Thursday, January 22, 2015

A New Reduction Print

American Goldfinch, Great Blue Heron and Killdeer at Manayunk Canal in Winter. Reduction Woodcut by Ken Januski. Early Proof.

I really can't remember the last time I did a 'pure' reduction print. After struggling for what seemed weeks a few years ago to do complex reduction linocuts using oil-based inks I backed off from the process. Part of it was the technical ordeal involved. Part of it was my getting tired of breathing the solvents necessary for use with oil-based inks. But part of it also was aesthetics.

I realized that I was using reduction linocuts as though I was painting, oil painting, where I could keep adding colors until the painting/linocut looked right. But this is counter-productive in a way. With a reduction print you keep cutting away the part of the surface that will print. So yes you can keep adding more colors, but the area on which you can print them gets smaller and smaller. So they have less effect.

Another aspect of reduction print as painting is that I was more interested in the overall surface, how one area was one color and another area a different color, one small area bright and another dark. That's the way most painters think. But often this is at the expense of line. I think in my earliest prints, including the complex oil-based reduction linocuts I didn't care much about line.

When I moved to multi-block woodcut or a combination of that and linocut I became much more concerned with line. It's a major element of so many prints in the history of printmaking. And of course it's generally associated with drawing. Since I love to draw it's no surprise that I liked the idea of making line more important. Off the top of my head I'd say it's been a very important part of my prints for the last two years or so.

To make a long story short I've been curious as to what might happen if I returned to reduction prints, though in this case reduction woodcut rather than reduction linocut. Above is the second test proof on copier paper. It's based on the numerous sketches and watercolors that I've showed during the past few weeks. I'm sure I'll be tempted to 'rescue' the print by adding a second block. But for now I'm going to try to keep it a pure reduction print. I'll only use this one block in the print, come what may!

My complex reduction prints of the past often used 5-10 colors. All those colors make registration all the more difficult. But I used them because I was thinking like a painter. I used however many colors I needed, and could stand printing, in order to get the look I wanted. Here, as in other recent woodblocks I don't plan to use that many colors. At first I thought four or five. But right now I'm hoping I can get by with just three. This isn't a matter of laziness. It's just a matter of trying to stay simple and see what happens. This is also called the KISS principle, something I first ran across in computer programming: Keep it Simple Stupid! It's always made sense to me though I haven't been the best practitioner.

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