In this video I talk about the process I used to make my lino cut/digital prints.
As a result of both the medium and my lack of experience with it, My lino cuts were always going to be somewhat crude. At some point I had the idea of taking my lino prints and adding finishing touches to them after-the-fact. Just because the brief says I have to use a certain medium doesn’t mean I have to be held back by my inability to do it justice. To that end, I’ve taken my prints into photo shop to help tell my story in more understandable way. I think this is very much in example of understanding what’s going on in my head but maybe not necessarily representing it purely through the work I’ve created. Which is to say: I know exactly what this is, but who says you do?
I added green to the scarf of the Jack the Ripper tour guide an added certain elements that would’ve been too difficult to render with the lino cutting tools like the chain link fence and one of the pictures. Did I mention this is based on a Jack the Ripper tour I took and the experience of it, the place and the people? I probably should’ve said that earlier shouldn’t I? But that’s the great thing about art: now you know what it is, but you might prefer your version from when you have no idea what it was. Just like Batman, there’s a version for everybody.
As I thought I would, I have decided to lino cut my final outcomes. I got myself some sort of cheap set off Amazon and away we go. The set comes with a wonderful hand guard which doubles as a means of securing the linoleum in-place so it doesn’t move while I am cutting it with some very sharp things. Unlike the ink used at the University, which is oil-based, the stuff that came with my set is water-based. The ink tries extremely quickly, which is both a pro and a con. The oil based stuff is better for sharing and reusing the ink, but when it’s just you, your kitchen table and your lino blocks ready to go, water-based is fine.
There’s something gratifying about leaning into work to focus on the subtle hand movements you’re making and of course to make sure you don’t screw them up. As I was getting a feel for the tools I was using, I was able to think more about what I could do for future projects. Lino cutting is a lot like drawing with a knife. You also have to think and terms of negatives, since the stuff you are cutting away with the knife is actually the whitespace, not the actual shapes of your Image.
Having to get a feel for how much ink to put on the linoleum, how slowly to peel back the paper after it’s been applied to the printing block, which kind tall to use for which the area, all of these things require personal experience, trial and error and in the long run, will become second nature. These are the things about learning craft that make it enjoyable. Until an entire batch is destroyed and all you have to show for your pains Is a sad, sad face. But that’s why you measure twice and cut once, right?
Students were introduced to Lino cutting as part of the derive project. Since the final outcomes had to be either lino cut or screen printed, this was very useful. I have a strong bias towards digital because I’m so reluctant to use materials where a mistake is permanent and you have to write off the costs involved. Lino cutting is about using woodwork tools to shave areas away from a piece of thin linoleum to create your own printing block. If your hand slips, you’re stuck with the results.
The flip side is that excellence is less easy to dismiss. Digital artists are easy to dismiss because as the apocryphal saying goes “all you have to do is push a button and the computer does it for you.” Lino cutting is something of a craft, and someone who is good at it can be said to be something of an artisan. A 13-year-old who can put together slick YouTube videos or photo shop illustrations is hardly going to be lauded the same way that 13-year-old would be if they had achieved a certain level of mastery with lino cutting. We all bring our biases with us, after all.
The romanticism of the craft isn’t lost on me. I didn’t really understand the process when it came to bringing imagery suitable to turn into linocut print, but the flexibility of the processes, the modest price points of the materials, and the fact that I can literally do this on my kitchen table and therefore use this going forward after graduation make it quite likely I will visit the medium again.