Saturday, June 27, 2020

Reduction linocut demo video!

Back in the day when one could reliably make plans I intended to go home to Colorado for a couple of weeks this summer. While I was there I was scheduled to present a hands-on printmaking demonstration at Ann Korologos Gallery in Basalt, which represents my work.

Since I couldn't be there in person this summer we thought it might be fun to do the program virtually. If you were following along here on Brush and Baren as I worked on the new linocut of columbine you might remember I mentioned that I was shooting some footage and trying to be diligent about recording all the steps. 

Well! I can finally share with you the completed video! It's a solid 15 minutes long, so you might want to make some popcorn or at least get a cup of tea before you hit play. I hope you enjoy it!

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Linocut in Progress: Columbine in full bloom!

Oh, you should see Maine right now! It's ridiculously green. I spent most of my life in the high desert, and while we had our verdant moments and secret pockets of rich vegetation, it wasn't anything like this overwhelming wall of... just green... that we have here in the early summer.

There's been a lot of green in the studio for the last week, also. Once I had proved that the columbine linocut didn't need to be scrapped, I was anxious to get on with it. Naturally, the faster one wants to finish the slower the ink layers dry. It's a conspiracy, I swear.

Anyway... somehow we are at Step 10, and somehow I missed taking any photos of the ink rollup. I've been trying to take photos and video throughout the development of this linocut, so I can put together a video for the team at Ann Korologos Gallery. I was supposed to be in Colorado right now, as I mentioned before, and had a demo and artist talk on the gallery schedule. It's still going to happen... but now it will be virtual!

All of which is to say that I'm guessing the ink rollup was recorded in video and not photography, so you'll just have to imagine it. It was another blended roll... a darker and bluer green blended to a  darker and more olive-y green. Like this:

Reduction linocut, Step 10 printed

At this point I was really hoping the next color pass would pull the entire thing together, but I had my doubts. The background is a wee bit boring, but I don't want to go too crazy and have it interfere with the main subjects, the twin blooms. (Oooh... maybe that will be the title! Or not.) I also want to beef up the contrast with some darker values, but I don't want to go SO dark that the flowers appear washed out again.

Ink scraps saved in wax paper

Luckily I have plenty of ink with which to search for the appropriate colors. I think I've mentioned before that one of the reasons I still like to work with oil-based inks is that I can save leftover bits of color by wrapping them in wax paper. The ink scraps will usually stay viable for several weeks this way, and I often use "leftovers" from a previous color pass as a base for mixing new colors.  For Step... hm... 11 (!!!) I started with the leftovers from Step 10 and added in some leftovers from the previous black scoter print! Because that's how I (ahem) roll. (See what I did there?)

Step 11 rollup

Step 11 printed

At this stage I put a little video clip of the reveal on my Instagram feed and asked the question, "Is it finished or is it ain't?" Most people seemed to think it was finished, but you know me! I felt it need just a little more interest in the background and some small darker bits in the stems and leaves.

Ugh. Step 12.

Back to the ink scraps to mix up this strange green-brown... very transparent.

I had to squeeze in "just one more color" of course. Step 12 ink rollup.

Yes. That's what it needed. NOW it's finished.

Columbine, reduction linocut, 6" x 8" Edition size? Probably 18, I still have to sort them.
This image is slightly embiggenable with a click.

I'm not sure what's up next in the studio. I need to take some time now to work on the video of this image, plus I still have plenty of work to do for my online course. And I need to develop a virtual field sketching class for the Farnsworth Museum. Yikes. That's a lot of a whole other kind of thinking! Best get started. 

Monday, June 8, 2020

Linocut in Progress: A near-disaster averted.

Aaaaaaaanndddd.... as anticipated, we have reached the "ugly duckling" stage of this linocut, the point at which I question every choice ever made in my entire life, especially the one that involved putting ink and paper together for a living.

There's really no good reason for this print to already be at Step 7 and only have the blooms of the flowers resolved, but that's where things stand. It's time to start thinking about stems, leaves, and the still-avoided background.

The first question to answer is "How the heck are we going to get green over all this lavender?"

Just as a reminder, here's what the last step (number 6) looked like:

Where we last left our hero: Step 6

That's a lot of lavender... and it's nice and harmonious. It's going require the serious pulling up of my Big Printmaker Pants to move on from here.

I knew whatever color I printed next would need a lot of opaque white ink in it. It's impossible to get back to "white white," even if I used straight white ink on the image, but I can at least get things moving in the right direction. I mixed up a sort of "pistachio ice cream" pale green:

Step 7 ink rollup... pale, pale green

And I got this:

Reduction linocut, Step 7

Not what you were expecting, I bet. It was sort of what I was expecting. I had hoped for a little bit lighter value, but the grayness was no surprise. Remember your basic color theory, everyone! Colors that are opposite on the color wheel (blue-orange, green-red, purple-yellow) tend to dull each other out. A yellowy green over a lavender just does what it has to. I went ahead and finished this color pass just as it was, because I couldn't really see a way to get a better solution at this point. I crossed my fingers I could fix it in the next pass.

And I did. I mixed a brighter, but still loaded with white, green for Step 8, and now things look undeniably vegetative. But there's a new problem. The flowers look SO washed out! The richness of the lavender seems to have faded away with the addition of these last two color passes.

Reduction linocut, Step 8

Yes, I admit it. I considered scrapping the entire thing at this point. Because if I have to darken the flower petals the only way to do that would be to cut a second block... and trying to match those shapes? It didn't bear thinking about.

So after a day or two of nail biting I decided I should go ahead and try one more color pass to see if I could bring the blooms back to life. If not... well... I was resigned to the need for a do-over.

Step 9 rollup

I decided that if I was potentially going to pitch the entire thing anyway I might as well go for the bold, so I mixed up a blended roll of dark-to-light (and bright!) green.

Step 9 printed

Hooray! That worked okay, didn't it? The flowers are back to their lovely lavender selves... and the background seems to at least have a direction.

And speaking of the background... there's no more time to avoid decision-making here. I would like to keep things from getting too visually complex... let the two blooms continue to be the focus. Perhaps I'll keep the upper part of the background a solid shape and muck around a bit more with the foliage in the foreground. Time to make a couple of computer printouts and get out the pencils and see what I can sort out.

Friday, June 5, 2020

Linocut in Progress: Because I don't know about you, but I could use some beauty just now

Progress, while distracted, continues in the studio. I have been hesitant to write about creative struggles when there is so much destruction going on in the world. How did we human beings get ourselves to this point? And how do we get ourselves out? So many burdens, so many problems to solve! Climate change, global pandemic, racism, violence. Isolation, fear, anger. Murder.

Like a lot of us, I have found myself swinging between cautious optimism and overwhelming despair. Between no sleep at all and a struggle to get out of bed.

I have had little enthusiasm for image-making (or much of anything else) lately, but I am thankful that printmaking is such a process. Once a critical decision is made (carve this area, mix that color ink), there are long periods of more or less mindless repetition when one is actually printing. Roll ink, register the block, print. Roll ink, register the block, print. What focus I can muster is dedicated to craft, as I strive to be as consistent and precise as possible.

And beautiful. More than ever, it feels necessary to create something beautiful. The blue columbine is a lovely wildflower, although there is a tragic and violent connection to this bloom, also. Twenty years ago, a horrific shooting took place at a high school named for this, the Colorado state flower. 

Reduction linocut, Step 4 printed

Probably somewhere in my last post I made the mad assertion that this linocut would be a simple one. I should really stop saying such things, so that we can all be surprised when it finally does happen. 'Cause it ain't gonna happen this time. Again.

Step 5 printed

Luckily I didn't have to make choices about color for these stages, only value. I added a little bit of blue to darken the lavender, but that was all.

Step 6 printed

It feels quite satisfactory at this point, very harmonious. But in the back of my mind I know that problems are brewing, because of course I need to add some greens now... and how is that going to work with such a dark lavender base in the background? I predict a few difficult stages ahead as I try to balance color and value and as I try to find the overall picture. I have no plan beyond this stage, really... I haven't considered what to do with the background or how to resolve a couple of elements that aren't visible at this stage.

All I know for sure is that I want the end product to reach for a balance of boldness and sensitivity, contrast and harmony. Which, I think, are important qualities to strive for outside the studio as well. Shall we give it a try?

Linocut in Progress: (Lucky 13th) Final Step

 I am off next week to head up the Arts & Birding session at Hog Island Audubon Camp in Maine , so I have been feeling the pressure to w...