Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Color on Linocuts

I've been painting a lot recently. I'm going to have an exhibit at our fabulous local bookstore Off the Beaten Path in June showing my recent children's illustrations. I'm framing them, but I like to also have one print unframed in my drawer as a reference for painting the next one. So, for those pieces that I only have one finished copy of, I'm painting a second.

I try to keep the colors similar but I don't worry about minor variations. Hey, these are hand painted! The Wynken, Blynken, and Nod print on the left above was my original print. I just painted the one on the right and it came out a bit darker. I'm not sure which one I like better.

This isn't the usual way to make a colored relief print. It's not hard to do, but it's not really in line with the printmaking concept. Printmaking is a way to make multiple images in an edition that look exactly the same. I started painting black and white linocuts with watercolor started because I love relief prints, but I want to make them for children's illustration which doesn't need multiples. You only need a digital image that can be reproduced with modern publishing techniques.

The more traditional way to have colors in a print is to carve a block for each color and print them one at a time on top of each other. Here's a picture of one of my older prints that was made this way with 5 different blocks.

My friend Sherrie York does amazing linocuts with a third technique called a Reduction Linocut. First you carve a little bit out of the block and print all of the pieces of paper for your edition. Then you carve out more and print it again with a different color. Some of what you print the second time will cover or mingle with your first color. And you can keep carving and printing as many times as you want. she has a page of information about the process on her website www.sherrieyork.com

You should browse through her blog Brush and Baren where you can see lots of photos that document how she makes a print including this one called No Time Like the Present.

One place to see lots of different styles and techniques of hand-made prints is McClain's Printmaking Supplies Gallery. And while you're there you can buy some linoleum blocks and start carving!


  1. Good luck Jill at your exhibit & thanks for pointing out Sherrie York's blog.
    You are both extraordinary artist.

  2. I second Laurie's comment! You are both inspirational artists, and thought provoking too. Thanks for sharing :)

  3. I love the Wynken, Blynken, and Nod art above. Thanks for sharing, and for teaching me a little about linocuts (I had never heard of this before). Your work is lovely!