Since I started printing I’ve realised mine and others’ prints seem to come from the things that surround us.
For me, living in a city, that’s largely been slogans, goofy pictures from old books, themes of the drudgery of the workplace and whatnot.
But for printmaker Richard Shimell, who lives down in the West Country, the art comes from a more natural place than that, and yes, it’s a beautiful one too. Many of his works have that quality of making the viewer do a double-take – “whaaa, that’s not a photo?” – while others have a graphic edge, with colours that suggest the landscapes that inspired them perfectly.
I approached him for a few comments on printing and his techniques, and was delighted when he took time to respond.
Can you remember when you first started linocutting?
I was new to art and printmaking when I joined a workshop in Devon in 2010. I don’t use lino much – preferring vinyl flooring.
Which print artists influence(d) you?
I love the reduction linocuts of Ann Lewis and Ian Phillips, both in North Wales, as well as Monique Wales and William Hays in the US. But I’m also very involved with the work of other printmakers in Devon whose work I sometimes follow from conception to completion.
You mention on your site that your surroundings influence your work too…
I’m lucky enough to live in the Dartmoor National Park, in a wooded valley with moorland just up the hill. I do a lot of walking and just catch those moments – like sun on bleached grass and bracken against a dark sky, or a line of trees silhouetted by brightness behind. In the hinterland of the moor there are also many old and stately specimen trees, particularly oaks, in fields of pasture.
Can you tell me a little bit about your printing set up – I’m guessing you’re not a bedroom printer?
I have a separate small room as a studio, with a Hawthorn press. It was a bedroom when we moved in, now it’s not! I’m limited for space and really need to raise the inking area so it doesn’t give me backache. It’s not ideal, but better than a lot of people have. It’s a mess, but I know where everything is.
How did you discover that you could use flooring linoleum?
It’s flooring vinyl, not lino, which I discovered at Dartington Printmakers’ Workshop when I started printmaking. It was what I started using and I’m still going with it.
What inks/paper do you use?
I use Caligo Safewash inks, as well as some true oil inks for metallic colours – silver and gold. I mostly use Somerset paper, which is made at St Cuthbert’s Mill in Wells. I started with Somerset Velvet white, but now prefer brilliant white, as it changes the colours less.
Presumably you would urge anyone to have a go with linocutting?
I think most forms of printmaking, but especially relief, are excellent for people new to art and making stuff. The whole theatre of it – cutting, inking, revealing the print – gives you so much, so much more quickly. It’s as if you immediately get a style from the medium. If you’d never drawn and drew something, it wouldn’t look as interesting/satisfying as a linocut version, in my opinion.
Do any man-made things ever inspire your prints?
Yes – particularly colours, textiles and ceramics.
Your colours look perfection to me – how much time goes into working them out?
Thank you – but I’ve never worked out colours fully and hardly ever do tests. I tend to just jump in with an idea – if it doesn’t work, I try something else.
What other mediums do you work in?
I’ve dabbled with collographs and drypoints, and also keep plodding on to improve my drawing. I’ve tried painting, but so far I just don’t bond with it.