Capturing the Canada Goose

LINDA COTE-Canada GeeseI’ve long been a fan of the Canada Goose. They are a very stately bird, and their markings are so unique.

I know … many urban dwellers have entertaining stories about being chased by a mean Canada Goose, or having to navigate their multitudinous droppings in a favorite park, but I still say: they are pretty fabulous.

There’s nothing I love better in the fall than hearing the honk of geese as they fly overhead in a V-formation, with the lead goose taking the hardest position to make flying easier for the geese behind.

LINDA COTE-geese flying

Canada Geese like to cruise at about 3,000 feet when migrating, but they’ve also been found as high as 29,000 feet!

Here are a few other facts I love about these birds:

  • Canada Geese mate for life
  • they nest in the same region their parents did, often in the same nest every year
  • both mother and father help raise the young
  • hatchlings leave the nest when 1-2 days old, already swimming and diving
  • though they typically live 10-24 years, the oldest known wild Canada Goose was 30 years & 4 months old
  • native to North America, their migration sometimes reaches as far as Europe
  • most Canada-loving Canada Geese migrate south to the USA for winter, or stay in warmer parts of British Columbia

It was only a matter of time before I would create a print of this lovely creature. Here is the process for my three-colour reduction linocut print of the Canada Goose.

LINDA COTE-Layer 1 drawing

It starts in mid-June with a sketch on tracing  paper that can be easily transferred to my block.

LINDA COTE-Layer 1 carve

The first layer is created with only a few marks where I want the white of the paper to show through on the print.

LINDA COTE-Layer 1 rag

For this print, I use a ‘monoprinting’ technique on the background around the bird to give texture to the water. On each print, I either used a rag to make marks, or a bristle brush to create waves of ink for the background.

LINDA COTE-Layer 1 block

Here, you see the block inked before pulling the print. This is such a playful technique, and hard to control – which is also why I love it.

LINDA COTE-Layer 1 print

Pulling the first layer of the print. A different colour palette than I usually use!

LINDA COTE-Layer 1 goose

The above print shows the effect of ‘ragging’ on my block.

LINDA COTE-Layer 1 drying

Layer one done, and drying on the line in my art studio. Next up: the brown ink layer once this layer is dry.

LINDA COTE-Layer 2 block

Layer two begins with removing most of the background. I leave lots of line-work, though, as I want ripples to appear in the water/background. The reflection in the water is also subtle…and a rather tricky part of this print.

LINDA COTE-Layer 2 ink

Although the real-life Canada Goose’s brown feathers run the spectrum from light grey to dark brown, the one in the photo I based the print on was definitely on the darker-brown side. I custom-mix the ink to a nice rich brown that makes me crave chocolate!

LINDA COTE-Layer 2 block inked

Here is the second layer of the block, inked and ready to print.

LINDA COTE-Layer 2 print

Pulling the print: the brown and the ochre work together beautifully!

LINDA COTE-Layer 2 brown

The print develops nicely, and I vow to do more prints with this color combo!

LINDA COTE-Layer 3 block

Next, I remove all parts of the block, except the areas that I want to print in black. The neck and head stay virtually the same, while the feathered area of the back and sides has only black highlights left. Once I see the previous layer of brown, I make a decision that the background will have no black at all. This is how it works: you figure it out as you go along.

LINDA COTE-Layer 3 ink

Once the block is inked, I can see how the final black layer will work with the brown.

LINDA COTE-Layer 3 print

I pull a print and see if I need to make any adjustments. One of the adjustments I made was to the tone of the black ink. A straight ‘lamp black’ was too harsh over the brown, so I mixed the black with a good deal of brown ink (left over from the previous layer) to create a softer black that would integrate with the print better. My gut told me that this would improve the overall look of the print, and I have learned to go with this part of the creative process.

LINDA COTE-All 3 layers goose

Here you see the progress … all three prints at once show how the reduction block works: as we move from left to right, more of the block is carved away, while the print layers up and gets richer.

LINDA COTE-Canada Goose

CANADA GOOSE, Fine Art Print: 3-Color Reduction Linocut Print – Size: 8″ h x 11.25″ w (click photo for details)

And the final print, completed at the beginning of August, after about six weeks in development. Each one with a different background, and layers of ink you just have to see in person!

6 responses to “Capturing the Canada Goose

  1. Beautiful print! Great illustrations of the process as well. I wish my printmaking instructor demonstrated like this. His I’d a was to pass out the linoleum with no technical advice.

    • Thank you, Linda! I’m glad you enjoyed the process. It’s very helpful to show it with photos, I find! Rather a hard thing to figure out without instruction! 🙂

  2. Another beautiful project Linda!! The detail on the bird is just wonderful and the water swirl and even the reflection being a little lighter the bird gives it such depth and realism. Really lovely.

    • Thank you so much, Judy! I was admiring your Great White Heron in the mangrove post today. Your photos are so amazing. They have a real spiritual quality to them!

      • Wow that is a nice way to look at it! I do try to present them in their beauty and personality as I might a people portrait. Thanks ever so much!

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