Monday, March 03, 2014

‘O March-What a Relief! by Dawn M. Schreiber

March, the Ides are a smilin’ and the Shamrocks are in bloom, Earth and daylight savings means spring is, is…somewhere… and yet after suffering a winter’s frozen thumb, I say “Think NEGATIVE!” What? You say, but spring will soon be here. Oh fuddle sticks. I believe a good dose of negativity makes for a positive relief (that’s print talk).

Since March is the time for revival, I decided to revisit an old printing process that goes way back to my 8th grade art class, (more like the late 19th century), called linocutting.
My art teacher, Ms. Brandt taught us how to roll up our sleeves and chisel, grind and press art into linoleum blocks using various blades and smelling like an ink press. I remember the excitement of seeing that grand finale print emerge and that old school process lingering on my band-aid free fingertips, long after the ink went dry.

For anyone interested in making print reliefs using this method, here are a few tips that may save you a cut or two. For starters, I went to for a do’s and don’ts intro course, purchased a fairly cheap linocut tool kit including: 6 blades plus holder, two 8 ½ by 11” linoleum sheets, (grey is softer), transfer paper (luckily my negligence for using grey on grey traced well however, because graphite smears, I ended up retracing my drawing with a black marker) a brayer (soft rubber roller), multi-medium art paper, a black tube of oil based block printing ink (oil in case you add watercolors) and a box of band-aids- you never know.

Next, pre-plan what not to carve, negative versus positive effects. This part gets tricky, because if you are like me, you have been trained not to cut into drawings. (Hint, you will print the opposite of what you draw unless you scan and flip your drawing or intentionally draw backwards). Once the image has been transferred, roll up your sleeves, place the lino on top of a rubber mat, to prevent slipping and keep the non-chiseling hand pressed below the cutter at all times! It’s easy to forget that you have a blade in hand and not a paintbrush or something less threatening. Next chisel ‘til your heart’s content; until your arms, fingers and wrists cramp up and you try to dig the Panama Canal- like I did... but  eventually found my happy groove space, rolled the brayer in ink on thick glass, (this soaks up quite a lot) gave the print a solid coat and pressed down paper using a wooden spoon and wallah, here are my results. I pictured my grandmother’s garden and her love for frogs and pearls.

The second picture is from many Saturday summer nights at grandmother’s house, taking a bath in her “aquarium tub” I called it, feeling like a flounder on the bottom of her claw foot tub while watching her mobile of fish swim above me.

Other sources of inspiration? From the lithographer greats, NataliaMoroz, (known for her pristine print reliefs), Jill Bergmann (for her use of color) and Kathleen Edwards, illustrator for the Llewellyn Witch Calendars. Also, check out the linocut illustrated children’s books of The Day the Sun Danced, (Edith Thacher Hurd, author, Clement Hurd, illustrator) and The House in the Night, (author Susan Marie Swanson, Beth Krommes, illustrator).

A word to the wise inker: "Practice", practice before you start carving out your print. And if all else fails, at least this will condition you for next fall’s pumpkin carving contest!! Good Luck!!! Feel free to comment or toss a lucky charm my way at or visit our new CBIG website at

(Dedicated to my Grandmother, Ida Marie Murry, Born on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 1912, Died 1988) You bet she was Irish and she still inspires me best.

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