What is a linocut?
A linocut is a traditional printmaking technique. As a printmaker, this is the one that I enjoy the most, although I do use monoprinting, etching and collagraphs too.
'Print' used in this context has no digital element to it, and all parts of the process are carried out by hand.
Linocut is a block printing relief technique, in which an image is cut into a sheet or block of linoleum and then printed using either a small press, or by hand. The raised surfaces are the ones that capture the ink and hence are printed on to the paper. The impression is created on the paper as a mirror image. Each time a print has to be created from the lino block, it has to be inked and then pressed and so each print created in this way is unique. These are different from the reproduction prints, which are often created digitally and are not limited edition. The linocut technique lends itself beautifully to creating strong, graphic monochrome prints, which is why it is such a favourite of mine, and unlike the woodcut, it does not have a grainy texture, thereby resulting in smoother art prints.
Purchasing a linocut print
Limited Edition: When you purchase a linocut, you would see a number on the front at the bottom of the image. This might look like 13/21. In this case, 21 denotes the total number of prints that have been made from the carved block (except the A/P or Artist's Proof which are usually not sold) and so this would be a limited edition series of 21 prints of the same design. The numerator '13' denotes the number of print from the limited edition series that you have purchased. Most of my prints are a series of 25, and very rarely 50.
Archival Paper: Check that the artist has used archival paper which is not made from wood pulp. Many of the Japanese papers fall into this category. I use Masa, Hosho and also Zerkall printmaking paper for my prints, especially if I am printing by hand. Somerset Satin is a heavier paper, and has a velvety quality which lends itself better to printing when using a press.
Inks: Try and find out which inks the artist has used, as some are more environmentally friendly and permanent than others. After much experimentation with a range of inks, I now use Caligo oil-based inks which are washable, and made from soy, hence gentler for the environment, and the colours are durable and long lasting. They take quite a long time to dry, but have a depth and intensity of colour which works really well with my monochrome linocut prints.
When choosing to buy a print make sure you are aware of the difference between a original limited edition print and a reproduction print.