Reduction Print: Linoleum Block Becomes a Magnolia Branch

Some people call them "kamikaze" prints. Once you carve them, they're gone. Reduction prints: one linoleum block becomes the site of many colors. Print, carve, print, carve. I happen to love layering color this way. But I do feel a little wistful when I've finished printing. I thought I'd document the process for you. I draw on the block first in pencil, then draw the outline and details in ballpoint pen so I can see where to carve. Here is a page from the tree book I'm working on.

The linoleum block is locked up on the letterpress so it won't move. I had to use two pieces of paper under the block to make it type high so it would print properly.

Starting with the lightest color: first color was mostly white with a touch of rhodamine red.

I leave it locked up when I carve for two reasons: one, it's easier to carve when the block is stable, and two, I'm able to get near-perfect registration this way. But it does make a mess.

Second and third colors: added more rhod. red. You can see the printing surface area shrinking as I carve it away after each run. The print grows.

I cleaned the press before I ran the fourth color: (not shown: the ugly bright green I tried first, then cleaned off) I mixed yellow, green, and white, then put a touch of rhodamine. A strange taupe is what it turned out, but I decided it was magnolia branch color. 

Carved more, then added more green for the final pass.
My block is not too forlorn this time, but I still can't use it again.

I printed in the "work and turn" manner so I could get a doubled image. The final page will be folded. Five more blocks to go…


CrowGirl said…
That is fascinating. I don't think I could make myself work in a way that meant destroying a block as part of the process. But the outcome is just wonderful!
That really is magnolia-branch color, or at least it looks like it to me. This is a gorgeous print! I've always wanted to try a reduction lino-cut, but just never seem to find time. Leaving it on the press while you carve is a great idea, which I had never thought of. I'm unfamiliar with the 'work and turn' method- would love to know more!
Roberta Warshaw said…
Oh what an interesting process. I wondered what reduction printing was. Now I know. And yes, what a mess it makes but what a gorgeous print!
Unknown said…
When you look at this work the expression that came out of me was ... Waoooooo!! ... So I can only tell you, this is wonderful and I love it!
Lizzie said…
This is such a great way to get the registration right! I don't have a letter-press, so have to do everything by hand. I tried a reduction lino-cut for my Christmas cards, but ran into problems with registration, even though I had made a frame etc. Maybe I should tape the frame to the table, with something more solid as a guide for placing my paper.

I love your lino block - the magnolia blossom has some lovely fine details and looks quite realistic.
This is going to be a great book!
Alisa said…
"Work and turn" just means that I cut the paper twice as long as I needed for the block, then printed one half, rotated the paper 180º, and printed the same image again on the other half. You can see the seam (where the two images meet) where the branch overlaps in the center. I had to plan so that the edge of the branch was exactly centered, top to bottom. Well, almost…

Thank you all for your kind and enthusiastic responses!
Anna said…
What lovely colours for your magnolia; it is beauitful. I'm also a bit sad with the reduction method, I never seem to take enough prints to start with!
Trish J said…
Living in the Southeast, I can say definitively you have captured the gorgeous beauty of the magnolias that are in bloom here right now. Thanks for including details on the colors you used. I gain so much from all your posts.
Beautiful work and I love the colors! Really nice to see the process of each layer. I primarily make linocuts, and I know that the reduction method can be a very long process but it is definitely worth it when you see the final prints!