Friday, July 24, 2015

Creating a Linoleum Block Print

Maneki Neko, completed July 23, 2015

Here is a photographic illustration of how I make lino block prints... 

original pencil sketch

Every lino starts with a sketch. Often I will flip the image (and resize if necessary) using the computer. Sometimes I can trace onto the block directly from the original.

Here I am using graphite paper to transfer the drawing (which is under the white paper in this photo). Note that the image has been flipped.

Since I work primarily on a small scale (usually smaller than 2" x 3" - 5 x 7.5 cm), I typically use just three blade types for cutting the design into the linoleum: the #1 V blade for details, the #2 V blade for further outlining, and the #5 U blade for removing the excess linoleum.

Here I have cut the detail lines and the outline once with the #1 blade.

This is the second outline with the #1. 

I widen the outline around the image in stages for two reasons. First, one is less likely to accidentally cut into the image this way, gradually increasing the blade size; and second, this creates a graduated slope which lends strength and durability to the uncut portions (which make up the inked portions of the printed image). 

This process is better illustrated in the series of photos below.

Third outline, this time using the #2 blade.

Fourth outline, using the #2 blade again.

Removing the excess with the big #5 blade.

After going around the image twice with the tiny #1 and twice with the bigger #2, I am comfortable using the #5 U blade to remove the excess linoleum. I begin at the edge closest to the design and cut away, towards the edges of the block.

All excess linoleum has been removed. 

Here you can see the graduated slope created by cutting multiple outlines. It rather looks like the terraced slope of a mesa. This sloped edge, rather than a steep 'cliff' edge creates strength in the printing surface, making the edge less likely to crumble after age and wear from multiple printings.

...and after my first test print I realize I forgot to cut one of the lines.

Sometimes you have to print the block to see mistakes, luckily these are easily fixed.

Now I am ready for a print run!

A thin layer of ink is rolled out onto a sheet of acetate which gets transferred to the block using a brayer (roller). I keep the acetate "ink plate" under a grate covered with a damp towel to keep the ink from drying out too quickly. The consistency of the ink makes all the difference when printing. If there is too much ink, your lines will not be sharp, and may even fill in. If there's not enough ink, your print will be patchy looking. Some ink anomalies are normal and add to the individuality of each print.

After the block is inked, I place it ink side down on the paper and apply a little pressure so it sticks.

Then I flip the whole thing over.

The rounded plastic magnet (which is face down in the photo) serves as my baren (a tool used to rub the ink into the paper). I have found that this magnet, because of its smooth convex plastic side, makes the best baren, perhaps due to the small scale of my prints.

The inked part of the block gets thoroughly rubbed into the paper with the baren.

The paper is then slowly peeled from the block.


Here is the finished lino, stamped with my signature seal. The quarter is there for scale.

It is now time for pizza!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


So I've been neglecting the Dirt Patch during this period of wretched heat, no-see-ums, and thunderstorms, and it's become a bit overgrown. But who cares, I think it looks wild and lovely! Look at all the blooming zinnias! They took a long time to get going; I direct sowed them in early March and the first isolated bloom finally made an appearance at the end of June. 

Believe it or not, now is the time to start sowing the winter seeds. In this miserable summer heat, it is difficult to contemplate that cold weather is even possible here (the lengthy FL summer is the main reason I want to flee to the north. Summer in small doses).

I was very late getting the seeds started last year, and my winter garden took all season to grow into its own, only becoming full when the heat arrived and it was time to yank them out of the ground. I really have no excuse this year. The seeds are in the fridge, I have the soil, and miracles, I actually have the time. My biggest problem now is that it is so easy to get side-tracked. Work made me put my life on hold, which is never a good thing, but now all those things I wanted to do can be done, and I find all of those things tugging on and commanding my attention at once! Where does one begin scratching off the list? It is actually a wonderful dilemma to have. Blessed be thy unemployment. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Insects of the Day - Chuluota Wilderness Area

Wedge-shaped Beetles, Ripipharidae, Macrosiagon sp.

These bizarre-looking beetles parasitize solitary bees and wasps as larvae. The male (top) has feathery antennae while the female (below) lacks this plumage (though she makes up for it with the sportier colors and spots). They were mating until I disturbed them with my presence. My apologies, beetles.

Rough stink bug, Brochymena sp.

Rough stink bugs are usually found in trees and are colored and textured to blend in with the bark. This one actually flew from a tree and landed on my leg. I placed it in the leaf litter for aesthetic purposes.

They are quite flat!

Click beetle, Elateridae

This small species of click beetle was all over the park. I'm unsure of its identity, perhaps Limonius?

Firefly, Photuris sp.

Queen Butterly, Danaus gilippus
I find butterflies exceedingly difficult to photograph! This is the best shot I could get. 
Many others escaped the camera completely.

Tortoise beetle, Hemisphaerota cyanea

A view of the deer lichen growing on either side of the path, Cladonia sp.

Sawfly larvae - sawflies are 'primitive' wasps

Cow Killer, Dasymutilla occidentalis

Also known by the less impressive name, eastern velvet ant (though they are actually solitary wasps). The above is a female, which are wingless. According to lore, the sting of the cow killer, it being so huge and fiery red and whatnot, is terrible enough to kill a cow...cow killer is a fun name anyhow. The sting is apparently pretty painful, rating 3 out of 4 on both the Starr and the Schmidt sting pain indices, but the venom is not strong enough to kill a person, much less a cow. They're also not very aggressive, though I wouldn't push my luck by handling one.

This is a much smaller species of velvet ant, likely Timulla sp., also a female

Several male velvet ants were flying around the area, 
but they never kept still long enough for a portrait.
Much like those uppity butterflies.

Smoky-winged dancer, Argia fumipennis fumipennis

This damselfly confused me in the field; I did not realize the small dancers could have black wings like the much larger Calopteryx (jewelwings). (Side note: many things confuse me in the field!)

A very small cicada skin I noticed on my way out. 

Friday, July 10, 2015

Insects of the Day - Lake Mills Park

Mantispid or mantisfly, Mantispidae

Today I explored Lake Mills Park and came across the above mantispid (among many other insects) which made my morning! So far I've only seen one other mantispid in my life, a green one. This one seems decidedly rotund in the abdomen, I wonder if it is a gravid female (or, hope not, possibly it has internal parasites)? Mantispids are in the order Neuroptera and not related to mantids, though they hunt in a similar fashion; ambushing prey by grabbing them in their raptorial forelimbs.

Air potato leaf beetle - Lilioceris cheni

Florida is overrun with invasive air potato vine which chokes out native vegetation. This beetle was introduced as a biological control a few years ago since it was found to feed exclusively on the air potato...and I'm happy to report it's kicking ass.

Invasive air potato vine

The "potato"

Ebony jewelwing damselfly, Calopteryx maculata - male

Restless bush cricket, Hapithus agitator - female

Restless bush cricket, Hapithus agitator - male

I'm not sure how they earned their moniker...both crickets seemed quite calm ;)

Florida oblong-winged katydid, Amblycorypha floridana

Long-legged fly, Dolichopodidae (possibly Plagionerus univittatus)

Netwinged beetle, Caenia dimidiata

Citrus root weevil, Diaprepes abbreviatus

The citrus root weevil is a beautiful insect and comes in many colors but is unfortunately an introduced agricultural pest. Besides citrus it also feeds on many ornamentals.

Palm flatid planthopper, Ormenaria rufifascia

Robber fly: