Deadheads, Part 2

Welcome back!

My my, it's been a busy week. After much planning, I've opened a shop on Etsy called scwoodbury. If you haven't seen it yet, you should definitely check it out.

I've also been busy redesigning the blog. Not to worry, the content is all still here, but I've changed the template to make room for my Etsy mini shop, as well as links to Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Whew!

Anyway, back to the prints.

Last week, I was describing my penchant for skulls, and how I've begun incorporating them into my prints. This week, I'll show you the project I just finished, a series of multi-color linocuts. It features four different skulls (fox, coyote, bobcat, badger), in three different color schemes.

The stars of my series, the skulls
Now, there are two ways to make a multi-color linocut. One way is to carve a separate block for each color. That's what I did for this landscape, for example.

Jenny Lake, Wyoming, 2010
The advantage of this approach is that I can reprint this image whenever I feel like it. The disadvantage is that it's costly, because I have to carve a separate block for each color.

The other way is to do a reductive linocut. This means that you carve out all of your colors on the same block. This is what I used for the skulls.

The advantage of the reductive approach is that you only need one block for your prints, but you can only make a finite number of prints. Once you start carving out the next color, there's no turning back. You don't get second chances with this approach, so you have to plan ahead and know exactly how many prints you want to make.

Bobcat skull early on in the carving process

Bobcat skull after a later carving. Note the increasing amount of negative space in its head

In a way, I find the reductive linocut rather poetic. It's an apt metaphor for life itself, and there's also a lovely symmetry to the whole process. In order to build up the colors and depth of your print, the block must be increasingly depleted, until only an outline remains.

Regardless of which technique you use, the challenge of the multi-color linocut is registration, or the alignment of your block. Each time you print, you have to make sure that the block lines up the same way each time, otherwise the image will look sloppy and unkempt.

Between the arduous nature of carving and the precision required for registration, multi-color linocuts don't allow much room for spontaneity, so they're not for everyone. That said, I find the whole process rather meditative, so I do enjoy making them now and then.

Inking the block
Registration: the most anxious part of the whole process

Right, Sara. Just show us the prints already!

Okay, so here's what I did:

The first color scheme included yellow, red, turquoise, and black.

Here are the four skulls after I printed the yellow:

Here is the second phase, after I had printed the red:

Here's what the print looked like after stage three, with the turquoise:

And finally we have the finished prints, outlined in black:

Now, that's just one color scheme. While I was printing these, I also printed two other sets with very different colors.

Stay tuned next week and I'll show you those.