Three Color Reduction Pineapple

IMG_7549Last week I made my first attempt at a three color reduction linocut. Or the “suicide” method, as Picasso coined it, because instead of carving a separate block for each color you want to print, you carve away at a single block incrementally and print it in a different color after each carving session. The advantage is that you only need to carve one block. The disadvantage is that once you are done, the block is usually no longer usable.

This way of making multi-color prints always sounded very confusing to me, but now that I’ve done it once, it’s much less intimidating. In the interest of simplification, I only used three colors, and ended up with a set of four serviceable prints.

I drew a pineapple and transferred the image to my lino block using graphite paper.  Then I carved away all the lino around the image of the pineapple and printed just the shape of the pineapple in my lightest color – pinkish peach:

The Inked Block

I pulled several prints of just the shape of the pineapple in this pink color, then cleaned the block and carved out the areas that I wanted to remain pink during the next printing, which I did in a salmon/orange shade. I inked the block in orange and printed that color onto the pink pineapple (forgot to take pictures.)

Then I cleaned the block, and carved away the areas that I wanted to remain orange during the next printing. Finally, I inked the block in my darkest color (dark brown) and printed it on top of the pink and orange pineapple prints to end up with this:


It ain’t the Mona Lisa, and I wish the orange shade had come out darker, but at least now I feel confident enough to do a more complicated multi-color print.

It was the first time I used my new Akua intaglio inks, which are non-toxic and clean up with soap and water. I was pleased with the colors, but the printed image looked a bit too “watery” for my liking (though that might have been due to the type of paper I used – it was fairly thin washi, since this project was just meant as an experiment). The Akua ink didn’t take very well to it, but then again,  the Akua intaglio inks are meant to be used with thicker paper.


Sad French Birds

One of the ideas in my notebook was for a print depicting two birds with their mental states printed in lettering on their feathers. I had high, high hopes for this print. The lettering was going to be so subtle that it would blend almost seamlessly into their plumage, such that you’d have to look twice before you figured out they had writing on them at all.

The birds were going to be French, of course, and one of them was going to be sad; the other depressed. Because French birds are existential.

Plus, it was going to be a two color print using two different plates (the second plate a birdcage.)

And . . . here’s how the first plate, with the birds, turned out:


The bird on the left is depressed because the lettering on her feathers is ass backwards.

*le sigh*

Bringin’ Bookplates Back

I’ve decided to focus on printmaking in 2015. I got distracted this past year with my shiny new sewing machine and even though I did a lot of printing on fabric, I sort of lost sight of what attracted me to the art form in the first place. It’s easy to become intimidated, as I did, by all the possibilities and by all the techniques I haven’t learned. Also, being a perfectionist is both a blessing and a curse in printmaking because although precision is worth a lot, the fear of messing up can be paralyzing, at least for me.

So I’m making an effort this year to just go balls out and make prints, as many as possible and as often as I can. The goal is to learn and improve, and not to worry so much about “doing it correctly” and making something beautiful every time. I’m going to continue to educate myself as much as possible about the art and technical aspects of printmaking, but I’m not going to beat myself up over the fact that I didn’t go to art school or that, for now, I can’t do intaglio.

My goal is to print something new every week, but that means that sometime’s I’ll be making a stamp or just messing around on a Gelli plate. With this in mind, I did a little project this weekend just to get motivated – I made myself some bookplates.

From The Library of Rima Tessman
From The Library of Rima Tessman

I carved them out of a pink Speedball block and it’s small – only about 3×4 – so I decided to ink it using a pigment ink pad instead of block printing ink. The pigment ink (Tsukineko VersaFine) didn’t take well on the mulberry paper I tried first, but I got some nice impressions on some handmade Indian paper that I found at Tuesday Morning and don’t even know the official name of.

I actually made bookplate stickers because nerdball that I am, I have a sticker making machine. And then I almost didn’t put them into any of my books because as bookplates go, mine aren’t very fancy and I thought that I should spend a little more time making another, very beautiful and detailed bookplate. But then I remembered that I’m trying not to be such a neurotic perfectionist this year and stuck them into a bunch of my art books because that’s poetic!


The fact is that somebody else’s artwork is always going to be better, more detailed, more beautiful than mine. And no matter what I make, I could probably improve on it. But I want to learn how to say “done” and put the art out there to live in the world. I have so many sketches and ideas in my notebooks that I’ve been saving for “when I get better” or “when I have the time to do them justice” but this year I’m just going to go down the list and print ‘em up.

It’s going to be very hard for me.