A few months ago I’d declared I wanted to try some new things. I’ve dabbled at focusing on anatomy and have looked at some air dry clay … but I really wanted to carve. With the support of my amazing Patrons here (thank you!) I was able to invest in all the things for Lino Printing. And now I begin.
I decided on this bird image as I like the simple lines and shading. It also seems not quite right, some stray lines that would have been better not made. Handily, I can just leave them out.
Here’s my supply list (all Amazon links but you can likely find similar locally if you have a decent art supply store – #shoplocal):
- Linoleum Blocks – not mounted on wood, which I haven’t found to be an issue yet but perhaps will when I get to the actual printing part. I’ll keep you posted below.
- Carbon Paper
- Carving Tools
I secured the carbon paper and the image to the lino block using masking tape and probably would recommend doing it on at least two sides. Given that I had no idea how this would go I wanted to leave it easy to flip the pages up and see how the image was transferring.
I started using a Zebra mechanical pencil (.5 lead) and quickly discovered that the sharpness of the lead made it hard to press firmly enough without puncturing the paper. I shifted over to the thin handle of a paintbrush but it dragged too much on the paper. Turns out, a ballpoint pen works like gangbusters, and the red ink made it easy for me to ensure I’d covered all the lines.
Now, I do believe there are ways to do this with freshly printed pages and an iron, but I don’t own an iron and that seems like such a hassle. In case it’s not obvious, the original piece is now pretty well ruined so if you are doing art that you want to preserve I’d recommend printing off a template you can throw away after.
Well that went pretty damned well! The image is light and the carbon was coming off on my hands a bit so I took a black acrylic marker to it to reinforce the image and make things a little tidier.
And then I went all in. I’d read that a block stop should be used to hold things in place while you carve, but I’ve found (at least with this link block and the tools I have) that the force I need to use is so very minimal and the block stop inhibited the range of motion. So I’ve not continued to use it, but IT IS RECOMMENDED for safety reasons. I am, perhaps, being foolish – but so far this feels secure to me.
I started out just tracing the lines, my thought is to keep the black lines black and carve around them for this first go. This gives me lots and lots of actual carving to do, and experimenting and experiencing is the goal.
It’s tricky for me to remember that carving is making white, not black – drawing being the opposite, of course. I’m playing with this, how and what to shade, what textures I want to explore. The best part? I will have NO IDEA how this is going to look until it’s printed. It’s like the Kinder Egg of artwork!
This carving is going to take forever, but I persevere. More soon…
— UPDATE 03/13/2022
Well this has gone like gangbusters all!
I did significantly more carving and added a few background elements, just to see how it all went.
I was unsure about the outside framing but thought it seemed a reasonable thing to try out. And then I inked that mofo and got to work.
For inking, it’s recommended to use a sheet of glass to roll the ink out into a smooth consistency. Now, I have lots of things but not a pane of glass just lying about. What I did have was a cheapo medicine cabinet (I KNEW THAT THING WOULD COME IN HANDY!).
The cabinet is double swell as it will also hold all of my printing supplies AND can be installed on a wall somewhere. Ain’t that just the bees knees!
So I rolled the ink out as evenly as I thought possible and applied to the block.
And this is satisfying. Then I popped my paper on top, got ink ALL OVER my fingers doing so, trying to line it up with the corners of the block. -1 for inking all the way to the edges.
Attempt #1. Clearly, more ink is necessary and I’m not convinced printing to the edge of the page is going to work well.
Attempt #2 and this is better but I find I don’t love the hatching in the top of the ‘head’ and that outside framing just isn’t working for me. So I did even more carving.
After adjusting the block I went crazy town, printing on all the different kids of paper and canvas I had, including Yupo, which provided for a wildly interesting texture (that doesn’t really come out well on paper) but not a solid black like I was hoping.
Of the five final prints I’ve made, this one is my favorite. All five are different, none of the five are perfect … and there’s something about that which I find very charming and endlessly frustrating.
These are the ‘G-5’ I will be finalizing soon. By finalizing I mean, applying a fixative to protect the paper and the ink, signing and numbering.
This has been SUCH a learning experience for me, and has caused a small adjustment in my sketching as well. I’ve noticed a thinking more about dimension, negative space and how something might print. It’s a curious thing, how each new experience leads us to view our work and our lives different. This is the goal, for me.
I love it that I’m not scared of trying new things. I love it that sometimes the end result is phenomenal and that sometimes I learn it just won’t work. I’m chalking this one up as phenomenal. I am pleased.
I’ll be listing these in the shop soon, as soon as I can find fixative. Amazon may need to save me as our art shop options here are pretty limited.
Sidenote: I did also attempt a new piece, carving into a rubber block rather than linoleum. Rubber is NOT my medium. It’s so soft that lines are distorted during the printing and fine details are not going to hold well from what I can tell. It also feels like carving some mushy alien construct. Feels awful under the hands. Frustrating but a lesson learned. I’m 110% sure I will find a good use for these rubber blocks going forward but if you have any suggestions I’m open to them.