Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Linocut in Progress: Subtle... and strange

Work continues, in fits and starts, in the studio. Focus is still elusive, but in part this is because the beginning of a new year tends to have a lot of activity to distract me! Tedious things like year-end bookkeeping, but also fun things like the 121st Christmas Bird Count. The CBC was, of course, different this year with virus protocols in place. I spent the day by myself, surveying a subsection of the territory I usually cover with a group of friends, and sent my results via email rather than gathering with all our counters at the end of the day.

But we had good weather for it... some sun, not too windy, not too cold... and I was able to cover more ground on foot than usual. I didn't find anything out of the ordinary, but it was nice to be out and about.

Step 3... more gray!

Back in the studio the color palette and progress on the current linocut remained subtle. Gray, gray, gray. It's difficult to tell what's happening yet, but if you use your imagination you might be able to find hints of the main subject. (Yes, of course it's a bird, silly.) 

Reduction linocut in progress, Step 3 printed

And now... hm.

All the hard thinking of this image seems to be happening in the early stages. The foreground needs to stay a fairly light gray, but I don't want it to be flat and boring, so I have been carving lots of tedious little dots... stippling, as one might do in a pen and ink drawing.

But the hero of my image is also gray. Gray on the back with a white belly. (And a few other white areas.) The tricky thing is that most of the white areas are in shadow... AND the shadowed white area is darker than the sun-lit gray area! What the heck color should I print the underside of the bird so that it reads as "shadowed white" rather than just another gray? Ooph. 

First things first, though. I think the decision about the shadowed-belly-color needs to happen now, and it needs to be contained. There can be some of the shadow-color influencing the bird's wing, but not its back... so it's time to cut a mask.

Cutting newsprint masks

The strange shape of this mask makes me laugh. I can't decide if it looks like a demented chicken, or maybe it's a hamerkop. Look at it on the block! Definitely hamerkop.

Mask in place on the block

It took a couple of tries to get to a color that I liked, and I'm still not entirely sure this is the right one, but I'm going to carry on and hope it works. The advantage for you is that you can at least see where our hero is standing, even if you can't quite identify the species yet. Or maybe you can. Any guesses?

Reduction linocut in progress: Step 4 printed

From here I think I will have a few days of chipping out tiny stippled dots in the foreground. I will also remove material from the belly and face of the bird to preserve that strange purple-gray color. What, me nervous? 

As for the next color... I think there's one more pale gray pass and then I can get going with what I hope will be the more entertaining bits of the background.  Stay tuned!


  1. Love to read about your creative problem solving! Putting a mask on a reduction is a solution that only a very clever and confident printmaker would attempt. Respect! Look forward to seeing the results.

    1. Hi Eric, thanks for taking the time to comment. Masks.. it seems like I use at least one on every edition these days! Some more fussy than others. We'll see if it was a good idea after a few more steps.


Linocut in Progress: Subtle... and strange

Work continues, in fits and starts, in the studio. Focus is still elusive, but in part this is because the beginning of a new year tends to ...