If you’ve never heard of linocut printmaking before, get ready to be amazed. It’s not only beautiful, but it is also very satisfying to watch someone make this type of art.

Linocut, also called linoleum cut, involves cutting a design onto a piece of linoleum using various blades or chisels. Next, the artist spreads a thin layer of printing ink onto the surface. Finally, he or she lays a piece of paper on top, applying pressure, so the drawing transfers onto the paper.

Alternatively, the artist may use a printing press to make this step easier. Most artists also use a tool such as a brayer or foam roller to smooth out the ink. Since the paper offers a smooth surface, the linoleum doesn’t add any texture to the drawing. This technique is a variation of woodcutting, and it offers several advantages to the latter process.

Since linoleum lacks directional grain and doesn’t split off like wood, it can create a greater variety of artistic effects. It’s easier to cut and provides more textural appeal than woodcuts. By placing it in the sun or heating it before use, the material becomes even softer and more pliable for cutting. Since it’s so user-friendly, it’s suitable for detailed prints of all sizes.

History of linocut printing

A British rubber manufacturer, Fredrick Walton, first invented linoleum in 1860. He wanted a cheaper product for his business and found that oxidized linseed oil provided the answer. When you heat up linseed oil, it thickens and becomes rubbery. Next, it’s pressed onto a mesh of coarse threads to help hold it together in layers of sheets.

When artists heard of the linoleum invention, they also found it provided a cheap, easy canvas for printing. The linocut process first came about in the 20th century. Historians believe its origins can be traced to German Expressionists in the early 1880s. A few decades later, Russian Constructivist artists began using linocut, and it also started appearing in the UK.

Picasso, one of the most famous and renowned artists in history, produced his first linocuts in 1939. He kept making them into the early 1960s and even invented a new form called reduction linocuts. This involves a piece of linoleum being used multiple times in one print and recut after each color gets printed.

Linoleum art appeared in the U.S. in 1911, displayed in New York City by Czech immigrant Vojtěch Preissig. In his books on linocuts, American printmaker Pedro Joseph de Lemos introduced simpler methods for art schools. He also created new techniques for color prints, including the printing of the key block first. American artist Walter Inglis Anderson created the first large color linocuts, which hung in the Brooklyn Museum in 1949. Today, many street artists practice linocut printmaking all over the world.

Meet Emil, a linocut printmaker extraordinaire

 Emil got into this unique art form after taking a class on how to linocut. Ever since, he’s been obsessed with it, creating works such as beautiful, old buildings or inspiring nature scenes. He’s always coming up with new ideas and truly enjoys the process. To him, it’s an outlet for expression as well as a form of therapy.

“To me, art is self-expression; art is the thing that you can’t help yourself [from] doing. Art is going against the fear that what you are doing is not good enough.”

He goes on to say,

“Art is believing in yourself and trusting what you are doing is good enough.”

“I started making linocuts about three years ago. I’ve only ever taken one class. Otherwise I’m self-taught. Like a lot of people, I’ve been drawing my whole life, but I never really knew what to do with these drawings. Then I found linocut printmaking, and I’ve been exploring that technique ever since.”

He says that old buildings and the intricate ornamentation and architecture on them greatly inspire him. Emil also loves carving nature scenes into the linocuts. Leaves and flowers are some of his favorites, and he incorporates them into his work often.

“I’m most excited about seeing the first print being pulled from the block. Like that moment when you see your hard work for the first time is truly magical. I find myself holding my breath every time that happens. Seeing a piece as I pull it off the block for the first time is quite amazing,” he says.

Many people turn to art as an outlet and method of expressing themselves. Emil feels that without linocut, a piece of himself would be missing, so it’s very important to him. The passion and love he has for the technique show in his imaginative, elaborate pieces. If you’d like to check out more of his work, please visit his website. He offers several inspiring prints and even T-shirts for sale.

“I don’t really know what my piece has to say, but I show myself in the pieces that I make. My vulnerability is in my fears and my passions. The pieces are, in a way, a mirror of myself,” Emil says. “I create because that’s the only way that I can feel true to myself. I can’t live without it, and I’m constantly thinking about upcoming pieces, constantly drawing and making prints, and I feel empty not doing it. So, I have to. I make art in the service of myself.”

Final thoughts on the artist who makes amazing linocut prints

Linocut printing may look complicated, but with practice, anyone can master this unusual art form. Linoleum may not look impressive to some, but Picasso and other artists throughout history saw its potential. Today, people like Emil use it to make masterpieces using only a few tools such as chisels and paint.

The finished product looks much like a woodcut piece, only smoother and colorful, in some cases. Artists have always seen the world through a different lens, and Emil is no different. Some people look a linoleum as flooring for their homes, while others see it as a canvas for a story yet to be told.