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A Closer Look At Why I Love Linocut Printmaking

Updated: Sep 3, 2021

I have loved printmaking since the first time I created a linocut print in my high school art class. I loved every part of it – carving an image into the linoleum, rolling the ink over the carved surface, the anticipation, then the big reveal when I saw how the image transferred from the linoleum block to the paper.

When I entered Art College a few years later, I focussed on graphic design, but I also took relief and intaglio printmaking classes. It was the first time I used an actual printing press and I loved being in the printmaking studio. During my final years of Art College, I had little time to explore anything outside of my graphic design studies and assignments, but the seeds of my interest in printmaking had been planted.

After years of working as a graphic designer at advertising agencies and a large daily newspaper, I was feeling the need to get back into creating fine art and stepping away from the computer. My two children were in elementary school at the time, and I began teaching art classes for kids. Many of the projects I taught involved simple printmaking techniques. My students were always very excited about these projects which sparked my interest to get back into printmaking.

I began making my own linocuts in between graphic design projects and running my children around to activities and playdates. I was able to create linocuts in my studio at home and print them by hand. It was my new happy place. Returning to printmaking was amazing. I decided to start combining my design skills with my printmaking artwork and made plans to shift my creative business in a new direction. This was the start of White River Studio. I am continuing to build my studio business and have recently added surface pattern design to my skillset that incorporates linocut art.

I recently saw a call for entries in UPPERCASE magazine that caught my eye. The prompt was to “demonstrate your creativity and express your feelings of relief and optimism by exploring something made with a relief art-making technique.” It challenged me reflect on my printmaking and explore why I enjoy creating linocuts. I decided to take a “closer look” at what I find appealing about linocuts. This led me to photographing the printing of my “Moonlit Woods” linocut using a macro lens to capture the finer details of the process. I submitted my work to the magazine with a brief description of what draws me to relief printmaking.

The three basic materials used for linocut printmaking are linoleum, ink, and paper. Working with these materials requires a few tools such as gouges of different sizes, and a roller or brayer. A printing press can be used, or the image can be transferred by hand. There is a beautiful balance between the linoleum, ink, and paper. Each material has its own texture, weight, and surface quality. Carving into the flat linoleum transforms it into an expressive, relief landscape. The background is carved out leaving the remaining, or positive areas, as the image. The surface of the linoleum block is rolled with ink to print the image on paper. As the roller passes through the ink it creates a lovely “hissing” sound that is part of the appeal of printmaking. It is satisfying on so many levels! As the inked linocut is pressed onto the paper, it creates a richly textured print. This can be seen after the paper is slowly peeled off the linoleum block to reveal the printed image. In the macro photos I shot you can see the beautiful texture of the ink sitting on the surface of the paper. Unless you are present during the time of the printing, you miss this stage as the glossy shine and contrast of the wet ink flattens as it dries. Photographing the print while it is still wet captures and preserves this fleeting detail.

It is the texture and tactile quality of lino prints that appeal to me the most. There is a unique, handmade quality to a lino print. I like to say it is a little rough around the edges which is what gives it character. My goal is to preserve the unique quality of the linocut in my work when I digitize my prints to add colour and text.

My submission was accepted for publication in UPPERCASE magazine. Issue number 50 comes out in July, 2021. I truly appreciate the opportunity to share my love for linocuts in a publication that celebrates creativity and curiosity. I hope it will encourage others to take a closer look and appreciate the unique character and expressive quality of linocut prints.

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