Reduction Linocut

Popping in with a late-Friday night post (never let it be said that I don’t know how to party!) showing the end results of the reduction linocut I created on Tuesday. The basis for my design was the set of mark making ink drawings I did just before half term.

Mark-making with ink.

They were created using everything from the end of my metal ruler, the tines of a fork, paintbrushes, a macron fineliner and my fingers. The first thing I did was transfer the basic ‘K’ shape onto a piece of lino by covering a photocopy of it in whiting an drawing on the back of it. I then traced over the chalk outline with a biro to give myself a clear outline to work with.

My two favourite prints from this lino.

In a reduction linocut, you create each layer of the print by carving away more lino from the same block. For this reason it is a good idea to make sure you make lots of prints of each layer, as you can’t go back and reprint previous layers. For each layer I kept one print of it at that point, and did one of each carving in black. I used these to create the gifs below.

The progress of my reduction linocut, black and white prints.

To design each layer, I chose a different mark-making texture from my original sheet and tried to replicate it using my linocutting tools. There was an increase in detail with the first four prints, but then I had gone as far as I could with adding detail and so to get the last two prints I had to remove detail by cutting it out.

Progression in colour

The last cut I made removed most of the detail that was left in the lino. It looks far more effective in the colour print than on the black and white one. Lining up each overprint was a bit of trial and error; it’s quite hard to line up the detail such as the rouge frame I did, when you can only see the edges, especially as once I’d warmed up the lino on the hot plate to carve it more easily it then bowed in the middle when I was trying to place it!
Some prints were more successful with being aligned properly than others.

I did an experimental colour print which you can see behind the acrylic laser cut ‘K’ above. Instead of printing each one exactly over the previous one, I rotated it by 90 degrees each time. This allowed the colours and patterns to play with each other in a different way.

Colour choice wasn’t something I planned with this piece. I chose the next colour each time by looking at the combined effect of the previous colours and picking what I thought would look nice over it, with little thought. I think in hindsight, a more subtle yellow colour would have worked better as the final one, or perhaps even black, just to frame it. I think that in future it would be good to do an additional print that is varying tones of the same colour too.


Rubber Stamping Workshop with Stephen Fowler

This morning, we had a workshop in rubber stamping led by Stephen Fowler.

Stephen is an Illustrator (Harrow, Central St Martins) who, after a decade spent working freelance for clients such as the Independent, chose to specialise in rubber stamp art. He has recently released a book on this subject entitled ‘Rubber Stamping: Get creative with stamps, rollers and other printmaking techniques’ [Lawrence King]. As well as running workshops, he exhibits at places such as Turner Contemporary (Margate) and creates Art books.

Stephen Fowler explaining the process to a group of FE & HE Students
Stephen Fowler

The rubber stamps are created from rubber erasers; Stephen explained that the limitations of size mean you have to get creative with them. It is better when starting out to use simplistic designs, so I chose my initial ‘K’.

I chose to add a little flourish in order to give myself something slightly more complex than straight lines to carve out. The design was filled in with a 2B pencil, and then the rubber was placed over it, and both the paper and the rubber flipped. I then rubbed over the back of the paper with a pencil which transferred the image to the rubber.

At this point it looks like it’s the wrong way round, but because you then apply the stamp to the paper, when you print it will be the correct way round. If you were to draw the design directly onto the stamp then you would need to draw it the opposite way round to your intended outcome.

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Cutting away the unwanted parts with a scalpel.

Whilst it is possible to use the same sort of tools you would use to cut lino, Stephen had us use a scalpel knife. Using the blade ensures greater control and makes it easier to prevent accidental cuts into the area under the stamp, which would affect the quality of the stamp.


Cutting through the rubber with a scalpel was not as easy as Stephen made it look! It is a very different feel to using lino, but I think I had got the hang of it better with the second stamp! The first cut you make should be against the line of the design with the scalpel held in your hand as you would a pencil, and then you create a ‘v’ shaped notch by turning it around and returning along the outline with the blade angled towards the bottom of your original cut. To remove edges you can slice through horizontally until you meet the edge of your pattern. It is important to remember that you can’t undo the removal of the rubber, so it is best to make sure you are cutting the right bit before you start to cut.

For the second stamp, we were each asked to write a word on a piece of paper, and then to pick one of them to inspire us with a design. I pulled out ‘pointy’ and after an unsuccessful attempt at drawing a mace, I went with something holiday-appropriate; vampire teeth.

My designs from the day.

To ink them we used ink pads. This is part of what makes Rubber Stamping a really accessible way of creating art; it’s something you can easily do at home with little financial outlay, you can pick up ink pads and erasers on the high street for as little as £1 (Tiger is grrrrreat! for things like this) and then all you need is a scalpel/craft knife and some paper. Stephen also gave a talk to us in the morning before the workshop, and showed us some of his work, and there are just so many places you can take stamps due to the simplicity. My scalpel set was purchased from The Artery.

I look forward to experimenting further with creating stamps, I especially like the idea of creating mix and match ones and a set of custom type ones. Keep your eyes tuned on my Portfolio page over the next couple of months to see what I create!

You can purchase Stephen’s book on Rubber Stamping here, and find his blog here.