I am often asked "what is a reduction print?" A reduction print is where one block is used for the print (instead of carving a block for each color.) After each layer of ink is printed, some more of the block is carved away. I like this method because it is easier for me to register the work and it creates complex and surprising colors. Plus my work is large enough that carving a block for each color would definitely give me carpal tunnel.
Elizabeth Busey, Coming of the Zephyr. Linoleum Reduction Print, 15 x 24in, 2012.
The problem arises when the block is almost completely carved away. You can see to the right that very little of the block for Coming of the Zephyr remains. Even with a small brayer, it is nearly impossible to only ink the raised parts. Some ink gets on the lower carved away part, and sadly this does show up on print. The time spent carefully wiping the stray ink is frustrating.
I learned a solution to this problem from Karen Kunc, a printmaker from the University of Nebraska. She showed us how create a stencil using brown kraft paper. Simply print the block onto the paper, and then carefully cut out around the printed areas. I like to reinforce the areas with clear packing tape before I cut. With the stencil over the block, no ink gets on the part of the block that is carved away.
I used a related stencil for my print Vernal Paradox.
Elizabeth Busey, Vernal Paradox. Linoleum Reduction Print, 14 x 28in, 2012.
For this print, I worked on one end of the print, and then the other. I used some thin cardboard that is shipped with my paper. I cut away just around the end of the printed area. For each layer, I needed to create a new stencil as more and more of the block disappeared. You can see this stencil has already been used, and is ready for a new layer. Making a stencil only takes a few minutes, and makes the process of printing much more accurate and enjoyable.