Time to go

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I can’t track everyone down. I’ve been interviewing linocutters for a few years now and they’ve all been absolutely lovely and kind to deal with my enquiries amid a hectic life of printing.

But sadly not everyone has the time, preferring instead to work on printing projects than pesky email questionnaires. But I thought, well, just because you don’t get into these printers’ heads, you can still celebrate their work.

The mysterious US printer Rich, who I met on twitter (he’s @BoardingAllRows if you want to connect) was someone I wanted to ask about a specific print – the one above – which seems to me to offer the kind of modernist, font heavy, “is it a print or isn’t it?” type of work I just love and would also love to be able to emulate.

It’s a departures board, which Rich says online was inspired by his ‘favourite’ airport, San Francisco (he likes his travel, does Rich). Look at those lines! Absolute perfection. If I could get even one word to look that tidy, let alone a whole departures board, I could give up printing happy.

Anyway, Rich was sadly unavailable to talk about this particular piece but I wanted to share it with you anyway. It’s a big bugger, measuring 16×20”, and is from an open run.

You can buy it HERE.

Almost makes you want to board a plane, doesn’t it?

Jonathan Blackmore: “I hope to capture the spirit of a place.”

 

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Wells Cathedral Arch reduction

Sometimes you do a little double take when you see someone’s art. That was definitely the case for me when I first saw Jonathan Blackmore’s reduction linocuts. Look at them, they’re like bloomin’ photographs.

But yep, I’ve checked and they’re actually intricate, multiple colour prints. I know, right?

I had to get a better understanding of all this sorcery. Not since the prints of Dave Lefner had I seen anything so convincing, so balanced.

But more than that, the prints had soul too. Maybe it came from the buildings Jonathan’s chosen to depict – great stone churches and cathedral interiors, looming high above the viewer. I don’t know. The guy even leads workshops for print beginners, and is a member of the Somerset Guild of Craftsmen to boot. I needed to get to the bottom of things…

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Wells Cathedral Chapterhouse reduction 2

Hello Jonathan. When did you first start linocutting?

I managed to miss doing linocut at school. Everyone I meet seems to remember having made a print, but I took it up much later and I’ve been a printmaker full-time for two and a half years.
I studied for a degree in Fine Art at Wolverhampton Polytechnic from 1979 to 1982. I did some printmaking there, but spent most of my time painting landscapes in acrylic and making sculptures and pictures from photographs cut into shapes and sewn together.
After graduating I had a long – much too long – career in computers that stopped me from doing enough art, until I was made redundant at the age of 55. I then decided to take up art and printmaking again full time.

Who are your printing influences?

There are some very talented artists around and I follow a lot of people on Twitter and Facebook to see their work progressing. But I grew up in Hong Kong and I’m very attracted to traditional oriental art, particularly Japanese prints and Chinese landscapes, but I don’t know if that shows in my work.

Can we talk about the architecture in your works – why is it such a source of fascination?

We’ve lived in Wells, Somerset, in the West of England, since 2000 and there’s some wonderful medieval architecture just a few minutes from home. It’s hard not to be influenced by that. It was designed to inspire and to impress. I find the geometric patterns and repetition built in to the architecture really fascinating and trying to represent three dimensional buildings in a medium that reduces everything to flat colour is a challenge. I’m really not into modern architecture, but I do have a fondness for medieval arches, doors and windows and the complex spaces within the buildings.

There’s a slightly religious feel to the work – is this of any importance to you, or is it just a result of the buildings themselves?

I have an appreciation for spirituality and the beauty of buildings that were inspired by people’s spirituality. One of my favourite places in the Cathedral is the retrochoir, a forest of columns supporting fan-vaulted ceilings. This year I plan to do more work outside, so perhaps the feel of my website will change, but I’d still hope to capture the spirit of a place.

Reduction printing can be very frustrating…

Reduction prints are frustrating, tricky and difficult, there’s so much that can go wrong that you just have to do them anyway. I think my success rate is improving from a technical point of view. However, I’m also becoming more critical of my work, so I’m less likely to think of things as a success.

I aim for an edition of 18 to 20 and generally end up with around 12 to 15 prints that I am happy with, unless the whole thing is a write off.  I print by hand, burnishing with a spoon. I use water-based inks and I’m not aiming for solid colours, so every print in an edition is unique.
I’ve done some reduction prints where a middle colour turned out to be unsatisfactory when I have already moved on and cut and printed the next. There’s not a lot you can do about that.

Do you do linocuts that aren’t reductions at all?

I recently started doing prints with multiple blocks. Of course, the great advantage is that you can try different colour combinations or just redo a block if it doesn’t work out. I also do monochrome prints.

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Chatperhouse

Your colours are very measured…

I spend a lot of time mixing colours and trying to get them just right. I think when you’re limited to five or six colours in a print, it requires more consideration.

How did you get involved with hosting courses?

I started hosting beginners’ workshops last year after I joined the Somerset Guild of Craftsmen. We are running a programme of different craft workshops this year so people can try out linocut, papermaking, stone carving and other crafts.

What kind of people come to your courses – is there an increasing interest, do you think?

The workshops I’ve done so far are specifically for beginners. I think it’s important everyone should be at the same level – it doesn’t really work to have experienced people mixed with beginners.

I aim to give people the confidence to get started and enough information to carry on making their own prints at home. I’ve had some lovely feedback from people who came on my workshops and it’s really nice when they carry on exploring printmaking afterwards.
There seems to be a lot of interest in linocut at the moment, which is nice. I plan to do a few more workshops this year and I’m running a two-colour print workshop in April that will explore different ways to tackle the problem of registration.

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Bishop’s Palace multiblock

What does being a member of the guild of craftsmen actually entail?

There’s no secret handshake – I was disappointed.

The Somerset Guild of Craftsmen has been running since 1933 and has around 60 active members working in different art or craft disciplines. Despite the old-fashioned name, there are many female members.

To join you should be an actively practising craftsman or craftswoman, with a focus on one particular craft. You submit your best work to the selection panel (who are Guild members) and if it’s of a consistently high standard then you’re invited to join.

In addition to displaying members’ work for sale, the Guild organises a programme of exhibitions and workshops run by Guild members. The Guild has a permanent gallery in Wells (at 23a Broad Street, behind Pickwick’s Cafe.) We also have a website.

 

You can find Jonathan on the web in the following places.

His work is for sale on his website, he’s on Twitter @inkwellsprints and Facebook – /JonathanBlackmorePrints and he runs a very tidy blog right here

Rubbish that’s not rubbish at all

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Things fall apart. They get old and decrepit and lose their shine. Bits fall off, and you can see where they’ve been used over the years, with little marks and rubs that tell a history.

I love all those bits. With the possible exception of food and perhaps car engines, I’d much rather have an old knackered thing than a sparkly new logo emblazoned thing. Which is why I like looking in skips. The last time I did, I found this top demijohn…

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Look at that little noble swordsman there, on his gold background with his label all chipped and rubbed. Just magic. I knew I wanted to recreate it as a linocut print as soon as I saw it, and so I began thinking a reduction cut might be the best option.

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First, I had to clean up the demijohn (and I still love that word no matter how many times I type it). Then I took a picture of it and started sketching out the key components. I knew I somehow wanted the finished print to look as aged as the item it showed, so I left in loads of the marks and worn areas intentionally, with a view to carrying them through each stage of the print.

I’m not really a master of the reduction print yet, so I decided to work with just two colours/cuts – one of the background…

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And one of our hero in black to go on top…

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The main challenge was to get the registration right, of course, but also to make it so there was at least the illusion of the bottle curving, which I did by having those sort of white specks and curved lines going around the to right.

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After a lot of sweating and telling my cats to shoo, from a run of 30 I would be happy to put my signature on about 18-22. Which is a really good turn out for me.

So here’s the finished print a bit closer up. I work with Japanese ‘thin but tough’ Ho-Sho paper, and all of my prints are hand pressed, using cheap water-based ink like you get in school (cats, again).

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And here are some more of the small details…

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I’d definitely like to continue with this style of working. I think sometimes I’m guilty of trying to make prints look 100%, with no imperfections (usually failing). That’s also mildly impossible with a hand printing set-up.

And, that’s not what mine – or anyone else’s – life is like is it. If I wanted that, I’d do screen printing I guess.

 

Oh, and it’s available right here.

Keep it shoddy.

Hannah Forward: “The possibilities for experimenting feel endless”

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Absolutely 100% my favourite local linocutter is a lady called Hannah Forward, whose work I first discovered and wrote a bit about two years ago, if memory serves.

Hove-based, and actually working at the shop where I get all my arty supplies, it transpires, I was drawn to her work after seeing a print she’d done of a busy crowd at the cinema.

Hannah nails the colours in her prints, which I guess is what drew me in. She’s also very, very, very good at drawing, working both from memory and her own photographs. Her prints are jam-packed, but never chaotic, and the shades she uses evoke a sort of 1950s/60s fantasy land that really strikes a chord with me. They look sort of old fashioned, but the little details keep them really modern.

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I’ve also been enjoying all the work Hannah puts up online and was really pleased to hear she’s been seeing good returns from selling her work too – the links are at the bottom of this interview…

 

When did you first start linocutting?

I did a short course at Bip printmaking studios in Brighton four years ago. I’d recently got a job working for Lawrence Art Supplies in Hove and was intrigued by linocut as a technique for creating images. I’d worked as an illustrator after graduating from uni and had quite a well honed sense of my own drawing style. Someone I worked with at Lawrence’s suggested I try out linocut as he thought it would really suit my style and be a great way of producing work to potentially sell.

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Did you like it from the start?

Absolutely! I loved every minute of the course and took to the process immediately. I loved how simple the technique was to learn, but how the possibilities for experimenting felt endless. I mainly just printed with black ink at first, then wanted to learn how to layer separate colours over the top of each other.

This layering was what really captivated me. The first layered colour linocut I produced was a small piece called Tokyo. It’s a four-layer print, and by the time I’d finished the final layer and saw the image I was utterly hooked. To see the idea I’d had come together so well, but also in a way I kind of didn’t predict, felt kind of magical.

What other linocut artists would you recommend people take a look at?

All the printmakers associated with the Grosvenor School – Claude Flight, Sybil Andrews, Cyril Power, Ethel Spowers and Lill Tschudi are a really inspiring place to start. I remember discovering these kind of prints for the first time, and the modernist subject matter, the intriguing technique of colour layering and incredible sense of movement and energy really struck a chord.

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What kind of formal art training do you have?

I have a degree in Graphic Design from Brighton Uni which really helped me develop my interest in unusual composition and colour. I like to paint and draw, usually acrylic or gouache paint on board. It feels so completely different to paint with a paintbrush after a big printmaking stint, and the slowness of an image gradually taking shape in a relatively unplanned way is really pleasing.

Is linocutting a full time job for you?

No, although it’s my job for most of the week. I still work two days at Lawrences, where I’m surrounded by amazing printmaking supplies like the extensive range of Awagami Japanese printmaking papers or the Lawrence relief printmaking inks. There’s so much there to feel inspired to try out, it really is a pretty incredible day job to have as a printmaker!

What sort of printing set up do you have?

I print at my home studio in Hove. When I moved in I chose the biggest, brightest room as a dedicated space to create work in. I have an A3 sized bookpress, ball drying racks hanging from the ceiling and a large work bench. I also have large shelves for paper and print storage.

What inks and paper do you prefer?

I like the Lawrence oil-based relief inks, and usually use Japanese printmaking paper for my work. I like how the ink soaks in to actually become part of the paper. I’m always up for trying out new inks and paper because it’s really fun to see what a difference this makes to the final results.

What sort of things inspire your prints?

I’m inspired to create work where the idea is executed in a very bold and simple way, but also in an original, new way that I haven’t seen done before. I think that’s my main source of inspiration – create work that’s different to what’s been made or is being made already.

It’s this newness that really excites me to create. A new colour combination or composition or subject matter I haven’t ever seen as a print before. No one else will think of these ideas and create this work – so it’s got to be me!

How relevant is being from Brighton to your work?

I’m originally from South East London but have lived in Brighton on and off for about 10 years and absolutely consider it my home now. There’s a real sense of freedom for the individual, and the city’s packed with artists, musicians, freelancers and small businesses. People who perhaps don’t feel they fit in other places have found their home here. The overall attitude seems to be ‘don’t judge – everything’s acceptable’. I think this very Brighton sense of celebration for the individual has definitely found its way into my work.

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How do the prints you make from memory differ to those you work up from photos?

Ideas that just come into my mind are usually inspired by quite a pure feeling I’ve had about something I want to try to capture. I want to get across the essence of that feeling in the simplest way I can, so every line, shape and colour matters. When I’m using photographs it’s more free and experimental. I don’t really know what I’m aiming for – I just do lots and lots of drawing and collage them together until the final design reveals itself. It’s more like painting, in a way.

What tips would you give to any printers looking to sell work?

Have a variety of different print ideas at different sizes and prices so you can see what’s popular. What sells might surprise you. Keep creating new work all the time to keep things fresh, keep the ideas rolling. Use social media (daily if possible) to attract attention to what you’re doing – people really are genuinely interested. Direct your followers to your online shops or exhibitions, let them know what you’re up to. Start a mailing list.

Selling on Etsy for me has generally been quite slow and sporadic, although it’s picked up a little more lately thanks to regular posts on Instagram (and having a direct link to my Etsy shop on my Instagram profile – top tip). Etsy is generally quite gift focused and trend-oriented, so whether it’s the best platform for artists to sell their work online is debatable. However, I know there are artists and printmakers that sell very well on Etsy so it is totally possible.

Artfinder has been incredible. I’ve now sold over 250 prints since joining a year ago and posted them to people all over the world. It’s been a really exciting first year, and I can’t really emphasise enough how rewarding it’s felt and how encouraging the people at Artfinder have been. They’ve helped feature me and my work at seemingly every opportunity, and basically become this perfect link between my work and people who want to buy it. I just can’t wait to see what happens in 2017.

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Do you find relief printing therapeutic?

I find all creativity very therapeutic. I think you reach a sort of meditative state while making. Whether I’m drawing or carving out lino or painting or working out a new idea, I enjoy that feeling of calm slowness as you think about nothing else except focusing on what you’re bringing into existence.

Have you any other exhibitions coming up?

Not yet, but I have ambitions to team up with a painter I know and have a group show together in Brighton this year. Watch this space! I’d also love to try opening the doors to my Hove house for the Artist Open Houses in May one year in the not too distant future. I live with two other artists so this is a really fun prospect for all of us.

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Link yourself up!
Hannah’s Etsy shop and Artfinder shop are right there. Or you can always see more at her website.

Paul Davis: “The whole idea is to get people interested and creating their own prints…”

  

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Old Seadog

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…

 

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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.

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Trojan Centaur

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.

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Smoking Skull

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.

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Talos

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.

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Crimean War Comrades 1

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.

a quick peek in the sketchbook…

Hello! And a happy new year to you if I haven’t seen you already. Unlikely I know.

In between bouts of manflu and dispiriting attempts at printing, so far my saviour in 2017 has been collage. I did some boat pieces late last year which went ok, and even produced a few linocuts from them, and this year I’ve moved on to geometric forms, which come out all spacey and satellite-esque.

Anyways, here are the most recent four, if you’d care to see them, and even if you wouldnae….

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Absolute Balls

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Satellite Of Love

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Options

 

And then I had a go at colouring one in, but I wish I hadn’t as it didn’t really work and lots of the glue prevented the colour from taking, but I show you it here for reasons of completeness and full disclosure…

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Mirror Traffic Afternoon

Right, back to the bookshop.

Aidan Saunders: “It’s how I like to show the images that dance around in my head…”

 

image1Getting your art out to the people is hard, and actually retaining an audience even harder. You know that. But there’s a guy called Aidan Saunders who’s absolutely nailing it, and all by doing things his own way too.

A devotee of print, he’s commandeered a VW Caddy van, then fully decorated it, and driven it round the country promoting the medium to anyone that wants to be enlightened.

Being a lonely bedroom printer, this all-encompassing approach seemed just amazing to me. Where do you get the sheer brassneck to go about such a strategy?

Aidan says he started linocutting at the end of his uni course after not quite getting the enjoyment levels he wanted from fine drawing (at which he is also accomplished, I might add). “It took time for me to realise that it was how I should make work,” he explains.

The idea of the van came next.

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“I sold a lot of prints at my end of year show and thought – ah ha! I can sell prints – and over a breakfast with a lecturer I had an idea of travelling the UK in my grandad’s caravan. I got onto a Ba and I suddenly had funding, but my grandad wouldn’t give me his caravan. So I managed to buy my van from a friend who I used to help out as a painter and decorator, for £300,” Aidan explains.

Fully decorated up, the plan for the van was then to take it out on the road. But where?

“Well, another reason I came up with the wagon was because I wanted to advertise my illustration work. I planned a tour of gallery spaces and places I could imagine my work being exhibited, and it always astounded me that people would invite and hope that magazines or galleries would come and see them for their final show. I thought that was quite cheeky and that you should go to them… plus, you can fit more stuff in a van, including a heavy cast iron book press.”

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Responses have been “dumbfounded”, with Aidan having now toured the country since 2014, visiting such far flung places as Hastings, London, Kendall and Norwich, along with jaunts to Utrecht to promote the medium of printing.

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Down In Mexico

“I’m not sure why printing is so important to me. I guess what is important is that it’s a way to promote my own interests. I love print, I love the work that goes into it and the energy it can give to a piece. But really it’s a means to an end. It’s how I like to show the images that dance around in my head…”

For more information or to book the wagon, and of course to shop, visit Aidan’s site. Probably Prints is particularly excited about an exhibition Aidan has been involved in which is coming to Brighton in 2017, based on the He-Man children’s TV series, which was previously exhibited at the Colours May Vary bookshop in Leeds. Watch this space.

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Boom

 

Jeremy Speck: “Printmaking should be about being part of a community”

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Fig & Jug

Colour was the first thing that struck me about printmaker Jeremy Speck’s work. You could say it smacked me in the face. It was bold, but somehow subtle too. And it seemed to come from a just forgotten era, but at the same time one that was much more classical than that. And that was before I even looked at all his dancing shapes.

Jeremy works largely in the abstract form (and I think I like these best), but he also covers still life, across both relief and screenprinting. What’s key is that he manages to be more than just a composite of a list of impressive influences, leading to works with a bounce of their own – they look fun, like the kind of prints you’d invite to a party.

In addition, he runs courses and exhibits regularly, and recently undertook a project to print a series of work on 20cm square boards. And I love nothing more than a self-imposed restrictive project, so I spoke to him about all this and more…

 

Hi Jeremy. Colour seems paramount in your prints, especially with the abstracts – so how much experimentation goes into this?

Hardly any really, as I tend to work instinctively when it comes to colour – which is why I probably end up using the same colours quite a lot. Weirdly, sometimes the colour is chosen because the ink is easier to work with (I love the ‘feel’ of yellow ochre when it’s rolled, so that turns up a lot). I do lean towards a mid-century palette, but I also seem to be quite fond of the 70s with oranges and yellows!

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Henri

Can you remember when you first started printing?

The first linocut I ever made was on a printmaking evening course at Somerset College, about 12 years ago. It was of a lizard and I made the classic lino error of going around the whole image with the tool as if it was a pencil, creating the white line outline. When I teach the lino course at Double Elephant in Exeter I always keep this memory fresh as it’s the classic mistake people make if they’re used to drawing – don’t treat your tool as a pencil! Having said that, I now use the white line quite a bit, but now it’s deliberate!

Do you have any formal art training?

Not really. I did a short course at Northern Print Studios way back in the late 90s and then an evening course at Somerset College for a few weeks in about 2003. Other than that it’s been trial and error and studying other people’s work. In fact, when I run printmaking courses in linocutting I urge people to spend as much time as possible trying to figure out how other printmakers have made their work, how they achieved an effect or a mark.

Of course, Double Elephant Print Workshop, a members’ open access print workshop in Exeter, has been invaluable in providing access to equipment and a community of other printmakers. Without them I doubt I would have persevered, at least not on the scale I have!

Which print artists influence you?

The first ‘proper’ linocutter (as opposed to artists who dabbled in it) who fascinated me was Edward Bawden – more for his technical abilities than anything else. Of course, it’s hard not to be influenced by Angie Lewin and other contemporary linocutters, who are the inheritors of Bawden.

My favourite printmaker is actually Peter Green, whose relief and stencil abstracts are a joy, and we own more of his prints than anyone else. Another fantastic contemporary lino artist is Michael Kirkman, who seems to be influenced by Hockney and Bawden, but is wrestling the medium away from its sometime twee subject matter.

The artist I return to when I need to recharge my create batteries is Ben Nicholson as you can’t go wrong with circles and squares, although having just come back from the Abstract Expressionist exhibition at the Royal Academy I’m reacquainting myself with their prints through the superb book by David Acton – The Stamp of Impulse: Abstract Expressionist Prints.

What was the thinking behind the Twenty Twenty series?

Mostly it was practicality. I like my abstracts to be square, probably because that stops you seeing it as a landscape, and my home press is most efficient when printing at this size. They were mostly experimental, and I liked the idea that they were a series with nothing in common other than the size and the fact that they were abstracts. A couple worked really well as images but most didn’t, although the ones that sold best were the ones I didn’t think worked very well, so what do I know!

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Untitled

What wood do you use to print on?

Printing on wood is fun, but it has to be flat, so it tends to be plywood. Registration is also an issue, so my prints on wood tend to be monoprints where the plate and the wood are attached throughout the whole printing process. A couple of these are to my mind the best linocuts I’ve ever done, but I doubt anyone else would agree. There’s something about them being objects rather than pictures that really appeals, something Ben Nicholson also did, painting abstracts on boxes and pieces of wood.

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Witham

How do you go about preparing for exhibitions?

I’m a bit rubbish at trying to get exhibitions – in fact, I rely on Open Studios and the odd art boot fair to sell work. Gallery commission makes selling prints at a reasonable price very difficult, also the logistics of getting work delivered and returned, then framing – all these things cost.

Can you tell me a little bit about your printing set up?

As mentioned, I mostly print at Double Elephant in Exeter as they have a beautiful Albion Press (purchased from the Slade) that’s always a thrill to use, as well as a range of rollers. However, most of my traditional lino landscapes and still life work is done on my home press in my ‘studio’ (a couple of old police cells in my house, which is an old police station). The advantage of this is that I can be a lot subtler with the pressure, the disadvantage is the restriction in size.

What inks/paper do you use?

I’m a big fan of Hosho paper, an affordable and very robust Japanese paper that gives a lovely warmth to the finished print. I also love Somerset as it takes the ink into the weave of the paper. Other than that I use good quality cartridge paper.

My ink is usually linseed oil-based as the colours are more robust, but it tends to be what you’re used to, printmakers are creatures of habit!

Do any man-made things ever inspire your prints?

Not directly, but I’ve become increasingly fascinated by texture and contrast since taking up printmaking. Everything I see is constantly being assessed for its suitability as a linocut or print. In other words, could it be rendered into shapes and restricted to three colours!

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OMD

What other mediums do you work in?

I’ve recently become interested in screenprinting, which to my mind is the closest other medium to linocutting in that you are working with layering flat colours and shapes. I was becoming quite frustrated with my inability to make truly spontaneous marks with lino, and wanted to explore a more painterly approach to printmaking, so I turned to screenprinting. I can work faster and more intuitively using this medium, but it does lack the intimacies of carving a lino.

Would you urge anyone to have a go with linocutting?

I certainly would. In fact, I’d urge them to come on one of my courses! Actually, in all seriousness I would really encourage anyone who fancies having a go to locate your nearest print workshop and enrol on a course as you’ll not only learn valuable techniques but also a huge amount from the other course participants and workshop members. Printmaking’s not (just) about being stuck in your artist’s garret, it should also be about being part of a community of other printmakers.

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Lapwings Over Lincolnshire

 

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For more information about Jeremy’s work and courses, visit his website HERE, and do follow him on that there twitter too…

Gail Brodholt: “London’s such a huge place you could find enough subject matter to last you several lifetimes”

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Exodus

When I lived in London, I spent a bundle of time travelling around the city on trains and tubes and buses, like anyone, and to be honest, I enjoyed these little pockets of time spent ‘forced idling’, waiting for destinations to arrive.

I also liked the look and feel (and even smell) of some of these means of getting around, and soon noticed other cities I visited had their own unique slant on the transportation thing, identities of their own, distinct from London in their own way.

So when I came across printmaker/painter (and Fellow of the Royal Society of Printmakers no less) Gail Brodholt, I was doubly delighted. Her prints are so evocative of travelling in the city of London (and nowadays beyond that), executed with such a compositional talent.

They seem sort of ageless and modern all at once, and so, as is increasingly my wont, I sent her some questions about her work, and what it means to be – comparatively speaking – a printing bigwig.

As ever, I was overjoyed to even get a response…


Can you remember when you first started printing?

When I was at art school studying Fine Art, the first year of the degree consisted of a term in the painting studio, a term in the sculpture studio and a year in the printmaking studio. As you can imagine, a term is not really long enough to take in so many complicated printmaking processes and I was rather overwhelmed.
However, I did have a lot of fun with various types of relief printing. In the end, I decided to specialise in painting for the rest of my degree. When I left further education I carried on painting but I took up printmaking – in particular linocutting – and never looked back!

Which print artists influence you?
Edward Bawden, Michael Rothenstein and Picasso.

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Road To Nowhere

Can you tell me a little bit about your printing set up?
I work in a studio right by the Thames Barrier in Woolwich, South East London. It’s in a complex of 300+ units called Thames-Side Studios. I have an Albion press made in 1841 which I’ve had for many years.

What inks/papers do you use?
Somerset textured soft white 300gsm, and Lawrence’s oil-based relief printmaking inks.

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Any Given Saturday

Would you urge anyone to have a go?
No, I don’t need the competition! Seriously though, linocutting is not a difficult process to master. You need very little equipment compared to other forms of printmaking such as etching – you don’t even need a press as you can burnish the back of the paper with a spoon. You really just need lino, a couple of cutting tools, a roller and some paper and ink. You can even do the whole thing on your kitchen table.
Once you get hooked, you may find using an open access print studio such as the Thames Barrier Print Studio may be useful, but I’d definitely encourage anyone to try it.

Can you elaborate on how your work in painting enhances your printing work?
Sometimes I get an idea and I feel it works better as a painting and sometimes it works better as a linocut. It is not always a case that a particular subject matter will work well in either medium – it just depends on what I have in mind as a finished piece of work. Occasionally I’ll do both.

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Snow In The Suburbs

Your composition, that of space and relationship of things on the page, is very impressive – do you think that comes from the painting side perhaps?
No, to be honest I think it’s the other way round. I think the key to a good linocut is structure – what I like to call the bones of a print. It’s quite a graphic medium insofar as it’s hard to get much texture or tone. Also, you’re cutting into a block of lino and there’s not much scope for fine detail. Therefore you have to cut out a lot and it forces you to consider carefully what you can and can’t leave out. With painting, it’s a more flexible medium and you can get much closer to what you’re aiming for, without having to make the same sort of compromises you do in linocutting.

How do you handle the ‘selling yourself’ side of being an artist? Do you find it easy to do art fairs, etc, or would you rather just work?
Like most artists, I’m drawn to a fairly solitary life. I like working on my own in the studio and I like making my own decisions. So as a consequence, mastering that side is actually quite difficult. In an ideal world I’d hand over that whole side of things to someone else!
The upside of working in today’s environment is that you don’t have to rely entirely on the gallery system. Obviously it’s really important to work with galleries as that’s where people will be able to see your work in the flesh. But there’s a lot of scope for promoting yourself and your work by social media and, more importantly, your website.
I find Twitter, Facebook and Instagram very useful for reaching out directly to people who enjoy your work and, to be honest, it’s a way of being part of a community which you don’t get working away quietly in your studio.
In terms of directly selling your work at art fairs, that also can be a valuable tool although the experience of talking to potential customers for three or four days can be daunting.

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From The Motorway

Can you talk about the role of transport that inspires your prints? Why’s London such a key element?
I like to portray the world that I live in and that happens to be London. If I lived in another part of the country, that would be my subject matter. In any case, London’s such a huge place you could find enough subject matter to last you several lifetimes without running out.
I suppose when it comes to the tubes and the trains – and my new passion, roads! – I like the idea of being on a journey. You never really know what’s going to happen as you travel from one place to another – mostly nothing, obviously – but there’s always a chance of the unexpected happening and it’s always interesting to be suspended from your normal responsibilities and commitments while you sit on a train looking out of the window.

Finally, what does being a Fellow of the Royal Society of Printmakers actually entail?
Being a Fellow entails submitting a portfolio of eight prints to the election committee, which meets every year. If you’re lucky enough to be elected, it allows you to use the initials RE after your name and entitles you to exhibit at every printmaking exhibition held at the Bankside Gallery on London’s Southbank, which is run by the RE and the Royal Watercolour Society in partnership.

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For more information and to buy prints, visit Gail’s website. Gail is also on Twitter (@gailbrodholt) and if you want to see more on a regular basis, sign up for her newsletter here.

 

Nick Morley: “Linocut is a very democratic medium…”

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Whenever you search for linocut or printing in one of the many social media pages, or google it or whatever it is the kids do nowadays, there’s one name that comes up again and again – Nick Morley, aka Linocut Boy.

Here’s someone who has his fingers in practically all the printing pies – from running studios, teaching the medium, blogging, and this year, writing a great book about the artform itself (Linocut for Artists & Designers).

I had hoped to speak to Nick about the work he does in promoting linocut some time ago, but due to a series of staggeringly inept moves on my part, it never came to be – until this very week, when I eventually got through to the right address and Nick replied immediately. Goal!!

So, here we go – an insight into the world of linocut done the right way. Hard work sure, but a way of life I think all amateur printers dream of if they’re honest. But for Nick, it’s become a reality…

 

When did you first start linocutting?

My mum had a set of cutters and a roller from when she was a girl but I didn’t know what to do with them. I made one cut of a scarecrow on my foundation course, but I didn’t get into it properly until a couple of years after I finished my degree. I was doing a project on the first space tourist and I wanted to make some prints that looked like Soviet posters.

Did you like it from the get-go?

No, I found it frustrating at first. I couldn’t get a clean line and I didn’t really understand what was possible with coloured inks, rather than just black. I was making very crude typographic designs. Once I got the hang of using the tools it got easier, and finding the right paper/ink combination was crucial.

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What other linocut artists, either modern or olde worlde, would you recommend people take a look at?

All the artists featured in my book, but especially AGUGN, an artist from Indonesia who makes really complex and colourful works which are nonetheless playful and fun. He works with a lot of limitations in terms of space and materials but is really ingenious and inventive in finding solutions to problems. He makes his own paper and his really large works are made up of smaller panels that fit together. Historically I like Albrecht Durer, Thomas Bewick, Posada and Ulisse Aldrovandi, although they mostly worked with wood.

I also have a small collection of Russian linocuts made for children in the 1970s and 80s which were produced for a mass market. I know very little about this tradition and would like to research it some more. They’re very strange – almost surreal – and look like they were carved very quickly so they have a real energy.

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What kind of formal art training do you have – do you work in other mediums?

I did a BA in Fine Art at Sheffield Hallam University. I also took a number of printmaking classes after I graduated, working alongside other artists at East London Printmakers for ten years. As well as prints on paper I make artist’s books and I use screenprinting and letterpress in a lot of my work. I’m starting to get back into oil painting too, which I’ve dabbled with all along. The directness of oil paint is a nice contrast to the processes of printmaking, and you can change things you don’t like very easily, so you can be more spontaneous.

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Is linocutting a full time job for you now?

I run Hello Print Studio in Margate, teach workshops around the country and in Italy and I take on commissioned illustration work when it comes along. Most of it revolves around linocut but I’m not actually cutting lino every day.

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One of Nick’s covers for the BFI.

You’ve always seemed very keen to promote the linocut medium – why’s this?

I really love it as a medium and I think it’s underestimated by a lot of artists because they had a negative experience of it at school. In fact, there are loads of great artists using linocut in different and new ways. I want to help give people the right information so they can get started in the right way, and not give up through frustration.

Linocut is a very democratic medium because it’s cheap and easy to do at home, which appeals to me. All you need for printing is a wooden spoon, although having a press will enable you to do more.

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Have the uninitiated been responsive to the medium?

There’s a big interest in linocut right now, especially in illustration. If you walk into any bookshop you’ll see linocut covers. There’s also a big group of people who want to take it up as a hobby or start their own line of greetings cards or whatever. People who come on my workshops have usually done a little bit at school and they’re amazed by what’s possible. By and large they go home enthused and keen to continue.

Would you urge anyone to get into linocutting?

Yes, but it takes practise and you won’t master it immediately. I’ve been doing it for nearly 15 years and I’m still learning! If you have an impatient temperament or you want instant results, it’s maybe not for you. But if you enjoy problem solving, using your hands and taking your time over things you could find yourself hooked.

What sort of printing set up do you have?

I’m very lucky, being part of Resort Studios in Margate, where I run Hello Print Studio. It’s a beautiful space with huge windows and high ceilings. Over the last five years I’ve built up a collection of presses and other equipment which I share. The public can also hire the facilities on Wednesdays.

We’ve just upgraded our etching press so you can now print up to 80x120cm. We also have facilities for screenprinting, etching and letterpress. I pretty much have everything I need now, but one day I hope to own an Albion press.

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What inspires your prints?

Old photos, interesting stories and characters, old magazines and newspapers. I’m making an ongoing series of cowboy prints at the moment. I’m interested in man’s relationship with nature, how he tries to control it and understand it.

I’m also fascinated by human behaviour, cultures and traditions around the world – the ways we’re different and yet the same.

Do you ever get ‘printer’s block’?

Yes, sometimes for months on end. At these points I like to look back at old drawings in my sketchbooks and see if there is anything of interest. Sometimes I find things I can’t remember drawing.

I also like to work in series, this releases some of the anxiety about what to do next. The older I get, the more I try to accept that nothing I make will be perfect and it’s better to just get on with making stuff.

When the idea for your book first take shape?

I’ve been writing a blog for years and I was approached by Crowood Press to write a printmaking book. I suggested I just make it about linocut, and they agreed.
linocut_cover

Is it instructional, historical, or just a collection of sweet prints?

I hope it’s both instructional and inspirational. It contains information on materials and equipment, how to carve and print and a whole load of other stuff like framing and printing on fabric.

It has step-by-step projects for the reader to try and is illustrated with examples of my work and that of other artists and designers from around the world. The history section is very short – I’m thinking if there is another book in me it will be a history of linocut.

Is it a book for established printer or beginners, or both?

It’s aimed at all levels. It starts with the basics but covers some more unusual ways of working, like printing on ceramics, lasercut lino and printing with a steamroller. The feedback I’ve had from my readers so far has been overwhelmingly positive, which makes the three years it took to write worthwhile.

Presumably it would make a very nice Christmas present?

Yes, but I’d personally prefer chocolate please.

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For more information go here for the book and much more, and here for workshops or to order prints and ting.