Thursday, 3 July 2008

Working out tones with linocuts

Linocut is a great way to develop your sense of tones and to force you to simplify your designs.

How making linocut can help you as a painter?

  • You must see clearly dark and light tones: linocut is essentially binary. Light tones are obtained by removing material with the chisels; everything else is dark.

  • You have to simplify: as already stated, you are working in black and white. Therefore, you must decide whether a mid-tone a closer to the dark side or the light side and draw the line accordingly. You could get some mid-tones by hatching the surface, but this process is more limited than when doing etching.

  • You have to think in term of negative shapes: The material you remove is your white, which is the reverse of what happens when you draw. You cannot carve well without seing the negative shapes.

Linocut is a cheap printmaking process. The material you need is minimal:

  • A piece of linoleum

    Front and back of a linoleum board

  • Cutter to cut pieces of linoleum to the right size

  • Some chisels or gouges (some “u” shape and “v” shape). Kits contain the handle and a set of different blades.

    Wooden and plastic handles

Different types of blades

  • Tracing paper to transfer your initial drawing

  • Some ink or paint (you can buy special inking paint for linoleum, but I have used gouache and acrylic with good results)

  • A brayer to ink your carved linoleum.

This technique is easier than woodcutting because there is no grain and you can carve in any direction.

If you follow these simple rules, you will have completed your first linocut in (almost) no time:

  • Never, I repeat: NEVER put your fingers in front of the chisel blade. When you press on the piece of linoleum with the hand that is not holding the chisel in order to prevent it from moving, make sure your finger are behind the blade at all time.

  • Start with a small “v” shape chisel to delineate the drawing and only use the bigger chisel later.

  • Do not rush. If you are too fast, the chisel will slip on the surface and scratch it where you don’t want to remove material.

Tea Time - Linocut by Benoit Philippe

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pascale said...

Very well explained, it doesn't seem too complicated and there are lots of possibilities.

Marc Snyder said...

Thanks for the link to my linocut tutorial! I agree that the way that a relief print strips your options down to the bones can really benefit someone working with a full range of hue and value.

Nice blog!!