Paul Cleden: “I’m constantly looking at other work to get inspiration.”

lympic swimmers

Olympic Swimmers

Paul Cleden’s linocuts fizz with life. They virtually whizz past you off the page.

The colours are bold, and the shapes bolder still, while their subjects of travel, sport and general good fun suit his approach to the artform perfectly I reckon.

Clearly influenced by the vorticist movement, but also some subtler, perhaps more traditional print artists, I approached him for an insight into how he makes his work so dazzlingly eye-grabbing.

Migraine tablets not required….


Watcha Paul. Can you remember your first impressions of doing linocut?

Very much. In fact, I still have my very first linocut, produced when was 17. I was lucky enough to have a teacher for a couple of terms who was a printmaker, and got to explore a whole range of techniques.

I think his excitement stayed with me and when I got to printmaking again at college I was excited to explore it. I found the spontaneity of printing really thrilling, the fact some of the results are a surprise is always good. I think it keeps things fresh, slightly out of control.



Are you trained at all in the arts – I know you’re an illustrator?

Doing a degree in illustration meant I tried many ways of working. I did do an awful lot of collage after college while I was a freelance illustrator but I’ve always returned to printing. I suppose I enjoy any form of art really – there are just not enough hours in the day to do all I’d like to.

You mention Edward Bawden as an influence, and I can see that in your prints, but what else influences your work?

Bawden’s work is always inspiring. If I feel a bit lost with a print, a cup of tea with a book of Bawden’s prints will always help. I’m constantly looking at other work to get inspiration. I think it’s good practice to learn and develop, the awe of seeing a beautiful print, trying to see how they made a particular tone or shape keeps me on my toes.

I recently saw the work of Pine Feroda, which blew me away with the scale and compositions. I must also mention the work of the Grosvenor School – Lill Tschudi, Cyril Power and Sybil Andrews. I still remember the first time that saw their work, it was as if someone else was working in the same way as me.

I think as an artist you’re by nature a visual person, so I take inspiration for so many things, living in Dorset I get to enjoy the spectacular landscape and all that offers, even though my work tends to be focused on crowds, and often in city locations.

the wiz

The Wiz

What first drew me to your prints was the movement in them. Do you have a lot of trial and error/sketchbook work?

Lots. The process takes me through many different stages. I’ll start with ether drawing, or a glimmer of an idea in my sketchbook. I like to get good references for the ideas and if at all possible draw from life, and then I’ll draw and redraw things.

The tension is between refining things so they work as a composition and overworking so the image becomes stale. I have a pile of ideas I work on for a while then leave for years sometimes, so I probably have 40 or 50 ideas for prints that might get realised at some point.

Although then an idea will arrive almost fully formed, such as the image for Peloton. My first drawing is almost the same as the final image. Once I decide to finish a print I then draw it to scale and decide on the colours. Again, I’ll often have a dozen or so colour variations I could use.

esc talk

Escalator Talk

Do you get those days when everything goes wrong with a print?

Totally. I have a graveyard of designs that never got much further than sketchbooks, although there is still perhaps potential. Being a printmaker is very varied, with all these new thoughts and ideas rushing round. So if I have a day like that I tend to pick up a different idea and have a play with that instead, and if all else fails, go for a walk.

olm velo cycling

Olympic Velodrome Cycling

What sort of printing set up do you have?

I have a studio with two presses, a small nipping press and a giant nipping press. We moved house recently and these were perfect for my previous smaller room, but actually they’re very good for what I need. I’m planning to introduce a bit of photo silkscreen into my work soon so that’s an area which will emerge at some point in my set up.

skiiers II

Skiiers II

What inspires your colour choice, it’s very distinctive…

That’s an interesting question. During the planning I explore many different options, but I have to consider the overlapping and the extra colour they can produce. You might notice I love blue, so normally I start there and move away into other options. At the moment I’m exploring some interesting use of extender to create far more subtle washes of colour, so keep an eye out for this in my next few prints.

Lots of your prints are sold out – did this success rate come easy?

Success is very subjective – if I knew why one print sold well and another didn’t they would all be sold out! I exhibit in galleries across the UK and online, and take part in as many exhibitions as I can. Having a number of other uses for my work also broadens the places it turns up. I’ve done book covers, silk scarves, cards an dmore, this means that I exhibit quite widely.

bumper cars

Bumper Cars

What are you working on at the moment?

Many things! I always have about ten things on the boil at any one time. I’m exploring ways to use ink and how to add more texture to designs. I have an exciting idea with some 3D prints, work commissioned for galleries, along with my own ideas. I actually find the hardest thing in choosing which image to start next.


For more on Paul and to buy prints, visit his site here. He’s also on twitter of course, right here.


hard at it…


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