Linocut print – Viognier and Apples – and Linocut Ideas

a platter of sliced apples next to a glass of white wine and a single rose in a vase on a striped cloth

Viognier & Apples 6.5 x 4.5 Linocut with Watercolor (available here)

About the Linocut

Have you ever made a m linocut? Most folks I meet at art festivals say they recall printing in grade school from rubber erasers, potatoes, apples and carrot stamps. The fun thing is this: no matter how old the person is when discussing grade school printmaking – they remember what their first print was. A gecko, a spider, a dog, etc. Printmaking is fun, and I’m always delighted to bring it full circle, to re-introduce the process to an adult who hasn’t carved a block in a few decades. All you need are a few art supplies, and a reference image you’d like to print in multiples.

Linocut Ideas

If you’re looking for ideas to make a linocut print, I have an approach to share that’ll result in a whole series – especially if you like still life. The arrangement above was the result of a scoop through the kitchen to collect items with bright colors. A dinner napkin with stripes, a green apple, a dessert plate, a wine glass and a bud vase. I snipped a rose from the yard, sliced the apple, poured water into the wine glass, and arranged the objects on the napkin by a sunny window. (What you don’t see in my composition is the clutter [dinner dishes] that was all around this still life arrangement, but that won’t matter in yours either, if you use artful cropping.) 🙂

a colorful still life linocut of a rose, a glass of wine and sliced apples in a frame

Viognier and Apples framed and ready to adorn a wall

Still Life Square Dance

Once you have your still life objects, pull out your phone or a camera, and start photographing arrangements from a variety of angles and distances. Squint often to reduce the details into shapes, and look for compositions in your grouping that suggest diagonal lines, circular clusters, X-patterns and asymmetry.  Use the viewfinder of your camera to survey compositions, or an Artist’s Viewcatcher. Play with shadows. Take lots of photos. Move objects out of the frame, and rearrange the remaining things in the viewfinder. Take more photos.  Zoom in on just one or two of the items in your arrangement, and snap photos of parts of that item with artful cropping. Put something back into your shot, and remove something else. Take aerial views, ground-up views, horizontal views and diagonal views with your camera.

“I look; morning to night I am never done with looking.

Looking I mean not just standing around, but standing around
As though with your arms open.” 
Mary Oliver

a rectangle of linoleum on a table with a black marker nearby

A sheet of fresh linoleum, sanded and cleaned, on a length of well-used non-skid, ready for a drawing with permanent marker

Design Review

Once you’ve downloaded the images, while reviewing them on a larger monitor, consider using editing software to translate the photos to black and white.  Looking at your reference photos in monochrome will help you visualize them as single color, black and white linocuts. You can also crop the photos to get more interesting compositions, or overlay parts in a composite of multiple photos. (Example: Put a window in the background behind your still life, etc.) From one arrangement of items pulled from around the house, you might end up with 25 linocut ideas, as well as sketching and painting fodder if you enjoy other media too.

a sketch of possible still life arrangements showing variety with the same four objects

Playing with the arrangement of sliced apples, a wine glass and a bud vase… After you set up your still life objects, play with arrangements through the viewfinder of your camera. Maybe even test your arrangements with some simple little shape-sketches like these.

Linocut Ideas Road Map

The series of photos I snapped for the linocut at the top of this post have been used over and over in other media. Take a look at this watercolor, and this pen and ink study, and this monotype, for example. One sunny afternoon session with a few colorful objects and your iphone camera could result in a whole pile of new art. Especially if the objects collected for your linocut still life arrangement are significant to you in some way, or they follow a theme. Take for example an all white item grouping, or an arrangement of only things that are square. You could assemble all the same objects – like spools of thread – artfully arranged in a stack, or tumbled together. How about a selection of daisy flower heads on a sheet of paper, or a variety of leaves arranged in a heart pattern, etc. Example video: have a look at this clever linocut of cameras by printmaker Hannah Forward. Whatever you decide, have so much fun with it!

How to make a Linocut

To begin a linocut, gather your reference materials; a drawing, a photo or a still life – or a clear view of a landscape or interior scene from life, a sheet of linoleum, a permanent marker, some fine grit sandpaper and carving tools.  It’s also helpful to have some non-skid shelf liner to rest the linoleum on, and perhaps even a bench hook, so your hands are never bracing the block, and getting in the path of the blade while you’re carving.

A plywood bench hook, also known as an S-brace

This is my wooden bench hook, made by a friend as a mother’s day gift many years ago.

Preparing the Plate for a Linocut

Before starting, use some fine-grit sandpaper and lightly sand the uppermost surface of the linoleum block to remove any bumps, blemishes, and the sealer they use to keep the material from drying out. Sketch your drawing with a permanent marker, or transfer it with acrylic varnish from a print-out from your computer. (Do you know how to do that? If not, let me know if the comments and I’ll explain.)

linocut ideas for still life prints

An unmounted sheet of battleship gray linoleum in the process of becoming a linocut

Draw Your Linocut Design

Using permanent marker, draw your linocut design on the sheet of linoleum, thinking before you apply each line about black and white. You’ll be carving everything from the linoleum material  EXCEPT your drawing, so use your marker to draw the dark parts of your reference image. Leave the brightest, white parts alone, since you’ll carve those away, which will result in white paper showing through on your print. Look at your reference photo in advance, and ponder which parts should be drawn (printable), and which parts should be left out (carved away to show the white of your paper), etc. If you’re adding any words to your print, be sure to lay the lettering out backwards because the text will print in reverse. If you’ve never made a linocut print before, choose a relatively simple design so you can get the feel for both cutting and printing. And give yourself permission to mess up; everything new takes a little practice.

Rolling Ink Out for a Linocut

Rolling ink on the plate. And speaking of rolling ink, there is a great video tutorial on McClain’s website for inking a block in a blended gradient with printmaking inks. I love their tip of using tape as a guide to keep the roller aligned with the block. (There are more tips about inking in the videos at the bottom of this post.)

linocut printmaking and rolling ink out on the carved block

Using a rubber brayer to roll printmaking ink onto my carved linoleum block

printing a black and white linocut

After a trip through the press, pulling the linocut off the print

a black and white linocut of a still life with wine, apples and a rose next to the carved block it was printed from

The print on the left and the inked block on the right; this was printed in an edition of 30.

A Word About Inks

If you plan to add other media to your print after it dries – especially wet media like watercolors or acrylics, be sure to select an ink that dries permanent. Many water-based inks in art supply stores re-wet when you attempt to paint them, which leads to a big mess of muddy colors and lost details in the print. Do your research to find inks you can paint on, and be sure you’re printing on a paper heavy enough to handle additional wet media without buckling and warping, or bleeding through.

Be sure to read the fine print on your inks if you plan to add wet media: Speedball water soluble inks will re-wet.


Are you Going to Make one?

I hope you decide to dive into this wonderful printmaking method, and your adventures are fruitful and fun. For even a little more inspiration, here is a link to a Pinterest board I’ve curated – all devoted to linocut and woodcut – for your linocut idea harvesting. If you have any questions about the particulars of the process, leave a note in the comments. I reply to all comments, and you might find other readers of this blog will reply and help too. We all get better at art together. 🙂

Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll see you in the next post!


P.S. Here is a playlist of video tutorials about the set up I use, and the tools in my studio for linocut printmaking:

P.P.S. Here is a cool article about Wayne Thiebaud’s self-curated exhibit at SFMOMA

P.P.P.S. If you’d like each new post over here to magically arrive in your inbox, you can sign up for that (free) here.

Art Quote

The world is bigger than you are; your only choice is to make things better or not at the scale of your abilities. Therefore when times are good, build. And when times are bad, build. The times are not yours to dictate, only the building. The world you can best make better is the world of your family and friends. Improvement in the world at large has always been largely a matter of a preponderance of people who made their small worlds better. Therefore mark a sad time for a small period, then take heart, and be glad of heart. Go on doing good.

~Daniel Maidman

Click the kitty to visit this free online mini course – Six Tips to Paint More


15 Responses to Linocut print – Viognier and Apples – and Linocut Ideas

  1. Judy 11/01/2019 at 9:23 am #

    As I was reading your blog here about making linocuts (which I love), I realized I had #22 of 30 of this very print! I could actually see the print you were explaining the process of in person, adorning my dining room wall! It was a magical moment, reading about the process of this very print and enjoying looking at it on my wall. This experience itself has made my day…and now I had better try this. Will keep you posted…

    • Belinda DelPesco 11/01/2019 at 9:27 am #

      Hi Judy! How FUN! You’ve got it right there, and now you’ve got the step by steps on how it was made! I hope it inspires you to carve a print, and have So Much Fun with it! And maybe your grandson will carve something after he sees your fine work! Happy printing to you!

  2. Roger 04/10/2018 at 5:06 pm #

    Belinda, Would like to know more about how you transfer an image from the computer using acrylic varnish please. Love the range of work by the way. Kind Regards Roger Park

  3. Kathleen Roberts 04/10/2018 at 8:31 am #

    What an absolutely beautiful composition and colorful print! And I love your Mary Oliver quote!

    • Belinda DelPesco 04/10/2018 at 10:44 am #

      Hi Kathleen! Thanks so much for the compliment. I adore mary Oliver’s writing! So pared down, but impactful! 🙂

  4. Mary Ellen Gale 03/10/2018 at 7:28 pm #

    So anxious to get home and make things. Love the photo taking inspiration. Haven’t ever done the test sketches but see how that will be useful. Can’t be there this weekend. I’m in Colorado for my sister’s memorial.

    • Belinda DelPesco 04/10/2018 at 8:04 am #

      Oh sweetie, I’m so sorry for your loss. 🙁 Bear hugs to you, and warm wishes for good family time, and safe travels. Yes, come home and make things. Make lots of things. XOXO

  5. ken Swinson 03/10/2018 at 5:24 pm #

    sorry I can’t make it, but wishing you a great show this weekend!

    • Belinda DelPesco 04/10/2018 at 8:02 am #

      Hah! I know there’s more than a few city blocks between us, so I appreciate the thought.:) Thanks for the good wishes. I’m totally enjoying your forays into video. Keep up the good work, and I hepe it translates to more visibility, and brisk sales of your amazing work.

  6. Elizabeth Seaver 03/10/2018 at 12:30 pm #

    Great description of the printing process, Belinda. I love your print and love seeing the block itself.

  7. Mark Hill 03/10/2018 at 12:15 pm #

    That is a wonderful print. wow! I love linoleum too. Your colors are simply amazing!

  8. Diane Cutter 03/10/2018 at 12:13 pm #

    I love it when you go back to your linocuts. They are always so wonderfully executed and this is no exception, Belinda! I don’t often comment but I’m always up to speed on all your new work and new collected pieces…

  9. Mary Sheehan Winn 03/10/2018 at 12:00 pm #

    I love love love, woodcuts. I particularly like the color in this. Unusual to see woodcuts that aren’t just one color.
    Thank for sharing the process.


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