Lino Printing: Will I ever get to the point!

I think you can blame my love of prints on the railway. Don't get me wrong, all my experiences on British trains in the last few decades have not addled my delicate brain, but they have taught me a few things:

1. Never, I repeat never book a train seat with a table if you like personal space. You know the ones- four seats around a table. You'll end up with no table space and legs tangled with your opposite neighbour in a manner that I would blush to suggest with himself after 30 years of marriage.

2. If a man plonks himself down next to you with a four pack of Special Brew don't weigh up the social niceties just move. Five hours of listening to the ramblings of an obnoxious sober man who finds himself endlessly fascinating is tedious, once drunk, it's torture.

3. If a woman proceeds to get out a potty for her toddler to use in the central aisle of the train don't hold back your guffaws, but loudly speculate with your neighbour if little 'Sasha' will be allowed to use the 'nasty' train toilets before the age of ten.

No, none of the above has fostered my love of prints. Indeed, I am not much of a fan of modern trains, but give me a steam train and I'm your gal.

I've been to quite a few museums and had several trips on steam trains. I even have a t-shirt that proclaims 'Big Boy' which I bought from the National Railroad Museum in Wisconsin. I might have been swayed by the name (giggle) to buy it, but it is the noise, the smell and the design that surrounds our old engines that grabs me. All that romance wrapped up in a big ole machine - what's not to love! Romance seeps out like steam around the buffers and sinks into everything around it. I have not been surprised that himself's answer to delicately removing a speck of soot from my eye was to; A. suggest I get it out myself and B. refuse to remove it until he finds his glasses and then say, 'where are my glasses and why do you always hide them', but I have found romance in the iconography promoting trains.

Steam train
JWM Turner

Just take a look at train advertising. You can take your JMW Turner and leave me with those sublime advertising posters. But therein lies the issue; prints are seen as the mongrel mutt to fine arts' pedigree dog and commercial printing is seen as the socially outcast dog bred from genetic experiments.

Personally, I think that's a mistake as both craft and commercial prints influence us more and are more accessible than your average rarefied oil painting. So if I love print work so much why has it taken me this long to get out my printing inks...I've no idea, but I did persuade himself to buy me a starter lino printing kit for Christmas (see Spruce Crafts for a guide to lino printing). This week it finally saw an airing and I loved it.

I did a simple doodle thinking about what I wanted to see printed and traced this onto the lino provided in the pack. Then I got the little chisels out. I love me a chisel. Himself got a set of wood chisels for Christmas way back when and the only person who has ever used them is me, but I hate clearing up the chips of wood so haven't done much carving really. Lino is the answer as you can sit inside and carve to your heart's content. This I did listening to the excellent podcast 13 Minutes to the Moon that detailed the story of the lunar landing. As Mission Control detailed that there was only 30 seconds of fuel left I tried hard to keep my moon landing stress levels down and my little boat weathered the storm. I was very proud that no vital bits were chopped off as the LEM landed on the surface of the moon and Armstrong stepped out. There is no doubt it was one small step for woman happening here in Cornwall as I checked my lino for issues on a dummy print run. I carved off a few more bits and then took some final prints all overseen by Frankie sitting in her hammock.

I highly recommend this process and I will certainly do some more. I did learn a few things: if you have lots of empty space around the design just chop them off; you could use ink stamps rather than a roller and ink; that you have to take off a lot more lino that you think to get a clean print; and I need lots of practice.

So I will be looking even more closely at prints to discover what technique was used, studying more Youtube lino print artists like Maarit Hanninen (or at her website at to get inspiration and maybe even carving my own tribute to a steam train and lunar landing mash up - less Steam Punk more Space Steam ....actually, no, that sounds dodgy!

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