Hannah Forward: “The possibilities for experimenting feel endless”

gig

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.

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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.

 

Richard Shimell: “The theatre of cutting, inking and revealing the print gives you so much…”

 

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Beech

Since I started printing I’ve realised mine and others’ prints seem to come from the things that surround us.

For me, living in a city, that’s largely been slogans, goofy pictures from old books, themes of the drudgery of the workplace and whatnot.

But for printmaker Richard Shimell, who lives down in the West Country, the art comes from a more natural place than that, and yes, it’s a beautiful one too. Many of his works have that quality of making the viewer do a double-take – “whaaa, that’s not a photo?” – while others have a graphic edge, with colours that suggest the landscapes that inspired them perfectly.

I approached him for a few comments on printing and his techniques, and was delighted when he took time to respond.

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Field Pattern

Can you remember when you first started linocutting?

I was new to art and printmaking when I joined a workshop in Devon in 2010. I don’t use lino much – preferring vinyl flooring.

Which print artists influence(d) you?

I love the reduction linocuts of Ann Lewis and Ian Phillips, both in North Wales, as well as Monique Wales and William Hays in the US. But I’m also very involved with the work of other printmakers in Devon whose work I sometimes follow from conception to completion.

You mention on your site that your surroundings influence your work too…

I’m lucky enough to live in the Dartmoor National Park, in a wooded valley with moorland just up the hill. I do a lot of walking and just catch those moments – like sun on bleached grass and bracken against a dark sky, or a line of trees silhouetted by brightness behind. In the hinterland of the moor there are also many old and stately specimen trees, particularly oaks, in fields of pasture.

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Two Oaks

Can you tell me a little bit about your printing set up – I’m guessing you’re not a bedroom printer?

I have a separate small room as a studio, with a Hawthorn press. It was a bedroom when we moved in, now it’s not! I’m limited for space and really need to raise the inking area so it doesn’t give me backache. It’s not ideal, but better than a lot of people have. It’s a mess, but I know where everything is.

How did you discover that you could use flooring linoleum?

It’s flooring vinyl, not lino, which I discovered at Dartington Printmakers’ Workshop when I started printmaking. It was what I started using and I’m still going with it.

What inks/paper do you use?

I use Caligo Safewash inks, as well as some true oil inks for metallic colours – silver and gold. I mostly use Somerset paper, which is made at St Cuthbert’s Mill in Wells. I started with Somerset Velvet white, but now prefer brilliant white, as it changes the colours less.

Presumably you would urge anyone to have a go with linocutting?

I think most forms of printmaking, but especially relief, are excellent for people new to art and making stuff. The whole theatre of it – cutting, inking, revealing the print – gives you so much, so much more quickly. It’s as if you immediately get a style from the medium. If you’d never drawn and drew something, it wouldn’t look as interesting/satisfying as a linocut version, in my opinion.

Do any man-made things ever inspire your prints?

Yes – particularly colours, textiles and ceramics.

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Red Field

Your colours look perfection to me – how much time goes into working them out? 

Thank you – but I’ve never worked out colours fully and hardly ever do tests. I tend to just jump in with an idea – if it doesn’t work, I try something else.

What other mediums do you work in?

I’ve dabbled with collographs and drypoints, and also keep plodding on to improve my drawing. I’ve tried painting, but so far I just don’t bond with it.

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For more information on Richard’s work, check out his site, and for details of the Dartington Printmakers Workshop, head over here.