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.


“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.”


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.


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.





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


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!



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!



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.



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!



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.


Lapwings Over Lincolnshire



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

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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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.


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