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Making an impression

Updated: Apr 22, 2019

Lino prints and basic relief printing.

I remember the first lino print I made very well. It was a brussel sprout plant inspired by working on the farm outside Bristol where I used to assist with growing veg. This was a long time ago, and it took me a while to print again. My point is that I was sleeping on the living room floor of a house containing 6 people, and made the print on a crowded kitchen table having bought the basic supplies in a Bristol art shop. It really is that easy to start lino printing. As I'm discovering, it will be a lifetime to master any aspect of printmaking, but that feeling of peeling the paper back to reveal the impression you have made remains the same and deliciously addictive.

The basic method is:

- Carve a design into a plate (pressed linoleum or one of the newer synthetic matrixes that are available) using a chisel (there are various brands - I now favour Pfeil's fine and delicate tools).

- Ink the plate using a roller. You will need a flat surface for rolling ink; in my quick and dirty phase when I needed a kit that would fit in my suitcase I used one of those flexible plastic chopping boards. A pane of glass is ultimately better, but you can still start off with a sheet of flat plastic.

- Lay the paper down on top and rub with a spoon. It's important to keep the lot very still at this point so you don't smudge the image that is transferring onto your paper.

Printing with a spoon at Kuona Artist's collective in Nairobi.

I quickly fell in love with work made by great artist/illustrator/printmakers such as Edward Bawden and wanted to experiment with more complex images. This required learning how to use presses and create multiple layered blocks that print directly on top of each other to build up the image. To this day, I still think some of my nicest impressions have been done at home using a spoon. Even now when I have access to all sorts of presses, I still end up doing it this way for certain projects. A black and white image that requires some texture in the ink to keep it alive is often much nicer when printed with a spoon or baren (a flat disk, sometimes made from bamboo, used to rub the back of the paper).

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