This is a process with even less margin for error. But very rewarding when the final print is revealed.
More planning time should be set aside. Have a play with your colour schemes. Most of all - enjoy!
A reduction print - also known as a 'suicide print' - is produced using just a single piece of lino for all the different colours, usually working from light to dark as in watercolour painting. This is done by gradually cutting away more of the block, though a certain amount of planning is needed!
Generally I will use a 3 step process, as the operation can become increasingly fraught the more colours you try get out of the single block. By thoughtfully working out your design beforehand you can pre-empt where the difficult spots might be and work around them. It's important to remember the limitations of cutting away from just this one piece of material as there's no rubbing out or covering up when push comes to cut...
After the first part of cutting is done, it is then printed off as many times as you wish for the edition run, in my case 20, with a few spares added in to allow for inevitable mistakes and mis-prints later on. The Little Owl reduction print shown here has pale ochre as the first lay down background colour. You can see where the white highlights will appear. These will show up a with lot more definition as the additional two darker colours are layered around it.
A significant amount more of the block was then cut away for the second print run which reveals the umbel, wooden post and majority of the owl's plumage. A mid-brown was selected for this, enough to be seen clearly over the base colour but also holding an amount back for the final 'detail' overprint to really stand out.
I usually incorporate a border around my prints, which as well as looking neat when framed, also serves to give me an helpful edge to accurately line up the block on top of the already printed image for a more accurate registration. I use hand and eye coordination to do this, though some printmakers like to make a cardboard jig to align all the 'plates' accurately each time. My method works for me and I do like the uniqueness of any minor mis-registration which I feel serves to add a degree of movement into a static image.
As mentioned, it is possible to use many colours in reduction printing with good preparation beforehand. By cutting away a little less of the block each time you can increase the amount of colours used to create the final completed version. For the Little Owl I was happy that it would only require the three prints with a blend of burnt umber and black mixed up for the final darkest colour which tightens up the final detail and really brings the print alive.
There can often be very little of the original lino block left when all the cutting is done and it can sometimes help to reinforce it before use by sticking some mount board to the back to ensure that it will hold up through the rigours of the press. Nobody wants any avoidable disasters at this final stage!
You can see the whole sequence in the images above. Row 1 shows the 3 linocut stages. Row 2 how each individual colour prints off. And row 3 illustrates the build up as each colour is laid on top of the other.
The reduction technique requires patience and plenty of practice but offers rich artistic reward. The more you do, the better the results will be. No surprise there. I love using this method. The heart beats just that little bit faster with each subsequent colour and with it comes a great sense of achievement when all is revealed.
RICHARD JARVIS WILDLIFE ARTIST AND PRINT MAKER
All illustrations and content ©2020 Richard Jarvis. No reproduction without prior consent. All rights reserved.
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