Each time I go to cut something, or even if I’m just sketching ideas, I’m usually thinking “How can I make these more detailed?” or “Is that the right level of detail for a print?” – basically it drives me mad.
But there’s an artist called Ieuan Edwards in Kent who takes this to the extreme, creating linocuts that frankly have no right to be quite as detailed as they are. They actually make me quite angry with their fine details and line work. The guy is obviously some kind of genius.So I asked him about all this in a vain attempt to get a shortcut into that kind of skill – but the old adage remains I guess – talent takes time…
Hi Ieuan – how do you get your work SO DAMN INTRICATE?
Thank you! Good (sharp) tools, good light, a steady hand, my new reading glasses, a decent playlist and enough time to enable me to get in ‘the zone’.
I’m really keen to try to emulate authentic textures in my work and often only start with a very basic drawing on the lino, letting the tools find their own way. So the intricate marks suggesting a bony texture on one of my skull pieces won’t have been drawn beforehand, they’re made by experimenting with different sizes and shapes of cutting tool.
A lot of my work is printed in reduction from one piece of lino, with some carved away between successive colour layers, so accurate registration is a key concern. My favourite registration method involves pins and tabs, using the brilliant kit produced by Termes Burton.How did you first get into printing?
Like many others, I recall a fairly joyless linocut project in art class at school – blunt tools, crumbly brown lino and a teacher who clearly didn’t respect the medium – and the thought of printing didn’t really cross my mind again until 2012 when I picked up a starter kit.
I’d been painting pretty unsuccessfully for a few years and felt I needed a change. I realised quite quickly that I’m a printmaker at heart and I haven’t looked back. I’m not a “completer/finisher” by nature, so the fact there are a number of discrete processes associated with making prints – and I can have a number of projects running concurrently, each at a different stage – fits my natural mental state!What’s your printing set up?
I work from a home studio. I have a Blue Boy book press I use for smaller prints or for quickly proofing or trying out ideas. When it’s time to pull out the big guns I turn to my etching press, a converted vintage clothes mangle and probably my favourite ever eBay purchase.
In addition, a couple of months ago I picked up a Print Frog from the Iron Frog Press folks over in Dallas. It’s a baren made from a single piece of blown glass and I’ve enjoyed using it so much that my presses are currently lying dormant. I’ve had other barens in the past, but this thing takes printing by hand to a new level and it’s a beautiful object.
Are you in the lucky position of working with printing for a living in any way, or is it purely a free time thing?
I sell prints through a number of channels – face-to-face at art fairs, through gallery shows and online. I’ve sold work to corporate clients and have been lucky enough to pick up some interesting commissions, including album covers, greetings cards and work for interior design schemes in pubs and restaurants. It’s by no means enough to justify going full time but I’d like to think I’m heading in that direction.Do you have any professional or academic print training?
No, other than the joyless experience at school…
Who are your printing influences?
Eric Ravilious and Edward Bawden are the first to come to mind in terms of their design prowess and their technical chops. I’d hope that some of my starker monochrome work demonstrates my fondness for the heartbreaking work of Kathe Kollwitz.
I also enjoy the naive and natural style of Elwin Hawthorne from the East London Group and I’d happily devote an entire room to Billy Childish (donations accepted!).
Other contemporary favourites include each of the folks below me in this blog (particular shout to Mat Pringle) and other stars to look out for on social media include Ann Lewis, Richard Wells and Nick Wonham.
What other mediums do you work in?
This is it for the moment, I have way too much ink stockpiled to consider other avenues.
What paper and ink do you favour?
Somerset Satin 300g and Lawrence’s linseed relief ink. Oil based inks are notoriously difficult to clean up, which can put people off, but this stuff is a breeze with a dash of vegetable oil and washing up liquid.Colour is used very sparingly in your work…
Well, I’m still learning, having only been at this for a few years, and my confidence with colour is growing. I’m planning some larger pieces at the moment which promise to expand my palette.
Do you think relief printing is for everyone?
Absolutely. Cost and space aren’t barriers to getting started with printing on the kitchen table and there are a number of great starter packs out there, as well as a variety of soft cutting surfaces for beginners. Tools need to be sharp so I’d suggest a hand guard to avoid punctured fingers, at least to begin with.
So there you go. Ieuan has a solo show planned for 31st May to 7th June, at the York Street Gallery in Ramsgate – tentatively called “Well Impressed”.
And if you want to buy buy buy some of his work, or commission him to print all over your house or pub, get thee sharpish over to the Black Gold Press page, HERE.