Thursday, February 23, 2023

Self Care - Taking a Retreat Day at Home

Today, quite spontaneously, I decided to take a retreat day at home.  Actually, right in my bedroom.  It is snowing outside, a rare occurrence here on the coast of northern CA.  I am enjoying the beauty I see from my bedroom windows, while being warm and cozy indoors.  And all three of my furry family members have joined me.  Do you see my ginger boy Hobbs in photo?  So far, this retreat is going very well.  

Every good retreat needs to start with a great cup of coffee.  I make a blend of five different flavors of decaf, and some stevia.  And it needs to be in one of my favorite coffee cups.  This is a recent find.  I collect rainbow mugs.  They remind me of my cat Tiger.  

So my plan for today is to get inspired.  To fill up my creative well.  I brought my computer and a notebook, and a collection of art books to read, up to my "bedroom sanctuary." And I have a number of ideas for writing on my blog.  I LOVE to write and just never give myself the time.  Maybe I can change that this year.

My book collection of inspiration for today has a book on block printing, some books on collage, my other love, some art business books, and The Artist's Way. I don't think I will read them all, but bits and pieces of them.  And I'll share the wisdom of what I find in other posts for you.  

So far today is a perfect day.  

Self care is sooo important for artists.  If we don't feed our creative wells, we have nothing to draw from for our creativity.  That's when we experience creative block. I would highly recommend taking a creative home retreat as a way to inspire yourself, and move through creative block, if you are experiencing that.  Or even if you are not.  It's an enriching way to spend a day.    


Tuesday, February 14, 2023

So You Want to Learn Linocut Printing - Recommended Books and Online Resources

 I LOVE art books.  They are my favorite books to collect.  Books are such a wonderful hands on resource.  I know you can look up how to do almost anything online these days, but I still like reading a good book and looking at the pictures.  

I have three good linocut books I would recommend if you are a book lover like me.  

The first just came out in January of 2023.  It's called "Linocut - A Creative Guide to Making Beautiful Prints," by Sam Marshall.  Sam goes over all the tools and materials you will need to create a print, and she has exercises that take you through, step by step, to try different techniques of linocut printing.  There are also five artist interviews of other printmakers and their work.  I highly recommend this book if you are a beginner, or are interested in learning a specific technique that you may not have tried so far.  

You can find Sam on Instagram @sammarshallart.

The other two books I own and would recommend are "Linocut for Artists and Designers" by Nick Morley and Block Print magic by Emily Louise Howard.  They each have their own take on recommended  tools and materials, with projects and sharing of other printmakers work.  

You can find Nick Morley on Instagram @linocutboy, and Emily Howard @thediggingestgirl.


If you would rather watch videos on linocut printmaking, check out the following artists on You Tube.  These are artists I would recommend:

  • Maarit Hanninen
  • Laura Boswell
  • Honey Thief Prints
  • E Hollingshead Art
  • Colin Blanchard
  • Daniel Villa Art
Of course, there are many printmakers on Instagram and you can learn so much from following as many as you like, reading their posts and watching their videos.  You can learn sooooo many tips and tricks just doing that.  And many print artists are very generous in answering specific questions if you have some. Please just thank them for their time and generosity in sharing the wisdom they have acquired from lots of trial and error.  



This is an addition to my original post.  I had to include it because it truly is so awesome.  If you are on Facebook, you need to join the Facebook group LINOCUT FRIENDS.  It would be worth it to join Facebook just to join this group.  The group is an amazing resource for all linocut printmakers.  Artists share their work, both beginners and more seasoned printmakers, which is wonderful to see.  But you can also get tips and help with questions you have about the process or materials.  I really cannot recommend this group enough.  There are other linocut printmaking groups on facebook that you can join, but this one is truly the best.  

So You Want to Learn Linocut Printing - Here's How I Started

I started linocut printing just over five years ago.  Actually, I had tried it first in a high school art class, and had decided at that time, that I did not like the medium.  I tried it again in my early twenties, and once again, decided it was not for me.  

Five to six years ago I started my first Instagram account for an online gemstone business I had.  I really liked Instagram at that time.  It was all beautiful photos.  Because I am an artist and an art lover, I followed art from artists all around the world.  The art I was most drawn to at the time was linocut printing, and I felt inspired to try again. This time, I stayed with it.

My first linocut

When I started, I didn't want to buy expensive material and tools,  just in case I was not going to stick with it again.  I also didn't want to use oil based ink because I did not want to use toxic solvents for clean up.   


The tools I started with and would recommend if you just want to try to see if you like the linocut printing are as follows:

1. Speedball has a beginning carving set called the Linoleum Cutter Assortment Kit #1.  It comes with one handle and five changeable gouges or blades.  

2. In order to keep the blades sharp so you do not get frustrated I'd recommend purchasing a Slip Strop by Flexcut.  It is very easy to use.  Just look up a video online.  Dull blades make it difficult to get a smooth carve, and can leave a rough edge to your carve.

The slip strope and carving gouges

3. I started with pink Speedy Carve blocks from Speedball.  They are a soft block material, made of a rubbery substance.  There are other soft blocks available that you may want to try.  This was just readily available to me.

Different block materials I have tried

4. For inks, I started with Speedball water based inks.  I had some that were twenty years old or more and they were still usable, and then I also purchased more.  I also tried the water based printing inks by Blick.  Whatever you buy, you need to but inks specific to linocut or block printing, also called relief printing inks.

Speedball inks, tools and Speedy Carve block

5. Ink rollers.  I started with and still use Speedball rollers.  I prefer the soft, not the hard rollers.

Ink rollers

6. When I first started printing, I did it by hand.  No press.  I also started with a heavy printing paper called Legion Stonehenge.  Not recommended for hand printing.  Light weight papers like rice paper or mulberry paper or anything under 175gsm, would better for hand printing.   Daniel Villa, another linocut artist, recommends Rives BFK 115-175gsm paper, or for a less expensive option, Black Masterprint Paper 75gsm.  A thinner paper requires less pressure to transfer an image, so less wear and tear on your hands.  As far as what to use to press the paper, you can purchase a baren, or use a wooden spoon, a metal spoon, or the glass top from a candle.  


I worked in an art supply store for many years when I was in my twenties, which I loved.  I learned so much about the quality of good, expensive art materials.  They are pricy for a reason.  The quality of your art supplies makes a HUGE difference in your finished art piece.  I will say this again because it is soooo important, the quality of your art supplies makes a HUGE difference in your finished art piece.


That being said, using the above mentioned supplies were good for me to begin with.  But I could not get the quality that I wanted from my finished prints.  I'm kind of a perfectionist. I knew those materials were not for me.  So I read about what other printmakers were using for inks, paper, and tools, and I bought what I could little by little until I finally know what works best for me now.  Please know, each artist will have tools they like best.  

Here are the tools I now use and recommend: 

1. I like to carve on battleship grey linoleum and Japanese vinyl.  I like the way the printing ink takes to the blocks, and how well the materials print.  I only use the Japanese vinyl when I am doing a multi-colored jigsaw puzzle print.  The vinyl is more expensive, but it stays flat, which is necessary when you are making a puzzle print.

2. I recommend Pfeil and Flexcut carving gouges.  I have only two of the Pfeil gouges, the smallest sizes,  #11 and #12.  Then I have two different sets of the Flexcut tools.  Their SK130 comes with one handle and five interchangeable gouges, and I have their FR804 Micro Palm Set.  Either or both of these sets are wonderful.

Pfeil and Flexcut tools

3. My favorite inks by far are made by Cranfield out of the UK, and they are called Caligo Safewash relief inks.  The colors are vibrant and full of pigment, and they clean up easily with soap and water.  The only oil based ink I use is also made by Cranfield, called Cranfield relief inks, and I only use the metallics in that range.  They are gorgeous.

Caligo Safewash inks

4. I started with and still use Speedball soft ink rollers.

5. Paper.  There is so much to choose from.  I was a watercolor painter for twenty years and with watercolor, the heavier the paper, the flatter it will stay.  With printing, it's not the same.  You don't have to worry about that, but I still like a heavy print paper.  I started out with Legion Stonehenge, and I still use it now.  The paper comes in a beautiful range of neutral tones.  It is 260gsm in weight.  

6. A press.  I tried a number of small presses before I purchased my Woodzilla Press.  I love it.  It has worked very well for me.  But I do know of some artists that cannot make it work for them.  I'm really not sure why.  

Using my Woodzilla press