Handcolouring Linocuts – Tawny Expressions – first hand coloured drafts

For my work I chose to print my linoblocks with one colour – usually black and then hand-colour. The main reason I have made this choice is that for my chosen subject matter, I want to be able by hand-colouring my designs to use graded and blended colours – essentially to use watercolours or occasionally guache not simply as flat colour but in a more painterly fashion. For me is suits the style I have developed and how I want to portray Australian flora and fauna. I use the linocut in black to create a more dramatic structure within to apply my colour. It is a stylistic choice. If I wanted to work using linocuts with essentially flat layers of colour I could use linocut reductions or multiple block prints. Some linocut artists do the most amazing work this way and I am in awe of their abilities – one of these is Sherrie York – whose work is stunning. Her blog about her work is called Brush and Baren.

So after establishing a long time ago that this is the way I want to work, the effect that I want to create and the fact that I love to stretch myself across several mediums of drawing, design, linocuts and watercolour hand-colouring I am quite comfortable and yet challenged within this to continue to push myself. I may in the future chose to explore different ways of working and media but I am currently still enjoying working with hand-coloured linocuts.

It has been thrown at me that it is simply ‘paint by numbers’ to hand-colour linocuts but this is a fundamental misunderstanding of the stages of skill building and  processes that I have been through to achieve the results that I want in my work.

A Basic Description of Handcolouring ‘Ev’ry Move You Make’ – ‘Tawny Expressions’

It really depends on the effect you want to create by hand-colouring as to how you approach this part of the art process. I chose to go to watercolour classes – to learn more about paper and watercolour paint, mixing, blending and the different effects I could achieve using watercolours in my linocuts. I didn’t just want to apply flat colours to my linocut designs and I found it enormously helpful to my work and my use of watercolours to go and learn from experts.

For this design of different tawny Frogmouth expressions I had started with the pencil drawings, worked hem into designs and carved them – now to the handcolouring. Below  are all the original drawings for the design.

My initial thoughts for handcolouring this particular design involved just using the yellow for the eyes and open beak. I wanted the eyes to ‘glow’ and engage the onlooker.  Tawny Frogmouths use their eyes as part of their defence warning signals to ‘stay away’, so I wanted to incorporate them as a feature. There is the stereotypical  beak in the air ‘you can’t see me’ blending into the environment pose that the Tawny Frogmouths are renowned for but I wanted to show a range of expressions outside of this stereotype.  In terms of the handcolouring I liked the shading I had incorporated into the initial drawings so wanted to use some shading within the handcolouring.

Over some time I had been looking at Tawny Frogmouths closely, photographing them, drawing them and learning about them – here are some of the colour and black and white sketches I had been developing ideas from. So essentially looking at colour ranges with different media, including graphite, coloured charcoal pencils and watercolour pencils.


Here are a couple of sample Tawny Frogmouth small prints that I had worked on previously with hand colouring – watercolours – on the black and white printed linocut using oil based ink.

The black and white images above are two drawings that I eventually worked up into designs. Below is the Tawny Frogmouth Glare linocut design – proof print. You can see that I have done small watercolour sample colour squares and written notes about the handcoloured print for future reference.

So for me in developing the handcolouring for any particular design it is not simply a ‘paint by numbers’ approach. Below is the final ‘Ev’ry Move You Make’ or ‘Tawny Expressions’ linocut and the handcolouring is quite complex. I like the way even within the same edition you will get individual variations not only within the printing but within the handcolouring. Although each print is ‘the same’ because they are hand produced and coloured individually they will vary and all be slightly different.

Copyright – Lynette Weir

2 thoughts on “Handcolouring Linocuts – Tawny Expressions – first hand coloured drafts

  1. Great advice on handcolouring. I admire your work and am attempting to color some of my prints as well. I’m considering trying out reduction printing, but haven’t worked up the courage yet. Cheers!

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