brown baby explained


A few weeks back I spent far too long working on a linocut culled from the title page of a Hans Christian Andersen book.

The idea was to create something small (the final pieces only measure about 4-5″ square) but that had a sort of classical look about it. See, I love linocut, but sometimes it can look a bit like cave painting.

Anyway, what I found was a picture of Helga from 1858’s The Marsh King’s Daughter, a kind of shape changing baby that’s human by day but toad – yes, toad – by night. The original piece is by famed illustrator William Heath Robinson, who usually drew complicated, pointless machinery, but his deftness with a human shape is pretty darned impressive I reckon.

So his little baby in a lily caught my eye and I thought, well, let’s try that.

My method of working seems to contradict the general flow of linocut’s narrative, in that there is much much more taken away, or cut out, than there is left behind.

But I like that, and I find the difficulties it throws up act as a sort of template in which to work. Making sure there’s no overflow in the white areas or edges, getting into the tiniest spots to cut out lino (the hair here is the best example of that) – I’m a sadist maybe.

Have a look, see what you think. These pieces were never intended for sale, which is why they were made in a horrible brown ink I bought by mistake. Got to use it up.


W. Heath Robinson


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