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Exploring the Timeless Art of Linocut Printing: A Journey from Carving to Paper

Originating in the early 20th century as a response to woodcut printing, linocut offers artists a versatile medium to create intricate designs with bold, graphic appeal. From the initial carving of linoleum blocks to the final transfer onto paper, each step in the linocut process is imbued with creativity and craftsmanship. Heres how I do it:


Transferring the artwork onto the lino:


The linocut process begins with a vision—an image waiting to be brought to life on the surface of a linoleum block. I start by tracing my pencil drawing and transferring it onto the onto the linoleum. Then to the carving part, which is the part I love the most as I find it so mindful, relaxing, and I need to be completely present. I use Pfeill carving tools, and others that I've had for years that don't have a name. Before I carve, I test the sharpness on a scrap piece of lino, and if its blunt, I sharpen the tools before commencing carving using a sharpening set called a Slipstrop.


Above: Transferring my drawing onto the

lino by tracing it.


Carving the Design:


I carve away the negative space surrounding the intended image, revealing the raised areas that will eventually hold the ink.

Each stroke of the carving tool requires precision and foresight, I have to think in a 'negative' way, considering both the positive and negative space within the design, remembering the part I am carving away will be blank. The opposite mindset to when I am holding a pencil or pen.





Left: Lily and The Fox print carving in progress.



Mixing the Ink and Inking the Block:


Once the carving is complete, it's time to prepare the linoleum block for printing. I mix the paint colours using Relief Printing Ink. I like to use Cranfield or T.N Lawrence inks. Using a brayer—a roller designed for applying ink, there are examples of good rollers here - I evenly coat the surface of the block with ink, ensuring complete coverage of the raised areas. Getting the colour spot-on is really important. And if I am doing a large scale repeat, like my wallpapers, I have to mix up a big tin of ink, and go through lots of test pieces of paper. I mix the ink with medium ( I use ADIGRAF by Daler Rowney at the moment) as consistency can significantly influence the mood and impact of the final print.


Above: Ink Mixing can result in some lovely

colour partners.


After inking up, the lino block is ready to receive the weight and pressure necessary for transferring the design onto paper.


Left: The first ink is applied to the

CATKIN design block.

















The Printing Process:


As the block meets the paper, I apply pressure evenly across the surface, using either a printing press or hand tools designed for this purpose. I like to use tiles, a stone, and often I stand on my wallpaper prints to assure there is enough pressure applied. When working in repeats, I really have to concentrate, to ensure the edges are aligned as much as possible. The block is peeled away, revealing the transferred image. Each print is unique, bearing the subtle imperfections and nuances that characterise handmade printmaking.


Left: The CATKIN print being applied to paper.




Conclusion:


In a world increasingly dominated by digital technologies, I'm really drawn to the tactile nature of linocut printing. From the initial dawing, to carving of the lino block to the final transfer onto paper, each stage of the linocut process is steeped in creativity and intentionality. Through the fusion of age-old techniques and contemporary artistry, linocut printing continues to captivate and inspire me, offering a timeless medium for self-expression and exploration.

Above: EUPHORBIA in situ.

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