Intro to Linocut: 1

Step 1, positive & negative space.

Before you even touch your linoleum, you need to have a great, workable design drawn out. So what makes a linocut successful? In simple terms, you need recognisable positive and negative space. Positive space is the raised areas where the ink will stick when you roll it on. Negative space is the area you’ll cut out, so no ink will be applied and it will not show on your final outcome.

If you look at the image above with the cloud and sunshine, you can see the block and the print together.

The best way to start is with a very simple design. Draw it out on paper and use a black marker to colour the areas where you want the ink to go. You can then see what your design will be like when it is finished. Large, organic shapes are easier when you are starting out as they do not show slips and mistakes as easily.

When you want to start doing thin outlines – like my spring onions, this takes more time and a bit more skill. Will you cut along the pencil lines you have drawn, or will you cut around them to show more of your background?

Also consider how you will show any shading you want to. Its really good fun to create cross hatching with your cutting tools – but remember that you need to consider if it will be positive or negative space. If you want your cross hatching to be shadow, you need to cut AROUND your lines so that they are inked.

A word of advice though – please do not use other artist’s work. Aside from being plagiarism, it will not help you develop as an artist. Take photos, draw from photos or from observation and enjoy yourself! You don’t have to follow the rules, experiment with your images and create artwork that is from your heart.

Next week I will give step by step instructions on cutting your Lino. Have a look at what is out there and order a sample pack of different types to practice on. You’ll find that you take to one more than the others!


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