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The printmaker and the taste for risk taking : the reduction printing process

Updated: Aug 10, 2021

Making a reduction print requires to gradually destroy the block (wood, lino) each time a new color is to be printed. There is no way to change one’s mind or step back once started : this is risky and definitely not for the faint hearted !

I recently joined "Print Day in May", a worldwide event celebrating the art of making prints organised by the California Society of Printmakers on each first Saturday of May. I had the pleasure to be one of the 2021 winners and was awarded a prize by one of the sponsors, Artisan Media.

On this occasion, I created a reduction print and documented the process so as to share it with you. I had chosen to make a print inspired by a A3 gouache painting of a bouquet of flowers (from scratch and in one day). I had hoped to print four colours : light blue, yellow green, dark green and ultramarine blue. No useless suspense, I had to change my plans during the day (life got in the way) so I finally printed 3 colours : light blue, light green and dark green.

The first preparatory steps, as usual, took a lot of time...

There are so many things to do before actually carving the block and printing : cutting the paper to size, cutting the block to size, drawing the design in reverse on the lino…

In this preparatory phase I also made a registration board and attached "Ternes Burton pins and tabs" to it and each sheet of paper. This takes time but is very efficient to prevent a good part of the edition to be thrown away because the prints are not well aligned…

Carving at last!

I then carved the lino to remove the parts that had to stay white in the final design You are now familiar with the idea that the brain of a printmaker is designed to work backwards, aren't you ?

I subsequently rolled the first colour (light blue) on the lino. As you can see I made a rainbow effect with a little trace of light pink so as the background would not be too boring…

More carving and inking on the same block...

Next step was to clean all the mess… and then remove from the same block of lino the parts that had to stay light blue. I rolled the second colour (light green) on the lino and printed it.

I cleaned the mess again, and off I went to remove more lino from the same block, all that had to stay light green. I then rolled the third and last colour of the day, the dark green and printed it on the paper.

Here is the final print, Maylody (11x15 cm on Fabriano Unica 15x21 cm). There were 27 papers and I am making an edition of 20. If I wanted to print twenty more, I could not because part of the block is destroyed in the process.

There is an alternative way to make a print with several colours ; making a multi blocks print, one block for each colour. This allows reprints and changing one’s mind along the way… fI you follow along I will make a further post on this technique one day.

I hope you enjoyed this post ; do not hesitate to comment and ask questions !


This print is available for sale in my e-shop: please click here if you would like to have a look.


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