Linocuts are a method of relief printing similiar to woodcuts. An initial sketch is drawn in an A5 sketchbook (1) while out on a walk and then enlarged to the required size and redrawn with more accuracy. This finished rough is then traced with a chinagraph pencil and then placed chinagraph side down on a cleansed lino block. The back of the now reversed drawing is traced again and the chinagraph line is transferred to the lino sheet.
artist now uses a variety of gouges and cutting tools (2) to carve away those
areas of the image that are to remain clear of colour and only show the white
of the paper. Ink is then applied to the surface of the lino with a roller
As well as thinking back to front, the artist must also think in reverse as the printed picture is a mirror image of the carved lino. The initial cutting into the lino is where the artist wants the colour of the paper, usually white, to show through when the first and lightest colour is applied. Each succeeding colour is applied to the block, printed then carved away getting darker each time until the final colour layer, black, is applied.
The process is known as suicide, elimination or reduction printing. Once an area of colour has been printed it must be carved away to allow it to show through when the next, darker colour is printed over the top. This calls for extreme accuracy in laying the same piece of paper on the lino block for each colour. It also means that the artist cannot go back to a previous colour because that part of the lino block has been carved away. Once the print is finished the artist is left with an almost bare piece of lino backing with only those areas that printed the black ink remaining.
An edition, the number in the bottom left of the print is how many times the artist laid a new sheet of paper on the inked block. The top number is where in that series the particular print came. 2/4 is simply the second new sheet of paper used in a series of four. It does not imply 1st or 2nd in quality.