As March is oncoming, and the days are lighter the plants are waking.
The seeds are sown, slowly growing under all that mulch, the roses are budding and here come the peonies and the snow blossoms…Winter has carved away everything that would distract from these beauties, much like relief printing.
Creating and carving out shapes of lino blocks, soft blocks, vinyls, rubber, PVC blocks, for the rest of the remaining shapes, to print onto paper.
The idea is that you carve away everything off the block, that is not the shape you want printed on paper.
Lets walk through the process of creating a lino/block carving, cutting and printing.
Today, I present (ahem) one of the characters I have recently printed. Let’s start with the concept and go from there.
For this piece I was inspired by Dita Von teese, her moxy and glamor. She represents the ultimate presenter, the show maker. The blood, sweat and tears. All the energy and great effort that goes into things things humans can do!
The Analyst and The Presenter; two sides of the same coin, where the conclusions derived from the analysis will need presenting across board, to speak to all levels of the audience spectrum. Find the necessary tools, Collate the data, analyze it, conclude results, present it. Every project manager, finance business analyst, business partner, ever.
The Analyst persona collates the data, analyses it to the Nth degree, creates a chart to display to the primary stakeholders. This persona steps off once the material is ready to be presented.
The Presenter side emerges, facing the stakeholders, understanding the audience, weaving and creating the story which will speak to the audiences across boards, throughout multiple layers of the organization.
Both sides of the coin are skilled, knowledgeable, deriving fluency from continual willingness to learn, constant micro-improvements, and daily applications.
Starting the journey, is a nugget of an idea: Ideas are always nebulous, by sketching they become less so. If I can pull the necessary pose into a sketch and it looks proportionate, then I refine it little by little. If it doesn’t work out, I try the pose, or hand pose, or ask others to pose quickly for me, so I can get a better idea of the general shape I’m looking for. Failing that I scour magazines or browse images.
All the while I refine the image until I have a sketch I’m happy with!
Next, I either resketch it onto the lino or use a carbon copy to flip it. It’s easy to forget that the transferred image, the final print, will be a mirror image to the one on the lino.
Next month we’ll go over how to carve and print!
The Analyst and the Presenter (TATP) was born out of the need for my mind to bridge between the Nusye that was the corporate desk worker (pre-pandemic) to the Nusye that is becoming the printmaker, the emerging creative, the carver of lino and vinyl blocks and the relief printer.
'Lino printing is a form of relief print, using Lino or vinyl or rubber blocks: the desired design is carved out of the linoleum surface, using sharp tools like a sharp scalpel, or a v-gouge or u-gouge tools (see mushroom-headed wooden handled tools above).
It is imperative to introduce the fact that Lino printing creates a picture that is a mirror image onto paper. The beauty of Lino blocks is that they are made of compressed composites of cork, sawdust, oil with hessian or burlap backing. Being compressed allows smooth surface area. Then, unlike woodblocks, Lino blocks have no actual grains of directions to interfere with the carving of the designs. Even better, there are now multiple variants of Lino blocks, of vinyls and rubber varieties - where the surface area for carving is engineered to provide softer surfaces for easier and faster carving time.
Please note: I loosely refer to the block as a ‘Lino’ block or ‘soft block Lino’. The puritan relief print artists may insist I refer to these as ‘vinyls. For the purpose of this article and its wider audience, I will continue to refer to the block as ‘Lino’.
Prepare For Print
TATP print started as a one-block print intended to express as a monochrome print.
As seen from the carved blocks , what is carved away becomes the blank spaces, the ‘negative space’’;
The uncarved surface gets inked to be printed.
Ink is introduced to the surface using a roller. Once the ink is evenly rolled out onto the Lino block, I choose a particular paper to print the inked block onto.
In this instance, I use Snowdon 120gsm (Weighted at 120 grams per square meter) paper; a sufﬁciently smooth-surfaced cartridge paper. This allows for an even-toned transfer of ink from block to paper, giving a continuous and steady print.
Generally, I hand-burnish my prints, i.e., using own hands and physical pulling power to rub the paper on the inked block, transferring the ink onto the paper surfaces.
I use a Japanese bamboo baren to rub the back of the paper to allow ink transfer from the block.
The baren size allows for A4 paper.
Another tool I also use for for hand-burnishing is a smooth tumble stone (rhodochrosite) on a particular area of the print. The tumble stone allows for spot-focus for smaller areas; because ink may need more pressure at certain areas to transfer onto paper. The tumble stone gives a more controlled, concentrated pressure on small areas.
The spot pressures allow more direct control for ink application: In TATP, I ﬁnd I have to add more pressure around the larger inked areas to ensure even and regular ink distribution on paper.
In the pictures above you can see small strips of washi tapes attaching the paper to the surface. These are makeshift (cunning!) aids of registration of the paper. The washi tapes hold the paper steady whilst I burnish the paper onto the ink.
Whilst hand-burnishing allows printing for anywhere and independence from special tools, it also has its limitations;
Hand-burnishing my prints whilst working from home limits current printing sizes to small-scale: from A6 (105mm x 148mm) to A4 (210mm x 297mm) sizes.
Using Appropriate Tools
If I work on larger Lino blocks, I will prefer using the help of a cast iron printing press, which helps with even pressure across a wider area. When I can, I visit the local printmaking studio, which is equipped with four printing presses, two of which are large structures from as early as late19th Century. Above is a picture of the 1982 Albion press I have used recently to print the new Red&Blue editioned series of The Analyst and The Presenter.
The Albion press is an early iron hand printing press, originally designed and manufactured in London by Richard Whittaker Cope around 1820. It worked by a simple toggle action, and were used for commercial book-printing until the middle of the nineteenth century.
This cast iron beast is an incredibly solid and kindly press, though I would urge anyone using ‘Sir Albi’ to treat it with respect.
After everything is smooth and well pressed, it’s time for the Reveal Peel. For TATP, I am happy that the ink has been
transferred evenly and smoothly onto the paper.
TATP as monochrome (black and white) print, framed in black. The ﬁnal results of The Analyst and The Presenter when framed, above, displays a reasonable rendition of the hand-burnished original print. It is worth adding a reminder here that the printed version is a mirror image of the Lino block, as previously mentioned in earlier paragraph.
One of the best lessons for me were when I carved a simple message for my Mum – it read :
“With original prints, the original artwork IS THE PRINT ITSELF. The image may have been created in a variety of ways, by being etched into a plate, or drawn onto a lithographic stone, or engraved out of a block of wood for example. The finished work is only created by inking up and taking an impression from this plate, stone or block. The work does not exist in any other form.
There may be a small number of this same impression produced, always in a limited edition, which is denoted by the number often written on the front of the work showing what number in the edition that impression is, with the full number of the edition produced underneath this top number.”
-Copyright © 2022 The Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers
Back to the TATP multiple block print.
In addition of the initial monochrome block, I have created three others - all designed to be almost-identical. All carved manually, perhaps painstakingly, to align with each other. The idea is to allow any two blocks to align and be printable on their own; with the third block, whilst adding more colours and tonal layer, is not a necessity to make the print complete. That is to say, it adds, not take away from the whole picture. It may sound like over-engineering, but all it takes is a little inspiration and a small amount of planning.
To start with, the monochrome remains the key block; The block which pulls all the others together, that is to say, all other blocks provide colours and tones. I use this as primary template, where I print onto a tracing paper/vellum/transparent paper. The dimensions for this allows me to swiftly transfer the design onto another block for necessary measurements and alignments for registering the blocks onto the printed paper.
Three more blocks are carved after carefully sizing the designs and repeat printing onto the blocks to ensure alignment.
I hope you have enjoyed this lino printing adventure. Along the way, I hope it has sparked an interest where you may wish to practice handmade traditional printing process.
My current project is creating linoprint tutorial videos for the veterans of the Veterans Outreach Support (VOS) charity in Portsmouth, Hampshire, UK. The videos will aid the veterans to maintain focus and engagement with creativity and allowing those isolated and remote to continue being creatively engaged. To raise funds, I am currently selling the monochrome TATP on SouthSeaEyes ko-fi page on https://ko-fi.com/southseaeyes .
Keep creating! I am Nusye McComish of @southseaeyes (instagram) saying Cheerio.