A gift

My lovely, longtime friend Anna makes beautiful up-cycled aprons from vintage and pre-loved fabrics. She wondered if I could make a lino design she could use for her bags and tags, something that would reflect her English background (she now lives in the USA)  and have a feeling of the outdoors and nature about it.

I had a few ideas, we bandied them about a bit, and then I confess I procrastinated quite a while (months, in fact). Eventually, and thankfully, inspiration struck as I was marvelling at the huge acorns the little oak in our garden had produced.

Anna is to be thanked for her huge patience;  hopefully she will find this little lino fits the bill, and that her cottage business continues to go from strength to strength.


Lots to learn

Etching. Hmm. Lovely stuff, but it’s no good having an etching press if conventional zinc plates and acetate plates are too expensive. School’s limited budget threatened to put etching out of reach for our students. However, this term we have decided to trial a roll of acetate (around 1mm thick) which is much cheaper and allegedly still offers a good result. That’s my queue for a little tentative exploration with drypoint etching. I’m a complete novice at drypoint, so it’s been a steep learning curve.

Here is an early experiment, which is far from perfection, but which taught me a whole heap of things, including:

  1. The transparent nature of the etching film means you can easily trace over a previous drawing (my sketch for last year’s Christmas card, in this case).
  2. Obviously the image is reversed when printed, so there’s a caveat to watch out for any lettering.
  3. The scratches I used for drawing were inconsistently deep, which gave a faded feel to some parts of the print. But, this could be useful in some circumstances.
  4. I used a diamond point to make the marks, but couldn’t easily see where the tip was due to the setting. This meant the drawing was really not accurate. Next time I will try a needle instead.
  5. I did not have any scrim/gimp for wiping off the plate once I’d rubbed it into the marks, so I used a scrap of linen. I don’t think it was ideal, and it took a bit much ink off in places. Also, it became clear that cleaning off in a direction perpendicular to the marks seems to help leave more ink where you want it.
  6. It’s good to dampen several sheets of paper at once, but I discovered that you should only blot them as you use them, otherwise they become too dry and don’t pick up the ink well.
  7. Caligo Safewash etching ink bleeds away from the scratched lines if the paper is a bit too wet. (But on the plus side, cleaning up is a doddle!)
  8. Remember to clean the edges of the plate, as well as the surface.
  9. I have no idea whether the pressure on the press was right or not. Perhaps when I’ve ironed out the other bugs this will become clear.
  10. I need a lot more practice, but this really has the potential to produce a nice result.

bird rose hip etching.jpeg

The good news is that I think this technique will work for our students, and offer them another (affordable) printing option to complement both their lino work and drawings. I’m really looking forward to seeing what they produce.

They’re not Doc Martin’s…

…they’re Ted’s.

My son’s new DMs, immortalised in lino while I was introducing Andy, my art buddy, to the joys of lino printing.

Teds DMs lino


There were a couple of challenges with these; firstly, how to deal with the background when you have a fairly solid black object to contrast with. I thought originally that I was going to leave the background white, but when it came to it couldn’t resist putting in some texture. I’m glad I did.

Secondly, the writing on the tabs. I draw directly onto my lino, rather than using the transfer method, so it was a case of reversing the letters, to give a suggestion of writing but without trying to make them look too accurate. Not too bad a result, considering.

I’m a bit miffed that I didn’t quite get the shoe shape right – should have used a mirror before printing to check that everything was looking as it ought. And as you can see, a little piece of scrap lino got caught in the ink and raised the print in one place. I must remember to be tidier with my brushing off before inking.

But never mind, I like this one – live and learn.


Quite loopy

This lino print was just a bit of fun, and turned out more graphical than illustrative this time. It was quite nice to be working on a design for a change. In this, I set out to test the different textures that could be achieved in the lino, and to practice making curves – I certainly did that!

The woody texture of the border was an experiment in limiting the depth of cuts, and I’m pleased with the way it worked out, contrasting with the inner frame.

Feather pen lino

The inking also went better than previously, as I added a really generous amount of ink, and spent longer rubbing the print.

Each time, I learn a bit more. Onwards and upwards…

To wit, an owl print

Happy New Year everyone, I hope 2018 brings you all the creative joy you could wish for, and many good times besides.

Here am I, belatedly posting work I intended to have on the blog by Christmas, but then the road to Hell is famously paved with similar good intentions.

This lino print was, like the preceding hare, a stretch for my imagination, as I combined a number of reference pictures for the barn owl with an imagined night scene. There’s definitely a trick to getting a pleasing composition, easier said than done.

There were a few moments in cutting this where I felt things had gone a bit awry, but fortunately once it was printed up most of it looked ok. As with drawing, there is a steep learning curve to be scaled in working out how to represent different shades and textures with a monochrome medium.

With regard to the actual printing process, I’m still learning how to apply the ink, hence the rather patchy black. I’m sure I’ll crack a bold, solid-looking black soon! And maybe even learn to be a bit tidier and less inky with my fingers… perhaps before long I’ll be brave enough to print onto some nicer paper, rather than this copier stock. I’m looking forward to that day.

Barn owl lino

Rolling fields

Oh yes, I’m on a roll here. More lino cutting…more experimentation. Stretching myself, and trying to learn fast. I’ve realised that if I’d ever like to sell my work, I have to get over the idea that I’m parting with my babies. Printing seems for me to be one way to do that. Although each print is slightly different, it’s not the same as parting with, say, a watercolour which took a huge amount of personal investment for one original I’ll never see again. Hence the recent print focus.

This one was a challenge. First, in the composition. My reference hare didn’t have any background to speak of, so I had to be creative. I’m not used to such an open brief, and felt like a rabbit in the headlights. In the end I went with what I know – the north Norfolk countryside, where hares are abundant. Even so, getting a set-up which looked ‘natural’ and yet pleasing took a lot of head-scratching.

Hare lino

I also included a higher level of detail this time, seeking an illustrative quality to the print, and trying to work out what my cutters could achieve. I really like the way the ploughed field has worked out, with its wiggly lines.

Getting the printing ink solid and black still continues to evade me. I think it must be due to a lack of pressure, or not enough ink, as I’m hand-printing this with a wooden spoon. Maybe, when the weather warms up and it’s possible to using the etching press in the shed without getting hypothermia, I might solve this issue. Until then, the trusty spoon will become shinier by the day with all the rubbing on the back of my prints.



Two for Joy

I had this idea for a lino print… and then realised I didn’t really know what magpies looked like. I ended up drawing directly onto the lino, which worked fine. What was truly tricky was getting the branches to look interesting, without being overwhelming. Who’d have thought it?

When it came to cutting, I had a brainwave to make the cuts radiate out from the centre of the picture, and the effect gives it a more graphic feel in my eyes. It made it harder to work around the branches, but equally produced an interesting effect on them.

Magpies lino

I like this one, even with its shortcomings, such as the fact that I haven’t achieved a good, solid black in the print – it was done using the spoon rubbing technique and Caligo Safewash. With this in mind, when I’m more familiar with the inks, paper  and pressure required to get a good print, I’ll come back to it.

Night flight

Here’s my second experiment with lino cutting. I definitely have some issues –  I’m not achieving the solid blacks I crave, so I’m going to see if a traditional printing ink will solve this (I used a water-soluble ink here).  If that doesn’t work, perhaps my wooden-spoon hand-pressing is just not up to the job. I’m very fortunate to have access to a venerable etching press, but need to get it set up to take lino blocks. A note to self: take more care not to get little bits of fluff, scrap lino, etc, onto the roller when inking, and to ensure the ink is evenly rolled on the lino. There’s so much to learn!

On the cutting side, I think the picture would benefit from more variation of line, so I’ll bear that in mind with the next one. I’ve sharpened my lovely hand-me-down tools in readiness.

Swans night lino cut

Bees in my bonnet

Just playing around with monotype printing again, experimenting with lovely bumbles. Not much more to say, really, other than that I’ll have to give this another go to get the result I was after. I do quite like the wings and legs on the large one though.

All abuzz

So… I had some lino lying around from a one-cut adventure about 5 years ago. Given the printing splurge I’m on, it seemed like a good idea to revisit and see if the bug would bite this time.

As occasionally happens, I woke with the image pretty fully-formed in my mind, so getting it onto the lino was actually quite straightforward – just drawn straight onto the surface, trying to bear in mind that it would print in reverse. The hexagons were more of a difficulty than I’d expected – the solution was to make a template, draw round it and move it to the next position. No need to get too fussy about straight edges and angles on this one.

Removing areas to yield white instead of dark is a bit of a head-wrecker at first, it goes rather against the drawing grain. Subtraction instead of addition. I got round this by colouring my pencil lines in with Sharpie and reminding myself not to cut where the lines were black. It worked, to my relief (gotta love a printing pun!).

Honeycomb lino cut

I inked up a roller with some washable ink, and did a test print. It was a useful exercise as I could see a few areas which needed to be further cut away. This done, more inking, a vigorous rub on the back of the paper with a wooden spoon, and voilà! One lino print, a bit crunchy round the edges, but to me it’s got a certain something I find hard to put my finger on. I’m going to try again, and it will definitely challenge my underdeveloped designer muscles…hmmm. Food for thought.