Magpie linocut created two ways

I sometimes have a print that starts out one way, but once it’s finished, it can take a different direction.

LINDA COTE-paintingLet me explain. I have always loved watercolor painting. Even when I began concentrating more on printmaking, I loved to create mixed media linocut prints that integrated both printmaking and watercolor. I was ready for another.

I found the perfect subject in a photo I took of a magpie. Although I have created several prints of magpies before, they were all black & white. I wanted to be able to create one that highlighted the beautiful dark blue sheen of the magpie’s wing and tail feathers. I figured hand-painting a print with watercolors would be just the thing.

The photo I had taken featured a magpie in a tree of green leaves. But, I wanted this print to have a bit of a Japanese woodblock sensibility so chose to make the tree a blossoming cherry tree.

Several of my blogs deal with the process of creating a block print from start to finish, so for this one, I will show just the basics of the block and a few of the steps of the process. The print — and its dual outcomes — really developed after my first test print was pulled.

LINDA COTE-Block Progress Magpie

This photo shows the progression of the carving of the block in three stages. The detailed flowers took a long time and lots of patience to carve (click on the image for an enlarged look). Sometimes, though, I relish a good detailed carving project!

LINDA COTE-Pull Magpie Print

Pulling the test print is always the most exciting — and nerve-wracking — part of the process!

LINDA COTE-Inking Magpie Block

This time, once I saw the black & white print, even though I had planned to paint it with watercolors, I thought it was quite strong on its own as a single-color linocut print. But, I also wanted to paint my print, so I made the decision to print the edition both on watercolor paper AND rice paper.

LINDA COTE-Drying Prints

I proceeded to print about 30 prints on watercolor paper so I could later apply the color, one print at a time, when it dried. Looking again at the one-color print, I realized that although it was mostly perfect, there was a problem with magpie’s tail and wings.

I had removed these areas of the block to allow me to hand-paint them with a deep blue for the marvelous magpie feathers, but this left a strange looking white tail and wing in the black & white print.


So, I decided to cut two small blocks that I could use to over-print the magpie’s wing and tail in an almost solid black. I would have to line up the pieces perfectly by eye, so it was a total experiment. It worked, though! As I patiently over-printed the 10 or so prints I had printed on Japanese rice paper, I was able to register most of them by hand.

LINDA COTE-Both Versions Magpie

Here are the two prints with the black & white one with the wing and tail appropriately filled in (to my eye); and the hand-painted print on watercolor paper.

LINDA COTE-Painting Magpie Prints

To paint the watercolor version, I chose a somewhat muted watercolor palette, evocative of a Japanese woodblock print. I chose to use very soft blue, pink and grey with a hint of the green leaves.

LINDA COTE-Painted Magpie Prints

Below are the final prints, closer up. I’m happy with the results, and although it has been great fun getting my paints out again, I’m still not sure which I like better!

LINDA COTE-Through the Trees

“Through the Trees” – Handmade Fine Art Linocut Print, 8.25″ x 6″ © 2014 Linda Cote

LINDA COTE-Magpie Spring

“Magpie Spring” – Handmade Fine Art Linocut Print, 8.25″ x 6″; hand-painted with watercolors © 2014 Linda Cote



14 responses to “Magpie linocut created two ways

  1. They are both very nice. I think it is a challenge to look at both images side by side as my experience is that a person responds differently to color images vs. black and white images. I come across this all the time where I would definitely go with a b&w image that my customer prefers in color.You should keep a note of which customers choose the color vs. the b&w; it would be interesting to know the demographic.

    • Thanks for your input, Deb! It is such a personal choice, I know. It will be interesting to see which are more popular, as I’ve never done two this close before!

  2. Beautiful work! Really pretty. Do you have a roller press or do you hand burnish? I find hand burnishing can take its toll on the fine edges of a japanese woodcut after heavy-handed rubbing! Perhaps I am not burnishing with a suitable tool?

    • Hi Ali! Thanks you so much for your comment. 🙂 I am hand burnishing everything in my studio, as I do not have a press (wish I did). Because of that, I am using traditional lino, or more typically “linosoft” the newer material that is like a very dense rubber material made for printmaking. I find that it works wonderfully well for hand-printing. With wood, at least for me, I do not get good enough ink density by hand, and have also found what you say about it taking its toll on the block! I’m not 100% sure, but I believe Jackson’s Art sells the softer lino if you want to try it (I’m in Canada). Thanks for stopping by Ali!

      • Thanks Linda that’s really helpful 🙂 I just love the texture of wood but it’s a real challenge sometimes… and I love a challenge! We have Jacksons and Lawrences here in the UK… seems to be the same main suppliers worldwide so I will have to check out what they have. Thanks for also dropping by my blog x

  3. Hi!
    I’m a pencil artist and have recently been bitten by the block printing bug. I found your blog and your fabulous work! So inspirational…I expect to visit often!

    • Hi Sarah! You are right…it is a bug! I thought about “trying” it for a simple card. Seven years later, I am still discovering new ways to go! LOL. I do love the process, and appreciate your kind words. I checked out your artwork. You create exquisite pencil artwork!

  4. It is continually amazing to me how well you do these images. With all the cutting the bird’s have such nice texture and expression. The addition of water color does make it a new thing and both beautiful!! I think you are marvelous!!

    • Aw, Judy, thanks so much for saying so! I do occasionally miss the gradations that painting (or photography) can provide, so mixing watercolours and printmaking is great fun for me. Having said that, I am really enjoying your recent black-and-white photos! So good!

  5. Pingback: Concept drawing | RUTTU SHAH·

  6. What type of ink did you use for the print? And how long did you leave it to dry before applying the watercolor? They’re beautiful. I’ve been playing around with this lately, but always get some amount of color bleed from the black ink. I’m guessing bc it’s water soluble. I recently did a few with fabric ink, but that has to cure for a week before getting it wet….

    • Hi Charlesanne, The ink I was using was Caligo (now re-branded as Cranfield) Safe-Wash Relief Printmaking Ink which is oil-based and dries permanent so you can use water media over top, no problem. Drying time varies — it’s very dry where I live — but I find it just takes a couple days if it’s one layer on the paper. Once the ink is layered over top of itself (say with multiple colors of ink over each layer) drying time increases. But, with a single color on watercolor paper, it dries in a few days. I often give it a week, just to be sure, but it works great. Water-based inks will definitely run for an indefinite amount of time because of the nature of the ink. Hope that helps!

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