the computer and flipped it backwards so that when I printed it on paper and flipped it facedown on the lino to transfer it would come out right way around again. Which is really the wrong way. But don't worry. I won't tell you that.

Step 1! Carve away any areas to remain white, and print a lovely pale lavender-blue.

Reduction linocut, step 1, printed

Step 2! Oh, crud. Those yellow centers. Spot inking already! Oh well, at least it's a small piece and there are only two areas that need yellow. A little carving, a few newsprint masks....

Step 2, newsprint mask for spot inking

Et voila! Yellow contained and printed.

Reduction linocut, step 2, printed

That didn't take very long, so I went ahead and carved and printed for the third color pass. Another transparent blue-y lavender.

Reduction linocut, step 3, printed

As you can no doubt tell by now, I'm doing a little "frame breaking" with this composition. It's been a while since I used this particular design approach... something leftover from the days when I did a lot of page design as a paste-up artist. (Paste-up! Who remembers paste-up!?!?!)

So far things seem to be moving along nicely. I don't have any real concept of where I'm going with this once I get the blooms sorted out. In the back of my mind is the knowledge that I will want some greens in here, and I've already compromised that a bit with so much lavender.

But that's the trick with reduction printing. One needs to decide where one wants the "purest" color early on. Layering greens over this lavender-y color will mean I won't likely get "pure," bright greens. But layering the lavender over the green would have been less appealing... I'm highlighting the blooms more than their greenery, so they get priority in the order of layers.

It all sounds good in theory, but sometimes reality throws a curveball. We'll see what happens in the next few color passes!

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