Linocut Challenge – Holbein Woodcut

I fell in love with linocut as soon as I tried it out. I get really involved with the process from start to finish. Maybe it’s something to do with the fact that I’m very into hands-on arts and crafts as well as drawing. Printmaking, and more specifically, linocut has the kind of practical, detail orientated challenge that I really enjoy getting stuck in to. Every time I’m carving, I’m trying to achieve smoother lines, more interesting textures or finer details.

I frequently work with really solid, flat shapes and I’ve been printing a lot of dense black work. So, I wanted to challenge myself to cut something different, in order to get my head around different linocut techniques. I chose to imitate an old Holbein woodcut. It’s from the Dance of Death series so naturally, I love it.Plus, as part of another project, I’m looking at that Medieval woodcut aesthetic so everything ties together as I’m trying to explore the process. The illustration I chose is full of varying textures, with a strong composition and different descriptions of light.

Maaaan those details were so smaaaall! It was an intense cut, for sure. I copied out the image and transferred it onto the lino in pencil, but as I worked, I smudged the pencil with the side of my palm. This was pretty frustrating, but I managed to work around it, just judging by eye a bit. The cut took… hmm… maybe about 6 hours to complete? I took a lot of breaks. The tiny details pretty much crippled my hand and I ended up hunched for like a day, but I loved the challenge of it. The whole process became kinda therapeutic once I got my head around the best way to carve each texture.

Sidenote:

Linocut is such an enjoyable and rewarding artistic process. Revealing that first print was so satisfying! Although I don’t like copying other people’s work (even if it is centuries old) it can be great to learn through imitation. I’m hoping the experience feeds into the work I do in future.

Check out a full scan of my version of Holbein’s print in my portfolio.