Reduction lino: attempt II

Oxford’s Bridge of Sighs

Mastering the art of printmaking means being able to produce several perfect prints in a row. (Perfect meaning identical and neat.) I think the reduction technique was a bit too challenging for a starting point, but here I am.

I am happy to share my mistakes in this blog, along with any successes. I want to learn from these mistakes and do something different next time. This is why I am including videos as well as photos of my process/progress. I will be uploading these videos onto my YouTube page.

For my second lino experiment, keeping with the Oxford theme, I chose to work with this image of the Bridge of Sighs, from Instagram:

In order to work with this photo, I flipped the image and posterised it using photoshop.

The Process

Tracing onto the lino, then cutting the design into the lino.

The first areas I removed would appear as the white of the paper:

First layer.

Second layer

For the second layer, I removed the areas of the image where I wanted the first layer to show through.

Using a cloth, I removed ink from the bridge area. This meant I could add red ink to print in a third layer later, (once the first 2 layers were dry). This left a blank area where the underside of the bridge is:

Third layer

I wanted to feature the red-orange of the underside of the bridge, as the colour looks striking in the photograph. I mixed yellow and red ink to achieve the bright colour:

Printing second layer with the orange ink as a test
I knew I wanted the bridge to be bright, so I masked the bride area of the print
After removing the tape, I had a neat area of red ink
I practiced on an imperfect print. The red bridge stands out but almost weakens the rest of the image.

WATCH Bridge of Sighs – applying ink

I then changed tactics. By applying ink to the bottom half of the lino plate, I was able to spread the bright colour across the print and therefore gives it more overall harmony.

These were the results:

As you see, there were:

  • some slight misalignments
  • inky fingerprints at the edge of the paper
  • ink not sticking to the flat area of the bridge
  • uneven prints
Printing onto brown sugar-paper

I wouldn’t call any of the prints successful. I liked some more than others, but it was frustrating to end up with messy results and to have made some silly mistakes that could have been avoided. I know this is part of learning.

Is it OK to say I like imperfection?

Learning Linocut

The last time I tried my hand at lino-printing, I was working on the FMP (final major project) of my Art & Design diploma. That was in summer 2021. One year later, I’m returning to lino. I missed the carving sensation and the satisfaction of building a work methodically- Something I only learnt to appreciate after working on screen-printing at Oxford Brookes.

My final piece for the exhibition ‘Metamorphosis’ at City of Oxford College, June 2021. I used lino-printing for the image of the fish. This method allowed me to reproduce many copies of the image.

First I needed a subject. This wasn’t hard, I’ve had my mind on buildings recently. I found this photo I took of Oxford castle (below). I Like the variety of elements: soft sky, crumbling brick castle, rushing river.

I reversed the image and posterised it using photoshop. Posterising the photo allowed me to view separate layers. Reversing it meant the print would end up the correct way around:

Then I got to work:

I chose the reduction technique to allow me to print more than one colour. I first carved the areas I wanted to stay white.

I then remembered to wash the lino with washing up liquid before printing with it.

I mixed a cold-toned green for the castle and river. I kept the colour paler at this stage. I am using water-based block printing inks.

My first print. I can see I did not apply enough ink to the printing plate.

I left the first layers to dry for about 12 hours before printing the second layer.

(below) I did not align the 2 layers accurately.

After printing the first layer, I glued a scrap of yellow card onto the print.

I mixed green into the ink for the darker layer, instead of the plain black used in other prints. I still wasn’t getting the alignment spot-on, and I could see the paper was shifting as I laid it down.

Applying less pressure onto the roller helped when transferring the ink from the plate to the lino.

What worked and what didn’t?

  • I need more practice/ a different method for aligning the paper.
  • The colours expressed something earthly which I liked.
  • The cartridge paper worked well.
  • I don’t like the brick texture on the tower, I wasn’t careful enough with my mark-making.
  • The watercolour background worked well.
  • I could have glued the collage background a bit more carefully.
  • I could work on simplifying/ improvising the design instead of including every detail from the photo.

Some details from the novel-background print:

Printing onto brown sugar-paper.