Saturday, November 27, 2010

Linoleum - Not Just For Floors

I had initially thought that I'd do a water color painting for the one holiday card that I'm sure to send (thanks again to Susie at Useless Beauty Designs for hosting the swap!) but I made the mistake of telling people that I'd be making this card for my swap partner.

And now other people want one.  People that like to think that I care about them and think that a small little something in the mail would be such a lovely way of expressing that, don't you think, and really if you're already making one....


The thing is, despite my whining, I would very much like to be the with-it, have my stuff together sort of adult who can manage to send out a few holiday cards.  After all, these people are my friends and I really do like them, and enjoy making things for them.  It really shouldn't be such a burden.  And yet every year I put it off again and again until I realize that it's January and hey, maybe I should make a resolution of it.  Not that I ever keep the rest of them.*

This year I'm determined.  I will make holiday cards, I will send them out before the end of December and I will be a with-it, have my stuff together sort of adult.  In this one aspect, at least.

But I'm certainly not doing an individual painting on each of them, because if being an adult means giving up on being completely lazy then I want no part of it.

Having prints done would be the obvious solution, but that's one more step between making the cards and sending the cards which ups the chances that I'll be sitting here January 3rd, look over and see the painting and then hit my head repeatedly on the table for once again being a failure.  As this would likely cause brain damage and I really don't need that I've opted to go the linoleum print route.  Print making in the comfort of my stretch pants!  I really couldn't ask for anything better.

Of course, I haven't done linoleum carving in about ten years but really.  It's like riding a bike, I'm sure.**

Firstly, the image.  For this one, I chose a simple armadillo motif and copied him (a wee bit smaller) onto a piece of paper.  Through the magic of technology you can of course re-size your chosen image (if you're not winging it) as you see fit but again with the lazy, so I didn't.


I feel I should point out that he is rather tiny and not for the cards so much as an attempt to remember how the hell this works.

Onward.  I've gone over my pencil lines to make sure they're nice and dark so that they'll transfer.  Image goes onto the linoleum block and with a good rub there should now be an armadillo on the block.  Now, I've never been able to have a nice clean transfer though I hear some people can manage it.  But even if it comes out like this:

A little less armadillo-y.

Never fear.  Filling in the gaps is quick work.

Much better.

And now the carving.  I usually do the big bits, then come in with my smallest blade to do the detail work. Also, slowly and gently, cutting away a little bit at a time because like with a lot of things taking away is easier than adding.  Since I want the background white here, I spent an extra bit of time with the largest blade cutting away the block until the background was well below the central image.

Not pictured: the fit I had when I nicked his ear.

Note to self: dots are way harder than you remembered.  Should probably avoid those in the future.

And now I give it a test run.  Ink up the brayer (thinner is better, here.  Gloopy brayers are no one's friend) and give it a roll onto the carving.  I've never been good at placing the paper down on the block, so I cheat and put the block onto the paper and flip it over.  This has ended badly before, but it didn't this time so I think I'll continue with my bad habits.

This time around, since Mr. Armadillo is about an inch and a half square and I was using a spare bit of rice paper for extra absorbency I was able to get away with just using my thumb to rub the paper onto the block.  Sometimes this will work, most of the time it won't.  There's a fancy tool for this called a baren, but I usually use the bottom of a glass.  Fancy tools are for sissies!  Or possibly professionals. 

Lift up the paper to check it out:

Two!  Two armadillos, ahahaha.

Some of the detail work was lost (spots!  Damn you for being difficult) and I missed a few ridges on the back ground.  So, the stamp gets rinsed off, and I get back to carving.

Round two:

Spots, why you gotta hate?

He could be better, but for a first run I think I'm satisfied.  I've learned my lesson about spots and I think when I'm working on a larger scale it'll be a little easier.  At the very least I'll worry less about slipping with the cutter and taking a gouge of finger instead of linoleum.  Of course now that I've said that....

*  'Become coy sex kitten' has been on the top of my resolution list for about 7 years now.  Mater, don't make that face, it really means cut back on the excessive flailing and not talk at length about Doctor Who at fancy grown-up parties.  Possibly learn ballroom dance and brush my hair on a regular basis.

**  I've never managed to learn how to ride a bike, all attempts have ended in tragedy and bodily harm.  So, I rather hope it's not anything like that.


  1. I did these in high school a million years ago. It was fun and I didn't lose any fingers. My mom still has one of my prints hanging on the wall. It's a rose and your armadillo looks waaay better.

  2. He's sort of funny looking, but that makes me like him more.

    I love that your mom still has your rose up on the wall, that's pretty sweet.

  3. Oh thankyou for this I keep looking at lino cutting sets on eBay thinking it would be good fun. Are your Xmas cards going to have armadillos on them? That would be great.

  4. Playing with the linoleum has been a good time, I really recommend it.

    As for the cards, I still haven't been able to figure out what to actually put on them. I have a couple of ideas (one of which is an armadillo, because I love them so) but haven't decided.

  5. I have always loved your prints so much. <3

  6. that's lovely
    thanks for sharing