This project doesn’t actually ask us to create a design using some of the experimental tools we’ve been using on lino, however it does ask us to speculate in what circumstances these random marks might be useful. I decided to cut a lino block anyway and try to incorporate some of my test marks from earlier posts.
Some weeks ago in the botanic gardens I visited and photographed the lotus plant area. It’s a large densely packed swampy section with huge elephant ear leaves rising in a carpet above the water. The lotus flowers were long over, leaving their dried pods stretching high above the green foliage.
After photocopying this several times I worked on individual copies gradually bringing out some depth and dimension to the plants. However, the time came when I really needed to see it in reverse so I could assess how it would look as a print.
Wow, strong imagery and it’s ready for further thought on which of my experimental marks to include.
I added another smaller pod and a lower leaf as the lino felt slightly sparse and the feeling of density I had witnessed wasn’t showing through. Then I made some rough pen marks to indicate where I want to use some of my less-traditional mark-making tools.
I’m happy with it as it’s a good composition, a balance of positive and negative space and interesting subject matter.
I cut the main 4 components using either a 1mm or .5mm lino cutter. I then used the end of a needle file to make thinner lines forming the smaller pod and the base leaf. Lines were scratched vertically alongside the pod stems with a small saw blade. Along the top I scrubbed very hard with steel wool to create a softer print area.
Printed on Gyoleuryu paper I mixed pthalo green with a touch of black + 40% extender. I rolled very lightly and the print shows this. I didn’t have enough ink on the plate to get a good image, it’s a bit speckled. However, even with this small amount of ink the whole steel wool treated area has been fully printed, the vertical scratches barely show and the additional pod and leaf are hardly visible. Not a good start.
I put aside the needle file and used the slightly fatter end of my hand brayer to go over the pod and leaf. I wanted them visible but not as solid as the main images. I scratched more lines, deeper and denser, vertically next to the stems and used a flat metal file to scratch more away along the top edges. It was hard work.
The ink felt very dry and wasn’t easy to roll so instead of wasting good paper I went with plain newsprint for the next two samples.
What’s going on? What’s with this terrible speckly coverage? OK, one thing came out of this – my additional work on the lino is now showing through quite successfully, but the ink is simply not adhering to the surface of the lino, it looks fine once rolled but doesn’t transfer. However, it doesn’t look good on the roller itself, it seems too sticky. I’ve got an ink problem. Time to clean up and restart.
OK, so how to remedy this problem? I added a couple of drops of plate oil to the mixture and started to get a bit better coverage but now I have a familiar line across the top quarter of the prints. Above left, 110gsm cartridge paper. Right, Arches 250gsm smooth.
This piece of lino is cut from a larger piece, some of which I used for my experimental mark-making last week. I noted in my post then that it wasn’t great and I was getting an unexplained line across the prints. You can see it along the bottom but exactly the same shape as I’m getting on my new prints. Could there be a fault in the lino piece?
The more I printed the more the top scratch marks filled with ink and the less they appeared, So I took a rough rag and flicked it lightly over where my marks were, thus removing some of the ink build up. This is very evident on the left image ( on 110gsm cartridge paper) and works well.
Is it cheating? I don’t think so. How about looking at this project in a different way. Instead of killing my arms by having to scratch furiously and being scared witless about cutting my hands by trying to score marks in the lino with unusual tools why not roll ink over the main design and then use the tools to draw into the ink instead? A sort of mixed lino and monoprint effect.
Above right is my best print – on 110gsm cartridge paper. I added some blue to make a paynes grey colour. I rolled multiple times but very lightly, desperately trying to eliminate as much of the unwanted line as possible, and I left much of the ink sitting in the top scratches. Yes, quite a lovely outcome.
The brayer drawing of the small pod and the bottom back leaf are definitely finer than the front images. The linework in that leaf, done with a pushpin, is also not too prominent but can still be clearly identified. The vertical linework alongside the stems has given interest to a fairly empty section. The only thing that was hard to achieve was a generalised softer tone in the top area. I think using a rag to gently wipe away some ink from the lino before printing is a better way to achieve this than trying to scratch with files, sandpaper or steel wool – all of which I tried without great success.