Mark Making with Linoleum Blocks | Jennifer Belair | Skillshare

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Mark Making with Linoleum Blocks

teacher avatar Jennifer Belair, Printmaking + beyond

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

12 Lessons (32m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Set Up

    • 3. Print Samples

    • 4. Tools

    • 5. Carving

    • 6. Carving with Alt Tools

    • 7. More Tools: Flex Cut Palm Set

    • 8. Carving Time Lapse

    • 9. Ink Prep

    • 10. Printing (version 1)

    • 11. Printing (version 2)

    • 12. Tearing Down Paper

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About This Class

This course will go over the fundamentals of lino block printing including getting set up, and the ins and outs of various traditional and experimental methods of mark making.

Printers throughout history have borrowed and reappropriated their marks based on the history of the medium. Relief printmaking has a deeply ingrained visual aesthetic--artists approach the practice with this in mind and through time have tried to reinvent the wheel by claiming their own marks. This class will offer you the chance to try some great tools, look at some print examples and explore the strengths and weaknesses of different carving implements.  

This class is for any level of printmaker but would be most beneficial to beginning to intermediate students. 


Meet Your Teacher

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Jennifer Belair

Printmaking + beyond


Jennifer Belair Sakarian is an artist, educator, and writer living in Michigan. She received her Master's in Fine Art in 2013 at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. Her primary focus is printmaking and mixed media approaches to art-making. As an avid nature lover, she tries to instill green practices into her studio practice and subsequently into her Skillshare classes. 

She loves working with students and creating projects that are fun, inspiring and approachable. She is transitioning from traditional academia to online platforms such as Skillshare and hopes to keep learning along the way!

During graduate school, she had been designing and silkscreening gig posters for her favorite bands--some of which you can purchase on her Etsy page-cle... See full profile

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1. Introduction: Well, it's Jennifer Bellaire Saccharine. And today we're going to be learning about Mark making in linoleum block prints. Um, so we're gonna touch base with some pretty traditional tools. So things like your standard gouges your speedball interchangeable gouge set, but also some more fine tools. So things that get, like, finer lines, more precise marks, things like that. So we're gonna touch bases like what? Those conduce, What are their strengths and their weaknesses and stuff like that? But we're also going to be using some more nontraditional techniques, which I've always excited about. Stuff like that. That's what I enjoy most is experimenting, exploring, you know, just having fun with what's around you. So we're going to use some funky things like a screwdriver, um, thumbtacks a screw, and you'd be surprised at the effects that can create. So for this class today, mark making in low, no linoleum block printing Um, it's all about kind of exploring the territory, finding out how you can kind of have your own unique voice with final cuts, um, and learning from each other, I'm going to showcase some prints of my own and then some of my former students so you kind of get an idea of what Black printing can look like. Um, in addition, I just want to mention that this classes for anybody who has some lip for making experience . You don't have to, you know, have a lot to get the most out of this class. It's mostly for anybody who who's maybe dabbled in it. You know, things like that. But it's It's mostly for all levels of printers. So I love you guys. We're excited as I am. I love showcasing my talents and things that I love. Um, I love sharing with others. Like for making is kind of my main thing, Um, so let's go ahead and start having some fun. 2. Set Up: all right, so the first thing that we're going to want to do is to take our linoleum block and to take a more opaque type of acrylic paint. I just use some kind of samples that I get from my local art art store, so I have some. I think it's liquid tex heavy body acrylic, but any acrylic that's really pretty light fast, which means that it's it's more opaque. It's not transparent, has a lot of body to it. So I'm just putting a little bit of that on a paper tall and kind of blooding it and then going to gently wipe the surface and try to get some of the staining to penetrate the linoleum. And the reason that we do this is because as we're carving, we can kind of get an idea of what, um, there are carved areas are looking like, so it just makes a little bit easier. It's also great for this video because you guys can kind of see the contrast between the carved area and the painted area itself. So it's Ah, it's pretty practical. It's a smart thing to do. I'm just getting a nice even coat you don't want it to be too thick. Otherwise, it's gonna take some time to dry. But from here, you can start to transfer your image on, um, and we'll move on to the next thing. 3. Print Samples: now, I wanted to take some time to show you guys some examples of some different relief or, um, linoleum prints that I have done myself for my students. And it's just a collection that I've gathered throughout the years. So this is a great example. Has a lot of variety and mark making, um, lots of positive areas. That's a negative. Lots of repetition happening, and you can see, like, the variety of marks that are being made by all the different fund gouges that we get to use. Um, excuse me for this project, Um, this is another one. You might have seen this in my first skill share video. This is of the cedar waxwings bird. But you can see using the gouges to create a white line. What type of effect that might have another example. So, looking at it in terms of, um, white line on the black ground is essentially what we have here. So anywhere I carved is gonna be my white, you know, pretty typical with relief prints. Um, this is a student work where it's very all the images, kind of in the foreground. Everything's carved away, except for the the image itself, so we the block shape is essentially a circle. Ah, this is a really nice example to So the center was all carved out to create the white of the paper with a lot of textural patterns happening. So some really fun and different approaches toe have with, um Lai No cuts in relief. Printmaking. This is one of my own. So areas that were mostly carved away and then a positive area of the wolf. Another print of my own. So similar kind of aesthetic small marks, larger marks. And I'll try to include some images of these so you guys can see a little bit more in depth , but pay attention to the different areas, the different carving kind of techniques that are being employed. Ah, this is the one from the first skill share video. So utilising again, positive negative space, trying to make the the main central image come out some way through texture. So the outstanding in front similar to what's happening with this one of one of my students , the creature, the little mochi is kind of standing out from the graphs or whatever the texture is that's being represented there. Um Let's see what else we have. Um, this one's a really nice example to another student work. So carving larger areas away, creating shapes of color either black or white, adding texture to create kind of a story or discussion. Um, another fine example of hibiscus flower and then a nice texture. She called hibiscus and waves, which is really beautiful. Uhm, and another piece here by another student, um, of mine. So again, if you break it down, you see texture. You see large shapes of color. So either you're black of the anchor white of the paper. Um, this is another piece of mine with the same imagery using multiple blocks, so 4. Tools: So now I want to go over the tools that are used in linoleum. Printmaking. This one's a pretty common one. It's the speedball kind of multi changing gouge gouge carver. So with this one, it's pretty low cost. It's like under $10. I think it comes with all sorts of different gouges. You can open the base of it or the handheld part, and you can store all your gouges, which is really cool. Um, it's easy to take apart. So you just kind of twist the front little head there. And there's like a ball bearing in. Ah, a little enclosure for and it's really easy. You just tighten and loosen it whenever you're carving, always make sure it's tight, and it's in there pretty snug. Um, so those air really great and easy to work with? I like to keep mine out on my studio space, so that way they're always accessible, and I can see him. Um, this is a really important tool called the knife for, um, that, I guess Chisel cutter. Some people called that as well, but you to these have a different kind of God shape to it. So as you start to cut into your block, you'll notice that each one produces a different effect. So it's just something to be aware of, um, to utilize and to understand, um, some other tools. This is the flex cut carving tools, Micro Palm said. This is actually the first time I'm opening this, so it's pretty exciting. I just ordered it for myself. And what's great about these is they have a really kind of ergonomic handle to him, so they're really easy to carve with. They can be used for both Ah linoleum and would, um, softer wood harder woods things like that. But they have essentially, like smaller gouges to them. You can get really great detail, and I believe it also comes with a, um, sharpening stones so you can sharpen that as well. I also wanted to go over some non traditional tools, so I have a Phillips head screwdriver, a small kind of utility, um, flathead screwdriver and a utility knife. Some other things I have a swell are like a screw. So things they're just sort of lying around. And then a little wire nails 5. Carving: So now our blackness finally dry. Um, I just set my in front of my heater and it dried in, like, 10 minutes or so, but, um, yeah, I just wanna make sure it's dry before So you're not kind of getting all the wonderful acrylic paint on your side of your hand there. Um, so I'm starting off. You can kind of see I have a design. It's a little hard to tell in the video, but I have, like, kind of a loose pencil drawing that I did on top. Um, some artists just used this kind of knife tool to initially carve out the areas that they wanna work with with a smaller gouge later on. Um, this is a pretty common practice. It more or less just kind of paves the road. Um, so to speak for the other gouges and to ensure that you're not going to slip in any way. Um, so it's really great for that. You'll notice I'm rotating the black as I'm working. If I'm making certain cuts in a certain direction, I'm doing all those cuts first, rotating it and then doing the other cuts in the opposite direction. Um so, yeah, it's just really great for that. This tool, um, again is easy to use. You can change those gouges pretty quickly. Um, great for like, a Rainier wintry day. That's why I feel compelled to always come back to linoleum printmaking in the winter time . It just feels very cozy, but so I'm going back in with a little bit more of a deeper V gouge. You can see the line pretty clearly because I stained my plate read, Um, so now I can tell like where my areas of white are gonna be, where my areas of black or the color of my ink is going to be. Um, but you can tell that the carving sort of trajectory is pretty smooth. It's, um, more kind of structured, I guess, than if I were Teoh do it without I do both ways where I like to carve initially. And then I will, um, you know, card with another gouge. But there's other times where I just kind of go at it and see what happens. Um, I like to call myself a pretty intuitive artist. That's something I'm kind of married to, so ah, you can see using the smaller gouge. It just makes a really nice, thin line, thin white area on the black. Um, I switched to the smaller one just because it's easier to do. Um, with that particular area, it's pretty tight. I didn't want to kind of mess up any, uh, any information there, So, um, yeah, it's it's helpful to do. It's not necessary. It's kind of up to you and like your own aesthetic that you're going for, Um, it might be good for some, but not all. Ah, you'll notice that this process can get kind of messy. So as you're, um, starting to carve and things like that, just be mindful of getting those little scraps out of your way because they'll either get stuck on your block. They'll get stuck on your hands. You would be surprised at the places that they could get stuck, but I went ahead and switch to like a you gouge now so you can see it's more of like a wider cut. Um, I'm able to kind of get like this texture or this pattern going on here, which is really nice. I wanted it to sort of be like resembling rain. Um, maybe I'm missing the spring time as its December 19th today, but, um, yeah, it's it's really fun for that. You can be pretty controlled. So this one, I didn't carve anything beforehand. I just some kind of going at it and, um, seeing what can happen with that. And you can see the effect is already looking pretty different in comparison. Um, so I can go back and kind of touch up some other areas that I might not have been happy with. Um, linoleum is great, but the hard thing is that you can't really ever go back. So if you mess something up, um, you kind of have to work with it. If you don't like it, you know, there's we don't really have, like, a wood filler, something like that for line. Oh, so it's It's about, like adapting to whatever mistakes you might make as you carve and being okay with that. So a good rule of thumb is to Ah, it kind of applies, I suppose, but to measure twice and cut once. So you're just sort of thinking in that mindset, Um, where you you want to kind of anticipate your marks, especially if you're spending money on these things. You want to make sure it's what you want to get out of it. But, um, you know, these air, all smaller blacks that I've been working what they do sell linoleum, blacks at pretty good prices and different sizes. I just got some there, like, nine by 11 I think a two pack for, like, 15 bucks. And I think that's a pretty good price. Um, you can work on the front and on the back. This one is actually I have a print on the other side as well. So I typically do that. Um, I keep things pretty clean, so just make sure cleaning in between eso Yeah, this image is kind of like a flower, so I'm starting to use some different gouges. This one's pretty interesting. If you look at this particular gouge up close, it looks more like a I guess, um, a square without the top on it. So it's pretty angular is pretty rectal in here. Um, it does have a bit of a different look than the kind of lower you gouge. Um, the softer you gouge that I was using for the first marks. Um, so that's just something to be mindful of. 6. Carving with Alt Tools: So for our last carving. Ah, demo video here. I wanted to use some kind of non traditional tools and materials. I've seen people do things like in Boston. It's with keys with thumbtacks. But I found this Phillips head screwdriver and it kind of creates is nice kind of starburst pattern, I guess, Um, if you just fresh press enough into the linoleum, Um, if you're working on would you can also do this to just use a mallet like a rubber Mallon hammered in there. But you can kind of see it just in this video. What the's sort of star shapes air looking like anywhere is indented will be white, and it's going to kind of spread out Nice. Um, this one's like a small, um, screwdriver. That's like a flathead. So I'm just kind of making these little star patterns and well as well, you know, making some different lines, pressing pretty hard. Um, but there's a couple other fun things I have here. Like the screw. Um, I might use, like, some kind of protection, maybe some leather gloves or something else. I'm pretty adventurous in my studio, so I don't mind, but I don't want anyone getting hurt, So just be careful things like that. So I'm just pressing it on its side, um, to create some kind of nice linear, um, textures that will kind of match well with the linear textures in the flower. So I'm just using pressure scraping across that surface. You can barely see it in the video, but there's a couple spots that it's kind of popping. Um, this one's utility knife, so you can also use like, an exacto blade. But I'm just kind of cutting into it, um, you know, and seeing what's happening. Um, right now, just carving into my actual stem kind of creating an outline similar to how, um, how we did with the, um the knife in the speedball interchangeable gouge set. So pretty similar function. So if you don't have, like, all these gouges and stuff yet you can also use that, um, if you also have wood cutting tools for anybody else who might have done like printmaking on wooded. Those tools work while is in addition, I do have some of those. I just don't really bring them out for this just cause it's such a tiny plate. Ah, if I was working larger, I might introduce that. But, um yeah, those air, some kind of fun. Um, fun, alternative tools to use. I'm all about exploring and experimenting when it comes to my studio practice. So if you see something with a cool texture, you know, grab it, check it out, see if it can make a dent or scratch in the surface. Um, you could come up with some pretty fun and unique things. Check it out on the Internet and books. See how people made their impressions as well. You'd be pretty surprised and amazed how people are making marks. Like I said, thumbtacks were really great. Sometimes people use wire brushes, too. Um, trying to think what else? Maybe like a hard or heavy comb, something like that. But, um, yeah, don't be afraid to explore. Like I said, use things like ah, kind of a scrap black of linoleum just to see what those marks might look like. For me, this kind of print that I made was more or less about, like exploring ah, Mark making in its full potential. Like what Marx can I make, like what is comfortable for me and what's not comfortable. Um, so it is going to do a couple of time lapse videos here to show you guys like the carving process? Um, kind of how I personally approach it for my prints. So we'll go ahead from there and then we'll get onto printing and some other fun stuff. 7. More Tools: Flex Cut Palm Set: All right, So now I'm gonna go ahead and jump to my flex cut Micro palm carving sets. Um, these ones air really beautiful. Like I said, this is kind of my first exploration with them, but I noticed that they carve really, really easy, especially with the easy cut. Um, linoleum. Um, it was really amazing in comparison to my speedball kind of interchangeable. Gotsch said that I had just worked within the past video that I just did. Um, but the lines air pretty Ah, smooth, really precise. The cutting is really easy. Um, and there's a lot of different gouges to work with. It's a set of four. So I'm just trying to use a couple different ones in this video. Um, I always like to kind of hold mine up and look at it from from head on and just see, like, what does my god shape look like? Is it gonna be useful for this this kind of information that I'm trying to display so you can tell with this one that I'm currently using? It's a really tiny gouge, the marks air barely visible in this video. You have to kind of work for it to see it, but you can see that it's gonna produce some really cool effects and you'll notice it when we do our print, um, later on. But yeah, it's really sensitive. Probably great for doing things like hair and facial details if you work with, like, a human figure, um, or animals and things like that, but something to just be aware of. And it never hurts to make like a practice carving. You know, if you have an idea and you don't want to kind of make a carve on your fine art black of a print that you're going to make, But you have one kind of set to the side, right, like a scrap piece of linoleum you just tested and just see what you got. Um, this one's really beautiful as well. It's more of like a soft, um, you shape. I guess you would call it, but it's, um, kind of rectilinear, carves nice sections away at a time. Um, it's really easy toe handle. Like I said, the wooden handles really comfortable. You don't always get that with printmaking tools. Usually it's a little bit of a struggle, but you can tell like the visual variety that's happening. Ah, just went with those couple of gouges that I used, Um, you know, just in the past couple minutes here, but, ah, this is a little bit wider. One so a little bit more similar to what I'm getting with my, uh, my speedboat interchangeable gouge. It pairs really nicely with these other initial kind of soft you circular kind of gouges that I made for the rain. Um, so I'm just trying to kind of work that in there, give some visual variety. So it's not just one line. Wait Ah, or thickness that's happening. So just making it diverse. You know, that's gonna add some more interest when looking at the final print. Um, you can already tell. Like what this print might look like. It's given us a pretty good impression, right, So we'll know that when we print it, um, you know what to expect? Kind of we know just from dying it. So let's move on to some more carving 8. Carving Time Lapse: 9. Ink Prep: So now we're going to get everything set up. I have my, um, safe wash ink. Um, I believe it's in Roubaix. In red is the name of the color. I think it's gonna be one of my new favorites. It's ah, really beautiful. It's oil based and also water based at the same time. So it's easy to to wash, um, wash with soap and water, which is great, but also has really rich color. So I just kind of put a sin beat out of ink, Not too much. I just pressed it really gently. Not too much. You don't want to waste it. Um, about the width of my Breyer. So pretty, pretty easy right there that we don't have too much ink. They run about 9 to $10 apiece, so you want to be pretty cost effective with it. So I'm just going in a couple different directions here. I have my sheet of plexiglass that I put the gun. So if you don't have one, get, like old picture frame glass, or like a piece of plexiglass from another, um, art piece there print that you might have had. You can put tape around the edges, too. So it's easier toe sort of see where it's at. Um, and if it's glass, it's something you should dio. So I'm just quoting my block. I'm just going in a couple of directions. Not too much back and forth action, using a little bit of pressure, but not too much. Just making sure that I'm covering all the surfaces of the actual block itself, making sure it's even and not to kind of put early on one side. Or there's too much ink, gloppy nous happening. Ah, and yes, those are both very professional for making terms. So we're gonna go ahead and get this baby printed. You wanna keep your area nice and clean, and we'll go ahead and print in the next video here. 10. Printing (version 1): So now that our plate iss fully inked, I'm just going to do a little bit of registration. I like toe work on this quilt self healing, Matt, because it does have all those little squares, each squares 1/2 inch and I can kind of guest, mate. Um, exactly where my my print should be on the paper on the next video, I kind of I'll be showing you how to register it in a little bit more of, ah, exact manner. So I'm just letting the paper line up the way I want it, and essentially, like kissing the block to the paper. And then I'm using my baron. That's the bamboo covered one. I'm just applying pressure going in a circular manner. Um, covering the edges, things like that. Just being really gentle. You don't want to move too fast. You might tear through the paper. Um, you might slip all these sort of things might happen. So you have to be really careful with that. This ink is really sticky, so it produces a pretty solid Ah, you know, covering of the ink in the solid areas. I like to go over a few times. Just for a little reassurance, but, um, the print looks pretty good, So I'm gonna go ahead and pull it if it's not inked all the way. At that point, you could try to re ink the black, press the paper back down, but I think that looks pretty good. 11. Printing (version 2): so, as promised, I just wanted to talk about registering a little differently. Um, so for this technique, I like to set my paper down on the clean surface, and I'm gonna be printing, and I like to make kind of these tape corner. So I'm just using my painter's tape. Um, it's pretty sticky, and you can use it again. So that way, I can kind of be, um, you know, economical in my studio supplies here, So I'm just making tape corners, trying to line it up to the paper itself. But not, um, you know, sticking to the paper. Ah, I usually do the top two. But for this demo, since a lot of you guys might be new, I'm gonna go ahead and do all four corners, so you gotta find what method works best for you. There's about a 1,000,000 different ways to register your paper. This is only one. I'll probably explore that more in other videos that I do down the line. But essentially, this is how I do. It s so I think I feel the most comfortable showing that, um, we're just getting the size of your papers. Great. First, I like working again on the cell feeling Max. It's easy to clean again. So if it gets in the way, I kind of have a safety cushion. So I'm just moving the paper. And now I'm going to find the center by placing my block on that little margin that I made for myself. Um, right now, just eyeballing it. I'm gonna go ahead and measure in a little bit just to make sure it's, um you know where it needs to be. Um, so if you have a ruler line around, this would be a good time to use one. You just want to make sure you're using metrics, use metrics. Um um, So here I can tell that one side is a little bit too long than the other just by doing some simple measurements there. And like I said, because my my mat is ah, half inch increments, I can kind of visualize that pretty easily, which is great. Um, a lot of time with Prince, you'll have a smaller margin on the top than on the bottom. Um, it's just kind of a traditional thing that's existed in for making for a long time, so I'm just trying to center mine as best as I can, but making the bottom a tiny bit larger. Um, And that way, there's some nice borders. I'm just using a permanent marker to kind of mark where my, um my plate should be, um it's nice that washes off really easily with rubbing alcohol so you can use that if you are available, Teoh or you could also cut out a piece of paper. The same size is the block and tape it down. So every time your block is on that piece of paper, that's the same size. So now this is great that I can print in addition of my image. And, um, it's going to be consistent. All of the prince will look exactly the same. They're gonna be in the same place on the paper, which is pretty detrimental social. If you get into selling your work, um, you sell in addition or you're showcasing in addition of work, you want to make sure that all of the prints look exactly the same. Um, so I'm gonna go ahead and print in addition of these, probably like, I think I have maybe 10 sheets of paper to work with. I'm just using some pre cut drawing paper that I got at the local art store. Um, works pretty good. So with registration just lining up the two top corners, holding in the center and just letting the paper drape on top of it. So it's pretty easy. Um, don't think about it too hard, I would suggest, but, um, it just makes for a really consistent run of your print edition. So we'll go into some other kind of things, like tearing paper, and then will, ah, what kind of talk about the print a little bit. 12. Tearing Down Paper: and I wanted to show another important thing of printmaking, which is tearing paper. I just have a quirk backed metal ruler, and I use that for all of my tearing. So this is a kind of a re adapt station of the scrimmages pulled for this class. I just put two extra images on the sides. Their and essentially it was printed a little crooked, Lee. So I'm just lining it up with the straight edges of the block that was printed and I'm holding down pressure. And then I am dragging the papers. I'm right handed, So this is kind of my direction. If you're left, it might look a little bit different. My ruler measures about an inch with, So sometimes it works for me, sometimes a dozen. So this is one way of tearing paper. Um, I'm gonna go ahead and grab another print that we can kind of terror down and experiment with, but it just looks nicer than, say, using some scissors, which you might cut a little bit crooked. Or like a shear cutter. Something like that. Um, so this one I'm just gonna tear down about about an inch on each side of the paper. And the way I do that is I'll take a pencil, just a soft one. Um, like an h pencil. And I'm just measuring from what's, Ah, the top in the bottom side. So right now I have my ruler just lined up making like, a little tiny tick mark. So not like a big, dark line. That's ah, distracting, but just like a little mark as a guide. So just on the top in the bottom and, um, just too little pencil marks, That's all you need. You don't need to trace a line all the way across. But now I can line my ruler up on that top and bottom mark and I can hold pressure with my left hand and then very diligently pull with my right and making sure there's pressure on the ruler so it doesn't slip. That's something I see a lot with students when they first learned how to tear paper is that it often times will slip because they're not holding down enough pressure. So just a rookie mistake, but something you want to make sure you're doing. I'm kind of covering the camera, but I apologize. But yeah, just making those two marks and then lining it up. And if you have a print edition, you want to make sure each print is exactly the same direction. So our I'm sorry, size. So you want to make sure all your prints are are looking good. They're straight. They measure correctly again, use interests if you're using INGE's, um, so that looks pretty good for me. Um, I'd probably do the same thing with my entire addition that I had printed.