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Art Mediums

Lino cutting, lithography, and Intaglio printing are all art forms that made it possible for everyone to enjoy art before the digital age. I’m a graphic artist and web designer, but I would not consider myself an artist in the traditional sense. However, learning about different art mediums has helped me so much in my work. Experimenting with art mediums in a conventional sense has changed how I create art digitally.

I’ve always believed that art in any form is a gift from the artist. We turn it into whatever we want it to be. Each of us feels a piece of art differently. We bring our experience and perspective to this creation in the same way the artist did.

Our perspective is the reason why we will never see what the artist saw or feel what they felt when we look at it. Although we will never share the same views on the world or have the same experiences, we can understand the artistic process.

What did the artist experience that inspired this creation? We may never know but, we can gain knowledge about the process and learn to appreciate it just a little more.

In this post, we will briefly cover the specific artistic medium of print work. Art created with the ability to reproduce the artists work. These art mediums include Lithography, Intaglio, and Linocut printing.

Lithography in a nutshell

The medium of Lithography is a form of printing using a smooth stone slab or steel plate. The Lithograph process considers the repelling properties of oil and water.

The artist creates a drawing on a slab of stone. Limestone is the most common stone used along with oil, fat or grease. The grease acts as a sort of protectant to the stone slab.

Once the oil drawing is complete, the artist treats the stone with a mixture of acid and gum Arabic. The artist carves the block in all areas that the grease was not applied.

Lithography, a quick history

German playwright, and actor. Mr. Senefelder invented lithography in 1796. Senefelder was looking for a cheap method of publishing his theatrical works.

In the early 18th century Lithography became popular in the art community. Most notably used by Delacroix and Goya. Lithography later became popular again in the twentieth century. Chagall, Picasso, and other infamous artists used this medium.

Modern Lithography is considered a means to mass produce print for commercial work. Such as newspapers, posters, packaging and a wide assortment of other media. These days it’s not very popular as an artist’s medium.

Famous Lithography Artists

Eugene Delacroix

Eugene Delacroix born April 26, 1798, and died August 13, 1863, in France. Many regard Delacroix as a leader of the French Romantic School. Among others, he was credited with popularizing the lithography process.

Eugene Delacroix produced 109 lithographs in his art career. One of the most notable is Mephistopheles flying over Wittenberg, created in 1828.

artist medium Lithography

Marc Chagall was a Jewish artist born Moishe Segal in Liosna in 1887. Chagall noted to be a pioneer of modernism. Chagall biographer Jackie Wullschlager describes Chagall as a “pioneer of modern art and one of its greatest figurative painters… [who] invented a visual language that recorded the thrill and terror of the twentieth century.” You can view a collection of his lithographs here.

Intaglio Printing Technique

The Basics of Intaglio

Intaglio is a method of printing using copper plates, engraving and etching being the most used. However, there are various other methods used to create the final work. The different processes used in Intaglio are Aquatint, Burnishing and Scraping, Drypoint, Inking, and Printing. Since we’re trying to keep it brief, we won’t go through all these methods here.

Signs that you’re looking at an Intaglio

When an artist uses the etching method, he physically scratches into the plate form with an etching needle. This process raises burred lines that hold a significant amount of ink. The burr gets pressed down every time the plate runs through the press. Because of the diminished burrs, it’s necessary to re-score the lines. This process of re-scoring causes slight differences in depth on each print.

Another sign that your prints were made using the Intaglio method is by studying the paper. The artist uses heavy pressure to transfer the ink to the paper. The pressure creates indentations of the plate on the print.

Intaglio’s History

Intaglio is an art form invented in Germany in the 1430′s. During this time Intaglio was used to decorate metal armor, musical instruments, and religious symbols. Albrecht Durer, the Renaissance master, is one of the most famous Intaglio artists.

Famous Intaglio Artists

  • Rembrandt
  • Albrecht Durer
  • Edward Hopper
  • Lucas Van Leyden
  • Pablo Picasso

Intaglio by Rembrandt

Rembrandt produced more than 300 etchings in his career. He was among the pioneers of the drypoint technique. Rembrandt’s Intaglio prints are among the most famous before the 19th Century. Rembrandt’s favorite technique was the etching method. In fact, he created the majority of his prints using this method.

Rembrandt Intaglio Self Portrait

Picasso is known for having extended the boundaries of Intaglio. He often ignored the traditional means of Intaglio printmaking techniques. Picasso often combined techniques in producing his original graphics.

Picasso often employed steel plating. Steel plating involves electroplating the already drawn etching plate to harden the surface. Electroplating provided Picasso the ability to make unlimited prints. All without a reduction in quality or having to go over burred lines.

The Rape l – Pablo Picasso

Photo from The Met

Lino Cutting Technique

The Linocut printing method utilizes linoleum sheets. The artist will carve into the linoleum surface with a sharp cutting tool, such as a knife, chisel or gouge.

The uncut areas represent a mirror image of the final print. Once the artist carves the Lino sheet, he inks it with a brayer or small roller. Then he impresses the art onto fabric or paper using a heavy roller press.

This video is an example of an artist creating a linocut sheet. It’s a lot of work upfront, but the results are beautiful. A one color linocut block template is repeatedly used to produce many images as shown below.

Linocut Reduction

Another method of the lino cutting technique is a linocut reduction. This variation uses several colors and creates a stunning effect. The linocut reduction method is limiting in that only a certain number of prints can be made. The artist must predetermine the number of prints. The number of impressions is limited because colors are added one layer at a time using one Lino sheet.

As each color added on, the artist carves the Lino again to create lines for the next color. Then she presses again. The artist repeats these steps several times. Until the artist has added all the colors and the piece is complete.

Famous Linocut Artists

Henri Matisse

Matisse lino cutting technique

Henri Matisse was born December 31, 1869, and died November 3, 1954. Matisse was a French artist and is well known for paintings. He was also a draughtsman and a printmaker as you can see by the example above. Matisse was well known for how he used color and fluid draughtsmanship.

M.C. Escher

M.C. Escher’s oldest surviving linocut is a portrait of his father created in 1916. You can view it here.

M.C. Escher was born in 1898 and died March 27, 1972, at the age of 73. Mr. Eschers created several lithographs. He also created carvings and was a master of linocut. Mathematics strongly influenced Escher’s work. His work features impossible architecture, explorations of infinity and tessellations.

Lino cutting feature long


As an art lover, creating an artist perspective in yourself from watching artists at work will deepen your appreciation even further. Learning about one aspect of art in its various formats can be inspiring. It’s impressive for me to watch artists work. Thier process gives me a new appreciation and inspiration for my form of art. What’s your favorite artistic medium? I encourage you to explore your favorite pieces and learn about the process of creating them. It will give you a newfound appreciation for the artist and their process. If you’re an artist, learning an art medium you’re not familiar with will do wonders for your work and inspire you to think differently. You will gain a new perspective on your art.

Until next time, keep moving forward!

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