Monday, April 9, 2012

Expanding Reductions

© Hannah Phelps
One version of "Wisconsin Lake"
reduction relief print on paper, 4" x 6"

I realize that I have been throwing some printmaking terms around lately. I thought we should talk a little more about what a reduction relief is.
In its simplest form, reductions use one block to make a multi-colored print. The block is printed and carved over and over until the picture is complete. In step-by-step format, creating a reduction goes a little like this:
1. Start with one block of wood or linoleum. If your final picture has any pure white places and you are printing on white paper, cut those shapes out first. If you don’t care about pure white areas, carve nothing. In the print at the top of the post, I printed a light yellow first and it is still visible in the sky. Either way, choose your first color, color #1, roll it on the block and print it with a press, a baren or a spoon. 

Now you have a shape of one color on white paper that might or might not have white shapes in it. Print as many of these as you like. I usually print a lot more than I think I am going to need in case some of them get messed up.
2. Decide which areas you wish to keep color #1 and carve those shapes out of your block. Ink the block with color #2 and print as you did in step one. Color #2 above is the greenish color in the sky and the water.

3. Repeat step 2 with colors 3, 4, 5, 6, etc. until your print is done. Using the same print as an example: #3 is a dull middle blue in the sky and water, #4 is light blue in the trees and water and #5 is the purple-blue on the left of the picture in the trees.

Simple right? As you probably know, simple doesn't always mean easy. The fun part is figuring out how to get an image out of one block. Once a shape is carved away, it is "out" and can't be layered any more.

When I did my first reduction, I wanted to get the most out of my little wooden block, so I inked color #1 a bunch of times, washed the block and then inked the block in a different color a bunch of times. I set out to make four series this way. The shapes were the same, but the colors were different. This allowed me to play with more color variations and learn a little more than I would have if I had just made one series. As I went along, I kept adding variety until I had 9 different looks.

Remember the "variable edition" label I told you about? This is a perfect place for it! 

Here are the other prints so you can pick your favorite.

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