When it comes to making a successful linocut illustration there are quite a few things to consider. I am still learning the right way through various bits of project, the latter on the theme of ‘nonsense’, as part of my course.
I find nonsense to be quite a fascinating topic and so my little sketchbook filled up quite quickly with brainstorming ideas, from ones based on typography to more involved ideas, including one suggested by someone else (tip: talking about your project with others outside your usual group can spark new ideas which have the potential to be quite interesting). However, generating ideas and roughs is not the problem I am up against. Most of the time I get so excited by new projects that the actual problem comes from choosing the right image to complete.
On this occasion I managed to reduce my final choices to 3, eventually selecting one that was quite complicated in design, but I wasn’t going to let that put me off. I had 2 problems transferring this to lino: firstly, the design was so compact that working at a smaller scale made carving the various areas quite difficult and secondly, the test piece looked even more complicated than my original design. In fact, it looked so busy that the message was completely lost on the audience – now do bear in mind that the brief required a two-colour piece and I had only tested the first colour.
At this point I had to take stock of my work and decide whether carrying on with the design remained practical despite the setbacks. Seeking feedback from peers and my tutor confirmed my hunch that time had come to move on – ‘simple’ was the operative word.
Speaking of choices, this was also the stage where relying on material already available in my sketchbook would have made a world of difference. My typography design based on a combination of distorted and non-distorted writing of the word ‘nonsense’ was much preferred by peers and therefore made for an obvious choice – not for me! I went straight back to the drawing board searching for something else…. I won’t tell you the end of this tale because I am yet to carve the new design and make my test pieces. Suffice to say that the lesson I learnt is that less is more. Lino isn’t suitable for a great deal of detail in your image. It requires a certain kind of work that is sensitive to the material and simplicity is key. Less really is more!