creative play | lino cutting & printing

by | Sep 29, 2021 | Artistic Endeavors, Creative Play | 13 comments

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“You can learn new things at any time in your life if you’re willing to be a beginner. If you actually learn to like being a beginner, the whole world opens up for you.”

― Barbara Sher

When I was in my 20s, I decided I was going to learn to play the violin.  I bought a cheap student violin with a warped bow off of and a beginner’s book with a CD to get started.  As I waited for my order to arrive, I had visions of being able to play beautifully from the first stroke.  It would be an intuitive talent that was built into my DNA.  Well, I pulled my violin out of the case and, just as you would expect, I needed to learn everything.  It was disappointingly unfamiliar.  I had to learn to set up the bridge, rosin the bow, and the finger placements.  I had to go through the painful screeching and notes that were too flat or sharp.  I had to be a beginner.

Being a beginner at something is exciting, but it can also be frustrating, especially if you’re proficient in similar disciplines.  So many times, I wanted to put down the violin and just play guitar, something I was comfortable with that will actually sound like music.

I’ve learned that I hate pretty much any new art medium after the first use.  I feel like I can get better results if I just go back to a medium I feel more confident in.  While that is true, I’ve also learned that if I push past that stage, I start to enjoy that new medium and use it more and more often.  As the quote states above, then the whole world is open to me.  I won’t be good at everything, but I can try anything.

So, when I was unexpectedly introduced to lino (linoleum) cutting & printing in a Jeanne Oliver art class I’m taking from Melissa Fink (Beneath the Surface), I was ready to try something new.  I have taken a class from Melissa before and this one wasn’t specifically for lino cutting & printing, so I was pleasantly surprised when it came up in the class materials list and the course schedule.  And I think I embraced it much more than I would’ve had it been offered in a lino cutting class.

Melissa was introducing lino cutting & printing as a way to create a foundation layer in a mixed media painting.  The idea of creating a piece once and using it over and over again appealed to me.  So, I happily bought some new art supplies to get set up and started carving.

lino cutting | creative play | miss mustard seed

I started by carving an embroidery pattern from the 1700s.  I’ve had this pattern printed for a while and it just seemed suited to lino cutting.  It’s detailed, but not overly ambitious for a beginner.

I ended up adding more detail to the print with an ink pen, but I was pleased with how it turned out overall.  I used a natural watercolor, which sort of pooled into droplets, so it created an interesting look but not one that really showed the details of the lino block.  I’ve now ordered some ink so I can get a better result.

lino printing | creative play | miss mustard seed

lino cutting & printing | creative play | miss mustard seed

I enjoyed carving the first one so much that I carved a second one.  This time, I did a landscape and I used some watered-down acrylic paint for the “ink.”

lino cutting & printing | creative play | miss mustard seed

I also got some better tools that my friend, Julia, suggested to me.

lino cutting & printing | creative play | miss mustard seed

Creating has been a little bit more challenging for me over the past month.  I’ve been avoiding my oil paints because I feel a little drained and not sure that I would be able to create something I’m proud of.  But taking this class and working on something totally new, just for me, just to learn and grow, got me motivated and excited to revisit my favorite mediums and start working on commissions and pieces for my next sale again.

lino cutting & printing | creative play | miss mustard seed

I don’t know where the lino cutting/block printing will lead, but I know that it’s what I needed at this particular time and I’m excited about all of the possibilities!  Prints, patterns, creative play…

lino cutting & printing | creative play | miss mustard seed

If you’re interested in dipping your toe into lino cutting, here are the tools I started with.  I bought white rubber lino blocks that are easier to carve than actual linoleum.  That seemed like a good place to start!  I also bought that Melissa recommended.  At $12, it is a great starter set.  The blades worked well, but it is a little fiddly to change them out.

I purchased (recommended by Julia) when I enjoyed carving the first block and decided it was worth getting a nicer set.  You also hold these like a pencil, so they work a little bit differently than the

I also bought a for sharpening my cutting blades.  If I do lino cutting often enough, I’ll likely invest in beautiful set of carving tools that are suggested in the book below.  I am all for investing in good tools, but I want to make sure I am doing that particular art enough to justify the splurge.

power grip tools | lino cutting & printing | creative play | miss mustard seed

And, of course, I need a book for a new creative endeavor!  I decided to purchase and it is excellent.  It has great information to get you started and a wide variety of projects.

block printing magic | lino cutting & printing | creative play | miss mustard seed

And, I happened to have an empty drawer in the studio for just this occasion – delving into a new craft and needing a place to store the supplies.

art studio | lino cutting & printing | creative play | miss mustard seed

art studio | lino cutting & printing | creative play | miss mustard seed

As a word of encouragement to leave you with – if you find yourself feeling stuck or uninspired, trying something new, an art or discipline you’re curious about, might just be the spark you need.  Those periods of creative stuckness are a great time to take classes, read books, and be a beginner at something again.  The time is then not wasted, but filled with things that will fill you up and further your growth.


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  1. sarajane

    Welcome to block printing! I’ve been carving “rubber” for about 10 years – it’s quite addictive. You may want to add a brayer to your lovely new block printing drawer – it will help you roll the ink (or even acrylic paint) on evenly. You can also use a foam makeup sponge to dab acrylic paint evenly onto the surface of your block.

  2. Addie

    The BIG questions is… far did you go with the violin? It would be great to see a video of you playing.
    I love your zest for discovery!!!
    I did lino carving in high school…many years ago. We ended up putting some of them on t-shirts and made greeting cards.

    • Marian Parsons

      I sold the violin and book when we moved so I won’t be playing one anytime soon. I got through the first book, but I was more interested in other things. I’m glad I learned the basics, though!

  3. Fenne

    I love lino!
    My preferred type is the older, harder type that you have to warm a bit. It’s harder work than the soft lino, but it isn’t elastic and I find that easier/better for details. That first test print is always so exciting 🙂

  4. Terry A.

    I love the look of block prints! I have been reluctant to pursue it ever since high school, however – ever since the cutting tool slipped and cut a pretty bad slice in my finger. I still have the memory of it, and the scar. 🙁 I will have to enjoy it vicariously through you. Enjoy!

    • Ruth

      I used to do linoleum cuts. I still have the tools and possibly a few blocks. I have to concentrate on oil painting right now. I started with you in April 2020. I’m having my first “show” locally at a very nice bistro, setting up on Sunday. It will be up for 3 months. First exhibit in probably 10 years. Thanks for the constant encouragement!

      • Nancy

        Congratulations Ruth! That’s so exciting and inspirational!

  5. Carolyn

    I did lino in middle school. We made greeting cards, I still have some of them, 45 years later. What a fun project! Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

  6. Leanne Nugent

    Don’t forget to sit on your Lino before you start, it helps to warm it up a little especially during the cooler months. Also there is print medium you can add to acrylic paints which makes it very affordable to turn what you have into something else.

  7. Mary

    I took a printmaking class in collage. We learned lino, aquatint, and lithography. They were all exciting, especially aquatint. But the only one I can do at home is lino. I actually use the tools more for pumpkin carving than printing, though. It is the same process where you remove media but you are basically making a negative where what you don’t remove is what doesn’t get lit and depending on hoe thick the pumpkin is, you can do quite a lot of shading.

  8. Ivana

    We did it at primary school, it was very fun!

  9. Lynnett Ratchford

    My dear Miss Mustard Seed you never cease to amaze me with your talents and endeavors. Although I don’t plan on any lino cutting…I’ll be happy to get the meat carved for supper tonight…I am taken by your advice to branch out and try new things. What a great suggestion! It’s especially needed when we find ourselves on the precipice of a rut or on the verge of the blahs of discouragement in the ordinariness of life. Thank you. Your inspiration reaches beyond learning a new craft.

  10. LINDA

    I am in awe of your willingness to pick up and try something new. I tend to be a perfectionist and am my own worst enemy when it comes to doing new craft projects. I hold myself back because I just know it won’t be good enough. I wish I could be as bold as you are. Lino carvings look fun – maybe I will push myself to give it a try.


Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…

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