Art and design

Carving: How learning a new medium helped me grow as an artist

For the past 4 months I’ve been trying my hand at lino carving. You take some carving tools and carve out a print on a linoleum block. You then reproduce however many times as you want and then you destroy the block. My first experience with Lino carving was at an art workshop. I was hoping to get some one on one time with the instructor who was well known for black ink illustration and watercolour, my two mediums at that time.


After 3 hours of carving out patterns on erasers I was hooked. My wrist was aching from holding the knife at the wrong angle, my back was sore from being hunched over for hours and in my hands I had a simple print on cheap rice paper. I instantly knew that I had stumbled onto something that would open up a whole new world of possibilities for me and my art.


Changing mediums is an opportunity to grow


Lino carving was a refreshing change of pace going from mainly digital work to a fully traditional medium. The main thing is that there are no real shortcuts. If you slip up and cut wrong you need to adapt around it or start over. It’s one of the most frustrating parts of the process but it’s ultimately rewarding when you can see the final print and know that it was all you and no hockey’s or canvas settings. The process itself is brilliant. You sketch up the design, transfer it to the block, carve it, print it, and if you want you destroy the block so it can’t be replicated again. Each block goes through this little life cycle and has a beginning, middle and end. When you compare it to digital where I can just mock something up in 15 minutes this process makes it more worthwhile for me. It’s practically therapeutic.


New mediums bring new challenges


What makes lino carving so fun for me is the demand for focus it puts on the artist. I can’t be half involved in the block and half involved in my Netflix binge. I have to stay involved and tuned in to the process. It’s completely changed my outlook on how I should approach creating. I’ve developed a habit of getting into the mindset to create before I actually begin working. It’s drastically improved how much I draw, write, and design. The first time I test the block print I feel this rush. There’s this instant gratification you get when you make a good print and know you can make another 20 or 30 and have something you can spread out.


Carving keeps things fresh


Taking on a new medium has also helped me stave off burnout. Having a new process has given me a new perspective and approach to designing. I have to think of working in monotones and consider the time it would take carving each block if I’m going to work with more than one. Will I use a reduction method? Will I just put everything on one block and work with flat colours? It all factors in and makes me draft out the design with this in mind. I’m slowly carving out a new style which is transferring well from the block to my brand work.


Being able to experiment with a new medium has been one of the best decisions I’ve made this year. I have a completely renewed drive to create and work. My knowledge of composition and outlining has grown so much in such a short period of time. I’ve learned an entirely new process removed from digital media and feel completely connected to both the process and the final result. For anyone who is considering lino carving or just trying a new medium I strongly recommend taking the plunge and trying it for all its worth.

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