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Lino Cut Printing on Maps

Updated: Jun 22, 2020

Having worked out my lino cut design, I used the military symbol stencils and the Australian War Memorial template to trace onto my piece of sanded lino. It took a little bit of working out which military stencils would be the right size for the lino so that the proportions looked right. Thankfully I have a number of Andrew's old stencils to work with.

I'd cut my hand quite deeply when I last did a lino cut. This was over 20 years ago when I was at high school, but even still, the memory was vivid and I still have the scar! Given this, I listened particularly carefully to the tuition we received online and ensured that I used a rubber matting so that no slipping would occur. I also ensured I directed the cutting tools well away from my resting hand which was also hold the lino firm (This is what I totally messed up last time when the great accident of 1998 occurred!)

I also moved my desk lamp directly over my work so that it was really bright and easy to see the detail I was attempting to cut. The softness of my lino, and the sharp effectiveness of my tools, all helped make this a really safe practice this time!

It was great practice to rotated the lino and my cutting tool direction to safely carve all of these little shapes!

And done - with no bloodshed!

I was really excited to frottage my plate to see if I needed to recut any of my work. I smartened up some of the shapes and the building, but I liked the roughness of some of the line work so I kept it a little organic looking. I realised when I looked at some of my fellow student's work online that I could have done a more 'painterly', textured carving. However, I was already committed to this design and I will look to develop another look potentially next time.

Setting up the home studio was interesting. I used my daughter's 'splatter mat' to keep things tidy on my work bench, and an old plastic cutting board from my kitchen to roll out my ink. I soon found a rhythm and technique to getting enough ink onto the print: plenty of ink onto the lino, print on the smooth side of the kozo paper, plenty of hard pressing using the bamboo baren with careful checking to ensure the image had transferred enough.

Hey presto, my Ready to Print proof:

I experienced some delightful serendipity whilst printing. I'd recently listened to a radio show where author Elizabeth Gilbert spoke about how she lovingly asks her manuscripts for their title. When printing my piece, I asked the work what its name was. It told me immediately and clearly that it was called, 'Coming Home.' I think it's the perfect name for the work.

I taped my progress on my studio wall, allowing the ink to dry as I contemplated my artwork.

Hello 'Coming Home'!

My plan had always been to print my piece onto a military map of Canberra. Canberra as Place and Home is imbued into this piece. As I said in my last post about my lino cut, in the military, we use map marking stencils to plan operations and battles. The landscape is a function, a method, and an environment to collaborate with to achieve your mission. This way of representing 'place' seems so militant and narrow now that I'm transitioning out of the Army.

An Army friend had sent me a lovely military map of Canberra. He'd used it during training, it was already folded, drawn on, and a little dirty. In contrast to the orderly, precise militancy of the black lino cut shapes, natural greens, pinks, and blues of the map represent to me the natural world and the familiarity of my old home in Canberra. Whilst the black ink is mostly solid, there are areas where you can see the natural world, the old sense of home and place, peeking through the ordered shapes.

But there is complexity in what that map represents also – there is both a sense of comfort and also dis-ease. The map is an old training aid from the challenging Officer training days at the Royal Military College - Duntroon. There was just one map used for the set, but I did not want to lay it out it in its correct order and it seemed right to rip it up for the map for the purpose of art. I wanted to say something of these vivid and not always pleasant experiences of training, home and place.

I realised that printing on the maps needed a bit of a honed technique. Luckily I had another old map to practice on. I soaked the paper before printing and later realised this was not a good idea. The wet paper tore and stuck onto the lino. It was a disaster. I was a bit worried because I didn't have lots of map to work with and couldn't afford to ruin any more bits of map.

Next time, no soaking and careful careful careful peeling back for the big reveals. This was the result, but I had printed it 90 degrees to where I wanted the top of the map to be!! I needed to get the orientation right this next time.

But bam! It seemed to work - all four were just how I wanted them to be.

I am really happy with this set of four and have actually entered it into the Australian War Memorial veterans art competition.

Next lino cut blog I will explore hand painting and chine colle.

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