This youtube clip gives a wonderful idea of the skill, the improvisation and the rhythmic speed that are all involved in producing a massive linocut. David Fraser’s prints are impressive enough when you see them hanging on a gallery wall, but to see the process in action helps you to understand the extent of the undertaking: unlike an oil painting, you can’t undo your mistakes; you have to be constantly aware of the black and white balance across the whole composition; you have to use the same even pressure with your tools, so that the carved lines are consistent.
But don’t be too daunted! Everything improves with practice, and linocuts can be adapted to every level of skill and patience. Look at these Picasso linocuts – he’s also an artist of incredible skill, but his style is much more spontaneous than David Fraser’s and might suit less patient people.
You can also listen to David Fraser talking about his work on this audio from the ABC – he talks about the history of wood engraving, and how his attempts to become a songwriter led him from painting to printmaking.