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Reduction Linocut planning

A question on the Linocut Friends page of Facebook prompted me to document (for my own future use if nothing else) how I’d previously worked out how to plan a reduction linocut using ArtRage (on the iPad but now on my Surface Pro 3).

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Reduction linocut, part 1

I wanted to look at ways of planning a reduction linocut using art apps on the computer. I’ve previously done some prep in ArtRage using a rubber as a cutting tool into different layers of colour; all without actually translating the work into a print though – will try that again some time. No, this time, I had the idea of translating a B&W photograph into the cuts required for a reduction linocut with 4-5 layers of grey.

I started with a b&w version of a photograph I’d taken in Byron Bay, Queensland, of some sort of lizard, about 70cm or 80cm long, sunning itself after a deluge on the roof just opposite my motel unit. I was really hoping he wasn’t going to try coming into my room even though the motel owner had said they were harmless.


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Caliban linocut

The artist in residence at Leicester Print Workshop, Laine Tomkinson, is working on a project around Shakespeare’s The Tempest. She asked members of LPW to contribute images printed from 6″x4″ linocuts. After dithering about whether someone at my level of expertise ought to contribute, I eventually took a piece of lino home to work on.

I had a number of thoughts about the tempest itself and then about the feast but, on reading through the play, was struck by the stage direction at the beginning of II.2: [Enter CALIBAN, with a burden of wood. A noise of thunder heard].

My study of Shakespeare at school predated the arrival of feminist, post-colonial, psychoanalytic, etc reading of texts. But I’d read a lot of such analyses since and decided to produce a more sympathetic image of Caliban than would normally issue from a straight reading of the play.

Caliban lives on an island on which Prospero, a European intellectual, and his daughter, Miranda, are marooned. Prospero promptly enslaves Caliban, forcing him to do his bidding using his ‘magical’ powers, torturing him if he disobeys. Most of this is explicitly stated, though with the explanation that such treatment is justified because Caliban is a savage (read, non-European).

I wanted to make an image that made this slavery explicit. I drew some ideas on the iPad using ArtRage (my main art program on the iPad now) based on images found on the internet and out of books. Since the final image would be b&w, I loaded ArtRage with a black canvas and drew using a white pen. I exported this image, printed it as 6×4 and then traced the image onto the linocut using Tracedown White. After a couple of proofing prints, I found the right pressure on the hydraulic press and left the block with Laine to work with.

I also printed one fair copy for myself on nice paper:


The cut has a few problems — the lines on the face are too fine to reproduce easily. The pressure has to be just right. And the mouth did not work properly — bit too big. But not too bad for my third or fourth linocut.

I’m thinking of placing this in the Surface Gallery Postcard Show next year, if I can think of two more images to produce. We’ll see if anyone thinks it is worth £15 🙂


Last week’s print course session was on linocut printing. I really loved doing this. Knowing in advance what we were going to do, I went through my list of photographs and chose a few that had a good amount of contrast. With each of these, I used Lightroom to produce a clean B&W print, which I further modified to produce an image that looked good in what was basically 2-bit. Of those, two seemed to present the best combination of not-too-difficult alongside still-interesting-image. I cropped and printed each as 6×4 (since that was the size we were told the lino would be: btw, one guy on the course asked what lino was: see this fascinating wikipedia article), both normal and reverse.

Nichola gave us each some basic instruction in lino preparation and cutting, handed out the tools and then left us to it. I picked the simplest of my images but even that proved to take a long time.

I put some carbon paper onto the lino and the reverse image over that and then traced out the lines. I was going to scribble in the areas to be cut out but it took me so long to do the tracing I was running out of time so I just started cutting. Hell, it hurt after a while. I probably wasn’t holding the cutting tools correctly. At least I hope I wasn’t since my thumb was still partially numb three days later!

Most of the class were making multiple prints while I was still cutting so I stopped in the end and just printed what I had. I can see bits where I cut what I shouldn’t and other bits that were left that should have been removed. Still the images look ok.

The photograph I started with was (blurred line through the middle is a telephone wire):

bird in tree

I made three prints. The first in orange, second in black and third in purple. The third looked much like the second so I’ve left it out. The first two were:

linocut: bird in tree: orange print


linocut: bird in tree: black print

I’m really pleased with these. I enjoyed the work, love the type of image produced and am sure that this and monoprinting are the way I’m meant to go. This week is hard ground etching, which I’m less sure of. Still need to decide on images to take along.

One lesson I need to remember is to allow more time for carving, which should be okay since I’ll probably work on the carving at home and only take the lino in when I have a few to print. More important is to properly mark out the cutting areas on the lino. Using carbon paper is not good enough. As I was cutting, my hand was erasing other parts of the tracing. Nichola suggested going over the tracing with permanent ink which I’ll do in future.

Also need to use any photograph only as a starting point. I need to trace the photograph onto paper (or not even that) and then compose the image I want using black pen and brush.