Figurative Linocut Print – Nude Genre Scene

Linocut of a nude woman in bed, reaching for a sleeping man

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Figurative Linocut Nude Print Exchange

This figurative linocut was made a few years ago for a print exchange. The theme of the exchange was The Nude. Have you ever participated in a print exchange?

Printmakers sign up, usually with a limited quantity of participants, and each artist makes a print edition large enough to gift a print to each contributor. The print theme might be based on a size, color palette, or randomly selected attributes. If twelve printmakers participate, you’ll each have twelve prints after the exchange is complete. Sound fun? It is!

Transferring a drawing onto my linoleum block in pencil, using the grid method. (The finished print is below)
buy linoleum by the roll
Did you know you can order linoleum in a roll?
I split the cost of this one, and the shipping, with another printmaker,
and we divvied it up over a print session.

Where to Buy Linoleum for Block Printing

I’ve been buying and trying linoleum, and similar products for linocuts for a few decades. I prefer unmounted, battleship gray linoleum in a roll. It’s both firm and soft, easy to carve, it holds details, releases ink very well, stands up to multiple print editions, both on the press and via hand transfer. And it’s not expensive.

Before you ponder how you couldn’t possibly buy all that linoleum, hear me out. A roll of battleship gray unmounted linoleum at Dick Blick Art Supplies is about $110. Let’s call it $120 with domestic shipping. The rolls I buy at that price measure 12″ high by 25 feet long. (30.48 cm X 7.62 meters)

If you split the price of the roll with another printmaker, you’ll each get *a lot* of lovely inexpensive plates for your projects.

a black and white linocut portrait of a girl against a thistle patterned background
Thistle background with a portrait of a girl. This linocut is in my Etsy Shop.

A Little Linoleum Math

Let’s say you’re just starting out, and you want to work often, and small (which is smart). With a ruler, a sharpie magic marker and a utility knife on that same sized roll, you can mark and cut:

  • 5 12X12 inch plates (30.48 cm x 30.38 cm) for a few larger pieces
  • and 60 6X8 inch plates (15.24cm x 20.32 cm)

If you split the roll with a friend (you can check it out here at Dick Blick), each block will cost you $1.80, and you and your friend will each have 30 6×8 blocks, and two 12X12 blocks. You can flip a coin for the 5th 12×12. Or if you can’t decide who should get that one, you can send it to me. 🙂

If you buy the blocks one by one, say, on Amazon, you’ll pay about $15.00 for each 12X12 unmounted block, and $7.00 for each 6X8 unmounted block.

Another figurative linocut, painted with watercolors. This one is here.
battleship gray linoleum should be sanded before use to remove blemishes, and the searer they coat the surface with to keep it from drying out
Tiny imperfections in the surface of the linoleum will affect your print, so it’s best to sand the block with very fine sandpaper to remove them

Preparing the Linoleum for Carving

Before laying a drawing on unmounted linoleum, I sand the entire surface with 600 grit sandpaper wrapped around a hand sander.

The flat sander surface reduces the chance of concave indentations my fingertips might leave in the surface of the linoleum.

The sandpaper removes bumps, and divots, as well as the chemical sealer applied in the manufacturing process to seal the linoleum and prevent it from drying out. That same sealer can cause ink-repelling trouble with certain ink manufacturers.

I carefully wipe the surface clear with a slightly damp rag after sanding is finished. You should avoid wetting the burlap on the verso of the block, because it shrinks and curls your plate.

Linoleum is, in part, a product of flax seed. The seeds are pressed, and the flax oil is boiled to make linseed oil. The linseed oil is then blended with cork and clay and pressed into linoleum. I prefer the unmounted, battleship gray linoleum to everything else I’ve tried, by far.

Sharpie magic marker, and watercolor washes, before sealing the plate with MinWax.

Mixing Reference Sources and Drawing Materials

The background of this image was inspired by an old carriage house apartment I lived in years ago, with one of my cats lounging on the sill.

I’ve asked friends and family to pose for me for a few decades, so I have a splendid bevy of figurative photos to mix and match into imagined scenes. Two separate figurative snapshots were combined to create a couple on the bed.

I used pencil first, and then sharpie magic marker to draw the scene. I added a bit of watercolor here and there (see above) to help map my carving plan. I need color-based reminders to tell me where to cut, and what to leave alone. Painting a block before I start carving is sort of like outfit matching directives used on Garanimals clothes for children. 🙂

Do you use a bit of color in your linocut carving plan too?

In this linocut print tutorial video, you’ll learn how to seal your linoleum plate very quickly with MinWax Wood Finish.
Carving linoleum with my favorite micro palm tools by Flexcut
Pulling a test print (artist’s proof)
Figurative linocut titled Reverie in an edition of 34 (sold out)
Linocut of a nude woman in bed, reaching for a sleeping man
I painted a few of the prints with watercolors

Linocut Resources

  • On facebook, do you belong to some of the printmaking groups there? Members are from all over the world, and their skills and styles are refreshingly international and varied. Have a look at this one called Linocut Friends.
  • Another excellent group is the Craft Press Printmakers. These folks all use stenciling, and embossing machines – and pasta makers – altered to work as petite but effective alternatives to traditional presses.

I hope you decide to jump into printmaking – especially linocut! You can make these at your kitchen table, and the entire family can participate! Here are a few of the books I have in my printmaking library (below). I recommend either one of them, especially of you like instructions in your hand while you work.

Have a ton of fun, and come back to share you results! I love to see what you’ve made. You can also share it over on my facebook page.

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


P.S. Watch a beautiful inking and printing of 6 layers of color on a garden floral linocut print by Russian printmaker Elina Adrshina on her Facebook page here.

P.P.S. If you’re a beginner in your artist journey, here is an art post full of creative links and resources.

a woman in an art studio, leaning over her work table to align a linocut block over paper to make a print
Aligning a linoleum plate over the first color of a print – on a two-color reduction print. (<–more about that)
a linocut of a room with a bed, and a sunny window with two lounging cats
Dozing – Linocut – tinted with watercolor

Art Quote

Of late Whistler had but little cause to complain of lack of appreciation on this side, for while an art so subtle as his is bound to be more or less misunderstood, critics amateurs and a goodly portion of the public have for a long time acknowledged his greatness as an etcher, a lithographer, and a painter. In fact, for at least ten years past, his works have been gradually coming to this country where they belong. England and Scotland have been searched for prints and paintings until the great collections – much greater than the public know – of his works are here. Some day the American people will be made more fully acquainted with the beautiful things he has done many of which have never been seen save by a few intimate friends. The struggle for recognition was long and bitter – so long and so bitter that it developed in him the habits of controversy and whimsical irritability by which he was for a generation more widely known than through his art. When it was once reported that he was going to America, he said “It has been suggested many times; but, you see, I find art so absolutely irritating to the people that, really, I hesitate before exasperating another nation.’ To another who asked him when he was coming, he answered, with emphasis, “When the duty on art is removed.”

Arthur Jerome Eddy – Recollections and Impressions of James McNeill Whistler 1903
I’m thinking about installing this wall mounted wood and leather paper dispenser in my studio. I use a lot of newsprint in my printmaking, and this might be my new favorite idea for dispensing the stuff! Do you have something like this in your creative space?
A relief print portrait, painted with watercolor. See it framed over in my Etsy Shop.
Linocut Portrait of a couple – based on a vintage photo of my grandparents during WWII

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6 thoughts on “Figurative Linocut Print – Nude Genre Scene”

  1. Paula hurley

    Thank you, as always Belinda for your teaching demos. Why do you suggest sealing the linoleum with minwax? If sealing is suggested could an acrylic sealer be used?

    1. Hi Paula, Sealing the plate preserves the drawing from wiping away when you roll ink on the linoleum to pull test prints. Often, after a test print is pulled and you clean your plate of ink, the original drawing on the plate wipes away too. It also acts as a self-leveling sealer for any subtle divots or rough patches. It’s not critical to the process, unless you really need to preserve your drawing during the carving and proof printing process. I’ve never used acrylic sealer for this, so I can’t say.

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