When most people in the United States refer to watercolor they typically are referring to Aquarelle watercolors that are naturally transparent. Gouache is a water based paint that differs from Aquarelle watercolors in that gouache contains fine chalk dust. The chalk dust makes the gouache capable of painting opaque passages in addition to transparent. I grew up in Europe and my primary medium was oil on canvas. There is a strong tradition of gouache painting in Europe, especially among painters who are primarily oil painters, and generally there is little distinction made between Aquarelle and gouache. In fact many of the painters that are listed under watercolor in the history books freely added gouache to their paintings. When I returned to the United States and tried to enter a watercolor society I was vilified for adulterating Aquarelle watercolors with gouache. I found this baffling as many of the artists that the people attacking me held up as the best watercolor painters in history freely used gouache. This was evident to me from having observed their original paintings, seen their paint boxes and supply lists in museums and in some cases from their writings about painting. Later I was privileged to be the subject of an article by Michael Woodward in American Artist’s Annual edition Watercolor ’88 in which Michael described my use of gouache. Fast forward to the present and some of the same artists who attacked my use of gouache in the 1970s are teaching workshops on how to use gouache. I am greatly relieved to see the acceptance of gouache as it really expands the palette and allows for a freer more painterly approach. Do not misunderstand though the use of Aquarelle paints only is not to be looked down on. It can produce incredibly artistic and beautiful paintings and I have used that for some subjects myself. Among the paintings I admire the most are several that were painted in transparent Aquarelle colors exclusively and to great effect. To me they are a great tool in the paint box and like glazing techniques in oil are capable of creating masterpieces without relying on any other technique or medium. I simply generally paint subjects I feel are best rendered with a mixture of transparent and opaque or translucent passages. i personally often start with Aquarellle watercolors and add gouache as needed for opacity. I use the same brushes and watercolor paper for either technique. Watercolor and gouache are both capable of incredible detail and rendering of subtle strokes. You are doing yourself a disservice to use cheap brushes. Buy Winsor and Newton series 7 brushes and buy fewer brushes if you have to economize. Consider starting with a water color block where the paper is glued down. Eventually you will want to switch to stretching your own paper on a drawing board.
Not all Linouts are high contrast black and white but that is my preference I find that the intense focus of black-and-white changes the viewer’s perception of the image. I also find it challenging and interesting to work in solid areas of black-and-white. Then there is the carving experience it’s hard to explain what it’s like to carve away what you don’t want rather than to draw what you do want. But in the end it’s the drama of the image produced that draws me back time and time again to do Linocuts. I prefer unmounted Battleship linoleum to carve. also because I spoon print most of my linocuts rather than using a press printing is laborious and I have adopted the practice of printing only part of the intended edition of prints and storing the plate. So unmounted linoleum takes up less space when being stored. This haas led to plates sometimes being destroyed before the whole edition is printed. However it has also saved the printing time and costs of prints that did not sell well. I admit that occassionally happens. For the paper I used to use Tableau or Hosho. Tableau is easier to use in large sheets and rolls it takes a nice impression just be sure and use a bright white backing board behind the print as the paper is slightly transparent. Hosho comes in a snow white sheet and is thicker. Hosho is very absorbent which I find delightful when printing. For ink I genrally prefer the traditional oil based block printing inks. I have experimented with the modern inks on occasion and for student use I prefer the Speedball inks. When carving the use of a bench hook is useful and keeping your tools very sharp will reduce the amount of pressure needed to cut the linoleum. Warming the linoleum also reduces the amount of pressure to cut the linoleum. Interestingly if you are weak you may prefer woodcut to linoleum. Yes the wood is harder but when doing woodcuts you will generally be using a mallet to drive the carving tools. Sharpness is still a key to controlling the cuts and reducing the effort. It also in both cases leaves cleaner cuts which tend to print well. Always cut away from yourself so that if the blade were to slip it will not cut you.
Wood block printing is the precursor of linocut printing. It was one of the first methods used for printing cloth. Your linocut can be printed on cloth if you use a textile ink. You may remember seeing medieval designs where a block design is repeated corner to corner like a checkerboard. These were often woodcuts. Linoleum simply eliminates the grain which can cause designs to split as they are cut.
I plan to start adding video blogs showing how to do different art techniques. Please let me know if there is a particular printmaking, drawing or painting technique you would like to see a video on.
Materials you will need:
Linoleum mounted or unmounted
lino cut carving tools
x-acto knife (optional)
Ink (I prefer oil based but beginners might do better with water soluble)
A brayer (The rubber roller used to roll ink on the block)
A bench hook (optional – this helps hold the block in place while carving)
A large spoon (or access to a press)
Block printing paper
Talcum powder (optional – This is used to clean up stray ink )