Reduction Linocut Printing

The invention of this method of lino printing has been attributed to Pablo Picasso. One of his favoured techniques was to print a solid black base from an uncut lino block onto white paper, and start by carving a very simple line drawing. He would then print this in white over the initial black base, creating an interesting ground to work on. He would then print the coloured areas in blocks sequentially by removing sections of lino between each print from the same block.

I started with a simple A5 design to try the technique for size. Rather than use the Picasso approach outlined above, I went with the more common approach, starting with the paler hue, and printing gradually heavier colours. It took quite a lot of thought and planning to think about which areas needed to be cut each time.

I tried a lino ‘softcut’ substitute as I have found it prints more evenly and is easier to cut. I abandoned this though as it is so easy to carve that I kept making mistakes, and I think it is harder to make interesting varied marks. I also used much finer paper than in previous exercises, as I have managed to purchase a large pack of Japanese simli paper (90gsm). I found that this was lovely to print on, and you could see the ink sinking into the fibres of the paper. I do however need to use a lot less ink than on the heavier papers, and had a few problems with raised ridges of ink and loss of detail in places.

Despite these problems, I was pleased with the results as an early effort. I also used a jig this time that helped ensure good registration (although I still managed to mess this up a few times!). I my next attempt I need to work on getting a clean edge, as the loose fibres at the edge of the block picked up ink and made a mess. I will avoid immersing the block in water when cleaning it between cuts. The final colour is actually a very dark indigo, giving a slightly richer finish than using black.

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