I love topography. Sometimes the colors are spectacular, or the rhythm of the shapes, but usually it is the texture. Unlike with lithography and some forms of intaglio, achieving texture in a relief print is tough. There is either ink or no ink. You need to get creative.
My latest linocut celebrates the textural contrast between land and water.
In my latest linocut (to be revealed soon) I have been using one of my favorite tools to achieve texture. My Foredom drill has a powerful motor, a flexible shaft and a handle that allows me to change tools. I use different engraving bits made by Dremel. I like the Foredom more than the Dremel tool itself because it isn't as heavy -- with the Dremel you are holding the motor as part of the hand piece. The vibrating really hurt my hands. In addition, my Foredom is powered by a foot pedal, which makes controlling the speed easy, and stopping and starting much safer.
My Foredom drill is attached to my carving table, and looks a little like an IV!
I usually create the texture with random marks throughout an area. I may go back on the next color and carve that part away, or use the Foredom drill again to rough up the linoleum and add another color. I couldn't create this type of mark with my Japanese carving tools.
The Foredom hand piece has much less vibration, and is lighter to hold. Good for the hands.
My friend and fellow printmaker James Hubbard asked me to try out the Foredom on Wonder-Cut linoleum. Wonder-Cut is produced by Dick Blick and is marketed to students and teachers as an easy surface to carve on. I used an outline of a plume poppy, and carved the first layer. Wonder-Cut is much easier to carve on using knives. I used both fine and medium sized engraving bits for this test, and used two colors to see what the layering effect would be.
A test of Wonder-Cut using both Japanese carving tools and the Foredom drill complete with engraving bits.
The small engraving bit caught awkwardly in the Wonder-Cut, either not denting the surface or catching and making a hole. The medium engraving bit fared a bit better, but both kicked up a fine dust that immediately settled right back in the grooves. It was hard to see where you had carved, and it took a very stiff brush to clear the carved areas of debris.
Uncarved and carved Wonder-Cut. It is easier to carve with knives, but more difficult with the Foredom.
The Wonder-Cut surface is already textured. It is very difficult to get a completely flat printed surface from this material. When I added a yellow over the first blue layer, my textured marks made with the Foredom were obscured by the overall textured nature of the block. This made my image confusing.
My Foredom and battleship grey linoleum have a curious symbiosis. The material is easily cut by the engraving bit -- no grabbing that makes controlling the tool difficult. The slick, flat surface of the traditional linoleum makes whatever textural marks you make shine through. As with much of life, contrast is everything.