First colour

The reduction method of linocutting uses a single piece of lino to produce a multi-coloured print. The lino is gradually cut away as each colour is printed and the image emerges. Sometimes only a very small printable area remains for the final, darkest tone. As the block is essentially destroyed during the process, a reduction print can never be reprinted.

The first step, after transferring the drawing to the lino, is cutting away areas that I want to remain white, i.e. the paper colour. Rarely in a landscape print will there be no areas which are white and that's particularly true when there's a river or waterfall as part of the image.

Judging the tone of the first colour is difficult. Until the second colour is printed on top, it always looks too dark. I know by now to trust my instinct and not worry about it looking a touch darker than feels right.

In this print, large areas of the river remain white, along with a few smaller patches of sky.

     
Second colour    

 

After cutting away everything I want to remain visible in the first colour, colour 2 is overprinted. In the reduction method, the layers of ink are built up on top of each other.

The image on the left shows how colour 1 suddenly looks paler than it did initially and the second tone looks deceptively dark. This trick of the eye continues througout the print. As each darker tone is laid on top of the previous paler one, the earlier colours seem to get thrown backwards.

At the moment, I think this print will need a minimum of 4 colours (or tones) to achieve the depth I want. Too few and the print can appear flat and static, too many and it gets too fussy and overcomplicated.

 

 

     
Third colour    
 

The third colour starts to clearly define the shapes of trees and boulders. As the darker tone is added, the white of the river appears even whiter. As with the previous stage, the third colour looks very dark at the moment but I know that as soon as the fourth goes on top, it'll look a lot lighter.

I always find the latter colours of a reduction print the most time consuming. It's a matter of continuously saying to myself "think, consider, cut" because unlike a multi-lino print, once the lino has been gouged out, there's no going back. I've learnt the hard way that more often than not, cutting a bit too little is better than cutting a bit too much.

The balance of one tone against the next can make or break a print. Rarely will any of my prints have areas that contain all colours. I find the highlights (colour 2) critical and it's very easy to cut too much away. The result being that the eye 'jumps' from one area of light tone to the next, rather than moving smoothly across the print.

 

     
Fourth colour    

 

Adding more definition to trees and rocks without getting preoccupied with every branch being accurate.

My aim is always to create a mood and atmosphere, not to faithfully reproduce the landscape 'as it is'. It's vital at this stage to remove all areas that I want to recede, as any dark tones will leap forwards.

An important decision was being brave enough to leave the dark mass of the large boulder on the right largely uncut. The solid colour adds a certain stability and strength to the image - without it, I think I'd have risked ending up with a 'lightweight' image.

     
 
And finally, the black.
     

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