Often, when I’m speaking to printers, they tell me the thing that first put them off the artform was a bad experience at school. Then, many get into it again, just in later life (myself included).
There’s also a phrase that says youth is wasted on the young. But it really isn’t if Will Baker, a whippersnapper I found on Instagram (which he uses heavily to promote his works) is anything to go by.
Still in secondary school, his prints are flipping amazing, to be honest.
“I started printing in 2012 when I was in year nine at secondary school. I took it up as part of a printmaking lesson in art class,” he explains.
And he wasn’t put off either. “No – I loved the boldness of it and the sharp imagery that the medium produced. It is a very frustrating process though, with plenty of room for error. Trying to find a way of transferring the design accurately so that all the blocks line up was very difficult and registration was infuriating. There were many times when I could have quite easily walked away…”
Thankfully he didn’t – and the results were impeccable. “I completed my Art GCSE in 2015, coming in the top 5% of the UK, and I’m now in my final year of a Fine Art A Level. In terms of printmaking, I’d describe myself as self taught. I also enjoy illustration using pen and watercolours and that’s something I do when away from my workshop,” he says.
Will did have some help with his prints though. “Up until recently, my set up was just on my desk and on the dining room table and the dog helped spread the lino shavings around the house that I often found the weeks later. Throughout 2015 I decided to save up for an Etching Press, and by early 2016 I moved into a small storage space at my parents’ showroom with the press I’d bought – a space I now call my workshop (because it’s not grand enough to call a studio).”
Like many artists, Will’s work tends to focus on the natural side of the world we live in. “I live in Suffolk so what can I say? I often see a muntjac or a badger and think ‘that’d make a great print!’,” he explains. But that’s not his only influence. “In my A Level coursework I focused on something quite different – the urban – and found studying locations I described as ‘inbetween places’ such as the railway passing through Stratford to be very rewarding. I’d definitely like to pursue this route further.”
So, are we to conclude from this bright young thing that printing is now being taught well again? After all, the printed results from Will would certainly suggest so.
Well, sadly not. “I think printmaking is still something that isn’t taught with much enthusiasm – possibly why I’m one of very few students who actually do it in my college,” he says. “I think it’s important to use quality materials from the offset to really appreciate the medium since using cheap materials shows and can easily put people off. Sadly most schools only provide the cheapest of basic materials and tools.
“It’d be more effective to take pupils to an actual printmaking workshop where they can be taught by artist with artist quality materials. Of course, you don’t need a teacher to sign up for these workshops but it can be hard to find them locally…”
Will’s Instagram account is @will_baker_printmaker – get over there now!