A Halloween Treat

Hi all,

How did you spend your Sunday? Church? Brunch with friends? A bike ride or walk in these pleasant temps (we had a gorgeous weekend in Phily). Oh, thanks for asking, I sat hunched over for 6 hours, not once making it out of the house let alone out of my pyjams. I do have something to show for it though, a little Halloween treat if you will. Here it is.


6 hours and only one serious nick to the finger

Here’s the back story, I woke up on Friday morning with an intense desire to do a print. My dream is to letterpress someday. Seeing as how that medium requires a few hundred dollars even for the smallest of machines, I had to think a bit smaller. I don’t know how to silk screen quite yet and I suspect that that too would set me back a debt more than I can afford to take on right now. As it is, in a rare moment, I accidentally overpaid my student loans by about $300 and am not exactly flush right now. The supplies necessary to do a linocut, however, only set me back around $30 and the store was having a sale so I saved an additional 30%. Woo hoo, financial details no one cares about but I can’t help but talk up a good bargain.

Linoprints are designs carved into linoleum and transferred onto paper or another surface using ink. I tried my hand at this a bajillion years ago in high school art class but only realized this weekend that this was practical knowledge I could use in the real world. After I’d set my mind to doing one, I found some inspiration via Apartment Therapy and Pinterest, I went on a 4-miler, met some folks for lunch, and trucked off in a light rain to Blick art supply. I worked out the design Friday night, stood in an excessively long line at Staples Saturday afternoon to have my design copied on a laser printer. Seriously, this line was so long, I wanted to curl up on the floor and take a nap. I resisted the urge, got my prints home and then hit an immediate road block. I had read that you could transfer the design easily to the linoleum by rubbing the back of your print with a cotton ball dipped in acetone (in this instance I used nail polish remover) and a little light burnishing. It is important to print via laser printer because it uses toner which is supposed to transfer easily using the acetone method. I had no such luck. I attempted making a sticker out of the design and applying it directly to the linoleum but was not able to get clean cuts from that device. In the end, I decided to put a hold on the linocut so that frustration didn’t win out. I met up with a group of friends for a birthday bar crawl and had a genius idea around 2:30 in the morning on my way home that the design was probably too detailed anyway. I went back to the drawing board immediately and had something more manageable to work with Sunday morning.

The cutting tool has interchangeable heads for different cuts.

Since the acetone transfer method was a bust for me, I used a pencil to trace the lines of the print onto tracing paper and then burnished the design onto linoleum. I drew over the pencil marks with a sharpie before the pencil marks could smudge. This method is effective but didn’t provide me with the clean lines for the cut I desired. Note: any lettering in a print must be reversed onto the linoleum so that it will read properly on the print. I thought the lettering would be difficult but it turns out, I enjoyed doing the detailed cuts the most.


The brayer, ink and plexiglass palette.

Two horror movies later, the cut was complete, I spread out three lines of ink onto a plexiglass palate and rolled my acrylic brayer over the lines until the ink had the surface of an orange peel. I chose a hard acrylic brayer as opposed to a soft one because I wanted my print to be as clean as possible. If you prefer seeing the cutmarks on the negative spaces, use a soft brayer. I rolled the ink onto the linoleum, placed the paper onto the linocut and burnished the backside of the paper. You can see from the top photo that there are details to work out and I haven’t aced the transfer of ink yet (note the unintended negative space cutmarks), but I’m pretty happy with this first attempt. Next time, I’ll allow myself a break for a run or even just to grab a breath of fresh air. Happy printing!

Inspiration for the linoprint the tower of City Hall, bats careening around Billy Penn up top clutching a jack o’ lantern.



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