The Making of a Reduction Linocut

Introduction

As I was driving home one evening in mid-June just after 9 p.m., the moorland above Carleton-in-Craven opened-up to reveal a magnificent sunset. In the distance, I could see Ingleborough silhouetted against the yellow sky. Just had to stop and take some photographs!

I selected one of the photos as my reference image and reversed it using the Mac Photos application.

Sun Set (image reversed)
Reference photograph (image reversed)

Materials

  • Matrix: Grey Linoleum
  • Paper: Windsor & Newton ‘Bristol Board’ weight: 250 gsm & size A4
  • Cutting Tools: Selection of Pfeil tools
  • Inks: Hawthorn “Stay Open” oil-based inks
  • Rollers: Hawthorn 6” and 3” medium hardness rollers
  • Registration: Ternes Burton registration pins (0.155”) and matching Mylar stripping tabs
  • Burnishing: used my etching press with a forme to hold the Lino matrix in place on the press platen and, where necessary, the back of a wooden spoon (refer to a selection of matrices at the end of this blog post)

Process

Colour #1 (11 July) Working on the principal of printing from the palest colours to the darkest, I carved two areas in the sky and inked the Lino plate in 80% yellow/20% extender. Hoping to achieve an edition of a dozen prints, I printed fifteen sheets of Bristol Board paper expecting to spoil no more than three images. (Note: I marked the back of every sheet of paper with a number indicating the order in which I was to print every colour. This way, any problems would only be in the first couple of press runs.)

Colour 1 – Lower sky & undercoat for remainder of the print.

Colour #2 (14 July) Carved Lino to remove the lower half of the sky, I mixed yellow and red to give an orange upper sky.

Colour 2 – Upper Sky.

Colour #3 (16 July) Ingleborough hill was the most distant object that had to be printed next. As I was not able to carve any more Lino, I had to carefully ink the hill with my chosen colour of purple (50% blue & 50% red) and try to wipe off any ink that went beyond the marks that I had made in biro on the plate. This was not entirely successful but hoped that subsequent darker inks would cover any purple ‘bleeding’ across the marks.

Colour 3.

Colour #4 (22July) I removed Ingleborough (colour #3) and turned my attention to the foreground area for which I decided to use yellow with a little red and a touch of black. It took a few attempts to get the right mix.

Colour 4.

Colour #5 (25 July) I used a light green for the foreground and mid-ground areas. The over-lapped purple was covered to some extent; I was hoping for more coverage later.                     

Colour 5.

Colour #6 (27 & 29 July) I carved out the foreground and bottom half of the mid-ground. This took some thought in order to avoid too much of an ink overlap. Proofed the plate and made any necessary corrections. I mixed Opaque White and Opaque Ochre Brown with a touch of Burnt Sienna but thought it was too pale. I changed to 100% Opaque Ochre Brown and was happy with this choice.

Colour 6 to add Opaque Ochre Brown.

Colour #7 (30 July) This step required me to carve the remains of the foreground and mid-ground leaving the trees behind in both areas. This led to a problem in that there was an overlap from the foreground into mid-ground resulting in a band of approximately 5mm that would not be covered by a subsequent colour(s). I therefore decided to carve a fresh block for the mid-ground only. To check I had the registration correct, I proofed onto a sheet of acetate, allowed it to dry and checked the registration against the prints already pulled.

(2 August) Mixed Light green and a touch of Dense Black and applied to the second block. This was OK except for a slight mis-registration at the bottom edge. The ‘gap’ at the top edge was to be covered by a darker colour.

Block 2 to darken mid-distance.

Colour #8 (4 August) I was now left with a choice of either printing the trees next to the ridge just below the Ingleborough hill range. Hoping the darker green (trees) would better cover the purple ridge, I decided to print the ridge first. I mixed red and blue to give a purple shade that was darker than the hill range.

Ridge below Ingleborough.

Colour #9 (6 August) This was the final colour. I had carved out sufficient lino to leave the individual trees and the distant woods exposed. The ink was 90% Light Green and 10% Dense Black.

Individual trees & distant woods.

Three issues arose here:

  1. Overlap at the top edge was not entirely covered
  2. There three very narrow gaps at the bottom edge where Colour #7 had not quite registered fully
  3. There was a higher degree of embossment caused by the trees, especially those at the front of the middle-ground area. I anticipated that placing the dry prints in my MDF press (used for drying/pressing intaglio prints laid between blotting paper with tissue paper) would iron-out the embossment.

Conclusion

Whilst I am pleased with how the prints came out, I do need to think about how I can reduce the ink overlaps, the unwelcome embossment and the minor registration issue from reoccurring in future. Here are a couple of thoughts:

  1. Once the block had been positioned on the registration system (on the etching press), I had two blankets on top of the paper plus a thin sheet of acetate on top. Perhaps the press roller was too tight? Alternatively, I should use a thin sheet of MDF instead of the blankets so as to prevent the latter from pushing the paper down into the carved areas of lino. I have heard mention of only allowing the paper to ‘kiss’ the Lino block – the MDF sheet might achieve this.
  2. Where I cannot carve the block (because subsequent inking is required), I should consider either using multi-blocks and/or doing a jig-saw (where the block is separated by carefully cutting the block, placing the non-inked part to one side whilst inking the other part and replacing the both parts together prior to pulling the print through the press).

Recommended Reading

  • Colin Blanchard’s excellent trio of YouTube videos from December 2017 demonstrating the Cut XPress device and his registration system using the Ternes Burton pins and tabs. (Click here to view these.)
  • Morley, Nick (2018). Linocut for artists & designers. Published by The Crowood Press Limited, Marlborough, UK [ISBN 978 1 78500 145 1]
  • Boswell, Laura (2018) 2nd Ed. Colour Linocut Printing without a Press. Self-published.
  • Yeates, Susan (2011). Learning Linocut, A Comprehensive Guide to the Art of Relief Printing through Linocut. Published by Authors Online Limited, Sandy, Bedfordshire, UK [ISBN 978-0-7552-1330-6]

Notes: Here is the step-by-step progression of carvings on both block 1 and block 2: