Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Coral Tree Pod Linocut - Photos & Sketch

It is always hard for me to choose the subjects of my linocuts because there are too many good options.  But the colors of this coral tree pod I found last year in Costa Rica were so stunning I knew it had to be made into a print.

I wrote a post about all of my Costa Rica sketches last year and here is what I had to say about this pod:

"Our first destination of the trip was Bijagual Ecological Reserve.  The reserve is a beautiful rain forest teeming with biodiversity, trails, rain, and rivers. One day Christina and I took a short walk down to the Bijagual river.  As Christina sketched I spent time looking for rocks for a little project I will blog about later.  When we were about to leave, something caught my eye on a little island in the middle of the stream.  I saw a bright-colored seed pod but couldn't quite make out if it was worth the effort to cross over to retrieve it.  Luckily some of the students had left their binoculars on the shore and when I looked through the lenses I was super excited to see these crazy purple colored pods with bright red berries hanging out.  As I made my way over to the berries I could see they were from a tree that had washed down the river.  Luckily Paul Foster, the director of the preserve, showed up soon after with clippers and identified the tree as Erythrina.  He was also excited to see this plant as he had been wanting to plant some of the seeds for the preserve.

I fell in love with everything about this plant.  I don't think I have ever seen a plant before with such an amazing color pallet... I also loooooooooove the bulbous pods and how they curl around to make a bumpy, purple, red, and cream sphere about the size of a grapefruit.  Plus the red seeds were literally hanging by thin papery strips that allowed them to move in the wind.  You can't get more eye-catching than that!  As Christina put it, these seed pods look like they were from an alien planet.  You can see her sketch here. "

When I start a linocut I like to print out my reference photo to the actual size of the print.  In this case that is about 2 ft wide by 3 ft tall.  I tile the image, print it on legal size paper, and then tape it together.  Once I have it printed out I do a light trace onto my paper.  I do it lightly because I usually end up altering the shapes.  In this case the pod had wilted and shrunk a bit when I took the photo so I had to plump everything up a bit.  Plump, me up!

Below is a video of the sketch process from start to finish.  (Please turn your volume up so you can hear the took me forever to get the music set just right!)

Some times when I am in the middle of the sketch I feel like the print could go any number of ways.  I really liked the sketch at the stage below.  I thought it would be cool to do the print with just the inner pools as the focus. 

But of course I can't help myself and have to continue just to see what it would look like if EVERYTHING had linework to indicate shape.

And usually by the end I am convinced the whole thing needs lots of lines!  Plus, I have done all that work and I don't want it to "go to waste."  (But just doing the inner pools is still a good idea and may some day get explored.)

Below you can see the watercolor sketch I did while in Costa Rica and that I did indeed "plump it up" in my pencil sketch.

The next step in the process is to figure out how I am going to do the colors.  I am still debating whether it will be a 4 or 5 color print.  It is helpful to have a color sketch to help me figure it out.  I know for sure the first color will be cream and will be applied underneath all the other colors.   So hopefully tomorrow I will transfer the outline to my safety-kut and get carving!  I will be posting more process images along the way so check back soon!

"It's not choosing the 'right' path that matters. It's knowing what ignites your passion. Once you've figured out what brings you joy, you don't have to worry about finding the right path. Any path — any path — will take you there." — Ron Shaich

To read more about the printing process and the final print click here.
The finished print is now available for purchase at


algonesh said...

Have you ever looked closely at brain coral? There's an entire extraterrestrial landscape there.You will never run out of inspiration.

Nessy said...

I would love to do an underwater-inspired print. But I do like to work from my own photos. So that might require a trip to the beach which I feel is long overdue!