This is my first linocut in 10 years. The last one I made was at university, in a lovely print studio with a beautiful big press. I recently got into stamp carving, and thought I’d try to up my game a bit with some lino and a small handmade press I made myself (really a glorified flower press). Using a strawberry plant on my balcony as inspiration, I cut a small block to test the best setup.
I vaguely remembered lino cutting being painful, and needing to keep plasters close at hand. So I built myself a bench block, which helped a lot and actually (for the record) I DIDN’T CUT MYSELF ONCE. What.
Then I had so many variations on materials that I wanted to experiment with. I ended up dabbling around with two basic black inks: Akua Intaglio and Daler Rowney Water-Soluble block printing colour. I found barely any visible difference between the resulting prints, but preferred the more velvety texture of the Akua ink whilst working with it. Both are water-soluble and make for a quick and tidy clean-up, with no harsh chemicals that oil-based inks need.
I did the whole session on a big glass plate, occasionally putting the press on the floor to kneel on it so I could tighten the wing nuts, which worked a treat. Definitely an improvement on the low-pressure ”baren” technique. You can see from the photos that I still had issues with the paper creasing around the corners of the block, which I attribute to uneven application of pressure (I pressed too hard at the corners). I think this was worse on the Fabriano paper. I’d definitely go straight to the 100% cotton rag again; the 50% cotton Fabriano paper just gave more problems overall. It just didn’t seem to pick up the ink as well, though I did like the starker contrast between the white paper and black ink. The price difference between the two papers is worth it.
I then wanted to add colour, and kept it simple with green watercolour and red Prismacolor pencil (the red watercolour wasn’t as vibrant as I wanted). Both worked well with the ink and paper.
I’m pretty happy with the results. Of course there’s a long way to go until I’ve nailed a reliable setup and printing process, but I’m already happy enough to have given a couple of these away as gifts. It’s so satisfying to be able to pull multiple originals on my dining table, and I’ll definitely try it again. Small ‘snapshots’ of my balcony garden are something I’ve been wanting to capture for a long time, so I think I’ll be making a series. I’ll update with my progress next time!