Friday, August 2, 2013

So Much for Simple

Hummingbird Clearwing Moth at Flower. Linocut and Reduction Woodcuts by Ken Januski.

Way back when, a week or so ago, when I decided to do a simple black linocut of a Hummingbird Moth while waiting to start a more complicated print of a Rusty Blackbird and Carolina Wren I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I didn't have enough paper to start the more complicated print so I thought I could whip out this simple one in the meantime. It should be fun.

Hmmm. Well it was fun to start, so much so that I foolishly labeled the last post Humming Along, to indicate how well things were going.  But I finally decided to remove the complex hatching that formed the background of the linocut. Once I did the flowers lost all definition. And even though I added two different browns to the moth it just looked dull as dishwater.

Over the last three days or so I decided I needed a second woodblock to add some yellow to the moth and perhaps add color to the flower as well. Along the way that cloud-like shape insisted on making an appearance. Finally today I finished it. That's a photo of the image itself above.
Hummingbird Clearwing Moth at Flower. Linocut and Reduction Woodcuts by Ken Januski.

Immediately above is the full print, with a 1.5 inch border on each side. It's an edition of 12 printed by hand on Rives Heavyweight paper using Gamblin oil-based inks. If you were to have watched the entire progress of this print you might have said: he doesn't seem to know what he wants out of it.

I think that's true. But there's also the matter of having a dialog with prints, often forced on you by the prints, whether you want it or not. That was the case here. Eventually this print became much more about the softer colors and shapes that Shina plywood seems to favor and less about the harder shapes and colors that I often use in my linocuts. It also became more about abstract shapes and less about a lot of lines and marks, many of which help to define the form. Here, you can see I eventually decided that what I cared most about was the abstract combination of colors, shape and lines. All in all I think that's really my true artistic predilection. That's no surprise given my abstract background. But I think this may be my most abstract print. I hope you like it.
Linoleum Block with two Shina Plywood Wood Blocks.

Above are the three blocks I used in their final state. At the left is the linoleum block. I first cut out black lines in it to define most all of the shapes in the print. I them copied the resulting print onto the middle block, a piece of Shina plywood, to serve as a guide. I used it to print, first the background in blue-green and then having cut away that just the brown of the moth. Later I added a second brown when I found I didn't like the first.

I printed the blue-green and brown on good printing paper. But when I printed the black from the first block on top of it I just didn't like it. It seemed lifeless. So I once again copied the black onto another woodblock, the one at right, and started carving it. I only wanted it to print a few colors, the yellow marks on the moth and probably a blue or lilac for the flowers. That meant cutting away most of the block first so those areas didn't print. As I tested the yellow though I found that I liked the idea of leaving some of it in the background. Thus appeared the cloud-like shape. Once I was satisfied with the yellow I cut most of it away and kept cutting more and more of the flower away until I had just enough to help add definition. Once again though I couldn't resist trying a bit of lilac on the cloud shape. And that's where it ended.

Above you can also see some of the tools that I use in cutting the plywood and lino. An antique, backwards way to get things done you might say, but one that I'm coming to greatly enjoy. Well at least at the end when the print is done.

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