I am basically a story teller using prints as my vocabulary.
I get my ideas from everywhere. I am not very consistent and that's the fun of it!
Sometimes while reading, a certain passage will strike me as interesting and I will begin sketching my interpretation of the passage. Many of my biblical prints are based on the words but not necessarily the traditional interpretation of those words. I love stories, for example, folk tales from Brazil, medieval stories (Christian, Jewish, Animism) and, even ethnic sayings. The lives of the Saints are always good for strong iconic representations as well as a raised eye brow.
Sometimes I just begin drawing. As the figures evolve so does the image. I recently started a linocut depicting an old woman huddled in a corner listening to what was ever on the other side of the wall. Her image was so strong that I carved three linocuts along the same line called the Messiah series: "Listening for the Messiah", "Is it Him?", and "False Hopes." There have been times, when I have actually come up with a title and then created a print that corresponded to that title.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
A linocut is a form of relief printing. Many people have made linoleum cuts in grammar school when they did Christmas cards in art class. Same thing!
I use a special linoleum although it looks like the linoleum you walk on. I mount it on a piece of wood, usually MDF. Since it comes in either gray or adobe, I paint it black. This allows me to see what I am cutting away. The artist must remember that everything cut away will be white and everything left will be covered with ink which will ultimately be transferred to paper. In addition, the artist must remember when the carving is printed - everything will be in reverse. So, for example, if there is writing in the design, you must remember to carve the letters backward!
In order to carve, engrave or cut into the linoleum, the tools must be sharp and the linoleum warm. In the winter I use a pancake griddle or a wood stove to heat up the linoleum, in the summer I use the sun. I have heard that other artists use hair dryers or radiators.
I work very fast. I usually am working on at least three to four prints at a time. It is a very practical way to work while being exhilarating at the same time.
As an aside, by the time I am ready to carve the block I know pretty much what it will look like. This is because I have both sketched the design on paper or in my head so many times that I know how it will turn out. Once the design is carved, I am ready to print. Ink is applied with a rubber roller (brayer) and then paper is applied to the inked block. Pressure is exerted on the back of the paper forcing the inked design to transfer to the paper. This pressure can be exerted with a roller, wooden spoon, baren or it can be applied on a printing press. Depending on the print I can and will use any and all of these methods. Once the design is transferred to the paper you have got your print.
In addition to a good design, the paper is very important. I use many types of papers: Somerset, a paper from St. Cuthbert Mills in Great Britain, various Japanese papers usually Ginwashi, Zerkall Book Vellum (for my handmade books), special handmade papers made by Tom Leech in Santa Fe, NM, and I have also printed on pages from an 1880's bible. Many times the type of paper you use will "make" the print. Many artists who work with linoleum will do many colored prints, either multiple blocks or reduction prints (suicide prints). When I decide color is warranted I usually hand color the print. Usually, I prefer working in black and white.
Every artist has his or her medium. Mine's linoleum cuts . . .