|Kwabene / wood engraving|
Please can you introduce yourself and tell us a little about your work…
What sort of prints do you make?
Hello, I’m Ben. I moved to Bristol in 2006 from Coventry and have loved every minute of it. Last year I bought a victorian printing press that has allowed me to develop my wood engraving into a full time obsession.
Are you solely a printmaker or do you work in any other creative fields?
I do bits of design work to help balance the books, but I also dabble in Letterpress, automata and animation which is great fun.
What is your earliest recollection of making a print and what made you to want to do more?
We had a very brief introduction to linocut during 6th Form, but other than that I hadn’t paid much attention to it (or even heard of it). I was dead set on becoming an animator until I entered the print rooms of Bower Ashton during my Foundation Year and never looked back.
What inspires you and are there any themes or ideas that often run through your work?
Ultimately I try to make images that stir an emotion. I don’t want to do this by depicting controversial subjects, but more subtly through use of tone. For me, black ink is the most evocative colour, I don’t know why this is, but I always find a black and white print, photo, film, etc far more emotional than it’s colour filled equal.
|Maxwell / wood engraving|
|Jungle Gardener / wood engraving|
Could you give us an insight into where you work – your studio/workspace and
where you print?
When I’m not working behind a bar, I spend all my time pottering about in my studio. I’ve got a decent sized space at BV Studios in Bedminster equipped with a huge Albion Press, plan chest and computer. I love spending time there cutting wood engravings or just bodging together bits of wood!
The work of which other printmaker/s do you admire?
It goes without saying that I admire the impossibly detailed work of Thomas Bewick. So other than him I’m always stunned by the etchings of Paco Aguilar and Norman Ackroyd, the energy of Ronald Searle’s drawings and the general brilliance seen in contemporary Chinese printmaking.
Printmaking is made up of lots of different processes, which aspect do you enjoy the most?
I like all bits apart from editioning. I’d be quite happy to only print one good print if someone was prepared to pay the price tag!
|Robin / process 01|
|Robin / process 02|
|Robin / process 03|
Do you have a favourite tool or something you find invaluable when printing?
I love the leather sandbag that Simon Brett kindly gave to me. It’s a simple tool that at first glance is dismissed by almost everyone, but without it you cannot easily achieve those accurate curves and subtle tones. It’s also fun to polish when you need to procrastinate. (for those of you who have never seen one, it looks like a 6 inch leather spaceship and goes underneath your wood block to allow you to easily turn and move the block while cutting).
|Sandbag underneath in-progress wood block|
Can you share a little printing trick or secret with us ?
Thin Japanese paper is perfect for printing. The Japanese have been making paper and printing far longer than us Europeans and have mastered the process. So don’t bother with all that heavy stuff and invest in some strong Japanese tissue. It’s stronger and more resistant than anything you’ll find in England. Having said that, I do find the English like things to be weighty because it gives a perceived sense of value (and I’ve heard similar remarks from people well accustomed to international markets). So it’s no surprise that when I let a person choose between a wood engraving that’s printed onto cheap (but thick) paper and thin (but extremely high quality) japanese paper they go for the former.
How would you like to develop your printmaking skills in the future?
I’d like to take my wood blocks into the real world away from the studio and engrave directly from the actual subject. It would also be fun to produce a huge engraving, but I’m still waiting to win the Euro Millions.
|Maxwell 2 / wood engraving|
Which printed publication do you most look forward to thumbing through?
The wood engraving journal MULTIPLES which comes out every quarter. It’s a treasure trove of interesting articles and beautiful engravings.
Monochrome or multi-coloured?
As you might expect, I’m a black and white person. But I do always admire a multi-coloured piece of art, partly because I could never do it.
Thanks Ben, we really appreciate you answering our questions, it is also lovely to see traditional techniques being used with such skill.
Ben's work can be seen in Volume 1 of The Print Shop, until August 25th. He will also be sharing his knowledge in a workshop 'Wood Engraving for Beginners', over 2 evenings in August - click here for more information.
The Print Shop
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