Tuesday 22 October 2013

Guest Printmaker: John Kilburn

Currently, on our featured Guest Artist wall, we have a selection of wonderfully imaginative prints by John Kilburn. Originally from Bristol, John grew up in Devon, then moved to Bath where he studied graphic design and illustration at Bath Spa University. He is now a freelance artist, illustrator and designer based in Falmouth, Cornwall, having recently completed an MA in authorial illustration at Falmouth University. He loves making illustrated books, drawing and silkscreen printing, with inspirations from natural history and the absurd. 

We caught up with him to find out a bit more about his beautiful and sought after print-work.

My earliest memories of printmaking are probably similar to most peoples – potatoes and bubbles! Since then I have tried most forms of printing but it is only in the last 3 years that I have begun to use silkscreen as an integral process for my work. I did a short screen-printing workshop in Bath before I moved to Cornwall to start my MA.

During my masters I concentrated on three things - research, drawing and printmaking. I began to research into humour and the absurd; why do we find things funny? My first project was a visual response to trashy movies including vintage grind-house and B-movies as well as modern black comedies. I was intrigued by the intentional use of violence and obscenity for humorous purposes.

I tried to find processes and effects in screen-printing which were analogous to the qualities of cheap, trashy movies, using very cheap paper such as sugar paper and newsprint which would bleed, wrinkle and tear.  I also used low-res images for making the acetates and would intentionally misregister the layers. I began making screen-prints from original pencil drawings which naturally lose a lot of fine detail during the printing process. Being a complete amateur at this stage I was effectively trying to print badly whilst making a lot of unintentional mistakes at the same time!

Metamorphosis. 2 colour screen print in an edition of 120.
Around this time I was asked to make the poster for Falmouth University’s prestigious illustration forum. The theme was metamorphosis which happens to be a common theme in a lot of trashy cinema. My design was inspired by vintage film posters. This was the first time I had attempted a large print run and many more mistakes were made.

Cock ‘n’ Bull yellow. 5 colour print, edition of 30.
The following year I was asked to make the posters for the 10th anniversary forum The Absurd Event. I made two designs based on metaphor and the absurd. The absurd bird was printed in three colours as an edition of 80. Cock ‘n’ Bull was printed in five colours in a yellow edition of 30 and a blue edition of 10.

The Golden Plaice was the final project for my masters. It is a handmade pop-up book about an adventurous prawn inspired by nonsense literature and Cornish sealife. The first version I made was illustrated purely with pencil drawings but I gradually began to replace elements with printed imagery.

The Golden Plaice.  Original pencil drawings.

The Golden Plaice.  Red layer.I digitally split each drawing into 3 colour layers (red, blue and black), deleting some parts and filling other areas with black or a halftone pattern.
The Golden Plaice. Page 0. Silkscreen print. 3 colours, not editioned.
The Golden Plaice. Page 0 – Final version.  The final version that I used for the book is made from several versions of the same print – because I was printing the book with an inkjet printer I could change some elements digitally, picking the best characters and type.
As I worked through the pages I began to get to grips with layering colours to create new colours. My bird design inspired by classic tattoos was an exercise in creating new colours from 3 primary layers – yellow, red and blue. I began to apply these working methods to the screen prints for my book.

Birds. 3 colour silkscreen print, edition of 7. This print was an experiment in using layering halftones to create new colours.
The Golden Plaice. 3 colour silkscreen print. Set of four prints.
The Golden Plaice. How I used the screen print in the book.
I printed some of the type for the book, I found by intentionally misregistering some of the typography I could create some interesting effects. To make the book, my screen prints needed to be scanned, resized and printed as high quality inkjet prints. These inkjet prints are then cut out and the book can be assembled. The cover is printed using a technique called gold foil blocking. It takes me about two weeks to print, cut out and assemble each book. Each book is a new edition of one and so far I have made five with another four currently on order.

I am showing the first edition at The Print Shop, with the fifth edition currently being shown in Sheffield as part of the international book prize exhibition.

Forum 2013. Collaboration with Alys Jones. 3 colour silkscreen print, edition of 60.
Forum 2013 no.2 . Collaboration with Alys Jones. 3 colour silkscreen print, edition of 60. The red layer is blurry because the exposure unit had a dodgy vacuum.
This year I was invited back by Falmouth University to work with illustrator Alys Jones on the 2013 Illustration forum poster. I took her beautiful black and white designs and turned them into three colour screen prints (see above images). I was using a very old exposure unit and one of the colour layers became blurry and a lot of detail was lost but it is mistakes like these that I savour now, they are part and parcel with the joy of printing.

Printing new prints for The Print Shop

John Kilburn has created some new prints shown for the first time in The Print Shop. The first features images intended for a new book I am making Hummingbirds – a tragic love affair between a pyromaniac temptress and a romantic madman inspired by a series of terrible analogies. 


The next print is based on some paintings of crabs that he made for his last exhibition. John has always been fascinated by sea life and happens to only live two minutes from the beach. 

We're honoured to have John sell his work through our shop for the rest of this Volume (finishing on 3rd Nov).  Don't miss out on seeing this bright new talent and looking through the pop-up book he has supplied us with too.

The Print Shop
Unit 6
Quakers Friars
Cabot Circus
Open Daily
Mon - Sat 10am - 6pm
Sun 11am - 5pm

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