LINOLEUM PRINTMAKING PROJECT
|Linoleum cut - front detail|
|Linoleum cut - outline|
Printmaking is the process of making artworks by printing as a mean of producing multiple images, which are created from a single surface, known technically as a matrix or a plate. The prints are multipliable, duplicable, easy to transport and exhibit. Although we had used reference photos to create our work, there is an element of originality through the process creating prints.
This printmaking (linocut) unit was intended to teach us the basic, necessary skills for carving linoleum and printing out prints from the finished double-side linoleum. We started out with the pencil tracing process to trace the outlines from the reference photo to the tracing paper. We then flip the tracing paper and rub its surface onto the linoleum, the pencil traces will be shown. Repeat the following step to print the details of pencil tracing. The carving process is divided into two steps, we firstly carved out the outline of the figure on one side the linoleum, and then carved the details on the other. In order to show the best results, I produced 6 prints and picked the 4 best prints out of them.
The following are some key terms and main ideas introduced in this unit:
Offset lithography: The image is transferred from the stone or plate to a roller on the press, which then prints the inked image onto the paper.
Linoleum cut: A relief technique of printmaking, but using linoleum rather than traditionally used wood.
|Inks used: yellow, orange, red, white|
|Inks used: black, grey|
|Inks used: blue, purple, red, white, green|
Brayer (A small, hand-held rubber roller used to spread printing ink evenly on a surface before printing)
Inks (Blue, orange, yellow, red, silver, black, green, purple, white)
Carving tools (sharp knife, chisels with U, V-shaped blades)
Bench hook (Around, smooth pad, either flat or slightly convex, used to press the paper against an inked wood or linoleum block to lift an impression from the block.)
I believe that I succeeded carving out both the accurate shape of the outline as well as the details. For the second print (silver and black), the details were nicely shown on the print. For the third print (blue, red, purple, and green colored one), I tried to use a mixture of multiple colors. The print turned out to be really colorful with a change in the gradient of color and is visually enjoyable. Consider my project as a whole, I not only further acquired the printmaking skills which I had experience on, I also produced fruitful results -- the four prints that I am particularly proud of.
Linoleum cutting wasn't a challenge for me, instead, the process of printing took me a few attempts to succeed. I originally wished to use creative backgrounds such as newspaper collage but unfortunately failed, since the paper mache made the surface of paper bumpy and unable to reveal the complete print. For the third print (colorful one), although the blending of multiple colors looks good, the excess ink made the details not as clear as the second one (silver and black). If I could do this project again, I would definitely wish to improve my actual step of printing.
The second project in our printmaking unit was linoleum printing, a kind a printing that involved a material called linoleum. Linoleum is a rubbery substance that comes in flat rectangular pieces, and while its original purpose was to cushion floor tiles, artists discovered its unique printmaking properties. This is because linoleum is especially easy to carve, and while it is flexible enough to bend, it doesn't get out of shape easily either. That is why for this project, the main skills learned were tracing, carving techniques, blending and rolling out printing ink, and finally, the actual printing itself.
Part I: Tracing and Carving
The materials used for this part were as follows: 6B pencil, printed out owl picture, tracing paper, flat linoleum piece, black permanent marker, and metal carving tools.
The first step in creating our linoleum print was to decide on which animal to print. For me, my choice was an owl, so taking a sheet of tracing paper, I placed it on top of an owl photo and used a 6B pencil to trace it. The actual photo had many minute details that I couldn't possibly carve later on, so in places with these details, I would use creativity to simplify them into my own designs. It was important that we use a 6B or any B pencil with a high number. This was because these pencils had softer graphite, making it easy to smear or transfer them.
After tracing, we would place our linoleum blocks on top of the tracing paper and outline the edges of the linoleum. Then, turning it over so that the linoleum was on the bottom and the tracing paper on the top, we use the tips of our pencils to apply pressure all along the traced image. This would transfer the soft lead onto the linoleum and leave a mirrored image of our animals, or in my case, an owl. It was important to match the traced edges up while doing this so that when we repeated the transferring process to the other side of the linoleum, the image would stay exactly the same.
Now that my traced owl image was on the linoleum, we proceeded to trace and thicken the lines with black permanent marker. On one side of the linoleum, only the outline of the owl would be traced. On the other side, both outline and inside details would be traced. Pencil lead easily rubs off, so tracing with marker had two purposes: The first was to prevent our traced image from rubbing off, and the second was to offer an easier guide for when we began carving. All of the white spaces without marker were to be carved away, so the thicker marker lines would be easier to see and carve around.
Once this tracing with black permanent marker was completed, the carving finally began. Our carving tools were wedge-shaped, and all of the different carving heads were different variations of "U" or "V" shapes. Mr. Laurence warned us that the two basic rules to successful and safe carving were to always carve in the direction away from yourself and to never place your hands in the carving tool's path. Following these rules, we then used the tools to first carve the outline of our animal. I found that the linoleum carved super easily, somewhat like butter, so it really depended on your own control to get the carved lines you wanted. Any space that was carved away would later not show up on the final prints, so it took a while to carve away all of the space surrounding my owl's outline. For these large areas to carve, it was much easier to use a large "V" headed carving tool, allowing you to carve more area easily and deeply. However, it was important to not carve too deep, for there was still a flip side that had to be carved.
Now that the owl's outline had been carved out, the other side had to also be carved. Once again, I began with carving the outline first, then once all the linoleum surrounding it had been carved away, I then proceeded to the details inside. Since these details were smaller and required more precision, I switched my carving tool to a smaller "V" shaped head. I found that it was much easier to carve away larger portions first, then leaving all of the smaller spaces until later. During this process, it was important to not cut into the black marker lines so that they remained when we started printing. To easily carve away spaces that were facing different directions, instead of moving your carving tool, it was also much simpler to adjust the linoleum block's direction.
Some difficulties I faced during this first part was definitely the carving process. While the owl's outline was easy enough to carve out, I found the edges of the linoleum to be a bit challenging. If you approached the edge from inside the linoleum block, it wouldn't clean carve through. Instead, it would only rip around the edges, leaving the edges uncarved. However, I soon discovered that if you carved from the outside edge inwards, you could successfully carve away the edge. Another challenge was carving the tiny details inside my owl. If you carved too deep with a small-headed tool, the tool would get stuck and having trouble "resurfacing". Later, I solved this by not carving so deeply in these detailed areas and made sure to switch my tool sizes according to the spaces that needed carving.
Selected Owl Print #1: Black ink on red, orange, and yellow background
Selected Owl Print #2: Black ink on bright blue and turquoise-green (from left to right) background
Selected Owl Print #3: Black ink on turquoise-green and bright blue (from left to right) background
Part II: Inking and Printing
The materials used for this part were as follows: apron, double-sided carved owl print on linoleum block, brayer, barren, plastic palette knives, block printing ink, plastic inking tray, wooden block-printing registration board, printing paper, and a hairdryer.
With our linoleum block already carved, we could now move on to the actual printing. The printing techniques we used with linoleum were actually similar to the process for wood-block printing. The first step was to get an apron on and use palette knives to scoop small amounts of desired ink onto inking trays. The first print we would make would be the silhouette of our animal, so a lighter colored ink would stand out more. I tried out many different ink colors, but the ones I eventually chose to present in this blog post were the ones where I combined two colors into an ombre effect.
Once we selected what color ink to make our animal's silhouette, we would use our brayers to roll out the ink until its texture was consistent and slightly sticky. Then, we used the ink on the brayers to roll the ink onto the silhouette side of our linoleum block, making sure to cover the entire surface with ink. We then placed the linoleum block, inked side facing upwards, onto a wooden block-printing registration board, tucking one side of the block into the board's registration corner. Next we tucked the corner of a piece of printing paper into that same corner and carefully placed it parallel on top of the linoleum. Using a hand to keep the paper in place, the barren was then used to apply pressure in all areas where the ink would go.
At first, I did this in a circular motion, but I soon realized that this created too much unwanted paper movement, smearing the print below. After this, I changed my technique and only applied pressure in one direction away from myself. This proved to be effective, for most of my following prints were solid and smear-free. Once pressure was evenly applied with the barren, you could then lift the printed paper off the linoleum and leave it on the drying rack.
Each time a print was made, you would have to wash your inking tray, brayer, and linoleum block if you wanted to print in another color. This process was repeated several times (I made a total of around ten prints just in case), and these prints were left to dry. The next class, everything was repeated, except with darker ink colors on the detailed animal carving side of the linoleum. In addition, instead of using blank sheets of printing paper, we used the printing paper with our lighter colored animal silhouettes. It was important to keep both the paper and linoleum block registered with the registration board so that the prints wouldn't be too far off each other.
This time, it wasn't as easy to dry the washed linoleum block because of all the carved details. It was important that the blocks were dry before reprinting so that the ink won't smear or run, so we used hairdryers to speed up the drying process. Once again, we placed our printed works onto the drying rack at the end.
Some difficulties I encountered during the printing process included applying the right amount of pressure with the barren and getting the two prints to align with each other. For many of my earlier prints, I found that I hadn't applied enough pressure in different patches around the print. This was because when I applied pressure with the barren, I did so randomly and couldn't remember whether or not I had already one over a patch. To solve this, I would work systematically applying pressure from the left to the right, then right to the left, paying special attention to the edges of my print. This worked, for my later prints were all solidly printed.
The second challenge was aligning my prints. What happened was that when I traced the detailed side of my owl, I had accidentally moved the alignment out of place so that the carved owls were already different. However, I soon realized that the error was small enough that if I carefully registered both block and printing paper exactly the same time during printing, the misalignment would become less obvious. Despite this obvious mistake, it added a special charm to my print, making it look artistically imperfect. That is why, after all of these prints, I believe my final three chosen prints remain very unique.