Linocutting Marks – Project 5

In my feedback for my first assignment, my tutor has suggested that I try using a different ink, so I have invested in a range of Caligo Safewash inks for this project. She has also suggested that I would benefit from having another go at my still life monoprint as I said I struggled with light and shadow. Having had a chance to use these inks in this project, I am somewhat frustrated that I persisted so long with the acrylic paint with printing mediums for so long. Part of me wants another crack at the first assignment, so I am developing bits as I get time, mainly with leftover ink at the end of each printing session.

I have built myself a simple bench hook from plywood and beading as suggested in the course handbook, and already have an Essdee lino cutting tool with blades. I have an etching press, but have decided that it is an added complication at this point, and sticking with using a large wooden ribbon spool as a baren as it fits perfectly in my hand and works much like a wooden spoon. My tutor has also ponted out that an etching press with it’s rolling action does have a tendency to drag the paper rather than a relief press where the plate is brought down flat.

In researching linocut marks, I took a look at work by Gertrude Hermes, a tutor at the Roal Academy from the 1980’s particularly regarded for her variety of marks. I looked particularly at her ‘Stonehenge’ 1959 print, an edition of which can be found in the study rooms of the V&A. When I am next in London I hope to book some study time with her work, but for now I have had to make do with the internet collection. There are a rich variety of marks in this single piece to convey the texture and history of the subject and I was particularly interested in the negative versus positive marks in the stones. I also had a look at a 1950’s woodcut graphic novel I have called ‘Southern Cross’ by Laurence Hyde as it also features a lovely range of marks in a bold and simple style.

When I started this project I divided an A4 sized sheet of lino into 24 squares and set about filling each square with various marks without paying much heed to the directions in the notes. I just wanted to get used to handling the tools and discover in my own way what marks could be achieved and how. In my piece, I played with negative and positive shapes as well as finer and broader marks and patterns. I moved on to cut a more formal sampler as suggested with a variety of marks in each square using a single tool. In the lower part of the block I looked at ways of shading with various marks, and finished by copying marks depicting the sun and water from ‘Southern Cross’ to see how they could be achieved. Cutting the lino was much easier after warming on the radiator for a few minutes, and as the lino cooled, the blade was more likely to skid causing mistakes. I used a coarse paintbrush to clear the cut lino flecks from the finer grooves.


When it came to printing my blocks, I have to admit to quite a struggle initially. I printed my first block on Somerset Velvet, and after several attempts to get the amount of ink and pressure right, I got a print I was reasonably happy with. Diluting the ink at all with linseed oil was a disaster that I won’t repeat. I used the baren in small spiral actions from the centre, keeping one hand in place all the time to stop the paper from moving.


The tools used are (from top)

Row 1: blade 1 short and light, blade 2 short curves, blade 2 varing depths, blade 3

Row 2: blade 3 shallow cuts, blade 1 deep slow curves, blade 7 shallow bricks, blade 5 angled cuts for woodgrain effect

Row 3: blade 8 rocking and twisting, blade 6 influenced by Stonehenge print, blade 4 rotational cuts gouging, blade 2 clearing space

Row 4: blade 9 shading contours, blade 7 broken checks, blade 1 hatching, blade 3 spirals

Row 5: blade 6 overlapping waves, blade 6 zigzags, blade 3 overlapping leaves in positive and negative, blades 2 6 and 7 checkerboard

Row 6: blade 10 birds, blade 6 florentine tapestry pattern, blade seven random marks, blade 2 in vermicelli pattern.

I am really pleased with this piece and to me the rocking of the blade made marks that looked like ferns or pond weed. The gouged marks pock-marks the lino, which would be useful for stony hard textures. I could also see how larger uncut areas with bold marks needed more inking to not look patchy, and finer marks are easily clogged with too much ink.

I found the printing of my next block was really patchy no matter what I tried and got extremely frustrated. I emailed my tutor for advice who thought that the ink may be too thin or paper too textured. I had another try using Waterford Saunders hot pressed 190gm paper with better results. I learnt from some printmakers at Bovey Tracey Craft festival to put firm pressure on the roller for inking up the roller, but only very light pressure on the block. I spent a lot of time making sure that the block was evenly and well inked up before printing. I think I also have a feel for the sound of the hissing ink when it is at the right thickness on the inking plate now. Finally I have 2 editions which are good prints with clean borders! I have found that the odd annoying stray hessian strand from the side of the block can leave unwanted marks though.


Row 1 (Gouges): from left to right blades 8, 4, 6 and 3

Row 2 (V tools): from left to right blades 10, 9, 2 and 1

Row 3: blade 7 rocking, blade 8 rocking, blade 5 angled cuts, blade 7

Row 4 (linear shading): blade 2, blade 8, blades 7 and 9, various v tools

Row 5 (shading): blade 1 hatched, blade 7, blade 7 in rotational cuts, blade 3

Row 6: sun from Southern Cross blades 1 2 and 4, water from SC blades 1 4 and 10, blade 9, blade 2

I particularly like the rotational marks made by square blade 7, as it achieves nice regular punched out marks, and I felt my experiements with shading worked particularly well. I can see this sampler being a very useful reference image for future work.


One comment on “Linocutting Marks – Project 5

  1. Jennifer says:

    Until recently, apart from handprinting, the only press printing of linocuts that I’d done was in an intaglio press because it was all I had access to, and had very good results – just as good as ones done since in a relief press – so do experiment! With an intaglio press, just experiment first with different levels of pressure – test with a blank piece of lino.

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