Linocut illustration is a print design technique that’s similar to woodcut printing, but using a sheet of linoleum instead of wood. Essentially, you cut away the parts of linoleum where you want to leave the white of the page, and keep the parts you want to be inked. The linoleum is then inked with a roller to create the print.
Linocut is a fantastic medium to work in: it’s easy to learn and inexpensive to print at home or in your studio. The process of cutting and printing lino has the effect of simplifying your natural style. This often leads to the creation of very strong, simple and graphic work, whether it be in the use of a limited palette or the illustrators use of line and form. You can wile away many a happy hour carving the lino, awaiting the excitement and expectation when you lift up the first print.
Check out these brilliant examples of linocut illustration – hopefully they’ll inspire you to try the technique for yourself.
01. Menna Jenkins
A recent graduate of Camberwell College of Art’s Masters in Printmaking, Menna is a British freelance illustrator with a passion for linocut. ‘Peckham Alphabet’ is a large scale typographic piece, made from individual linocut letters inspired by the urban landscape and typography in Peckham, London. Menna has made the alphabet available to any Peckham business’s that would like to use the typeface as signage.
02. Kazuno Kohara
Kazuno Kohara graduated from the MA in Children’s Book illustration at Cambridge school of Art in 2007. Her graduation piece Haunted House was immediately snapped up by Macmillan Children’s book, winning the New York Times best illustrated book of 2008. Traditional linocut methods suits her graphic, two colour style perfectly.
03. Jonny Hannah
Taking a large part of his inspiration from folklore and maritime history, Jonny Hannah is a freelance illustrator who enjoys the use of traditional materials. Each year he produces a series of linocut prints which evoke his love of the sea. ‘The Lighthouse’ is a beautiful example of one of Hannah’s linocuts.
04. Hayley Wall
Working in a range of materials from crayon and pencil to paint, neon signage and linocut, Hayley Wall’s work is eclectic and playful. She’s another recent graduate of Camberwell School of Arts’ MA in Illustration, which seems to turn out brilliant students each year. A particularly lovely piece of work is a personal piece called ‘Dance’. A simple one-colour linocut nude.
05. Stanley Donwood
Famous for his work with Radiohead in the ’90s, Stanley Donwood is now well known for his graphic landscape linocuts. Printed in just black and white and using linocut to define a linear expression of sea and architecture, often with a dark narrative undercurrent. These are beautiful, dramatic pieces of work that showcase some of the best linocut work.
Next page: five more beautiful linocuts
06. Claude Flight & Edith Lawrence
Claude Flight and Edith Lawrence were business partners who ran and interior design business in the 1920s. They pioneered and popularised the linocut technique from the first time they used it in their work in 1919. They were also members of the Seven and Five Society whose members included Henry Moore, Ben Nicholson and Barbera Hepworth. Their images have a humorous and joyful feel about them evoking the abstract qualities that were emerging at the time.
07. Burn Bjoern
Burn Bjoern is a Venice based illustrator whose recent experiment in linocut can be found on his blog. His work is inspired by the graphic novel and youth culture. His latest linocuts are a fantastic example how the medium can enrich this style of illustration.
08. Richard Galloway
An exhibitor of The Jerwood Drawing Prize 2012, Richard Galloway is an artist who uses linocut exclusively. He is a graduate of the Royal College of Art, where he studied for a Masters in Printmaking graduating in 2004 and has been exhibiting his black and white linocuts ever since. A theme throughout his world is one of the underworld and dark narrative.
09. Angie Lewin
Angie Lewin is a printmaker based in both Scotland and Norfolk, England. Her love of landscape and horticulture inspires her work from the most intricate details of plantlife to the rich colours of the Scottish highlands. Her prints are always beautifully composed with a rich and resonant use of muted colour. Angie Lewin has illustrated many books and sells editioned prints as well as collaborating on occasional one off projects when she designed her own throw for St Judes press.
10. Mark Hearld
Mark Hearld in another printmaker who takes his inspiration from the British countryside. A graduate of the Royal College of Art’s Masters in Natural History illustration, linocut is a large proportion of Hearld’s work. Native animals such as foxes, chickens, pigeons, hares and squirrels feature widely in his work. In 2010 Mark Hearld was commissioned to create a limited edition print for the Tate Britain.