Lino

Most people are familiar with linocut, they tell me that they either did it at school (almost everyone hates it then: blunt tools and old brittle lino) or that their parents made them do their own Christmas cards. All this is worlds away from the magical adaptability of buttery fresh lino cut with razor sharp tools.

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I begin all my linocuts in the same way by drawing onto the block with a dip pen and Indian ink. This gives me the line I like and the Indian ink can stand washing with white spirit as I clean the block between impressions.

Using the outline drawing as a guide for detailed cutting.

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As with all printmaking, tools must be razor sharp. Fresh lino is a big help: it should be flexible and smell of linseed oil. I do sometimes use a cheap iron to warm the lino slightly on cold days when it’s stiffer.

Cleaning away a larger area with a U gouge.

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For my own work I use oil based ink and colbalt dryer. It’s a harsh process, but it gives the results I want. My colour work is printed in many fine layers and each picture is cut from a single block, a process called reduction printing. I use water based inks for working with students when I am teaching them to print lino without the use of the press.

Mixing up colours in oil based ink.

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Having a colour reference is always helpful. I don’t plan colours for my prints, preferring that each colour follows on naturally from the previous layer of the print. Unlike woodblock, there can be no practice run: I destroy the block as I work so can never go back or add to the number of prints that I start with. Sadly I can lose prints to mistakes along the way, but I try not to let that happen!

My book of colour recipes.

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My work relies on pinpoint registration to line up all the different layers of my print. This wooden frame is the device that lets me do just that. It is not an original part of the press and can be removed for hand printing. My husband arrived at this efficient design after watching me struggling with the original registration on the press.

Using a roller to ink up the lino for printing on the press.

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I am extremely lucky in having two Albion presses, the Apple Macs of relief printmaking. They both date from the 1850s and produce excellent prints. I use them for my own work and for teaching in my studio. You can come and visit them at my Open Studio event each year.

The smaller of my two Albion Presses.

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All my colour linocuts are reduction prints. This process depends on using just the one piece of lino to create the finished print; cutting more away each time a colour is added. Roll over the small images on the left and see how the picture builds from light to dark to create the final print. By the last layer of colour the lino is almost completely cut away, the challenge is to have everything perfectly aligned for a crisp and clean print.