Penny Bhadresa - artist - printmaker

linoprinting 1

Making limited edition linocuts has become a central part of my creative work as an artist. Printmaking imposes its own discipline on working practice and I find this more structured approach introduces a satisfyingly measured rhythm to my work that contrasts with the way I approach other media.

I enjoy the versatility and immediacy of linoprinting. In its simplest form this comprises making an incised mark on the lino surface, applying ink, placing paper over the inked up area and taking a print using either a press or by rubbing with the back of a spoon. At this point when the paper is being carefully peeled back to reveal the resulting image, there is always a moment when I hold my breath in anticipation of what I will see. And that is part of the thrill of printmaking – the kind of alchemy that takes place in the actual process of printing, when the decisions I have taken in making the marks on the surface of the lino block combined with the way I have decided to apply the inks, result in a print that will either work or not. It is that element of fine judgement in the execution together with the spontaneity of applying the inks that can produce freshness and vitality in the finished linocut print.

The process starts with drawing my idea for a composition, remembering that the image will be in reverse in the final linocut. I work straight from my imagination or combine this with visual references from photographs I have taken or sketches I have made. As the idea progresses the question of colour has to be addressed; sometimes I decide on colours when I am drawing the design, deciding which areas of the lino block have to remain uncut to take the appropriate colour. This does require a degree of foresight, always thinking one step ahead. It can become quite a feat of mental dexterity.

When I am happy with my design and composition I transfer it to lino using tracing and carbon papers. Cutting out the design is done with different sized gouges and V-tools having first warmed the lino with an iron on a low setting. This makes the otherwise hard, brittle lino easy to cut. Using the cutting tools in different ways – exerting more or less pressure, rocking the tool slightly from side to side as you cut or simply experimenting with making different kinds of marks to vary the texture, can produce a print characterised by contrasting areas of precisely cut flowing lines and areas of lively texture. Once the cutting is complete the lino is mounted on board to strengthen it and is then ready for inking.

Brief encounter block
A print
A press

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