Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Masterclass 2.

Last month was another trip up to the Royal Cambrian Academy at Conwy for the second masterclass in Linocut and another early start. Not something I usually have to worry about, not working as Ian the Postman anymore. That's another story, a long tale of early starts, heavy bags, huge breakfasts, despair at 02.00 am, and a papercut to make a samurai wince.

The nearest I get now is either, sometimes both in a miniature tag team, of my children jumping on my head to say good morning. Even then I don't actually get up. Of course when I say early I actually mean about 07.30 which is when most working people get up anyway so I don't expect any sympathy.

There has been a good response to these courses with both fully booked and even the waiting list having a waiting list, so linocut is certainly popular. The usual interesting mix of people, ages and abilities wander in looking a bit nervous clutching an assortment of pencil cases, sketchbooks and bags although as usual there is very few men. 
The aim of the course is to get across in about six hours an understanding of the process of Reduction Linocut. Easy right? yeah dead simple.

I tend to jump straight in as time is limited, discus the materials we are to use, how to use them and then dash round the group looking at the suitability/unsuitability of the reference. Can it be turned into a linocut. Then silence descends as everyone concentrates on drawing/tracing their image onto the lino and I catch my breath for the first time since the kids jumped on my head. Another quick talk on tool use and abuse, mainly how not to cut yourself, and then it's on to cutting the white away.

With so many people and so few time I am a bit bossy and dictate that everyone is using the same colours, which makes ten people inking up a lot easier. This is when the room comes alive. After the drawing and cutting and perhaps not quite understanding how the process works. When the first print is pulled back is always a bit of an Aha moment. The trainee printer always stands dead still holds the print up and just looks at it for a moment while it all sinks in, then usually they nod. Just a tiny bit, then carry on.

We print a second colour if we have time, which means sometimes it is straight to the black to provide a nice sense of contrast with the white. Well it would if the highly trained, professional artist had actually remembered to bring the black. Eeek everyone was far to polite to comment. A dark blue it is then.
By the second colour everyone has pretty much got an understanding of the process and is buzzing with excitement. As a jaded, bitter old (ish) printer this enthusiasm and enjoyment does genuinely rekindle the enormous pleasure taken in creating an image from this simple method. I do get genuinely excited and really impatient to see what the image will look like. Lurking by a students elbow, bending over to see the image first as they peel the paper back from the block. The magic moment when you first see the new, right way round, image. 

A great aspect of linocut is just how simple the actual technique is, teachable to anyone in a couple of hours. However the depth of sophistication and variety of expression capable within that same simple method (Carve block, ink on block, paper on block, pressure. Clean block, carve some more ...) is extraordinary.

A nice bunch of people produced a nice set of interesting linocuts and every one went home happy with the quietly bubbling contentment you only get creating a small piece of yourself in the form of a small piece of artwork. Lovely.


  1. Great, Ian! I understand about having to be a bit "directive" with a group when trying to cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time... but I think first-time printmakers appreciate a certain amount of that. Looks like your class did some fine work, must have had a good instructor. ;-)

  2. Wow, Ian, I am so impressed you can print two colors in 6 hours with 10 people at varying skill levels! I have already gotten a couple timesaving points from your posts! Thank you so much for sharing your experience and the photos!

  3. Thanks both, I think I just talk at them constantly, bombard them with information and some of it sticks. I also tend to prowl round the room on the look out for someone looking a bit confused, cutting out something they obviously shouldn't, or staring in to space with a slightly lost expression. Then I pounce and talk some more.

    I've been doing three day courses in my studio now for a couple or three years and it does concentrate the mind on getting a point across to different types and ability levels. Glad this stuff going up is of some use.