A Different Take on White-Line Printing

If I'm very quiet - Linocut - Jenn White

If I’m very quiet – Linocut

A recent print exchange with the on-line group of international printmakers, Baren Forum, was a technique exchange.  This one was to be our interpretation of a white line print.  Normally, the method is to cut a white line around all the relevant parts of the image to be printed, secure the paper to the edge of the block, roll back the paper, hand colour the different sections (with watercolour or gouache), lay the paper onto the wet paint, and burnish the back of the paper to transfer the coloured section.  Repeat for all sections and colours until the print is completely transferred.  An edition, by definition, is supposed to consist of identical prints.  With twenty-plus prints to pull by hand, I couldn’t get my head around that one, particularly matching colours from one print to another.

There was quite a bit of discussion on the Forum’s group site, including one comment about the possibility of a white-line reduction print.  This took my fancy.

Me being me, I wanted to challenge myself as well as have fun with the technique.  It turned out to be more challenge than fun, with each successive colour.

If I'm very quiet in progress 1

If I’m very quiet in progress 1

The image I’d chosen, taken from a photograph of a rescued magpie (from my wildlife rescue days with W.R.E.S.) sitting on my bookshelf, was busy and complex.  I’d followed normal white-line printing procedure and outlined the design on the block – linoleum, not wood as originally planned.

If I'm very quiet in progress 3

If I’m very quiet in progress 3

What I hadn’t banked on was the white line becoming lost in sections due to registration issues with the ‘reduction’ method.  Getting prints to line up properly is always an issue, which I’m constantly pondering on and adjusting.   In an edition of this size, with so many colours in the design, it was troublesome, to say the least.

If I'm very quiet in progress 4

If I’m very quiet in progress 4

It turned out to be not only a case of the disappearing block (as happens in the reduction method), but also the disappearing white line.  Fortunately, the key word in the brief was  ‘interpretation’.  The edition of prints may not be perfect, but I’m pleased with the result, and taking on the challenge.  Now, I’m eagerly awaiting a parcel of prints from twenty-one other printmakers around the world, to see how they tackled the same challenge.

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