Thursday, August 16, 2012

Linocuts are Good

I didn’t like the medium of linocut printing the first time I tried it, because I forgot the cardinal rule of working with sharp tools: always keep the non-cutting hand behind the cutting hand. Result? I impaled my left thumb with a V-shaped gouge, meaning that the first layer of colour on the block was a natural red.


Untitled linocut, 2009
Since then, and while proceeding with the appropriate caution, I’ve come to like linocut because it’s direct, relatively quick, fairly inexpensive, and you can make prints by hand without needing a heavy printing press. It’s also very expressive, particularly if like me you don’t mind things looking rough and ready, with lots of cut marks left on the block around the main blocks of shapes.
Just a few weeks ago, the middle-aged people in a one-day workshop that I taught said that they had done some linocuts before, but not since high school. I think that is a common memory, that linocuts are something easy and forgettable that high school art teachers make you do. But you can do fairly complex things, too, like reduction linocuts. I have taught both one block printing and reduction linocuts, and in each case the medium always surprises people by what they can do with it.
There are more sophisticated types of printmaking, with a richer and more varied kind of mark-making. But for brightly coloured, boldly graphic prints, nothing beats linocuts.

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