Trust and Faith: A problem of reduction

My current project is a reduction print of the Grand Island East Channel Lighthouse in Munising, MI. I used a photograph we took a few months ago to develop an image that uses three colors. I think the final image should be quite good, but reduction prints involve a lot of trust and faith.

Sherrie York’s webpage, Brush and Baren, defines the process for a reduction print well:

In a reduction print the artist develops all colors [for an image] from the same block.   For each color pass the artist removes more material from the block. Each color is printed on top of the previous. The artist must print the entire edition as he or she works, because the printable area of the single block is reduced with each pass.

This is a great and cost effective way to make a print, but the process leaves the printer with a block that only can produce the final pass (he or she has cut away the previous passes)—in other words, you can only produce the edition once because the linoleum block is destroyed.

I’m finding there are two problems with reduction prints: 1) if you make a mistake, you can’t go back and fix it… 2) until the last print, it doesn’t look great…and you have to have faith in your work.

So, I’ve printed two of the three layers and I’m at the point where I have to trust that the final image will be worth it. At the moment, it looks like a blue and green mess. If, and it is an ‘if,’ I manage to carve the last section without mistakes, the image of a lighthouse should appear. It can be magic…and it can be a bigger mess.

At this point, I know I need to start carving. The thought makes me anxious and excited…I hope my time and efforts pay off. I hope I haven’t wasted expensive ink and paper. But if I have wasted them, I’ll just have to pull out another block and trust that it will go better next time.


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