Avoiding linocut regret … true confessions

The past week has been all about clouds and heat. My visit to the Des Moines Arts Festival was positive, but as always it was punctuated by lots of heat and threatening clouds. Luckily clouds are inspiring to me. Here are some that lit our way as we drove east back to Indiana…

skies over iowa
Traveling at over 70 mph meant that my Iphone could only capture this scene in a diffused impressionistic manner. I think it works for the image.

Back at home, I have been working hard on the plans for my large linocut inspired by another cloud scene. I worked to complete the drawing I had started before I left for Iowa — inspired in part by the lines and curves of a Georgia O’Keefe painting. One of the benefits to doing a full-sized study is you can see what your linocut might look like, and watch for mistakes.

I’m sometimes willing to start just from a pencil outline, and allow the design to develop as the printing progresses. I’m not willing to do this in the case of this large linocut. Perhaps it is the size of this linocut, along with the corresponding risks including the cost of the block (about $60), the paper (about $120), and my time that are giving me pause. I hung my completed tracing paper study on my hallway wall one evening, and the next morning had the terrible feeling that it was not right. Back to the drawing table…

graphite stick
My creation tool for large studies is a 9B graphite stick. The flat back end is useful for laying in tones without creating lines.

After another entire day of work, I came up with another version which I think works better. I spent lots of time looking at the values needed to make this a good composition, as well as what patterns I wanted to highlight in the work. When the two are hung together, I felt the bottom study was much more successful.

do over skies
A tale of two studies. I think the lower one works better for my purposes.

I’m still deciding about the horizon line. In the actual photograph, the horizon is made up of deciduous trees. But perhaps a more Iowa-like horizon would provide a better complement to the curvaceous clouds.  Now it is time to decide on the colors scheme for the clouds…

Even though I lost a few days of work with my do-over, I’m happy to realize my large mistakes on tracing paper — rather than after a month of carving and printing.

Where do you try to catch your mistakes? Any stories of linocut regret?

Working from photographs … sort of

Clouds — my current fascination — are natural phenomena that are very difficult to sketch with any detail. They move, and your perspective changes each time you look up at the cloud and then down to your paper. My latest linocut planning makes use of a photograph I took with my Iphone and this artist’s secret tool — tracing paper.

small photo & sketches
A large photograph, tracing paper and ruler begin the transformation process.

Continue reading “Working from photographs … sort of”

Sometimes it looks worse before it looks better

Thinking backwards is what reduction printmaking is all about. Carve away what you want to leave exposed on the paper. My current subject — clouds — takes this challenging way of thinking to an entirely new level.

I started this new linocut using the graphite tracing paper guide I created in my last blog. (Click here to read about that first.) After transferring the marks, I used my Foredom drill with engraving bits to remove the places in the clouds that I wanted to stay the white of the Rives BFK paper.

sky graphite one
I have carved away places that I want to stay white. The graphite indicates the areas of sky around the clouds.

Continue reading “Sometimes it looks worse before it looks better”