In search of an eco-friendly printing method.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to make my artwork really sustainable and screen printing involves chemicals, acrylic inks and a lot of water which has always concerned me a lot. I’ve also been looking for a method that required less space so thought I would try lino printing. I had some old block printing ink and a bit of lino, I bought some lino cutting tools and had a go. Lino is quite eco friendly being made from linseed oil and sawdust and I was interested in the possibilities for introducing gradations of colour…

After my first feeble attempts (without proper registration – see above) I realised the the ink I already had was mostly useless. I resigned myself to the fact that I’d have to spend money on new inks and decent rollers, and that this wasn’t going to be cheap if I wanted good ones. I went to the local art shop but they didn’t have all the colours I wanted so I searched online. By chance I read a note about the ink saying ‘can be applied with a brush’. This and the fact that I was looking at having to fork out a large sum for specialist ink rollers spurred me to google ‘inking a lino block with a brush’ to see what I could find out about this as an alternative method. I found this on YouTube and I realised I was on to something!

Then I found Laura Boswell and an advert for a training course at spike island with Adrian Holmes. Somewhere on this trail I found Japanese block printing described as ‘the original eco-friendly bench printing method’. It uses watercolour paint, nori (rice paste) and is printed using a ‘baren’ a traditional Japanese smoothing tool. I think I have found my medium! I had no idea this was how Hokusia’s famous wave print was made. I thought it was just a woodblock version of lino printing, but the ink application method and paper treatment is quite different. The technique opens up lots of possibilities, I can’t wait to try it.

I am concerned about the time it takes to carve a block but when I think about the time and effort needed to make a screen print – well – it’s not so quick! No more running around making acetates, paying others to print them….Just me a sheet of ply, chisels and my CD player…