Agate linocut (three-block linocut)

The aim of this project was to create a print from three separate lino blocks. For the subject matter I chose an agate. I wanted to do something a bit more abstract for this one; my tutor encouraged me to do more abstract pieces after reviewing those in the monoprints assignment.Not sure i really got there though!

Here’s the best final print:

Agate Linocut Print

Planning and cutting

I looked at many beautiful images of agates, as well as a couple in my own little collection of  stones collected when I was little. I made just a couple of sketches/plans and settled on the blue one – planning for two blue layers and a final black one. (In retrospect this actually looks more like a good candidate for a reduction print).

1. I traced the image onto Block1 and cut away the areas that were to stay white.

2. I inked the block and pressed it onto paper (lining up the paper correctly so that registration would be right) then immediately pressed the (blank) Block2 onto the paper to transfer the image over. The result wasn’t great – a bit blurry – but it gave me enough to go on and a bit more tracing added detail.

3. I cut Block 2, cutting away all the white areas as before, plus all the areas to stay light blue.

At this stage, I made a mistake – the tool slipped and sliced straight through an area that was supposed to be left blue. I tried a technique I’d read about somewhere and just used a scalpel to cut out the offending piece, then cut out a matching replacement piece and stuck it on with pva glue… (wasn’t sure if this would really work but it was fine with a bit of extra pressure during printing).

4. I repeated the stage from step 2, this time transferring the image onto Block3.

5. I cut Block 3, this time cutting away everything except the black bits.


6. Now… printing and registration. Hmmm. I had read  this great article ( on the fabulous Brush and Baren site about a linocut jig, and used this as inspiration to cobble something temporary together at home from an old kids’ blackboard, various scraps of stiff cardboard and some glue. It worked! (Kind of…… will definitely need to get a better one made up). But during printing I had to make a few adjustments as I discovered the positioning of image on the 2nd block was just a little off. Cue much tearing of hair but eventually got a couple of reasonable prints.

The blocks printed separately


After this project I am even more in awe of printmakers like Robert Gillmore who create incredibly intricate, subtle, beautiful prints using the multi-block technique. I found the registration tricky, as always, and the final print was a bit flatter than I’d hoped. For further improvement  I could tidy some of the layers up and perhaps some more detail in the form of more white rings.

In retrospect I also should have chosen a design that used a mix of colours – using two blues is a bit safe and doesn’t explore some of the advantages of this method, which is the ability to use completely independant colours.


Bass rock linocut

Single colour linocut

Here the task was to create an print using a single lino cut block, in a single colour. For this I chose an image of a local landmark – the bass rock in the Firth of Forth. Here’s the finished print:

Bass rock linocut

Development and cutting the block

1. I started with a rough sketch from a photo of the rock using white pencil on black paper to help to plan the print:

Rough sketch of the rock

2. The Bass Rock is famous for its gannet colony – I found some online photos of gannets and sketched and traced a selection, adjusting them to the right size for the print. (I got permission to use the  photos – they include images by Tim Parkinson @

3. I traced all the elements of the picture, cut them out and arranged them against  black paper to create the composition…

arranging the elements

4. …then traced over the whole thing:

5. Then transferred the traced image to the lino block using carbon paper. I sketched the waves and sky contours straight onto the lino.

6.  Here’s the final lino block:

Cut lino block


Printing at home with the water-based inks, I again had to find the balance between not enough ink (patchy results) and too much (ink flowing onto the cut areas). However this time I had much more success by using a wooden spoon instead of my Japanese baren! The spoon let me apply more  pressure so that I didn’t have to apply so much ink to get a good print. At the same time I actually found that the “patchy” result you get when you don’t have enough ink/pressure was perfect for adding texture to the image of the rock. So I deliberately applied more pressure to the sea and sky, and less to the rock’s vertical sides – hopefully you can see what I mean here:



I enjoyed this one, and think I may create a longer edition of this print as I’m quite pleased with how it’s come out. The bit I’m least pleased with is the lighthouse – it’s just not as defined as I wanted it to be, but it’s not bad.

Linocut – markmaking

The first project in assignment 2 was to create a range of marks using different tools. Here’s one of the resulting prints (with added row/col markers):

Mark making


Here are my lino cutting tools sitting on my little hooked cutting board:

  • On the left is a 1mm v tool,
  • Then the separate blades numbered on the right numbered 1 – 5, with 1-4 being V and U shapes, and 5 being the scalpel. I think the 1mm tool and the no. 1 blade are probably much the same but they do give slightly different marks, the 1mm tool being shallower.
  • I also used a craft knife (not pictured), and also tried pressing a couple of things pressed into the lino.

And I also had this thing – an old “Powerline Model 72 Hobbyist Kit” that belonged to my dad, which included some lino cutting blades. I thought I would give it a go, but once I got it all hooked together and switched it on, I was genuinely afraid it would fly apart and take someone’s eye out.

Scary tool

I got as far as very gingerly making two marks (wearing Alex’s sunglasses for protection), whereupon it spat rust all over the block while making a horrendous noise, before I gave up and chucked it in the bin!


I actually did this back in the summer, on a very hot day, sitting outside. The temperature helped to warm the lino, which always helps the cutting process hugely (otherwise Iwould use a hairdryer or low oven to heat it up).

Mark making

First row

  • A1 – Blade 3
  • A2 – Blade 2
  • A3 – Blade 1
  • A4 – 1mm v tool

Second row

  • B1 – All the V and U blades, at the top pressed vertically down into the lino, and below, pressed down then gouged to form the u or v shapes.
  • B2 – All the V and U blades, rocked.
  • B3 – Scalpel tool used to cut and lift various shapes.
  • B4 – Blade 4

Third row

  • C1 – Cross hatched shapes using 3 blades.
  • C2 – Blades 1 and 3
  • C3 – Organic/floral shapes using blade 1
  • C4 – Leaf shapes – Blade 1 to cut shapes, Blade 3 to clear white space.

Fourth row

  • D1 – Use of craft knife to carve and lift geometric shapes, plus a round shape made by pressing a washer into the lino with pliers.
  • D2 – 3D shape with an attempt at gradient using blade 2
  • D3 – Pattern suggesting organic shapes/wood using blade 2
  • D4 – Small marks of varying depths using 1mm v tool (suggesting grass with water perhaps?), with blade 2 used above.

Fifth row

  • E1 – Use of 1mm v tool in various ways include shallow stabbing, meandering and hatched marks.
  • E2 – Use of blade 2 in one direction to give texture. Again may suggest wood. Similar to E4 but deliberately removed more lino to give effect of “black on white”.
  • E3 – Geometric pattern using Blade 1, with white areas lifted using  the scalpel tool.
  • E4 – Same approach as E2, but with more black left behind to give “white on black”.

Sixth row

  • F1 – Various marks made with blade 3, including rocking.
  • F2, F3, F4 – Various marks attempting textures using 1mm v tool.


This was my first attempt for a while at using water-based inks to print a lino block. At first and without thinking, I followed the habits I’d learned during the monoprinting assignment and used medium to thin the inks…this was daft because the inks are designed especially for block printing in the first place. The result was that some of the inks rand into the cut lines here and there. Lesson learned!

Assignment1: Monoprints, reflections

At last! Finished the assignment …just a teeny bit late though.

It’s obvious I massively overestimated the amount of time I’d have to work on the course, and a lot of other things got in the way, but I have enjoyed the coursework very much. There were times when I felt really stuck though: as an example I took ages over those poppies taking many, many prints before I was reasonably happy with the double-masked version. And later I remember I kept putting off the “textured landscape” exercise that eventually led to the “Cockenzie Power Station” print (which I was very pleased with in the end).  But I now feel so much more comfortable about all the techniques and with being more experimental. In particular:

  • Registration and masking – lots here including how to create a positioning “frame”, how to use hinged masks, how to achieve isolated positive masks, how to plan a design to aid registration, and the use of lots of tracing paper and masking tape.
  • Inks – using acrylic medium to extend drying times (a little), mixing and rolling inks and achieving the best coverage for printing.
  • Textures, mark making and backdrawing – using a range of materials and tools to create different effects (especially tea leaves)

I expected at the start of the course that I’d be working quite a bit at the Edinburgh Printmakers Studio, but in the end did it all at home – once I got my little workspace set up, with the glass table, it was just much easier.

So, onwards and upwards to Assignment 2. Hopefully I’ll have more time to devote to the next stage!

Backdrawing from life: Lillies

Backdrawing - lillies

Another catch up – I realised I hadn’t done any backdrawings from life, so made an attempt.

I decided to draw some lillies growing in a blue container in our garden. After a couple of quick preparatory sketches, I mixed up some yellow, green and blue ink and applied it to my perspex plate. I liften some ink off with some scrap paper, then laid some green textured paper on gently and took the plate outside to create the backdrawing.

I made a couple of versions – the one shown was the better of the two.


Hmm, not brilliant – mainly I think because of colours weren’t really strong enough against the paper, so poor choices there. I did want to create some more examples of backdrawing from life, but just ran out of time. Also, I guess I’m not always that confident in creating decent drawings very quickly, and as usual time is of the essence when using my water-based inks.

I did want to create some more examples of back drawing from life, but unfortunately ran out of time.

Three worlds – abstract monoprint (masks, texture, backdrawing)

I wanted to create an abstract image for one of my project 4 pieces. I generally like designs incorporating circles, so started with the idea of three circles in a row. I made a few exploratory rough sketches, and planned to use the starry effect I’d achieved before by using scattered tea leaves again as texture. This led to the idea of something vaguely planetary, but rather than planning ahead too closely (as I had with the other project 4 prints) with this print I wanted to see where the printing took me.

1. First I inked the glass with 3 colours – red, green and blue –  and sprinkled my tea leaves. I applied a mask that would leave the three printed circles, then pressed a roughly-torn shaped piece of tissue paper across the ink to add an extra textured shape that ran through the circles. Here’s the result:

stage 1, 1st print

As hoped, the tea leaves did produce an effect like constellations, and pressing  the tissue paper into the ink produced an effect that reminded me of  images of dust clouds in space or perhaps the edges of continents on the planet itself.

2. I took a ghost print of the print above, but this time also added a little backdrawing (sorry this is not a good photo):

ghost image with backdrawing

3. To create another version I re-inked the glass and repeated the process, but this time left the tissue paper shape on top of the ink to create an additional white masked area.

2nd print

4. Again, another ghost print with backdrawing:

2nd ghost image with backdrawing

I quite liked some of these as they were, but wanted to add a background. However I but got a bit stuck here and wasn’t sure how to proceed. I searched the web for some inspiring images, and found the work of Helene Brier, which included some very nice “planetary” images. The choice of yellow as a background in particular, and the white halo around the coloured discs, were inspired by her monotypes.

5. For this next stage in each case:
a) I inked the glass table with the yellow ink, trying to roll in some variations of colour so that it wouldn’t be too uniform. I then used a dry thin roller to try to lift off some ink again in various straight lines to create some more variation and texture.
b) I used three irregular, torn circular shapes from tissue paper, which I stuck directly onto the prints from the previous stage, slightly off-center, to mask out the “planets” and to create a white “halo” around each of them.  In three of the four I also masked out the horizontal irregular shape across the planets as well.
c) I used another mask to frame the rounded rectangle of the background.

Here’s a pic of the table, mid-process. (This must have been after a print was taken).

lots of masks

Here are the four results:

final prints

And the best one:

Three worlds monoprint


I am quite pleased with this set – I think there may be more I could do with the fainter ones that incorporate the ghost images, to add some darker tones to balance the stronger yellow, but I do like this last one as it is. I’m not sure whether we are looking at three objects (planets?), or looking through three windows into different universes (hence the title).

Again this was a lot of work, with lots of masking and registration, but I think again by now I was feeling much more comfortable with the process, with registration, and with experimentation in general.

Clachtoll cottage

I recently had a holiday in my favourite place on the planet, Clachtoll in Assynt on the NW coast of Scotland. While I was there I made this sketch of “Seaside Cottage” through the window of our caravan:

Seaside cottage, Clachtoll

I decided to use this for one of the Project 4 prints, which I wanted to be a painterly monoprint with some textures. I did a couple more sketches to simplify the image down to the main shapes: sky, sea, roof, foreground light green grass and midground darker green. I traced this then stuck the tracing to the underside of the glass table for a guide.

1. Painting and texturing

1. On with the painting and texturing. I painted the inks onto the glass then used a) a cotton bud to attempt some movement and clouds in the sky b) a crosshatched sponge to give texture to the slate roof, c) the end of a brush to scratch in rough grass in the darker green d) a dry brush to shape the lighter green foreground grass.  The main problem with the painterly approach I always find is how quickly the water-based inks dry out once applied, and this was the case again especially as it was a hot day. Acrylic medium does help with this but too much just makes the ink too dilute. I could see the ink drying as I worked so had to do this all pretty fast. Lastly I applied some black  marks to suggest fence posts and a seagull.

2. I used some little masks to create white areas a) between the two grassy bits and b) for the gable end of the house c) to separate sky and sea and d) to frame the print.

Here’s the result, the first print. Some of the textures came through better than others here, and as always some interesting and unexpected effects materialised as I pulled the print – the sea was suddenly rough for one thing. The fence posts were a bit of a mistake I think, too smudgy.

first print

I took a ghost print but by then the ink was almost dry so it was very faint. On impulse I tried brushing some acrylic medium over the driest inked areas left on the glass to see what would happen – here’s the result:

2nd print

Quite surprisingly, this worked quite well – you can see the masked white areas more clearly the textures are interesting, often because of the uneven way the ink transferred from glass to paper. (Luckily the smudgy fence posts didn’t pick up this time). On the down side the seagull had become a smudge, and the paper had buckled at the top because of the amount of liquid on the glass. But I thought this would make a good background, so pressed it once dry while I worked out some backdrawing..

2. Backdrawing

I decided to add backdrawing to pick out the cottage and fence more clearly. I traced the first print to create a guide, then masked both of the prints so that only the cottage, fence areas and seagull areas were left free. Here’re the final results:

…I think I actually  like the 2nd one best- I like how the sky and sea and grass all have such movement it looks quite stormy…maybe that explains why the cottage looks like it’s getting blown away… a bit of a registration problem there has left it a bit squint. I also like the irregular shape of the print, rather than it being square like the first one. The first one really suffered because of those fence posts I think.


The painterly approach is the technique I’m least comfortable with – so unpredictable – but I am reasonably happy with this work and enjoyed doing it all in a few hours.

Actually one thing I’m very happy with is that I seem to be much less self-critical than I used to be. I think the unpredictable nature of monoprinting has really helped me to stop striving for some kind of perfection, to appreciate the unexpected and to look for the positives and the possibilities when the print is pulled.