Saturday, April 30, 2011

That Sucks

litho5 copy

Breakups suck. I generally don't believe in universal truths, but the inherent suckiness of breakups might be something about which all human beings can agree. Heck, they suck even if you aren't involved in the relationship that is ending. It is particularly crummy when you have good friends breaking up with each other because you can't indulge in the ceremonial and cathartic verbal-bashing of the ex. And so we talk about how we feel and drink. And talk. And drink. And at some point, all of my comforting words begin to sound trite. Sure, it might be for the best. And it would be healthy to take some time to focus on yourself. But really, at the end of the day, it just sucks.* And there is no card in the grocery store that conveys this properly. So clearly the solution is to make your own.

Clockwise from top: barren, inking plate, brayer, soft pencil,
linoleum cutter and linoleum blocks sitting on a pad of tracing paper.
Now the last time I made a linoleum block print I was probably wearing braces. To my delight, I discovered that there are other types of lino blocks besides that hard, dark gray linoleum we were stuck with in school. That stuff is difficult to carve and increases the chances of gouging, stabbing or otherwise maiming yourself. I tried Speedball's Speedy-Cut and Speedy-Carve and preferred the Speedy-Cut (I'm linking to Dick Blick because they often have great online deals and ship nationally, but also check out your favorite local art supply store).

Supplies you'll need:
Linoleum block
Linoleum cutter (getting multiple sized/shaped blades is helpful)
Water based block printing ink
Inking plate
Baren or spoon
Soft pencil
Tracing paper (unless you are drawing your design directly on the linoleum)
Blank cards and envelopes


I'm really crappy at drawing so I created my design in Photoshop and kept it simple. That little guy is supposed to be a sad raindrop but I realize it looks like a tear. Sigh. Create a computer based or hand-drawn mock up of your design. If you aren't using letters and you are a better artist than I am, feel free to draw your design directly onto the linoleum. Just remember that everything will be reversed when it's printed, making any lettering pretty tricky (if you can freehand draw backward letters, you might be a robot). Otherwise, trace your design onto the tracing paper with a soft pencil. Now turn the paper over and place it on your lino block. Trace over the design again to transfer the image to the linoleum.

litho3 copy

Use your linoleum cutter to carve out your design. Remember that you are carving away the areas that will be negative space. Using a narrow blade for detail work and a wider blade to carve away larger spaces is the way to go!


Squeeze a good tablespoon of ink onto the inking plate. Roll the brayer through the ink in different directions until you have even coverage on your brayer. Roll the brayer over the block (again it's sometimes helpful to roll over it in different directions) to fully cover the positive areas. Carefully place your card on top of your inked lino. Using a barren or the back of a spoon, rub the paper with even pressure to transfer the ink to the card. Gently peel the card stock away from the lino. If you've used bit too much ink, some smudging may occur. No worries, just try it again or embrace the smudges as tell-tale signs of your DIY awesomeness.


You should also give your friend a gift along with that awesome custom card. Something to help combat the the epic suckitude of a breakup. May I suggest baked goods? I find banana bread comforting and it's easy to jazz it up with a few additions. Use mini loaf or bundt pans, and create as many variations as you'd like! Or maybe gift a selection of treats from across the pond to accompany a marathon of deliciously trashy British lezzer television? Come on, you know baked goods and cute girls with accents make everything better.

*Are you offended by the number of times I've used variations of "that sucks" in this post? Don't be. It's the "most sincere expression of sympathy" amongst modern idioms.

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