Dead Celebrities of 2016: First Linocut Attempt

Dead Celebrities of 2016, a collaboration with Lee Fearnside, just got more real. Facebook page

Prince. Carrie Fisher. Leonard Cohen. David Bowie. Not to mention Glen Frey, Boutros Boutros Ghali, and dozens more. The Reaper was on turbo all year long. Both Lee and I got interested in the way our creative practices helped us recover our personal, human experiences of these losses from the massive hall of mirrors of our mediated pop culture. And we got interested in our own relationships with loss, and death, and thus life in general. And so the Dead Celebrities project was born. More about the evolving rationale for this project in posts to come, and on the FB page. 

Lee has made linocuts of five celebrities thus far, and they’re all stunning (see them here). I’ve made a handful of drawings, all of which I’ve posted here and on my Instagram feed. Lee’s linocuts really brought the project together for me, and a few weeks back we agreed that the project should be all linocut. In high spirits I bought a stack of 6” x 8” blocks.

And then the fear started.

“I haven’t made a linocut since elementary school!” Meh… how hard can it be? And anyway, I have more studies to do before I start making prints.


After Lee sent her two-block Carrie Fisher this weekend, I finally got over my fear and started a linocut of my own. I’d had Merle Haggard in mind, since he was the last Dead Celebrity I drew. So here goes Merle.

The results are posted above.

As it turns out, cutting the block is a Whole Thing. First off, thinking in reverse from drawing is a mind-Bender, though only for a while. After an hour or so, I began to feel confident. Forms in light and shadow started to feel right. I experimented with the big gouge and the small V-cutter. I was really grateful I’d drawn Merle in pen before essaying a linocut–I really knew the image well. This helped when I found that rotating the block really helped set up a form for modeling. Studies aren’t just painting-avoidance!

But then… the printing. Oh boy. This part I haven’t found my groove with yet. The examples above are rife with mistakes that I don’t quite understand. I know there’s a whole embodied Feel to inking the block; there must be, because I don’t have it yet. 

I’m calling Juliana Kirwin for a lesson!

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