Making a Scorpion Linocut

There was that one time someone asked me A lot of folks as me how I make a linocut out of politeness because they are fascinated with the process. Here’s where I humor my public; where I condescent to fill you in on the details of this insanely complicated ordeal that is linoleum block printing.

The first thing I need is a Subject. I like to draw from life and I like to draw bugs. So when I caught a few scorpions, I thought that it was a golden opportunity for a new print.


A scurrying little devil

The Subject races across my hand, desperate to avoid being drawn. I guess that scorpions are either shy or humble.

The next part of this process is where I actually sit down to make a drawing. It’s also the part where I realize these scorpions are really small. My eyes are good, but not that good. And since I prefer to draw from life (and NOT from photographs), I find myself at an impasse. I can’t really see the thing and I can’t make it stay still to put it under magnification. That is until I see that one of my scorpions had expired. So I dig out that small magnifying glass you see toward the back of the picture below and get to work drawing.


Spider-Man supervises the project. No doubt, he’s drawn by a kind of familial interest.


The finished drawing. All gussied up with pen and ink work.


Multiple photocopies just in case.

Now I need to transfer the drawing to the block. Ususally, I just draw directly on the block and avoid this step. But every now and then I’ll do a drawing that needs transferring. The easiest way of doing that is by making a photocopy (that’s what I did here – I shrunk it and flipped it until the image was right for what I wanted). Then, and here’s the part that is a complete mystery to my students, rub chalk all over the back to make it like a piece of carbon paper; tape the chalked-up photocopy to your block and make a careful tracing.


My approximation of carbon paper. CAR-bon PA-per, for those of you of a certain age, was used for making multiple copies of a document back before cheap and ubiquitous printing technologies were available.

I trace my tracing with pen to fix it to the block. So at this point, I have drawn the image once, traced it in chalk, then traced it in pen and next I’ll start cutting. By the time I’m finished, I will have been over this drawing at least four times. I know it pretty well and that really helps when the cutting starts.


At this point I’m usually reluctant to start cutting because I like the way it looks on the block.

After a few days of cutting, it’s time to print!

The finished print. Poised and ready for action.

The finished print. Poised and ready for action.

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