I’ve been working on the roads pretty much full time over the last few weeks so not much time for doing art or blogging about it. So it was really good yesterday, to kick back with a few others for a day of lino cutting at St. Andrew’s Arts Centre in Gravesend http://www.graveshamarts.co.uk/. It was a mixed group in terms of previous lino cutting experience but, as you can see from the pictures below (with thanks to Mandy Wooding and Amanda Groom Davies) everyone had got the hang of it – with minimal blood letting – and everyone produced some great work by the end of the day.
Was good also to see ‘Penny Les’ New who dropped in on his massive bike, pictured here outside St Andrew’s and the magnificent LV21 https://lv21.co.uk/
If there’s enough interest I’d love to run another workshop soon and am happy to come and work with groups if anyone would like me to. Just contact me via the website. If you haven’t already subscribed to my website, please do, then you’ll get regular updates of forthcoming events. Just put your email in the subscription box and click on the link it sends. You won’t get bombarded with stuff, I promise.
Last weekend I did a lino cutting workshop at Northfleet Central, Northfleet Big Local’s community centre http://www.northfleetbiglocal.com/ After a short demonstration, everyone got going and produced some amazing work – see the slideshow below. Thanks to Mandy Wooding and Mandi Knight for the photographs.
Lino cutting is a type of relief printing. It developed from wood cutting, which was the main way of illustrating books before hot metal etching plates were used.
Lino (linoleum) was invented and used as a floor covering in 1863. It’s a natural product made from solidified linseed oil, pine rosin, ground cork dust, sawdust, and chalk. The name was coined by Frederick Walton who combined the Latin word for flax, ‘linum’ with the Latin word for oil, ‘oleum’.
The lino cutting technique wasn’t really used by artists until the 1900s. Some of the first examples of lino printing as art came from artists in Die Brücke, Germany, where the technique had previously been used for printing wallpaper. In 1911, ‘linoleum art’ by Vojtěch Preissig made its first appearance in a gallery in New York City.
When Picasso and Matisse used lino cutting in their work, it became an established professional print medium.
The lino cutting technique is quite simple. I start by cutting my lino squares. Because it is a natural material, if it is cold, lino can be brittle and break. So I work with two pieces at once. I sit on one to warm it up while I work with the other.
Lino is a great medium for printing because, once it is warm, it is soft, pliable and easy to cut. Also, unlike wood, it doesn’t have a grain so you can cut in all directions equally easily. Before you start to cut, sand the lino gently with a fine grade sandpaper. This helps the ink to stick and makes it easier to get a consistent result when you print.
In the UK , lino was made in Kirkcaldy, Scotland by the Nairn family. It is still used as flooring in hospitals and prisons because it is so durable and hardwearing, but it has been largely superseded in by vinyl and laminate flooring for domestic use. This means it is now quite difficult to get off-cuts to use for artwork, although there is still a major lino stockist in East London. You can, however, buy alternatives to lino in art shops. So, for example, children often learn relief printing using ‘dry point’ on thin polystyrene tiles.
Anyway, once you have your lino ready, you cut your design with sharp V- or U-shaped tools. Be careful, lino cutting is a blood sport! Remember, the uncut (raised) areas are a reverse of the image you want to print.
Next you spread a thin layer of ink on a glass plate. I use a glass chopping board from Lidl. Then, you ink up your carved lino with a roller, called a brayer, and then place it on to a sheet of paper, holding it carefully in one position. You need to press down evenly. I do this by hand, using a metal spoon, pressing it all over so I get an even print. Some people use a printing press. This YouTube video gives a good introduction.
I’ve been lino printing now for about five years – I’m not sure how long really. I like it because it is so ‘hands on’. As a teenager I was always whittling away, turning bits of wood into animals and other objects, and it’s really the tactile nature of lino printing that appeals to me. It allows you to put your ideas directly into your hands as you carve your design and, although you’ve got to concentrate, it’s relaxing because you’re not thinking too deeply, you’re just there in the moment with your design. As far as the prints go, I quite like the monochrome effect and also that sense of never quite knowing what you’re going to get when you peel that first print off the lino.