Top 10 most common questions I’m asked as a linocut printmaker
Q1 - Where do you get your supplies?
Lawrence Art Supplies in Hove which is a two minute work from my house/studio. I worked at Lawrence’s for eight years in the mail order department (a six minute walk) and really it’s through this job that I discovered printmaking. Being surrounded by the inks, rollers and amazing Japanese papers all day inspired me to try taking a course in relief printmaking at bip-Art in Kemptown, Brighton. Lawrence’s is a sort of dream art shop full of top quality products and they specialise in printmaking supplies, some of which you will not find anywhere else.
Q2 - Where do you do your printing?
I print at home in my studio using a Tofko etching press which has a 100 x 60cm size bed. Some people prefer using shared studio spaces, or have to in order to have access to certain equipment, and some people prefer to avoid paying studio fees and print at home. The great thing about relief printmaking is printing at home is very possible. To begin with you don’t even need a press, just using a wooden spoon to apply pressure is enough to get you started. After that investing in a small press (I got my first one second hand on eBay for £100, it had an A3 bed and served me very well for about three years) is a good idea and saves you a lot of wrist ache!
Q3 - How do you get your ideas?
This is probably the hardest question people ask me. I make my work about subjects that interest me, in the hope that it’ll have appeal to other people too. I always begin my work with drawing, either directly onto a piece of lino or on paper. My background is in design (I studied Graphic Design at Brighton from 2003-2006) so thinking about colour, shape and composition come naturally to me. Certain subjects like music and sport come up a lot in my work. I’ll sometimes mull over an idea for a print for a long time, other times it’ll be very spontaneous and just sort of flow out.
Q4 - How do you register your prints?
This is tricky to answer without a physical demonstration. But to give the gist, when it comes to successful registration of multi block printing (not that I feel I have mastered it at all compared to some printmakers out there, Paul Catherall being an example of a grade A multi block registerer!) I cannot emphasise enough how important it is to be millimetre perfect when cutting your blocks and tracing paper to the exact same size. You’ll need to make a registration board to ensure your paper falls on the lino block in exactly the same place each time. Different printmakers do it in slightly different ways. Keep trying, keep making mistakes, keep learning and you will improve. Or if you really need help, sign up to a class and get the benefit of experience from a printmaker who has made those same mistakes and can help. Things always go wrong with printmaking, so you kind of have to go with the flow and not hold onto your vision too tightly when things don’t go as you expected.
Q5 - Where do you sell your work?
I sell the vast majority of my prints through my website shop - www.hannahforward.com I also sometimes sell through my Artfinder and Etsy shops. Overall online is where I get most of my income, and I post my work mainly to people living in the UK, but also get orders from abroad quite regularly. I also sell my work at Open Houses - here in Brighton and Hove and the surrounding areas we have a very active network of Artist Open Houses so I regularly sell my work through these. We open our own home (Scott Road) every May as part of the West Hove trail which is always busy and a brilliant way to meet the people who want to buy your work (NB. the Brighton and Hove open houses have been postponed until September / October for 2020). Lastly I also have my prints and cards stocked in a few shops and galleries (including Mill Tye of course!) In the UK so sometimes sell my work through these too.
Q6 - Do you work as a printmaker full time?
Yes, as of July 2018 I am now working full time as an artist, which I am absolutely loving! It’s been my ambition since I was small to work for myself, from home ideally, doing something creative. It’s taken about twelve years since graduating from university to become fully self employed (after gradually cutting back on my hours working at Lawrence Art Supplies). Being fully freelance isn’t for everyone but it suits me very well because I love to be able to work when I want on what I feel like working on as this helps me make better work and feel happier.
Q7 - Who or what inspired you to become a printmaker?
Growing up in Beckenham I’d be able to get the train into London quite easily and go and see exhibitions with my mum. We’d visit the Tate Modern, Bankside Gallery, the Royal Academy, the Photographers Gallery, go on Contemporary Art Society tours and generally see a wide variety of modern art together. I remember seeing Gail Brodholt’s prints of London underground tube stations and Paul Catherall’s linocuts of London landmarks and loving the graphic boldness and use of colour. I didn’t know at that point what a linocut was, but bought some postcards and greetings cards by them which I rediscovered after working for a while at Lawrence’s. The way they’d both layered colour in their work really intrigued me and I remember spending a long time staring at the images and trying to work out how they’d done it. Something about the work really really appealed to me, and once I found out they both worked as linocut printmakers I kind of knew that’s what I would love to become.
Q8 - How did you make your website?
I created my website using Squarespace which I really recommend. They’re not the cheapest website building platform out there but if you want a great looking site with a shop and everything else you’ll need, it’s worth the investment, especially if you’re at the stage where you want to sell work directly to people online.
Q9 - Any tips on how to get work selected for the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition?
Probably the best tip is to go and see the show for yourself and spend time looking at the prints which are usually mostly grouped together in the same room. Certain kinds of prints and certain kinds of subject matter are, for some reason, much more likely to make it in to the show. You’re more likely to get work in that will fit in with this kind of work (generally). Other than this it seems to be a bit of a mystery how they decide what to select (sometimes even big name printmakers don’t make it passed the first round) so my main advice is to just be persistent.
Q10 - Do you know any good courses that could help me get started with linocutting?
If you live in or near Brighton and Hove, yes. It’s become a bit of a printmaking hub around here thanks to Lawrence’s, bip-Art and now Lawrence’s have opened a studio space round the corner from the shop. If you’re a complete beginner with no tools then I recommend booking a workshop with Georgia Flowers, which are once a month. There’s also a drop-in club every Wednesday at the studio where you’ll have access to several lovely presses (they also run workshops at Mill Tye Gallery which are worth looking out for).
Artist | Printmaker