Mixed Media Part 1: Block Printing

May 9, 2020

When I first started my business in 2014, I sold (or, attempted to sell) a variety of things I’d made in my free time, including hand-painted mason jars and linoleum block (“linocut”) prints. Once I discovered my love for watercolor, though, those other mediums kind of went out the window for me.

 

There are a few times over the past (almost!) six years where I’ve picked my acrylics back up again, either for client work (when I painted on leather shoes and canvas bags for Nantucket Sole) or to paint on miscellaneous objects for fun (seashells, glass ornaments), but for the most part, I stick to watercolor. It’s my favorite medium, and always will be.

 

That being said- over the past two months, I’ve found myself (as I’m sure many of you have) with more time alone in my home, and it has inspired me to pull out some of my old printmaking supplies, order some new acrylics (they are game-changers- but more on that in my next post), and experiment- make things just for the sake of making them. I thought I’d write a post to share what I’ve learned, and what kinds of supplies I’ve been using, in case you want to try some printing or painting of your own.

 

PRINTMAKING

 

Supplies:

 

- If you are just getting started, I’d recommend ordering this kit- it looks like it has everything that you need except paper.

- If you’d prefer to purchase things a la carte (since I don’t think you necessarily need everything from the kit), I ordered a linoleum cutter, rubber carving blocks , water-based inks , a brayer , and paper (but truly- any matte white cardstock should work)

 

Process:

 

1. First, I looked up some block print inspiration on Pinterest. I just ran a search for “Indian block print” and a ton of great inspiration came up. I chose a couple of patterns I liked, and combined the shapes in a pencil sketch, directly on the rubber block.

 

 

2. Starting with the #1 tip (small v), carve along the edges of the shapes you’ve sketched out. You’re going to be basically “backwards sketching” with the linocutter- you’re carving out the negative (fancy word for empty) space around your design. *Important ESPECIALLY if you’re doing this with kids- make sure you are carving away from yourself/your non-dominant hand at all times. You can use a bench-hook to keep your rubber block in place if you’d like.

 

3. Once you’ve outlined your design, switch to the #2 tip, and carve out more of the space surrounding your design. Use the #1-3 tips for smaller areas, and the #4 tip for larger areas. I saved the #5 tip to scoop out the entire surrounding area, then finally cut off the excess with scissors (you can use the knife attachment, but I think scissors are easier).

 

4. Choose your ink colors (the water-based ink colors I’ve found are very bright- if you want to mute a color, mix it with white and a tiny bit of its complementary color. For the minty green in my photos, I mixed three parts white with one part green and a very small amount of red).

 

5. Roll your ink out with your brayer on a slick, non-porous surface. I use a piece of glass from an old frame. Keep rolling back and forth until the brayer surface is evenly covered, and makes a sticky sound (my most common mistake is over-inking my brayer).

 

6. Apply ink to the carved surface of your stamp. Make sure that the areas are evenly covered.

 

7. Place your stamp upside down on your paper. Hold it down firmly, without moving it around (when there is too much ink on the stamp, it has a tendency to slide).

 

8. Slowly and carefully pull your stamp off of your paper. Repeat steps 6-8 as many times as you’d like! I like to experiment with making patterns by alternating the stamps I’m using and/or the direction of the stamps.

 

I’m going to continue to experiment with carving new designs, and to practice printing them on paper. Once I feel comfortable with the process, I might order some fabric inks, and try printing on a tablecloth. and/or some linens.

 

 

 

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