Linocut is a common enough term in the art world. But what exactly does this technique involve? Successful printmaker Lisa Takahashi takes us through the process. Lisa has twice exhibited at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition - and on both occasions her whole edition of prints has sold out on the opening day. She regularly exhibits her work across the country.
Firstly, Lisa, why do you like working in linocut?
I studied painting at art school and only really started making linocuts seriously 4 or so years ago. I wanted to find a medium that would help me think about colour in a more structured way, and make use of my drawing skills - so linocut seemed the obvious choice.
And what is it you like so much about bicycles as a subject?
I think bicycles are beautiful - particularly vintage bikes - so I like to make prints that communicate my admiration of their shape. And I love what they stand for: an environmentally friendly way to move from A to B, a way to keep fit, the best way to clear your mind after a day at the office, and the best way to start a day in the summer time.
Can you take us through the process of making a linocut print?
I start with a drawing. I always keep a sketchbook as a journal of ideas and whenever an idea comes to me I try and make a rough drawing of it that I will slowly refine and tweak over weeks, sometimes months. Some of my ideas end up being prints and other end up being paintings, it's not always clear when I think of something what it will end up being.
When I know my drawing is probably going to develop into a linocut I think about how I'm going to divide the shapes up into areas of different colours. The kind of linocuts I love making most are multi-block prints - these are made by carving a separate tile for each colour and then printing the tiles over one another to create the full image.
A lot of the inks that I work with are deliberately transparent so that when they print over other colours they create a colour mix on the page - I find that really exciting! Once I have worked out how the image will be constructed out of my tiles I then transfer the drawing over to the lino by first tracing the drawing and then transferring it using carbon paper.
I then carve the shapes out of the lino (which is a rubbery substance backed with hessian) using very sharp steel cutting tools. I have a really good set of tools with all sorts of different shape blades which help to create different marks.
Once the lino is carved I can make the print. I ink the tiles up with a roller and oil-based inks. I tend to use the Albion press at Spike Print Studio, Bristol - it's a century old press for relief printing (which could be lino or woodcut). It guarantees an even and crisp print.
Generally, I make editions of around 50 or 75 prints per design. Eventually the linos can deteriorate if they're used too much, so they need to be looked after - cleaned properly and kept flat after use.
What a fascinating technique. What are your aspirations for the future?
I am in the process of moving to the countryside and am really excited about the wealth of potential subject matter - rolling hills and the wildlife especially, not to mention the hoards of cyclists on the country lanes! I have also been editioning work for Emma Stibbon RA this summer (this means printing the edition based on her original print). The work is massive, and really exciting, and it has made me really want to try working on a larger scale myself.