Blue skies and bright sunshine...yes that's right a perfect day for a lino printing experience...or a royal wedding!
I think that late Spring and Summer are the perfect times for delivering lino printing sessions as there is a wealth of nature and plant life to inspire budding printers. I always think that it is brilliant to meet with and engage with people who are just as interested in lino as you are - I have often thought I am a lino bore and I really should get out more!!
So the object of the day was to produce a 2 block and colour layered print that could be framed however the brief for each of them evolved into something different for all of them. I believe that the inspiration and illustration elements of the process are crucial and without them there is the potential of sitting staring at a blank bit of lino for an endless amount of time!!
The lino printers collected daisies, apple blossom, dandelions, hellebore, fern and rye grass to name but a few - then they started to draw! For some this is where the block starts and the self doubt begins to set in however with gentle encouragement, a sharp pencil and a trusty rubber the process can begin. I think that we are only limited by ourselves and our confidence - there isn't anyone, honestly, who is telling us that we aren't good enough - it is those negative thoughts that we have that sow those seeds of doubt. I think that the first pencil line is the most tricky because we have high expectations of ourselves and when we don't meet them then we feel disappointed.
The lino printers drew a number of images and I encouraged them to do a bit of simple mark making and shape drawing just to get a feel for their own style. It was a few crossings and rubbings out and pencil sharpenings later when they all created an image or set of images that they were happy with. This in truth is the longest part of the process but without it the end product would not be as good. Images were then transferred to tracing paper and then in the reverse to pieces of lino.
At the start of the day I talked the lino printers through the process from start to finish and all the areas that they were using so they knew what to expect. We all know that our nerves are suppressed a little if we know what is coming.
A break for lunch had the printers prepare for an afternoon of concentration - as concentration is required when carving as one slip or too deep a gouge can have you having to rethink your design. Lino tools at the ready and time for a bit of experimentation with different types of lino and the blade sizes. I would also recommend that when starting to carve out the initial lines you use a fine blade/ tool - as it is a bit like cutting hair, you can always take more off but you can't put it back on!! I use the Essdee lino cutting tools for my courses and they have a number of blades some of which are weird and wonderful in their shapes - I don't have one of those mini scythe ones in my Pfeil collection - they look incredibly dangerous!
So with the tools tested cutting mats prepped, safety announcements given they were ready to start. What I will say is that it is not as easy as it looks and it takes time to get used to applying even and constant pressure. One of the printers even complained - tongue in cheek- that it was hard work! I said just wait for the mixing inks and printing huge print runs! The lines that were carved were a bit jaggardy to start with but they got there with some really beautiful images carved. The tricky element is that you are printing the lino that you leave in and what you take out will be left white and not inked. It always takes time to do this bit and I think that it surprises people when I said that even small pieces of work can take 10 hours and bigger pieces can take days. When everyone had finished I checked the pieces for any bits of lino left in and in some cases trimmed round with a scalpel so that individual blocks were created for multiple printing.
Then for the printing...my favourite part is when the ink blocked is pulled from the paper for the first time and the reveal is amazing! I demonstrated using my own hare block and then stood back and left them to it and watched their faces. Genuinely there was disbelief when the paper came off and the blocks that they weren't so confident about emerged as their favourite. Without exception the lino printers produced images that were more than worthy of putting into a frame. They all said they would do it again.
The feedback from today's session was that it was great to engage in a process that ends with creating an amazing final piece. I know that they didn't believe that a walk around the garden would end up with like this!
So if you are interested in my next course it is a full day course at Scampston Walled Garden near Malton on Saturday 16th June, (£50 for the day with £10 course materials), booking is through Scampston Hall and Walled Garden website. Promised to be a wonderful day that is in place that is full of inspiration.