Sunday, October 31, 2021

Linocut in Progress: Greens... without using green!

It's been one of those weeks. As I mentioned in my last post, a couple of weeks ago I finally broke down and bought a new computer to replace the ten-year-old one that had ceased updating and was starting to have some issues. The new machine sat on the floor in its box for an entire week before I was brave enough to set it up, because I knew the cascade of issues I was about to unleash. 

It's been another week where many hours were lost to transferring a terabyte of information between incompatible machines and installing additional memory chips and downloading new software. But as of last night I think I am finally more or less functional... still some loose ends to tie up, but the major headaches are hopefully behind me. 

It was just as well that I had that distraction, because after the steps you're about to see, these prints became just too wet to forge ahead. I tried... and made a mess... so had to walk away and deal with a techno headache instead. Wheeeee.

But once again I'm getting ahead of myself in the storytelling. Let's see where we are right now..

Reduction linocut in progress: Step 10 on the press

The goal for these next few steps was to add some value changes to the green without making it any brighter. The best way to do that seemed to be to use a transparent warm gray... it's a mix of a skosh (technical term) of black and another skosh of sepia in a whole lot (the anti-skosh) of transparent base. And hey! Let's roll it over the entire block, no masks required. 

Step 10 printed

Not bad, not bad. We were headed into the olive-y realm with the green... and that was okay. Plus a hint of definition was developing in the bird. 

Works for me. Let's do it again! More carving, more black/sepia/transparent base.

This time, however, I wanted to avoid letting the bird's head get any darker... so I cut some funny little head-shaped masks.

Step 11 on the press

Yes, a good call. We're seeing some subtle value changes in the water and a bit more in the bird, but the head hasn't gone too dark. Seems like we're* on the right track. 

(This would be the printmakerly royal "we." You, me, the tools, the ink, the paper, the weather...)

Step 11 printed

Step 11 on the left, Step 10 on the right.
It's like one of those "spot the differences" puzzles we did in grade school.

I was starting to feel really excited to finish up the water... one... maybe two... more passes with a gray to create darker values in the green... and then the finishing touches on the bird! Yes, let's go!

Or not. I tried to print the next color pass, but the prints were just too wet and the new ink layer printed speckly and gross. Nothing to do but clean it all up and walk away for a few days. (How lucky that I had Computer Hell to keep me occupied instead, eh?)

It's possible that I'll be able to get back to it tomorrow. Everything's still a bit tacky tonight, but hopefully by tomorrow afternoon the prints will be dry enough to get that next color pass down. I had hoped to have the entire thing finished before I run away from home for a few days this weekend... but it's not looking promising at the moment. But we're getting close! "We" need to catch that bird before she swims away!

Monday, October 25, 2021

Linocut in Progress: Moving away from the blues

Alright, then. Enough of these infernal and eternal blues! It's time to print something else. 

Which honestly will only create another blue, but it won't be a bright one and it will set the stage for some other things to happen. Because, Readers, we're printing a transparent gray. 

Yep. Just gray.

Reduction linocut in progress, Step 8 rollout. Thrilling, eh?

It doesn't look like much, but it's very exciting because it's printing over everything, including the bird. No masks at all! What will happen?


Step 8 printed. Yawn.

Yeah, not really exciting after all, eh? In fact most of the toned-down blue created by this gray ink will get covered with subsequent colors, but I think it was crucial to tone things down a wee bit at this stage. Because just you wait... ain't nothing subtle going to happen next. 

We're printing... green!

And not just any green. A weird yellow-y green, because of course there's lots of that pesky blue on the print already and it's going to influence whatever I put down. I want the green to stay on the warmish side for now, so alarming chartreuse-y hue for the win! (I hope.)

Step 9 rollout. Don't be afraid!

It's something, isn't it? This is actually the improved color. The first one I mixed was entirely too brilliant lime in attitude and made things look like a circus. This color looks bright in the rollout and on the block, but the hope is that it will cooperate with the already-printed tones when laid over the top of them. 

Of course I didn't want to take any chances with this color in the bird, so a new mask was required.

Step 9 mask

NOW something exciting is happening, eh? Just look at the difference from Step 8 to Step 9! Wheeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Steps 8 and 9 side-by-side. Wheeeeee!

Believe it or not, most of this bright green will be covered by other colors, but it was important to establish it as the undertone for things that will be happening next. In fact I think the next color pass will probably be another gray... but we'll see how I feel after I spend some time staring at this stage hanging on the wall. The prints are quite wet now, so a little drying time will be necessary before anything more can be added. 

Step 9 printed

We're going to have a stretch of rain here on the coast for the next couple of days... so what better time to hunker down in the studio? 

And honestly, I need to get away from computers for a bit! I finally bit the bullet and bought a replacement for my 10-year-old desktop machine... but of course the transition from my old system is not smooth. I've had to order cable adapters to get the two machines to talk to each other... and of course the cascade of software that no longer works is also giving me headaches. I'm sure once I get it all sorted out I will be a happy camper... but... OOPH. It's almost as tedious as four (or was it five?) layers of blue ink. 


Saturday, October 23, 2021

Linocut in Progress: It's time for masks!

We're just a week away from All Hallows Eve, so it's time to be thinking about masks! Well, it's time to be thinking about masks no matter what celebration might be approaching... because we're making a reduction linocut with some crazy contrasting color and we need to be sure we're putting our best face forward. (See what I did there?)

For Step 5 I got into the spirit of the season (Spirit! Get it?) and mixed up a rather pumpkin-y color. Thankfully this color will only appear in small areas of the finished image, so I could just do a little spot inking....

Reduction linocut in progress: Step 5 spot inking
And to be sure that ink was contained even more, I cut some newsprint masks. It's always a bit tedious to cut masks, but at least I kept the shapes simple this time.

Step 5, mask in place

I'm not sure whether the result should be called a trick or a treat. Possibly just an alarming foray into the ugly duckling (or in this case "ugly merganserling") stage.

Step 5, printed

After that little digression into a complementary color it was time to go back to... blue again. Still. More blue. The goal is to put some subtlety and interest into the reflections of sky in the water. The tricky thing is that eventually every other... water stripe, I guess we can call them(?)... will actually be reflecting trees, not sky, and will be green. It's not too troublesome to put green over blue, but I don't want the values to get too dark too soon. Nothing for it but to add another transparent layer, though. 

Step 6, rollup

I debated for quite a long time about whether I wanted to run this blue in the background of the upper fourth of this image, but in the end decided to cut another (even more simple... hooray!) mask for that section. Whether or not this will turn out to be a good decision remains to be seen.

Step 6, mask

But it was a simple rollup and a simple mask, and Step 6 moved along at a nice pace. 

Step 6, printed

I apologize for the thoroughly bad photography. I am often trying to shoot sample photos at less-than-optimal times of day... and these are looking quite dismal. 

So let's go ahead and throw in yet another step, with a photographic representation that looks a little better. Bring on Step 7!

Yes. We're at seven steps already and we're still messing about with blues. This is mildly annoying to me, even though it's no one's fault but my own. But I'm aiming for a subtlety that apparently requires stealth and a certain amount of slow sneaking up on it. At least that's my excuse for now.

Back to blue we go, although this time we're going for a bit of a blended roll.

Step 7, rollup

Some darker values closer to (and in the shadow of) the bird, fading to not much at the bottom of the image. Let's give that a try.

Step 7, printed

Okay, I think we'll settle on that. It's all a bit bright now, but I think that can be remedied with a transparent gray pass next time around. Let's give these a couple of days to dry and see what sorts of new problems we can make for ourselves, shall we?

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Linocut in Progress: Finding Blue

It seems as though every linocut I make goes through a phase in which I spend a lot of time carving– but when I print the next color pass, not a lot seems to have changed. 

And yes, oh perceptive reader, we are at that stage.

Carving, carving, carving. Print some blue! This blue:

(Oh wait... perhaps I should mention the roughly bird-shaped mask first.) 

The creature-to-be in this image has a rusty-red head, some of which appears bright and coppery in the sunlight. From our highly-developed understanding of color theory, we can predict that an undertone of blue in those areas might not be conducive to creating the warmth we intend. Therefore: mask out the bird shape to avoid printing blue in that area. Capice?

Reduction linocut in progress: Step 3 printed

So here's our nice transparent blue printed. It's okay... but I am ultimately going for a much brighter blue in some of the water reflections. It does appear that something has happened at this stage, but not nearly enough to justify the amount of time I spent carving. Oh, well. 

It seems like a really simple statement ("For the next stage I want a brighter blue"), but holy cow did I have trouble getting to the right one! I should have taken a photo of the multiple different blues I mixed (most of which are now wrapped up in wax paper for use on another day). I've got at least three prints that have been moved to the "tester" section of the print queue... wrongly-blued sheets that will be first up for future color passes.

ANYWAY.... I decided to keep this blue out of the upper third of the image entirely, which precipitated another round of mask cutting. 

I also decided that I wanted to minimize the amount of blue ink in a few areas of the water that will reflect the bird's head, but rather than cut a lot of finicky little masks, I just wiped these areas right before printing each sheet. 

At the end of Step 4 printing it looks like this:

It's a lot of blue, but by the time I'm finished less than half of what we see now will remain. At the moment I think the next step will be to put down those bright copper colors previously mentioned so I can carve those bits out of the block and forget about them. I do need to put at least one more blue in the water... and then... whee! I think I can do some greens! Yep. Lots of green to come in this one. 

Stay tuned.

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Linocut in Progress: Yes! Back to work.

Here it is October. 

'Way back in August I remember telling people how happy I was that my schedule was going to slow down in September. Workshops over... the peak of the summer gallery season waning... time to get into the studio! 

What I didn't realize was that I wasn't going to be changing velocity.... only trajectory. I've still been quite busy, just in a slightly different direction from how I spent my summer. 

Which meant September escaped, and now it's October. And although I'm afraid of jinxing it by saying so, things finally do seem to be settling down a bit. I'm ready to refocus... into the work of exploring some new ideas and new linocuts. 

And I'm not easing back into it. Oh, no. That would be too reasonable. I'm going straight for a large 18 x 18-inch piece. Just because.

Step 1 rollup

I spent (read: wasted) a lot of time agonizing over the quest for a Great Image Idea. I haven't worked on a proper reduction print since May, and I put a lot of pressure on myself to ramp up in a hurry. Honestly, I am a horrific boss... the kind I would never wish on anyone else... the kind with unreasonable expectations and poor people management skills.

Luckily my only employee (me) put her foot down and demanded that SOMETHING be started... Great Image Idea, or no. So that's how we got to rolling out a transparent gray on what you might be able to tell is an image with some water in it. And yeah, there's a bird there, too. Here's what Step 1 looked like:

Reduction linocut in progress: Step 1 printed

It's been raining here off and on the last couple of days, so the light in the studio is a bit poor, especially when it comes to photography, so apologies in advance for the questionable bit you're seeing here. (The blueish tinge in the lower left, for example, is not the ink, but a shadow of me.)

It was so satisfying to get that first color pass down, though. When I haven't printed in a while I can convince myself that there are a hundred reasons why I'm not very good at this (and put pressure on myself to find a Great Image Idea before I can start again). But finally printing a first color pass on paper almost always settles me down.

Step 2 rollup

So... Step 1 printed, I immediately carved for Step 2. This was going to be a subtle shift in color temperature without much change in value, so again a quite transparent ink. A smidge of cobalt blue in a big pile of transparent base did the trick. I managed to mix EXACTLY how much ink I needed this time, which almost never happens. I was getting nervous about 3/4 of the way through the print session, worried that I was going to run out of ink, but I managed to scrape together (literally) just enough for all 23 sheets*. 

(*I don't usually start with an odd number of sheets of paper, but I accidentally prepped an extra, so went ahead and used it. 'Cause, you know. It's been a while. I expect a higher loss percentage when I'm out of practice.)

Step 2 printed

 Again we have some questionable photography happening. The color is probably better on the right side of the photo, but you can see the slight contrast of shapes better on the left edge. This is not a blended roll... the warm left edge is an artifact of uneven artificial light. 

Surprisingly, I think the next color pass is already going to drop us into the realm of some more dramatic color. There is already a biggish decision to be made at this point, however... there's definitely some masking in my future, but how much and when is yet to be determined. Stay tuned!

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...