Colour Lino Printing at Resort Studios with course leader and pro linocutter Nick Morley aka Linocut Boy
When Christmas comes around you normally expect the annual replenishment of socks, underpants and the latest Dandy annual, what I wasn’t expecting was this little gem! As I opened a card from my wife out dropped a piece of paper telling me that one month later I would be attending a two day colour lino printing workshop at Resort Studios in Margate, UK (Result!!!). That wasn’t all either, the course was also being run by one of my favourite linocutters, Nick Morely – aka Linocut Boy.
Being fairly new to linocutting all my prints up until this point had been in black and white – meaning black ink on white paper. I’d seen colour prints and often wondered how the whole multi block approach worked, especially when it came to accurately lining up and registering the different layers. I had a pretty good idea but the devil is in the details, and those were definitely missing for me.
The course sets out to teach you all you need to know to get started on this aspect of linocutting, and whilst I’m sure there is more to learn than you can squeeze into two days I can’t recommend the course highly enough. Nick teaches the students how to design, carve and print multi-block prints, and what really made the experience extra special was seeing the different approaches all the students took. All the students finish the course with one design, and the collaborative spirit meant we all learnt from each others projects.
The course has six students and runs from 10:30am – 4:30pm Saturday and Sunday. The format is designed to ease the students in and caters for all skill levels, so don’t worry if you’re a real beginner or slightly more advanced. Interspersed between the activities are numerous points where Nick gives practical examples, using his own work as reference.
Day 01 begins with an introduction to the course, linocutting and the essential tools and materials of the trade. It’s not long before Nick has everyone carving into their first block of lino, experimenting with the different marks that can be achieved with the various tools at our disposal. This is then followed up with a closer look at the printing presses in the studio and the glass topped areas available to start rolling out some inks for the cut lino. Resort studios have some great presses for students to use, there are a few book presses of different sizes but best of all they have an etching press (which i will have to talk more about later).
We looked at how solid colour inks (cyan, yellow and magenta) mix when overlayed on paper as well as how they were affected by extender and white inks, as well as how you can mix colours with a palette knife – this ended in a competition to see who could mix the best black (which team Draw, Cut, Ink, Press definitely won!).
It was now time for lunch, and when we got back we all gathered around the etching press as Nick explained the principles of registering a multi block print (which I will share in a separate blog later). Before you know it your first day is almost over before it feels like its started. At this point Nick collected us up for a cup of tea and a discussion on creating a design we would work on and print the next day.
I wasn’t sure what I would do, so after the class I made my way to the Harbour Arm in Margate for a lovely pint of beer poured straight from the barrel. Whilst I was there I decided to do a character portrait and transferred my design of a bearded old Sea-dog fisherman from sketch pad to lino using some carbon backed tracing paper before I nipped off for a curry with my friends. The perfect end to day 01.
Day 02. With a mildly sore head from the night before and a hot bacon sandwich washed down with a strong black coffee I was ready to get cracking and start carving as soon as I arrived at the studio, which is exactly what I did. Whilst everyone was carving away, Nick made himself available to help anyone with questions and offered advice to anyone scratching their head. I decided not to do more than two blocks in my design – one keyline block (with all the finer details) and one colour block (which i decided to try with a colour gradient) – as I knew time would fly and I wanted to set myself an achievable goal. There was one ambitious student who tried to do more blocks, but they ran out of time before the end and didn’t fully complete their lino print (which was a shame because their design was really nice). So my advice here would be to keep your design simple enough to achieve, as a finished print is way more satisfying than an unfinished one.
The mix of designs in the class were great, I went for a character design but other students chose a day of the dead mexican mask, landscapes, architectural studies and the ambitious scene with a bird on a branch. Because all the subjects and styles were different it was really good to see the different approaches people took, which were great as acting as a recap for the techniques we’d been shown for getting the different blocks worked out and registering them for the prints.
Once my detail keyline blog was done Nick showed me how to ink it up and use the etching press to transfer the design onto a sheet of tracing paper, which is then itself impressed onto a new piece of lino by running it back through the press. This allowed me to then really accurately create my second block which was going to be a solid layer that would make up my background. You can create one big block for all the background, or you could just pick out certain areas for a colour layer (Eg, I could have created a block for my characters beard or hat). Once this was carved out nice and quickly I could get straight onto creating my template and mixing the colour inks.
You have to make a template to line up all the layers and make sure that everything gets registered accurately. I used an A3 sheet of plain newsprint paper, placed a piece of paper that I’d be printing onto in the middle and drew an outline around that. Then you have to place your first layer of lino onto the template and get that positioned so your artwork will be nicely positioned where you want it on the final piece (don’t worry I’ve written a step by step guide explaining this). If you had a more complicated setup for your print this process would take a bit more time than it did for me but I knew both my keyline and backgound pieces of lino were basically the same size – both A5 rectangles.
I only had about two hours left at this point so it was time to get cracking. Mixing up the colours took me a bit longer than i thought it would, especially when I was rolling out the gradient (I’ll do a mini blog on the technique for that another time) but once it was ready I got straight onto printing the background layer, I wanted to get around ten prints to take home and with all the other people also getting ready to print I could tell time was going to start evaporating fast. The next hour or so was really fun, because after all the hard work and concentration you start to see the fruits of your labour, and when all the first layers were printed it was pretty much straight onto inking up the keyline block and starting on the second layer before the ink had dried on the first. This is where all the preparation of setting up the registration template starts providing results, and the first few prints show how close your registering (lining up) of the layers is. I don’t mind a bit of mis-registration, I think it adds to the final look but I was really happy to see that mine was pretty close. Peeling off print after print was amazing, and this really showed me the potential there is with multiple block printing. So much so that my mind is now constantly thinking of new ways to apply what I learnt.
The weekend was great, I highly recommend it to anybody who enjoys lino printing and wants to start using colour more. For more information or to find out when the next colour lino printing course is coming up you can check on Nicks website here. The weekend costs £125 for adults and £100 for students and is worth every penny.