If you’re just starting out in relief printing, and consider this – everyone is at some point – then you might be confused as to the best way to go about it. There’s a gazillion different types of ink, paper, equipment and, more annoyingly, opinions on what should and shouldn’t be done around the medium.
So a website like www.drawcutinkpress.com is all the more welcome, somewhere that really holds the hand of its visitors, be it for beginners’ tutorials and links to in-person workshops, and everything from tool sharpening guides and debates on which papers yield which results.
But behind the site lies a devilishly skilled printmaker – Paul Davis – who’s worked tirelessly to promote printing over the past few years. Originally an illustrator, he explains on his site that he wanted to “create a resource that helps anybody who wants to give lino printing a try.”
Which is blooming heartening, right? In this day and age, especially. So as is the norm here now at PP, I asked Paul to pull up a digital pew and answer the usual round of linocut related Qs…
You offer a lot of advice on your blog –presumably you’d urge anyone to have a go with linocutting?
Absolutely, I set up the blog because I didn’t think there were that many good online resources out there to help people starting out with the artform. The whole idea is to get people interested and creating their own prints. I made loads of mistakes when I was learning, and I wanted to share these as well as some of the shortcuts and tips I’d discovered along the way.
Have you had a lot of response to your tutorials and guides?
Yes – I get emails every week pretty much, which I always try to answer. It’s a nice two-way relationship, as the questions people ask often spark new ideas for articles to add to the blog. Hopefully it’ll keep growing as a resource that’s free for people to explore and be inspired by.
When did you start printing?
A couple of years ago, and as a hobby to reconnect with the process of being an image maker and getting my hands dirty. I started out as an illustrator, then became a graphic designer, a project manager and now I co-run my own business. I love that part of my life but I find myself writing proposals and answering emails more than I do being creative in the ways I like to be.
I thought I’d use linocutting as a way to unwind, so I picked up a pretty cheap set of chisels and some lino and started carving away. It was a bit frustrating at the time as the tools I bought weren’t very good, but the process was great and exactly what I was missing. I think the first attempt at a print I did was of a medieval knight that didn’t work out well because I didn’t know the medium. But then I did a few Moby Dick scenes before starting to look at some old Ray Harryhausen creature characters as inspiration. That was about the same time I decided to start Draw Cut Ink Press.Which other print artists influence you?
The first artist whose work I became aware of was Edward Wardsworth, from the Vorticist movement, who did some great images of battleships being painted with Dazzle camouflage. Christopher Nevinson is an ongoing and great inspiration as well as other British artists like Paul Nash. I intend to start doing some articles on my website around these guys so that I can share with my website visitors some of the artists who always inspire me.
There are other artists whose work just astounds me at times to, and the most notable name that comes to mind is Lynd Ward. He published some great woodcut novels such as Gods’ Man (1929), Madman’s Drum(1930), Wild Pilgrimage (1932) and Prelude to a Million Years (1933). Otto Nückel, Giacomo Patri and Jacques Hnizdovsky are all worthy of a mention also.
The contemporary artists I really love have largely been discovered through Instagram. Mazatl from Mexico is producing some of the greatest work I’ve seen recently, and I’ve two of his prints permanently on my desk reminding how high the bar has been set. I love the detail in his work and the ideas behind his pieces.
Brian Reedy is another great guy, I love all his movie inspired linocut prints. Other names that come to mind are Nick Morley, Richard Wells, Cally Conway, Alexis Snell, Killchoy, Carlos Palomares, Scott Minzy, and more. There’s loads of amazing talent out there.Can you tell me a little bit about your printing set up?
I’m not far off a bedroom printer. I have a desk that I work at most days after work and at any other spare moments I get. That’s one of the great things about lino printing, you don’t need to have some massive set up like screen printing. All you need is a piece of lino, some tools, ink, a roller, some paper and a wooden spoon – you could get cracking with that kind of setup, in fact that’s exactly what I started with!
My tools and equipment has expanded over time, so now I have my trusty Pfeil carving tools, a set of Japanese rollers, loads of inks, various barens (although few are actually more effective than a wooden spoon) and a book press.
I’ve also got access to an etching press at Bainbridge Studio in London which I love to use, and that also gives me access to a really nice studio where I can spread things out a bit. What I tend to do is carve away at home and run off some test prints until I’m happy with the design, then head down to the studio.What inks and paper do you favour?
I like to use oil-based inks as it suits the fine detail I like to achieve. My local art shop is called Intaglio Printmakers and they produce their own relief inks, which I find very good.
I’ve tried a few different papers but at the moment I’m pretty much sold on 145gsm Zerkall. It’s a German mould made paper that has great texture and picks up all the details better than anything else. I also always have a pad of Japanese Hosho paper on the go to, that’s a close second place I reckon.
Can you explain some of the themes in your work?
I like to pick up themes and run with them for a little while so I can create a mini series of prints. I did a series of prints based around the characters of Ray Harryhausen movies like Jason and The Argonauts, Clash of the Titans and Sinbad. I used to love those movies as a kid growing up and they really inspired me to work as much as possible in the creative industries.
At the moment I’m really enjoying working on a series of prints based around old portrait photos of soldiers from the Crimean War, and I’ve a book full of other ideas stacking up.You also largely seem to work in black and white – do you prefer this?
I think there are two reasons for this. Firstly, I love the graphic bold strength that you can achieve with a well balanced black and white print. I remember seeing some Ex Libris prints that somebody had framed up once and thought that they looked amazing. They were so strong and confident.
Secondly, I think that by the time I’ve got a print done in back and white I’m usually itching to start another one, rather than thinking of ways to add a second or third colour block. I have a few prints that I intend to add colour to, hopefully 2017 will be the year I find the time to go back and finish them off with a spot colour, That would really make some of them sparkle.
Do you work in any other mediums?
I’m pretty much just a lino printer. I enjoy the process of sketching my design onto the lino and then carving it out so much I can’t think of another one I want to try right now. Maybe woodblock printing is a natural progression next?
What’s next for you?
I’m thinking about setting up a regular meet up in London for UK lino printers. It would be great to meet some of the people whose work I admire, have a beer and talk about the artform with others who are as mad for it as I am. If that takes off then maybe an exhibition after that. Grow the empire basically, until I can pack in the day job and just Draw Cut Ink Press my days away!
To buy one of Paul’s prints head HERE.