The art of carving the woodcut is called Xylography. A characteristic of modern relief printing is the use of materials other than wood, including linoleum, to create matrices. Linoleum offers a smooth, compact surface that can easily be engraved using gouges or chisels. A pattern is carved into the linoleum block with the raised (un-carved) areas representing a reflection of the design to be printed. The block is then inked with a roller (called a brayer) and then impressed onto paper. The actual printing can be done by hand with a baren or with a press.
Linocuts were utilized by artist such as Kandinsky, Matisse and Picasso. Due to ease of use, linocuts are widely employed in schools to introduce children to the art of printing. In fact, elementary school is where self-taught artist Steve Martin discovered and adopted linocut as his own. He continues to tenaciously explore the possibilities this media has to offer. Fascinated by its ease of working and the ability to create more fluid and impulsive drawings, Martin applies this method in its simplest form possible, creating a series of engravings of pure white lines on black ground. These striking images command the attention of the observer with bold graphic sophistication.