Learning Linocut – book review

Learning Linocut
A Comprehensive Guide to the Art of Relief Printing through Linocut

by Susan Yeates

There is a woeful shortage of good books about linocut so I have to admit I may have got a little overexcited when I found out about this new release, written by artist and educator Susan Yeates. The book sets out to be a comprehensive guide to linocut with something for all levels of ability. Perfect!

Unlike most printmaking manuals, here the author takes us through the entire creative process, from the conception of ideas, through carving and printing linocuts, to displaying and selling your finished prints. Along the way there are sections on a wide variety of things: materials, laying out your working space, mark-making, reduction technique, registration and experimental techniques. There’s even a long list of suggested drawing exercises and a page of ‘inspiring words’!

As a teacher of several years’ experience, Yeates provides a series of projects right from the start, set out in a clear and methodical manner for the novice to follow. The chapters are packed with practical advice and step-by-step instructions, conveyed in a friendly and encouraging tone. This should make it very easy for a complete beginner to get started and have a go at a variety of techniques. Of course no book will ever be a substitute for the experience of being taught in a hands-on workshop but this must be the next best thing.

For those printmaking geeks like myself, I have to say there are one or two areas of the book that are lacking. There is very little about using a press (nothing wrong with a wooden spoon but there is so much more you can do with a proper press) and no information on the different sorts of rollers available or which to buy. It would also be useful to have more information on inking large blocks and maybe a trouble-shooting section for when things go wrong with printing (the commonest mistake among my own students being over-inking).

Although there are plenty of reproductions of linocuts in the book, it is a shame there are no examples of prints by the masters – Picasso, Cyril Power etc. Linocut has a rich history and a vibrant diversity of contemporary practitioners. It may be due to copyright/royalty issues that these are missing but it would have raised the whole level of the book for me.

If you are just starting out with linocut and you want a book that leads you by the hand, this is it. However, if you are already familiar with the basics and want something a bit more in-depth and technical then you will have to wait a bit longer.

Learning Linocut by Susan Yeates
Published by Magenta Sky
Available from Amazon