Friday, October 23, 2020

Linocut in Progress: Finishing the Harlequin Ducks

By now I really should know better than to make pronouncements like "I think I'm all done cutting masks for this image." Because, of course, after the last color pass I felt the current linocut needed just a little more oomph in the color department. Something a little brighter, and maybe a little surprising, but not obnoxious. Something, perhaps, in the water.

Almost all of the lino has been carved away in the areas of the block that represent water, but there were a couple of sections still intact that could be interpreted as the shadows or reflections of the birds in the waves. In order to contain the color, though, I had to (wait for it)... cut some masks. Which I said I wasn't going to do anymore. But I did. Like this:

Step 13 mask

I mixed a lovely turquoise as the color to be corralled by this mask. The inks I used are a bit transparent straight from the tube, so I knew they wouldn't appear this light and bright on the prints, but there was still an anxious moment when I pulled the first one. 

Step 13 rollup

Whew! Okay. Subtle, but there. Just enough. I can't really explain why this step felt so important, other than a vague feeling of too much sameness in the overall image. It's a tiny thing, but I felt much better for having done it.

Step 13 printed

But NOW we are definitely done with the mask-cutting. One more color pass remains. A deep almost-black will add just a bit more depth and detail...

Step 14 rollup

And, voila! Here it is. This is a direct scan of the final image, so the color is pretty good and the light is finally consistent. I've uploaded this at a decent size, so be sure to click on it for a better view. 

The Lazy Eight? The Crazy Eight? Eight is Enough? Step 14, final
Image 8 x 24 inches, Edition of 18
UPDATE: Final title: "Swell Gathering"

Once again all that remains is a title. There are eight birds, well, seven-and-a-half if you want to be technical about it, so that seems an obvious starting point. But it feels like there's probably something to be said about the comfort of a "pod" of sociable companions, too, so I'll keep thinking about it. 

What's next? Don't know yet. I'm back to work on the content for my online linocut course, which I'm trying to get launched before Christmas, so that's taking a fair chunk of time. And I am frequently distracted by the pesky red squirrels that have finally figured out how to get to my bird feeders. 

No matter. A little puttering about along the shore, in the woods, and in the studio, will no doubt turn up something to challenge me again soon.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Linocut in Progress: Pulling things back together

Maybe it's too soon to celebrate, but I think that newsprint mask-making time might actually be over! After isolating the two female ducks and establishing their overall body color, it's time to pull the image back together with some unifying color passes. 

Step 11 is a rich, transparent blue that will create shadows in a few areas of the females and bring the overall tone and value of the male birds back into line.

Reduction linocut in progress: Step 11 rollup

And here's where it landed us:

Step 11 printed

It's starting to come back together, but the females are still visually overpowering the males. It's time to really focus on those handsome boys. Here's the roll-up for Step 12, an even richer blue-gray. You can see that the farthest-distant female is almost completely removed from the block, and just a few shadow textures remain in the closest bird. Additionally, all the water except for a few details around the birds and a couple of waves in the foreground has also been removed.

Step 12 ink rollup

Aaannndddd... hooray! A nice day and some indirect light outdoors, so I was able to get a decent photo of Step 12 after it was printed. I also uploaded this shot at an embiggenable size, so you can click on it to get a better look at where everything stands. 

Step 12 printed, embiggenable with a click

We are really close now. I think I only need one more pass to finish up the birds... but I am undecided about whether I should mess around with two little sections of water that haven't yet been carved away. It might not be necessary to put a different color on them, but it also might be just the right little zing! if I do it right. We'll see what I decide when I get there...

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Linocut in Progress: Grace and awkwardness

When we last left our heroic linocut ducks, things had gone from harmony to disharmony with the application of the rusty-orange bits in the males of the species. I did promise you that the next step would bring things back together a bit, and so it did. A bit. 

Reduction linocut in progress: Step 8 printed

Yes, 't'was a nice transparent blue applied to the entire block that seemed to set everything back on the right path, but of course it wasn't to last long. There are two female ducks in this group, and their plumage is brown, unlike the strong blues and oranges of the males. It was time to give them a little attention.

In order to keep the brown colors contained I cut another newsprint mask, and did some spot inking of a light brown. Here it is, on the press and ready to print.

Step 9 mask

And here's the result. Again I apologize for such lousy photos this time... I promise that when we finally do get to the end there will be a proper image of the entire print.

Reduction linocut in progress: Step 9 printed

Because this first, lighter, brown was of a similar value to the blue of the males, this step didn't seem to go too far astray. But don't worry. I'm gonna awkward this up right proper with Step 10.

The Step 10 ink was a darker, lush brown. Spot inked again, and masked again. I could use the same mask pattern as the previous color pass, since any areas that would retain the lighter brown had, of course, been carved away.

Here we are again on the press, mask in place, ready to print.

And here's that result. Quite clunky-looking now, isn't it? The overall value of the females is much darker than the males, which at this stage look a bit like ghosts of their selves-to-be. But never fear! These next few steps should (I hope) bring a little grace back to this raft of harlequin ducks... and give me a little reassurance as well. 

Step 10 printed

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Linocut in Progress: The maybe-not-ugly-but-certainly-not-attractive duckling stage

As I mentioned in my last post, it's time to move away from the pleasant and harmonious color scheme we've had so far and put in the contrasting orangey parts of the male ducks. 

Since only small areas of the finished image will need these orangey shapes, I can use a combination of spot inking and masks to move the process along. I used the same piece of acetate as before, placed it over my carved block, and traced my new shapes in blue instead of pink.

Another mask pattern

Again, I used this pattern to create newprint masks... like this: 

Step 6 mask, ready to print

It took a couple of tries to get the first of my two orangey colors right. This paler color will be the highlighted areas.

Step 6 ink rollup

Before you see this next photo I have to apologize for the continued poor quality of my in-progress images. Now that the sun has made a seasonal shift it's difficult for me to find a spot in the studio with natural light for photography,  so these have all been very dull and and strange, with glare from artificial lights... But hopefully you get the idea...

Reduction linocut in progress, Step 6 printed,
embiggenable with a click

Awkward little shapes, but sufficient for now. I did just a tiny bit of carving and then used spot inking...

Step 7 rollup

and the same newsprint mask....

Step 7 on the press with mask in place. See what I mean about dodgy light?

And heeeeerreee's Step 7 printed. The orange looks particularly harsh in this photo, but it's not nearly this bright. And a lot of it will be obscured by future color passes, anyway. 

Reduction linocut, Step 7 printed,
slightly embiggenable with a click

Thankfully the next color pass will be a blue-gray that should start to pull the image back together again, because all these awkward-looking prints on the drying rack make me feel very uncomfortable. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Linocut in Progress: Duck masks, but not masked ducks

Alrighty then! So far this new linocut has been proceeding in a fairly straightforward manner... a couple of flat color passes and a blended roll. Nothing too tricky.

But now it's time to bring the birds a bit forward of the background. The next color pass needs to place a blue-violet into the shadowed areas of the birds without getting too much darker in value and without interfering with the background so far. 

Time to cut a mask. For ducks. But not masked ducks. Which are an actual species. But not the species that is the subject of this linocut. Oh, nevermind.

The first step was to place a piece of clear acetate over the block and trace the shapes in which I wanted this new color to appear. I didn't want to have to carve a lot of fussy details at this stage, so I aimed to simplify the shapes and keep the mask-cutting to something that wouldn't make me pull my hair out. 

Step 4 mask pattern

That seemed alright, so I traced it on to newsprint and cut out about 10 masks. I planned to reuse each mask 2 or 3 times, so ten seemed sufficient, but in the end I had to cut a couple more, as the masks didn't hold up as well as I hoped.

Step 4 masks cut from newsprint

Here's the block all inked up with a transparent blue-violet, mask in place, on the press.

Step 4 ready to print

And here's the result. There's a much clearer sense of the birds and the overall image. So far, so good, I think. 

Reduction linocut in progress, Step 4 printed

On to Step 5! The changes here are subtle, but extensive. A lot more carving has been done in the water, and the white markings on the birds' heads that are in shadow have been carved away. The Step 5 color pass was a solid, transparent blue over the entire block. No mask required. 
Step 5 printed

It's all looking pretty harmonious, so you know what that means! It's time to mess it all up. There are some small details in the male ducks that need to be a sort of rust color, so I need to tackle those before moving on to the rest of the water and the dark shapes of the birds' bodies. Time to make more duck masks. But not for masked du... oh, nevermind.

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...