Joanne Spencer is based in Wiltshire. She specialises in beautiful reduction Lino print and takes her inspiration from the natural world and architecture. She presents her work in exclusive editions up to a maximum of 10 prints.

Clifton Sunset

“What would you say are your key inspirations and why?”

If you had asked me that when I started my journey towards being an artist I would have said, without hesitation, architecture.  My early work is almost entirely based on architecture especially when I first started to use Lino as a medium, Lacock Cottage, Salisbury Cathedral, all the Lino and watercolour pictures I made.  Now I am still drawn to architecture, but I look at other things with a view to creating them in Lino.  I think the change came when I realised I wanted to be a printer, I can paint, I like line and wash and use watercolour and acrylic paints, but when I started using Lino as a medium I started to grow and develop in terms of what I wanted to try and how to use the Lino translate what I could see in my head onto paper.

When I look at something people have made, like Clifton Suspension Bridge, my head fills with questions about how it happened, how did Brunel know he could create something that would float above the Avon Gorge, be strong enough to support the traffic, and to some extent be future proof, as it is still there and still coping with today’s traffic, did the stonemasons who built Salisbury Cathedral realise that it would still be standing now?  I admire the determination of people to keep those buildings looking their best, you talk about painting the Forth Road Bridge, but the generations of stonemasons that have worked on our historic buildings to keep them standing is astonishing, and encouraging.


Can you tell us more about the steps you took in planning and creating ‘Seagulls’ and more about the reduction lino printing as a medium?

My favourite quote about printing is “Printmaking is fun because it takes a perfectly simple process like drawing and makes it as complicated and error prone as possible.”

I’m going to try and explain reduction Lino printing.  If you are doing a Lino print on white paper with black ink you carve away the Lino where you want the image to remain white on the final picture.

This is Tango, the Lino block was carved away where I wanted the picture to be left white.

Reduction Lino print is a way of adding colour to a Lino print, it follows the same principles, you mark out your image on the Lino, if your image has a “right way”, for example letters, you have to mark it on the Lino backwards or mirror image, so when it is printed it is the right way round.

Once the Lino is marked up you carve away the areas that you want to remain white.  You then ink the block of Lino with the first colour and print it. Once printed you carve away the Lino where you want the just printed colour to remain on the final print.  As each colour is laid more of the Lino is removed thereby “reducing” the surface area of the Lino.

With this image, I would have carved all the white areas away and inked the block with the peach colour and then printed it.  Once I had finished printing the peach colour I would carve away what is to remain peach on the picture, leaving only the parts on the Lino that will be black in the final print.  So if Whale was going to be a reduction Lino print it would only have two layers, the peach ink and then the black ink.

Once you have decided on the image you want to print, you have to work out how many colours you might need and the best way to lay each colour down.  Each time you lay the paper on the Lino block it has to be in the same place so all the colours line up.  There are various ways of doing this but I secure the Lino to a  piece of hardboard that is larger than the Lino, and use Ternes Burton pins.  The pins are on the board and little plastic tabs are put on the paper, the plastic tabs attach to the pins and should mean the paper does go on the Lino in the same place each time.

I normally start with the intention of making 10 images, so get 10 pieces of paper, hand “torn” to the correct size, with the process of reduction printing you can’t go back a stage because of the removal of the Lino and you can’t make the print again without starting from scratch.  On the more layered prints I am happy if I end up with 7 prints.

Seagulls is a relatively simple print in terms of layers, but as a part of my Portfolio it is incredibly important as it was the first reduction Lino print that I considered successful enough to put on sale.  I started with 10 pieces of paper and ended up with 5 good prints. 

The first one that was sold was to a lady for her 30th birthday from her Mother-in-Law.  The Lady saw it on a stall and during the course of the day came back about four times before she made her final decision to take it.  I can’t describe the way it makes me feel when something I’ve made is liked enough by someone that they want to own it – I hope I never lose that feeling as it is so special.


 “In ‘Chrysler’ you have chosen to depict just a small section of the building.  Can you explain more about your choice and more widely how you create a strong composition?

I think the Chrysler building is beautiful, everything about its lines and appearance just fit into my head and make me happy.  I wanted to make my image different to the majority of Chrysler pictures you see, and I must have looked at hundreds of photos of the building as part of my planning.  The final decision was dictated by what I liked about it, I like the shapes of the windows in the top part of the building and to be able to represent them at the size I work meant I had to focus the print on that part of the building.  The building is aluminium, so is silver coloured, one side is always in shade, so silver and grey, but one of the photos had the sun reflecting in the aluminium, turning the building gold.  I really like that concept, and as a contrast if one part was going to be really warm, I wanted another part to be really cold colours, that’s how I decided on the purples and silvers, with the little flashes of gold to tie the picture together. 

I know I like contrasting colours as well, light and dark, like the pale trunks and warm coloured leaves against the dark background in Autumn Birches, and warm and cold colours, the sunset sky and blue Lavender in Lavender Field

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