"The technical procedures doubtless release the energies in the artist that remain unused in the much more lightweight processes of drawing or painting"
-Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (on printmaking)
I am an artist that likes to feel my materials moving under the strength of my hands. I enjoy the work of plying canvas and driving nails for framing as much as the gentle sweeping of paint or shading of graphite. Printmaking allows me to create art with a physicality that is very rewarding. Ernst Kirchner, one of the first artists to utilize linoleum for printmaking art, spoke truth. I am producing a collection of original limited edition hand-pulled linocut prints featuring musicians, travel, and wildlife, so I invite you into my studio to see the process!
Meet the tools:
Tools for linocut printmaking (clockwise from top left): fine art printmaking paper, baren, carving tool, professional grade printing ink, carving blocks (classic linoleum or modern rubber), inking brayers
See the process:
Step 1: Drawing-
Every print starts as a drawing. Most are drawn directly from life, especially my musician series. I attend many live events and sketch the artists at work. I also draw from memory, creating imaginative original compositions, and from reference photographs when traveling too fast to stop to create art on the spot.
Step 2: Transferring-
Each drawing has to be transferred in reverse on to a carving block. Notice how the horn players on the bottom right of the photograph are flipped from the original sketchbook drawing? I use tracing paper and pencil to move the image from my sketchbook to the linoleum.
Step 3: Carving-
Carving tools with different point sizes and shapes remove the linoleum from the block. I work carefully around the lines I want to print in the final image. Everything carved away will not print, so I am constantly evaluating what will be seen in the final image. If linoleum is cut away accidentally, the print block will be ruined. Color, shape, and line all have to be thoughtfully arranged to create a dynamic composition. I want the print to be more visually exciting than the original drawing.
Step 4: Printing-
Printing begins when I feel I have started to conclude carving. If I carve too much away, the block is spoiled, so I start making test prints to determine the final stages of carving. I reserve the successful test prints as "Artist Proofs," which are special pieces outside of the limited edition. These are kept for reference for future work, and often given to family, friends and to support special events.
To create a print, I roll out printmaking ink onto a palette with a brayer (top left) and then roll the inked brayer over the print block. I load the brayer with ink multiple times to achieve complete coverage over the block. Consistency is key: too much ink will fill in detailed lines, and not enough will leave bare patches on the print. Next I select a sheet of fine art paper to place on top of the block and rub the back of the paper with a baren or tool (a flat metal serving utensil shown here) using even pressure to transfer ink to the paper.
Step 5: Drying-
When the ink has been completely transferred, the paper is gently peeled back from the block and hung on a line to complete drying overnight. Once dry, the completed edition and proofs are signed, titled and numbered in graphite on each print.
Step 6: Matting-
Artwork on paper is very delicate, and susceptible to creases, tears and damage from liquids. I protect my artwork on paper by matting each piece in acid-free, archival materials. Read more about the matting and framing process.
Every print is backed with acid-free foam core, which has been stamped by hand with the Elysian Studios logo. The final steps of matting and mounting my prints makes it easy for collectors to frame their new art and start enjoying it right away.
Step 7: Packaging-
Each matted piece of art is placed in a poly art care bag, protecting it from dust, liquid and surface damage. I enclose a Certificate of Authenticity with the title, medium, date and signature of the individual piece of art. I love creating every one of my artworks, so I treat them with care to ensure they are delivered in excellent condition to their new homes. Thank you for stopping by to see how I make my original limited edition linocut prints! Read more about what makes linocut prints so special.