Project 8: Reduction linocutting: The Alps

Reduction linocut 2 The Alps

This subject goes back to my trip to the French Alps last October. It’s partly documented in my Watercolour blog. And this print started with a photo from then.

It’s a photo I really like, and one which reminds me of two images:

Caspar Friedrich David’s “Wanderer”


And this lithograph from the early 20th century with its rather pointed vanishing point.


The juxtaposition of these images is quite interesting for me, as the figure in this photo is my son, and there are lots of interesting comparisons and contrasts to be made about his aim and vision in being there with the way the Alps have been visited and interpreted by poets and artists. This would be a whole long discussion, but maybe only interesting to me. Suffice it to say that the things some people might not like about this photo, I do like. By that I mean the absolute centred-ness of the figure. The over-the-shoulder viewpoint which suggests that the viewer is looking with the central character. The cropped nature of the figure- as opposed to the David free-standing one- which makes it feel as if one can reach out and touch him. Not so with the Wanderer. The way the head is “cut off” by the waterline, as if the character is only just keeping his head above it- nuff said on that…! The mountains are clear, sharp and are facing, even blocking this figure, not sitting fogged and conquered, as by the Wanderer. But there’s a directness in the way he is squaring up to them, reminiscent of that determined perspective of the lithograph.

There you go. As I said, maybe only of interest to me.


Anyway, I decided to approach this linocut differently from the yellow bag. That was planned, all the layers traced beforehand and colours chosen. This one I thought I’d make more fluid. I started with the photo and photoshopped it, coming up with line drawings and posterized versions.









Yes, I’m sticking to the photo, because, as I mentioned, I like it. People can say what negative things they like about using photos, but my feeling is, I’m not Amish… and I took the photo in the first place, hands still shaking from the white-knuckle drive up there, and remember it well.

I knew I wanted the sky to be dense, and the last layer to be black (‘cos the course book tells you to and I ignored it last time) but was unsure which order to do the layers in. I did a few sketches in my book, trying to think through different approaches- the trouble is there’s almost an equal amount of lino-space in the figure in the foreground as in the sky, so it’s not clear to me which should come first. The ink is opaque, so it seems to make no difference. It’ll just be a case, like when making a computer image, of ‘sending to the back” or “bringing forward”. So logically I should start with the furthest back, i.e. the sky. On the other hand, I could deliberately bring it to the front by doing it later. As it’s a reduction linocut, I don’t have the luxury of trying it out both ways. I’m going with the common sense choice, sky first. This might turn out to be boring.








So, what I intend to do here is do the first layer then plan the second layer: i.e. take it one layer at a time. And, unlike the yellow bag, where I aimed to produce lots of identical prints, this time, I will experiment with more colours as I go along. I will not make extra layers if I don’t feel they are needed. I’m already wondering if I could do this with just two colours in addition to white. The contrasts are pretty strong.

The first step is to create that great white slab of snow in the middle of the picture. I trace from my ink/ watercolour sketch. Once it’s cut, I try using various shades of blue. I like the heavy steely blue, as it makes a great contrast to the white, but fear it may be too dark for the following layers, so try lightening it, making it a purer, cleaner blue (a bit ski-slopes picture perfect, that..) and a bit lilac. The lilac is definitely influenced by 1900s lithograph posters. It feels twee.

The second layer I cut freehand. It’s not hard to figure out. I want to leave the sky and a reflective patch on each side of the figure. And some patches on shadow in the slopes which are reflecting the sky.

The colours now become mixed as I try out a variety of new colours on an already mixed batch. I number them on the back, but am not sure what that will mean, if anything. I start with a dark blue, the same shade as the sky I started with. I’m now even more concerned about building in more contrast. Maybe black will hardly show. But I like the effect, and wonder if red can be used instead of or as well as black. A blue/ black/ red scheme appeals.









I switch to a greenish grey, and try that out on different blues. Some of them look very conventional. Some look like a Christmas card. I add blue, change to blue/ green, which is better.


Then go for a grey, with just a hint of blue/ green. Also nice.








Finally go with pink. Just to reference those 1900s posters.



One thought on “Project 8: Reduction linocutting: The Alps

  1. I’m in the midst of this particular project myself – so love reading about your experiences. I, too, am doing something with a link to a piece of work by a famous artist, though in my case it’s a linocut, one of Picasso’s which has apples in, under a lamp, the one you see more reproductions of than the others. So, are we being seriously affected by the Caravaggio illustations for this part of the course, using other artists work? Do you think that’s intentional?

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