Project 9: Experimental mark making on lino

Project 9 Experimental mark making on lino

I approached this task with a little reluctance and even – no!- a teensy bit of annoyance. I think it was when I noticed the photo in the course folder included a saw. My health’n’safety hackles came up for some reason. I just felt using any sharp blades inappropriately- cos it had to be, didn’t it, to make any impression- was an accident waiting to happen.  Maybe it’s because I’m not using proper lino, but a kind of vinyl, which, when you make a sharp cut in it, just seals up again like that self-healing stuff. (which my fingers aren’t by the way…)

Ah well. Give it a go. But not the saw. Draw the line at that.

As I said, I was reluctant, so didn’t use a new bit of lino, not having any great expectations of the outcome. Just used a couple of bits I’d cut off something else.

Here are the impressions, having tried:

a. scraping with the side of a blade of good quality scissors (little effect, and was not happy holding other blade in hand to do it.)

b. scraping with the side of a paper cutter, also to little avail

c. using the flat blade of a set of woodcutting tools- in fact I’ve tried this before, aiming for a “distressed effect”: that has the effect of peeling the top layer of the vinyl off, like a bad case of sunburn.

d. hatching with the thin blade of a woodcutting tool

e. scratching with the end of a paper clip- this did make an impression

f. scratching with the point of a screw- which seemed indistinguishable in its effect from the paperclip

g. snipping edges with the pair of scissors


Turned the lino over (yes, I can do that with this stuff, and yes, being very ‘economical’ with this exercise) and tried:

a. Rubbing with sandpaper

b. Using the head of the screw (did nothing)

c. Making holes with an awl

d. Sawing lines with a steak knife- now that did feel satisfyingly effective (but still, surely a steak knife is more appropriate for the scale of this than an actual saw??)


Got second piece of lino and tried;

a. Using a potato peeler (nothing)

b. Cutting lines with a serrated knife (again, quite satisfying, though of course only straight lines possible)

c. Slicing with a kitchen knife (same as using flat woodcutting blade, not surprisingly)

d. Snipping into the lino with the lower quality kitchen scissors


Printing a test block

Now, I did wonder if I was going to get away with calling either of my little offcuts a “test block”, but in my defence, they did contain all the marks that had actually worked. I thought I’d try printing them in multiples.

Test print 1

This was an arrangement of the offcuts- both sides of one of them. I was quite taken with the effect of doing this- like Japanese screens or hanging scrolls. I particularly liked the effect of the awl and the serrated knife, and didn’t think much of the stuff on the back of that lino piece, so added more cuts to one side that I was going to use. The kitchen scissors had had quite a good effect too, so added some cuts from that, and snipped more edges, with the idea of making a patchwork, as if sewn together with a blanket stitch.

Test print 2

I was amazed at this.

By varying the orientation of the strip, it created different patterns which were suggestive of natural forms- waterfalls, grasses. The blanket stitch worked too- I was trying to created a slightly irregular pattern, a bit like a wooden blind. But the most surprising thing was how it immediately became a narrative. As each strip was laid down, it created a relationship with the one before- continuation, contrast, repetition- and as the strips were laid down the page, I could arrange them as if a patterns was emerging, as if something was coming into focus. It was like creating a dialogue with a viewer. It was also like watching strips of a reel of film being arranged, and there was a sense of movement, such as you get when you look at the photos of Eadward Muybridge, that sense of tension between stillness and action. I decided to do it again, using water-based inks, on thin Chinese paper, which I would damp, in order to explore the landscape potential of the pattern.

Test Print 3

This time I made another arrangement of the second of the offcuts. They were arranged irregularly to balance with the white of the paper. After I had finished, I felt they looked like objects form an archaeological dig with carvings. They could be sitting in a tray of “finds”, ready to be analysed. I would now consider developing this idea, perhaps cutting the oblongs into more irregular shapes. I’m thinking of a project involving runes, something that could link back to my earlier monoprints of standing stones. I can cut them with a steak knife, using strips of lino again.

Print 4: Development of Test Print 2

Black, and blue water-based inks on damp rice paper. Used blue and black, I think because I was still making a connection with early photography. This print worked really well, I think. The smudging, softening effect of the damp paper highlighted the natural forms, and I think this works well as an abstract landscape, suggestive of a river flowing, trees, rushes, ripples, light and shadow- viewed in snatches, perhaps from between trees. The differences between prints creates a narrative again, and the irregularity, I feel, adds to the interest. I can hardly believe something so simple has this effect, and I’m really pleased with it! I would tend to view this horizontally, as I’m seeing a river in it- but it would work differently if viewed vertically too.

Print 5: Development of Test Print 2

Simply had to do that again! This time I added in some green as well, to suggest nature, and a river, more explicitly, but the main thing I wanted to try was to make a focal  point- a piece of light. I used gold and silver ink- they’re not very powerful though, and didn’t dazzle. This time I was envisaging viewing it as a scroll, vertically, and kept to a more regular pattern of how the strips were oriented, while varying the tonal values by inking with different degrees of density.


So, despite my initial reluctance, I was quite happy with the outcome of this experiment.

Not sure what I’m supposed to send as the assignment piece. “Select 2 prints of your experimental markmaking test linocut”.  Well, there are literally 10 prints on one sheet. Seems silly not to submit one of the developments. People want experimentation, but at the same time demand very straight line thinking.