Thursday, November 18, 2021

Linocut in Progress: Finishing the merganser

 Ooph. This has been "one of those" linos. Every time I thought I was about to be finished, I discovered I was not. But now it really IS finished. Well, probably. (Wince.)

When we last left our hero, she was living under the delusion that she had but two steps to go: correcting the color on the bird's beak, and "one last dark." The phrase "one last dark" should probably always be written in quotes, and when uttering the words aloud one should employ air quotes. At least when one is me. 

First to the beak. For which I have no documentation whatsoever, because I was too aggravated to remember to take any photos. Actually, no. It looks like documentation-wise I will show you the alleged "last dark" step first. 

We'll call it Step 16.

Reduction linocut, Step 16 printed

This probably was Step 16, since images I have of this stage do not show the adjusted beak (and, as we will see at the end, cheek color). The color was another transparent gray over the entire block... this time a little cooler than the previous sepia color pass. It was supposed to be (quote it with me now) "the last dark," but despite putting my fingers in my ears and singing Coldplay to drown out the nagging in my head, I sort of knew I was going to have to revisit this. But! On to the bird's head, which was also contributing to the cacophony. 

A merganser's beak is really quite red, but when turned into the light it can appear more pinkish. The problem is that the side of the bird's face doesn't really appear to be as light as it should be to suggest a pink bill. So there are two problems to solve with teeny, tiny shapes. Probably NO ONE but me will care about this. But I do. So I must tackle it.


It took almost an entire day, I kid you not. Wrong colors, wrong shapes, wrong values. Ugh. So, no. There are no photos of me mixing and printing and stripping the color back out and changing it and trying again. (I did even try a red-red, but ICK!) I'm still not convinced I got it entirely correct, but it got to the point where I just had to walk away. (And eat some supper... maybe that would help?)

Anyway... here's a little detail of the more pale cheek and the pinky beak color. Seriously. I spent an entire day on that. And what do I call it? Step 17? Steps 17 through 47? We'll call it 17 (cheek) and 18 (beak) and move on.

After supper I walked back into the studio and looked at the prints hanging on the drying rack and felt my heart sink. 

Yes. It absolutely needed "one last dark." 

By this time I was so over the process (it happens sometimes) that I decided I would just power on, stay up, and get the thing done once and for all. I went at the block with a vengeance... using my largest sweep tool most of the time, and getting it down to the just smallest bits of necessary dark.

Like this.

Step... um... 19? block. "One last dark."

I'm pretty much committed to this being the last stage now. I mean, how much more lino can I carve away and still have anything to print? Thankfully....

Step 19... The last dark. No, really. I'm serious this time. No quotes.

See what I mean? Definitely needed it. 

So, she's done. Kind of. 99.9% done. I am disturbed by the too-dark (oh, now it's TOO dark!) eye. This is a not-too-complicated fix... I can strip back a tiny bit of the color... but it's a tiny shape and delicate areas around the eye are still wet, so I will wait a day before getting in there with a pin-head sized piece of paper to pull off some ink. 

The other thing she will need is a title, although at the moment the front runner is "Why do the things I think will be straightforward always turn out to be the opposite," and that's too long, even for a piece this size. (Which, by the way, is 18" x 18"– about 46 x 46cm for those of you using a modern, reasonable measuring system.) (Another potential is "Out of the Blue," but we'll see.)

Thanks for sticking with me through this one. The big question to answer now is, "What's next?"

Monday, November 15, 2021

Linocut in Progress: Crawling towards the finish

It's been a busy few weeks, with reasons good (a visit in Massachusetts with bird artist colleagues at the outstanding exhibition of friend and fellow artist Cindy House) and not so good (paperwork) keeping me away from the studio more than I'd like. But progress is being made, even if it's hard to see.

My last post celebrated the widening of the green palette of this image without applying any more green ink, and that happened one more time before I went on the road for a few days. Here's where things stood after the application of another transparent gray layer, for Step 12.

Reduction linocut in progress: Step 12

This was feeling pretty good, but a few alarming things were happening. The first was that the bird's head had gotten too dark, and the second was that the warmer reflections of the bird's head in the water had lost some of their oomph.

Yep. It's a job for spot inking and masking. (sigh) Fussy things like this seem so much more tedious when the end of an image seems like it should be near but keeps getting farther away. Nothing to be done but carry on. 

Here's Step 13, such as it was. Luckily the prints had been drying for 5 or so days while I was away, so this casual approach to both inking and masking was no problem.

Step 13 mask and spot ink in place

Here's the lightened head and reflections. Perhaps a little too far in the other direction, but never fear, I'm going to cover most of this back up. 

Step 13 printed (Glare-y photo, sorry) 

Yes, that's what I said. Lighten it all, and then swing it all back the other way again. I did some small amounts of carving.. tiny details that probably 90% of viewers won't even notice, but I needed to know they were there. And then another spot ink and masking adventure.

Step 14 mask and spots

Here are Steps 13 and 14 side-by-side. You would have spent an entire day doing this, too, right?

 Steps 13 and 14 detail

I admit I was quite grumpy when The Day of Steps 13 and 14 was over. It was a lot of work with not much to show for it. The one good thing about printing small shapes over a small area with small amounts of ink is that the prints were dry enough the next day for me to do something a little more satisfying and meaningful. So... a layer of transparent sepia went over everything. It looks alarmingly dark on the block, but trust me. There's a lot of transparency there.

Step 15 rollup, sepia

See what I mean? NOW we are finally getting close. At least I think we are. I thought we were close three steps ago, but that's how things roll around here.

Step 15, printed

So what's left? The bird's beak needs a color adjustment... it should be redder than this. That's not a huge thing, but it will take time to do correctly. And then I think one last dark for that last bit of contrast... just a few spots in the water and the bird. Don't quote me... but I think I should be obsessing about the next project by Wednesday. ;-) 

Linocut in Progress: Something for Print Day in May!

Print Day in May has come and gone for another year. PDiM is an annual, international event founded by printmaker Robynn Smith. It's a ...