Project 9: Experimental Mark Making on Lino


Project 9: Experimental Mark Making on Lino

This project will allow you to experiment with different tools to create a broader range of cuts and textures that linocutters  alone can not offer.

After ransacking both kitchen and tool shed, I emerged with a random selection of tools and implements that would hopefully make some kind of mark on my test lino block.

Selection of implements for mark making on lino

Selection of implements for mark making on lino

  1. Small flat head screwdriver – Most marks were very straight, even if I tried to curve the line, it became angular as there was no flexibility in the blade. I couldn’t make a mark with the flat end of the tool as it wasn’t sharp enough.  Although repeatedly scraping backwards and pushing the blade into the lino made some impressions. Most marks were made by using the corner of the blade. Wiggling it from side to side made a nice, uniform pattern.
  2. Tile saw blade – As it’s a straight blade, I had to bend it into a curve to be able to make any marks at all. When I moved the blade back and forth in a sawing motion to scrape the lino, it didn’t actually cut as such. By using the curve and therefore a wider surface area, the tiny teeth of the blade made a set of lines and these could be changeable in width according to pressure used. Again  curves were difficult to produce, however a nice calligraphy type style could be made but only in an angular shape. No deep cuts could be made.
  3. Stanley Knife – Although the blade is sharp and clean cuts could be made – it was very unwieldy to use and I was aware that it cut better pulling the knife towards me rather than away from me, which was a little worrying. I thought I would be able to cut shapes out easily but I was unable to gouge out the centre of them – so I would have to use another implement in conjunction with the knife. I also cut right through the lino a couple of times. Any marks made were very fine and I don’t think they would print much if anything.
  4. Fork – This was more interesting to use and safer. I could make the more obvious straight marks with the four prongs. However, by adding pressure and twisting the fork into the lino, it produced the most successful curves/almost circles so far. It was difficult to achieve a complete circle but was effective none the less. Thickness of line could be varied also by using the fork flat on or sideways. By twisting the end prong into the lino, nice circular holes could be made.
  5. Assortment of keys – I had what appeared to be padlock keys – like small Yale type. These made some scraping marks but did not cut deep. Other keys may have been for bicycle locks – with a stubby cylindrical end with slight variations at the opening. These made some interesting circular marks, particularly where the actual “key” notches were, by pressing and twisting into the lino. Neither made a deep imprint.

    Text block on easy cut lino replacement

    Text block on easy cut lino replacement – numbered 1-10 left to right down the page

  6. Pastry cutter wheel – Why is it the implements that you would assume make the most interesting marks turn out the least successful? It made minimal impact on the lino although  the faint marks were attractive – I’m not convinced they will print at all.
  7. Smaller flat head screwdriver – this was a little sharper than the first screwdriver and also made good wiggly marks. As this was a little smaller and easier to handle, I tried using it as if drawing rather than cutting and it could be useful for texturing marks.
  8. Small pair of scissors – Using the tips of the blades and actually scissoring  into the lino, made interesting pairs of marks that were not at all symmetrical. I also used just one blade and “drew” with it. Producing slightly curved lines was possible this way. I also managed to gouge circles with just one blade point.
  9. 7cm long brass screw – I thought I’d be able to draw and make lines with the pointed end, but no – it wouldn’t move in the lino. It did however, make good stabbing marks on its point and slightly angled. I tried using it on its side with the spirals but nothing at all appeared. The screw head also failed to make an impression.
  10. Fruit zester – After the pastry cutter, I did not hold out much hope. However, this actually had the best gouging capabilities although it seemed to blunt quite quickly. It could make light marks similar to fret work patterns, or by  exerting more pressure, make deeper ones although not for such a long stretch. It could also, be dug in and twisted  to give a set of curves. Using it sideways gave fairly ordinary faint lines.

    Print from test lino block

    Print from test lino block – as reversed, the sections are numbered 1-10 right to left down the page

Once I’d completed my ten squares of experimental marks, I prepared some red oil based ink and some A3 sheets of cartridge paper. I pulled two prints which were a little faint, replicating the lack of intensity I had experienced in Project 8. Then I remembered reading that dampening the printing paper may help the ink adhere more successfully. This I did by wetting both sides of the paper sheets and then pressing them between sections of kitchen paper – this made the paper consistently damp but not wet. This worked much better and my next two prints were sharp and intense in colour.

Looking at my test prints, apart from random scratches and more organic marks and shapes, some of the implements used have created quite an urban and/or industrial feel. I then reviewed my test print of marks to establish the most successful of the selection. These proved to be:

  • Small flat head screwdriver (1) – wiggled side to side and reminded me of cogs/wheels/chains. If they could be made into arcs, it would be reminiscent of gearing. Some of the other marks could be sparks flying from a furnace or welding equipment.

    Review of best marks from the selection

    Review of best marks from the selection

  • Stanley knife (3) – using the corner of the blade, these have the irregular appearance of  globules of molten metal being flung through the air. Other very thin strokes made by the knife didn’t actually leave a white mark but, instead, a darker line or streak where the ink collected. These could be the “tail” a bright light leaves in the vision after it has  gone.
  • Smaller flat head screwdriver (7) and 7cm brass screw (9) – both used in stabbing and flicking motions gave a varied set of marks in both size and depth. both 7 and 9 placed in my mind the pitted mark that molten metal can scar other metal surfaces – as if sparks were flying around and landing on other things in their vicinity. This fits in with the other elements mentioned.
  • Fruit zester (10) – These marks remind me of grids or lattice – particularly in metal, looking through railings or bars/portcullis and such rusty metal structures. Because I had used red ink, I think this made me think of heat, the shapes I discovered made me think industrial – therefore metal or steel works.

I then made thumbnail sketches trying to develop and expand on these ideas for my experimental lino print.

Thumbnails of ideas to explore

Thumbnails of ideas to explore


Considering colour to emphasise atmosphere for the experimental lino print:

Colour tests for print

Colour tests for print

The colours I would choose would have a large impact on the atmosphere I wanted to convey. I wanted to show heat and bright white light that would reach into dark, musty corners of a workshop or industrial steel works. I had some inks that would be useful in orange, brown and copper but they were water-soluble, plus I needed some other colours to help create the vision I had. As needs must, I had another attempt at using acrylic paint mixed with printing block medium and experimented with yellow, red and ultramarine blue. Once mixed in and left for a few minutes, the medium became tacky enough to obtain that “sound” when rolled which indicates it’s the right consistency. I wasn’t sure whether to mix some colours or just layer them to give a subtle overlaid colour mixing effect. I settled for a combination, the yellow and orange were fairly “out of the box”. I had an “iron” brown, that when mixed with copper produced a less flat colour with a hint of metallic. My main challenge was the dark – I’d tried mixing and layering the brown and ultramarine but neither method quite got dark enough. In the end, I decided to mix a little black ink with the ultramarine but also to dab off a little of it from the block after rollering from the lighter areas. This worked well to give depth in the darker corners and fine outline around the shapes.

Instead of drawing out the shapes on the lino, I just worked freehand reversing the drawings in the thumbnails so that it would print the right way round. My main mistake was not creating a cardboard jig for registering each layer accurately, I thought I could make it work by drawing guidelines on paper to align each colour because I was working so small (A5). I was very wrong and this spoiled what could have been a very interesting print. However, there’s no point making mistakes unless you learn from them and this has been one big lesson. Another lesson learnt was that when experimenting with other cutting tools etc, the same materials should be used in the actual work otherwise similar results can not be guaranteed. I used easy cut for the test block and grey lino for the final print block. They reacted in different ways to the zester tool for example. It had become a little blunt from the mark making trials anyway, and then using it on actual lino, which is much harder changed the marks considerably. I tried a few samples on some off-cuts of brown lino, which is harder than the grey but I gained more understanding by doing that.


Below are the four prints taken using the reductive technique and non lino cutting tools. The registration is very hit and miss and this has had a major detrimental effect on the result. However, I still like the prints – the atmosphere has been captured, the marks are very abstract and can suggest different images. My intention had been to create an illusion of hot, sweaty, noisy, dark with blasts of light and sparks place of industry and some elements of that have worked. I can also see an urban landscape depicted in almost thermal imaging of rows of terraced houses, factories etc – maybe the light source is the sun, maybe it’s just a flash of electricity emphasising the man-made world? When I showed my husband he saw an aerial view of where we live –  next to a large (dormant I hasten to add) volcano that has an urbanisation growing up around it – you may almost imagine the volcano coming to life and threatening the civilisation beneath it. I know this is probably the opposite to the intention of most print editions but I also like that there are differences between each one because of the dabbing off of the dark ink. It’s almost as if they are time-lapse photos of the same scene.

The final edition of four prints

The final edition of four prints

My favourites are, I think, 2 and 3.

Print 2 of 4

Print 2 of 4


Print 3 of 4

Print 3 of 4


Anyway, enough of being fanciful – the registration was still rubbish!


Research Point: Linocuts

26, 30 & 31/08/16

Research Point

Find a couple of contemporary printmakers whose work you like, and reflect on their techniques. How do they use lino? What sort of marks do they make? What could you learn from them?

Initially I looked over my tutor’s comments following on from my first assignment and researched some of the printmakers that had been noted. These, although, not strictly relating to linocuts but monoprints, were really inspiring for future work. I spent time looking at how they went through their individual processes and inspirations. My thoughts, along with ideas for future personal concepts are at the end of this post.

Regarding linocut printmaking in particular, I found some beautiful work and have selected a couple of the printmakers that particularly caught my eye. I have also created a Pinterest board, where I have pinned a small sample of the work that I really liked and/or found interesting:

Mark A Pearce

A painter and printmaker who lives and works in the Lake District, using his surroundings to create beautiful work. His linocuts are colourful and sharp, using the same block in a reductive technique to layer his colours and images, once cut they can not be reused for the earlier layers. I find this thought both terrifying and liberating. His mark making is very precise in appearance, although he manages to reproduce the natural shapes around him with some very straight and angular lines with directional cuts. From these he can produce stunning water reflections and ripples with lots of movement in water, skies and foliage. There are examples of strong contrasting colours and also of subtle shifts in tones of similar colours. The registration of each layer has to be spot on to create these sharp images, one that immediately springs to mind is of the boat in the water called Morning Reflection 42 x 26cm –

I was also struck by the differing scale of his prints along with orientation best suited to the compositions. Some were quite small at around 17x17cm and the largest I noted was 71x44cm, pretty big for a single block I would think. The images are very painterly, Mark himself, notes that his paintings can look like his prints and vice versa.


Angela Newberry

This printmaker has quite a different style – her prints are still colourful but in a more muted sense and I’m wondering whether this is, in part, due to the different papers she uses. This is something I have yet to explore in any depth, I have used different paper but only as far as newsprint, differing weights of cartridge and some fairly standard, flat and strong printing paper. Angela has used handmade papers such as Italian Fabriano, Japanese Hosho (made from the bark of the Kozo tree (paper Mulberry)) and Nepalese Lokta (from the Lokta plant, a member of the Laurel family) in different colours. Unfortunately, I can not really see the variety of printing quality on-screen as I’m sure I would in the “flesh”, however, with handmade paper there must be natural variations that give a unique quality to each print in an edition. The artist is based in Cornwall and Australia although is mostly inspired by the Australian landscape, however, there is a strong Japanese feel to her printmaking – maybe again, because of the papers?


Hosho Papers – Strong and soft, not liable to shrinkage or expansion. Natural colouring – unbleached.

Ref: David Bull’s Encyclopedia of Woodblock Printing,

Lokta Papers – Long lasting and durable, strong and easily foldable avoiding crinkling and corrugation, free from germs and highly resistant to insects. Made from the bark of the Lokta sampling when 5-7 feet tall, is cut from the base and regenerates over a few years and is a sustainable resource.


Other Recommended Printmakers

Suggestions from my tutor for printmakers to look at, again images I liked have been added to my Pinterest board – link above:

Terry Frost – Abstract/colourful/joyful

Richard Diebenkorn – Etchings

Pat Steir – Silk screen/etchings/monoprints over the top of screen prints – each individual – there are NO MISTAKES in art just discoveries – inspired by Chinese water painting.

Prunella Clough – Idea development – development of images and compositional choices. Landscapes and geology. Reducing and enlarging – industrial legacies – abstraction of images.

Helen Frankethaler – Abstraction – emotional overload – very expressive – more screen printing and monoprinting.

Shelley Burgoyne – Working from observation – Magadelena series – Etching & linocut. Fabulous pen and ink drawings from which to build prints. Very inventive and creative yet managing to continue to explore her main themes – always finding new ways to express them – thought to take away! Particularly like the Tide drawings 2x2m. Further thoughts in A4 sketchbook.

Possible themes for development:

Have been pondering where I can go regarding developing themes. Looking back at past courses and work, I am always interested in contrasts – be they shadow-light, hard-soft, jagged or rounded, industrial-natural. In Drawing and Painting 1, I was fascinated with cast shadows – making them as important as the object throwing them. Here in my new location, I am drawn to the volcanic rock which was once molten and fluid and is now solid yet can appear rounded or sharp.

  1. Examine contrasts as discussed above:
    1. shadow/light
    2. hard/soft
    3. angular/curved
    4. industrial/natural
  2. Female misogyny – this idea has been floating around in my head for a few months.
    1. what
    2. who
    3. why
    4. how
    5. competition?
    6. jealousy?
    7. male indoctrination?
    8. to be valued by men – the ultimate goal?

“Contrasts” would be more easily translated into a visual context – although for interest would benefit from abstraction and examining the feelings evoked.

Female misogyny, a more conceptual theme that would require much contemplation and expressive experimentation. Again, abstraction of emotions, rules applying to females across cultures, religions, the work place, family hierarchy – plus, I’m sure, many more angles. Maybe explore symbolism as well as expressionism.

Could the two themes be brought together – I’m sure they could with thought…


Project 5: Linocuts

Preparing a Test Linocut


For this project you will be trying out various linocutting tools to make marks. This will introduce you to the possibilities of the tools and the range of expression possible with linocutting.

I have tried linocutting only once before, several years ago, so this is a new experience. This time I could only source a lino alternative, which as stated in the course notes, is easier to cut and needs no pre-warming – although the climate here is very warm anyway.  I found other challenges with it, in that it is very smooth and it is easy to slip with the cutting tool when trying to use minimal pressure. I also found it difficult to achieve the final severance cut at the end of a mark, however, that could be due to inexperience. The off-cuts were also very soft, akin to grated cheddar, which made them difficult to remove from the cut material.

A4 lino marked into squares for mark making trials

A4 lino marked into squares for mark making trials


Lino replacement marked into squares, placed in bench hook with selection of cutting blades.








Squared up lino with blades to be used where.

Squared up lino with blades to be used where.



Cutting tools to be used are marked as follows:

V-tools in varying sizes across top two rows
Squared tool across third row
Curved tool across fourth row
Gouge tools in varying sizes across bottom two rows.






I seem to cope with these the best at the moment, particularly with the lino replacement. They seem to be more precise and manoeuvrable, although I had to be careful not to cut too deep. I managed to achieve a wide variety of marks that would be very useful to give texture and illusions of tone in an image. I liked the fact that I could make angular and curved cuts relatively easily and cleanly.

Square Tool:

This was good for wider cuts that maintained their width along the line rather than tapering. It would also be good for larger cut out areas. A corner of it could also be used in a similar way to the V-Tools, and also to graduate line thickness.

Curved Tool:

This one I struggled with most.  It seemed to have less cutting area and I couldn’t achieve much variety of mark. I found I could use it “upside down” as well as the right way up and I could create some leaf-like or tear drop shapes which were nice. On the whole though, it’s not one I would call on much at the moment I think.

Gouge Tools:

As with the V-Tools I had a range of sizes to try. I could create a good range of lines. I had more success with angular lines than curved, which surprised me – although again, this may be down to being a novice and practice may improve this. Rocking the blade from side to side, I made a line that gave some interesting textures and patterns.

Lessons Learnt:

  • Where precision is needed, the blades required careful handling on the lino replacement as they could easily skid off and make an unwanted mark.
  • Using a medium soft brush to sweep away off-cuts was useful to clear the lino.
  • Likewise to above, a hand-held vacuum was a great help to clear up.
  • Although I haven’t yet taken a print of the marks made, it did occur that all the textures are in negative, I will then have to take this into consideration if I want a positive mark.
  • Applying differing pressures greatly affects the variety of mark.
  • Sometimes the end cut would not come away cleanly, so a sharp scalpel blade was useful for this.
  • At times, I left the partially cut section attached, I am keen to see if this makes any “impression” when inked and printed. I am thinking of scales, feathers, fur etc textures – we shall see.
  • From the marks made it is clear to see I am right-handed, so I must be prepared to turn the lino to achieve different directions and angles in those marks.

Proofing the Lino


Proofing of a lino block, by rubbing through tracing paper with a soft pencil.

Proof of Mark Making Linocut on Tracing Paper

Proof of Mark Making Linocut on Tracing Paper


The proof of the linocut helped me see what cuts had or hadn’t worked. As mentioned in my lessons learnt above, I wasn’t sure if my cuts, where they hadn’t completely come away would show any result when printed. This showed that some texture may be achieved but in the main, nothing of any note appeared.






The proof tracing next to the actual linocut.

The proof tracing next to the actual linocut.



I thought it valuable to record the proof alongside the lino itself to see how they differed as much as how much they were alike.





I decided to use a scalpel to help define the incomplete cuts further, otherwise their subtlety would be lost. I also decided to cut the grid lines into the lino to help define each square.

Printing the Lino

On printing the lino the first time, I was pleasantly surprised by the result of the image itself, however, the edges were a little messy.  I had used a cloth to cover my printing table and the creases had taken up some ink which produced messy smudges along the edges. I moved the lino onto a clean glass plate, re-inked it and took another print. This was much cleaner and a little more uniform in its inking.

First attempt at pulling a print - the result was a little messy.

First attempt at pulling a print – the result was a little messy.

Second attempt at the print - cleaner and crisper generally.

Second attempt at the print – cleaner and crisper generally.











In your learning log make notes about how you might use the different textures and cut lines to represent your ideas. Do any immediately suggest a subject?

Many of the marks suggest organic shapes such as branches, reeds, grasses or leaves. Varying line thicknesses may denote perspective and/or tonal variations. I am delighted at how dramatic the images appear against the flat black. I can also see how tapered lines could suggest figures, their limbs and movement. For no specific subject, there is a dynamism in many of the images.

As for suggesting an actual subject, using a grid reference of A to D across the top and 1 to 6 down, I can particularly see in A2, a path or stream fading off into the distance with grasses or reeds bordering the way forward, overhanging leaves and branches. In B5, I can see a figure running towards the right with maybe, spectators around him. In many of the squares, there are parts of landscape and vegetation. At a stretch in B6, I see a figure seated beneath a sign or flag.

I can see so much potential to create striking images just by random marks and monochrome printing, I can’t wait to get started!


Project: Basic Paint Application – Exercise: Painting with Pastels


Painting with Pastels

Practice making marks and blending with pastels; if you have time, use the techniques you’ve discovered to make a simple picture…

Soft Pastels on Ingres Paper:

Painting with pastels. Mark making and blending with soft pastels.

Painting with pastels.
Mark making and blending with soft pastels.

Having previously explored soft pastels in the Drawing Skills course, I tried to focus on painterly effects, texture, colour mixing and blending.  Using soft pastel on its side for blocks of colour and thin straight lines. By using a shorter piece on its side, I could rotate it round to produce an almost perfect circle.  Different colours can be layered (either by broad side strokes or narrower end ones), alternately hatched or blended with a finger or rag.

Oil Pastels on Mount Board Primed with Gesso:

Painting with pastels. Mark making and blending with oil pastels.

Painting with pastels.
Mark making and blending with oil pastels.

I repeated similar marks to those above, however, the oil pastel was more prone to pick up the texture of the support being used.  This made for some interesting effects when used fairly lightly on their side.  To obtain more solid blocks of colour, I had to use the tip and pressure to work it into the support’s texture.  I actually preferred the blending of the oil pastels as more options were available.  Again I could layer and hatch colour but I also tried using a rag wound round my finger and this softened the oil pastel and produced a subtle, diffused blend of the colours.  I then tried using solvent and brushes, firstly, a hog brush – this had the effect of moving the pigment around a lot more and left  more brush marks visible.  Using the synthetic Mongoose flat, which is much softer, allowed me to fuse the pigment and blend it without it shifting so much.  I also noticed, that with using solvent, the pigment could run and produced lovely drips and pools of colour.

A Simple Picture – Oil Pastels:

After experimenting with the solvent and oil pastels, I was keen to use this to produce a simple painting.  My intention was to let it run and be free with it, in practice it became a little stiff in execution and not as loose as I wanted initially.  I used the solvent in the sky (this is the view outside my window), and combined with a rag it gave a nice base to paint on.  My favourite part is the apple tree and its branches.  By using the oil pastels on their tip and twisting and moving over the support, a pleasing rendition of twiggy branches was created. Doing this on top of the solvent diluted pigment also removed that layer, which worked brilliantly for getting a sharp jagged line, perfect for the branches .  Not a masterpiece but experimental and informative.

Small painting using oil pastels and mark making and blending techniques. Approx A4 on  on canvas board.

Small painting using oil pastels and mark making and blending techniques.
Approx A4 on canvas board.


A Simple Picture – Soft Pastels:

I was keen to try both types of pastel and found a photograph I took last week while walking the dog early evening.  It was a spectacular sunset and I remember thinking that it would be nigh on impossible to reproduce such vivid and luminous colours in a painting.  Never one to back down from a challenge, I thought I’d try, so soft pastels were probably my best chance.  The most part of the picture was made using the soft pastel on its side.  I was determined not to rely just on blending with my finger and to attempt hatching and layering too. In the main, I succeeded, and not just because of the fine sandpaper quality of the support.  Any finger blending was more of a dabbing motion and I used a dry cloth round my finger if the need arose.  Naturally in the sky, there were horizontal streaks of colour and diagonal cloud formations that also absorbed the last of the sun’s rays, so that helped focus me.  The foreground and buildings were mainly in silhouette but I introduced some dark colours to avoid it being too flat. I was right, though, it’s nowhere near as stunning as real life and, unfortunately, the pinks and corals have not photographed as vibrantly as they are either which is a shame.

Small painting using soft pastels and mark making and blending techniques. Approx A4 on pastel board

Small painting using soft pastels and mark making and blending techniques.
Approx A4 on pastel board