Thursday, February 25, 2021

Finishing the Piping Plover!

Alrighty, then! Let's wrap this thing up, shall we?

This linocut was oh-so-close to completion after the last time I posted; in fact I thought Step 17 would be the final step. But you know how that goes...

Here's the rollup for Step 17. It's a transparent brown-black, applied over every bit of lino that remains on the block. Which, as you can see, ain't much.

Step 17 ink rollup

Step 17 ready to print

Aaaaannnnd.... here it is printed....

Reduction linocut in progress, Step 17 printed

Ugh. It has been really difficult to get a good photo of this piece from the very beginning, and now it seems to be worse. The camera wants to make it all more contrasty than it really is. 

Anyway... This is close to finished. Really close. But not quite. 

It's difficult to tell from the photos, but I felt the bird needed one last smidge of darkest value to pull it forward of the background. And I mean smidge. Eye. Beak. Part of the band around the neck. I needed to nudge those shapes, and only those shapes, a wee bit darker.

So of course I cut a ridiculously tiny mask and hand-inked these shapes.

Final details of the face

I'm not even sure you can tell from this photo, but there is a slight difference in value and color temperature... the last dark bits of the face are a bit cooler. It might seem like no big deal, but for me it made a difference in the overall feel of the image.

Here's that last hardly-can-be-called-a-color-pass printed. It's a fair photo of the final image, although the dark shapes all appear a bit too dark. (This photo can be embiggened slightly if you click on it... )

Final image.... but what is the title? Hmmmm.
Reduction linocut, 12" x 12," edition of.... 18, probably. 

All the prints are now happily drying away on the rack in the studio (waiting for me to give them a title), and I am turning my attention to the next potential piece. I've got a subject for my Underfoot series in mind, but I have some upcoming deadlines that will call for birds or other wildlife, so I need to find one more bird image to work on first. I think it's a fair bet that I will try to do something without so many subtle grays! Maybe something bold and bright? We'll see!

Monday, February 22, 2021

Linocut in Progress: Is the end finally in sight?

Well, yes... we are headed towards the finish, but not quite there yet. This piece has turned out to be one of those learning experiences that we both celebrate and lament. It's taking SO LONG to finish what was intended to be a "simple" composition. Just goes to show ya' that apparently simple is not the same as actually simple. 

By now we are at, what? Step 14, I think. This was a transparent warm gray that was rolled over the entire block. It influenced sand, bird, and background simultaneously.
Reduction linocut in progress: Step 14 printed

Okay, well, that's something. I think the sand is finally finished... mostly. I want to suggest little footprints moving into view from the lower left, so material for that needs to remain on the block, but the rest of the foreground can be carved away in wide swaths rather than tiny chips. Satisfying.

But I need to resolve the background shapes, which I've been making up as I've gone along. It's time to slow down and actually think about it... with a pencil in hand! I took a photo of the current stage of the image, flipped it around in the computer so that it faced the direction of the block, printed it out, and voila! A way to work out some of the darker shapes. 

Resembling a plan...

Keep in mind that whatever I draw in pencil on my mock-up will remain uncarved on the block; it's the lighter bits that will be removed from the lino. This drawing wasn't completely accurate, but it was a helpful guide for sorting out the next carving stage. When the carving was finished I rolled out another transparent gray across the entire block and.... 

Step 15, printed

Okay. Getting much closer to the end now, but still not quite there. I used the computer printout method again to refine the shapes even more. Seems a bit busy now, but it all definitely reads as detritus on the beach.

And yes, I employed the computer printout one more time to sort out the next stage. There's really not much material left on the block and this stage and it's hard to understand what's happening without the printout for guidance.

Step 16 printed. Really? 16? That's a bit excessive, don't you think?

And yes. Another transparent gray. So many grays in this image! I think the footprints are completely done now, so I'll clean them off before putting in what I hope will be the last dark bits. Stay tuned...

Monday, February 8, 2021

Linocut in Progress: Not-so-quick sand

Last time on "Let's Make This Simple Idea As Complicated As Possible," the linocut wrestler decided she really didn't like the dark foreground that had developed in her image. It was an interesting effect, but not really part of the original plan. (As if anything like a plan actually existed. Ha.)

The solution? Get out the white ink and tone that whole mess down.

Step 12 rollup: Yes. That's plain old white ink.

It's important to remember that getting back to "white-white" on an image that already has a number of color layers printed is a difficult proposition. The white ink would need to be very opaque and applied rather heavily... and would have a different quality from the rest of the image. 

Lucky I'm not trying to get back to "white-white," then, eh? Just lighten things up a bit.

Step 12 mask

To ensure that this white pass was confined to the foreground I cut a newsprint mask. (Note how much simpler in construction it was compared to a lot of my crazy masks. At least I kept that simple!)

Step 12 printed: no more dark foreground

Et, voila! The dark foreground is gone. There is, however, an interesting phenomenon happening here, one that is not as alarming in real life as it appears to be in this photo but which should be mentioned. 

White ink in general is more opaque than other colors. For this color pass I did add some transparent base, but the white ink still reflects light differently than all the other previously-printed, very transparent layers. 

In short, it looks a bit chalky. 

I expected some chalkiness, although I was a bit surprised by just how much I got...  but I think it will be fine. A lot of this lightened foreground is going to get another hit of transparent gray-brown color after I remove many more tiny chips of lino, which I hope will add to the feeling of subtle sandy texture. Won't know for certain until I get there, though. 

Foreground managed, it was time to do a little something more with the background. I'm trying to suggest detritus of twigs and trash and eel grass, so I mixed up a sort of greeny-ochre. It looks really yellow in the roll-out, but I promise it's more of a greeny-ochrey-brown. (That's a very technical color name, if you're wondering.)

Step 13 rollup

Clever (or just lucky) me had kept the other half of the paper from the previous mask-cutting adventure, so I had somehow managed to create two masks at once. I did have to augment with some roughly bird-shaped pieces of newsprint, but that was easy enough. 

Step 13 mask(s) in place

Aaaaannnnndddddd...... Here's Step 13 printed.

Step 13 printed

It feels like it's maybe-kind-of-sort-of-possibly getting close now. I might even go out on a limb (or a twig or a piece of eel grass) and imagine I could be done in two more color passes, although more likely three. Okay, maybe four.

The biggest thing I am learning right now is how to take a simple idea and make it ridiculously complicated. Too much, really. My original intent for this piece was a "minimalist" composition. Bird. Sand. Some detritus. Simple. But then I decided to up the ante with a lot of subtle texture in the sand. I could have saved myself from having to print that white pass (I think) if I had been more bold (and patient) about cutting more material out of the foreground earlier, but I just keep inching up on the whole thing. Quite literally... another inch of carved texture, and then another, and then another. Ooph.

It's probably too early to mention this, but there is another sand/bird/detritus image waiting in the wings. (Bird artist joke. Wings. Get it?) I don't think I'm in any danger of jumping into such a piece immediately after this one, but if, say a year from now, you see me start another lino with a lot of gray and the word "sand" involved, feel free to roll your eyes and send me back to this post. 

Back to chip, chip, chipping away....

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Linocut in Progress: Surprise! More gray

We aren't up to 50, or even 15, shades of gray yet, but golly there have been a lot of them in this linocut. In fact, here comes the sixth. 

In the previous post I might have mentioned shifting to another little bit of fiddly color, but then I decided I needed to bring some unity to the background... and I might as well add a little more texture to the foreground sand while I was at it. So. Step 9. Surprise! Another very transparent gray. Please try not to snore when you nod off from boredom.

Reduction linocut in progress: Step 9 printed, another warm gray

It might not have been exciting, but it was useful for helping me to visualize a direction for the background. As I lamented in my last post, I'm rethinking the background shapes on the fly, and every little nudge towards some kind of structure suggests what my next steps could be.

Having said that... now is the time to forget about the background and deal with a couple of very small, fiddly bits of color in the bird. The plover's beak is a sort of yellow-orange at the base, as are its legs. I absolutely do not want this very-staining color to escape and wreak havoc over the rest of the image, so I will employ spot inking and a newsprint mask.

Step 10 spot inking

The inking part is easy enough. My smallest brayer is 1" wide, so it leaves some slop around my intended shapes, but inking goes quickly. In fact the most time-consuming aspect of this step was cutting all the newsprint masks.

Step 10 mask in place

Drumroll, please...

Step 10 printed

Okay, it's nice that my bird has a leg to stand on now. Two of them, actually. The color seems alarmingly bright at the moment, but most of it will be toned down in the next pass of... you guessed it. Gray!

Step 11 rollup. Oh, look. Gray.

As an aside I would like to point out the yellow stain on the block during this gray rollup. I scrubbed and scrubbed the block to remove this color and this was the best I could do. Thankfully the residue is clinging to the carved-out areas of the block and not to the surface. I learned the hard way that yellow ink stain on printable surfaces can transfer to your prints in places you do NOT want it, which can be a disaster. 

Thankfully there were no fussy masks to cut out for this stage and everything went along smoothly. 

Step 11 printed

But the foreground is definitely WAY too dark now, so the next color to print will be white. I'm hoping I haven't left it too long. The white ink will not look "pure" white, but that's just fine. I want to lighten the area, not cover it completely. 

There's carving to do first (more sand... chip chip chip) and drying of ink layers, so it will likely be a couple of days before I can print again. Stay tuned... I promise a bit more drama after the white pass. Honest! 

Linocut in Progress: The Third Act

Time to wrap up this linocut ! And we are wrapping at warp speed (see what I did there?)... because there are deadlines. Exhibition deadline...