Friday, April 27, 2012

Tapping into my inner (linocut) artist

Every child is an artist.  The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.  ~Pablo Picasso

When I was a child I would happily spend hours churning out endless drawings and paintings. I dreamt of being an artist when I grew up. Later, as I grew older I became somewhat discouraged by the fact that the only artists making any decent money for their work appeared to be dead ones. By the time I was twenty, I had all but given up on art as a career or even as a hobby.

Then last year I found myself wandering around an art gallery and saw some beautiful linocut prints by Australian linocut artist Leslie van der Sluys (1939-2010). Being naturally curious, I made a note of his name and later did some research into Van Der Sluys and linocuts in general. Soon I was rediscovering our very own Australian artistic treasure, Margaret Preston (1875-1963); a linocut queen from last century.

Before long my Googling internet research had led me to the College of Adult Education in Melbourne and their two-day introductory course in linocut art. It was one of those “seemed like a brilliant idea at the time” moments, so I enrolled.

Linocut is a printmaking technique that became popular at the beginning of the 1900s as an easier alternative to woodcut. Many children are introduced to the world of printmaking with linocut in their primary school years. Last year at Barham Primary School, Henry produced a fantastic ferocious looking bunyip linocut print.

For the past two Saturdays I have been attempting to reconnect with my inner child artist while attending the linocut course in Melbourne. By 2pm on the first Saturday I had remembered why I hadn’t spent any time doing any form of art for the last two decades… I had the picture in my mind of my completed artwork (it was magnificent, something similar to Van Der Sluys’s work at the peak of his career), but try as I might I couldn’t recreate that image onto the linoleum in front of me. In fact I couldn’t seem to recreate anything.

All around me my fellow students were busy sketching and then cutting out their designs on blocks of linoleum. While all I seemed to be able to do was stare at my untouched lino and wonder how on earth I was going to produce a masterpiece.

My fear and insecurity of making a mistake or producing an image that was less than perfect was stopping me from doing anything. Is there anything as frustrating as looking back on a day and feeling like you’ve achieved nothing? Clearly my goal of achieving perfection without the practice was not going to work (damn it all).

Later a friend kindly pointed out that I needed to stop worrying so much about the end result and just get started. So I did. I found images that I liked and I copied them and then set about carving out the lino. They weren’t perfect but I liked them anyway.

Last Saturday was the second day of my two-day course. I found it far more enjoyable than the first day for the simple reason that I actually worked industriously for the entire day. By the end of the course I had a small portfolio of printed linocut art I could frame… or at the very least, sticky tape to the door of our fridge. 


  1. Woohoo! You know I do hand coloured linocuts - made my first major sale as a 5 year old selling linocuts of grover and mini mouse at one Dad's exhibitiions - made $55!!! Still sell them - haven't had any time to make any lately. A really good linocut artist is Vida Pearson - alive and living in Melbourne and member of Wildlife Artists of Australasia. '
    And your friend is right - art is about experimenting!

  2. Hi Justy, no I had no idea you do hand coloured linocuts, I look forward to seeing them one day and what sales your five year old self made - what would that be in today's money?!! Thanks for the info on Vida, I shall check out her art.