So here's a reduction print in the making. I'm working from a photograph taken in Delamere Forest, which is local to me and provides a large source of inspiration. It was taken on a very bright, early morning in Autumn, so the colours of the leaves were amazing and that's what I want to convey with the print.
Starting with the lightest colour, in this case white, I cut away those areas first. In this particular print the sky in the background fades from blue to white, so I print the blue first. It's not a solid rectangular area of colour and fades to white down the page, and I'm not that precious about the gradient, as it will be largely covered up. I just want some blue bits to 'pop' out of the background near the top of the image.
I'm using a baren to print this one, no press, so it's hard work to rub the back of the paper and get flat-ish colour. I'm also relying on a very rudimentary registration system, using a masking tape corner to align my paper each time. It's not very accurate, but I like the effect, it appears more 'painterly'. Possibly as a result of using a baren I only produce 6 prints in total, which doesn't leave much margin for error.
Next, I cut away what needs to remain blue and print yellow - the next lightest colour, which produces a horrible green when printed over the blue. But again, that will be covered so I'm not that precious. Next, it's a little more cutting and print a light orange. I'm going for a dappled effect on the leaves so it's more about making the right marks in the lino than accurately cutting tiny leaves out one by one, which would be painstaking if not impossible at this scale.
Then, more cutting away and print a slightly darker orange. By now the layers are building up nicely and the image is emerging. At this point I breathe a sigh of relief - it's starting to look how I wanted it to. That's the thing about reductions, you have to believe that it will work out in the end and have the vision to see it in your mind when you plan the layering.
Finally, it's one more cut and print the darkest colour, in this case a bold, black foreground. The light is so strong on the original photo that it is very dark in those areas, and i like the silhouetted look, so down it goes. Finally the full depth of the image is achieved, and I'm happy with the result. So, after about two weeks of elapsed time, it's done, and I can start to think about something else whilst it dries off.
I end up with 5 good prints, writing just one off as an artists proof. There are slight variations between the five, but that's to be expected with hand printing and basic registration.