He’s built up a reputation as a skilled printmaker specialising in lino-cut, but Eric Gaskell says it all starts with drawing. He describes himself as principally a figurative artist, and has a solo show at the RBSA this month.
His Facebook Group ‘Linocut Friends’ has over 21,000 members – Eric is sharing his knowledge all the time, and ART BLOG is delighted he agreed to an interview…
Which works will feature in your RBSA show?
I’m known for my canal-based works but for this show I’ve decided to focus elsewhere. There are one or two canal prints but the rest are relatively new, and some I have done in the last few weeks.
They vary quite a lot, but what stays the same is my use of colour – my work isn’t colourful in a non-figurative way as in yellow sky or blue grass, but when the sky is blue it is very blue, and when the grass is green, it’s very green indeed.
Tell us about how it all started…
I started young. I remember my Mum kept a drawing in her purse that I did of some ducklings with reed beds and a mother duck in the background. I did it when I was four and even then you could see it had perspective and scale.
When I was eight or so and my sister was at secondary school I used to do her art homework for her. I found with my own schoolwork that I liked a subject if there was any drawing involved, like Geography or History.
I failed my Art ‘O’Level, but that’s probably because I didn’t keep my working ideas. When I resat, the teacher had to make sure I did exactly what the question required me to do.
What are the main principles underpinning printmaking?
Drawing is the key element in anything I’ve done since leaving college but the creative process is all about the changes that happen between the scene that’s in front of you and the work that will result.
It always surprises me. Drawing is an aide memoir. It provokes what happens next. I’m quite figurative in general, but my work can jump from symbolic and quite abstract to highly figurative.
‘Leaky Locks with Fish’
In relief printmaking, and by that I mean wood engraving, wood-cut, lino-cut… the majority of the time you aren’t dealing so much with the art side as you are with the process. I can start with a loose idea, or quite a lot of detail, but there are still stages to work through.
If you have just one block and one colour things can be easier, but when you are dealing with many colours you have to have a plan.
Can you explain the difference for those new to printmaking between a reproduction print and the fine art limited editions we are talking about here?
Printmaking is a far from simple process – people really shouldn’t call the end result a ‘print’ because it confuses things with reproductions. A ‘limited edition’ print of a painting is really a reproduction, a copy, of a painting. It isn’t the same as a ‘limited edition’ that I create.
What I produce is a lino-cut. Other printmakers produce wood engravings or screen-prints. Each one of my pieces of work can lead to editions of ten or 20 and every single one may be slightly different. That is part of the printmaking craft, they are handmade; cut by hand, inked up and pushed through a press.
Can you take us through an example?
I recently made a linocut from a drawing in Cornwall of St Michael’s Mount, the end result wasn’t that good so I reworked the blocks. It wasn’t right the second time round, so I went through the process a third time to create a final edition.
St Michael’s Mount
Eric has a YouTube channel which features information and tips on the printmaking process and films of his work. You can view his video about the St Michael’s Mount series here.
How do you use colour in printmaking?
There are two different routes you can take:
reducing a block where you ink it up and then cut away, ink it up again and show through the colours from underneath. Of course the colours create other colours as they overprint each other. The trick here is to know what to keep and what to cut away
using more than one block, where you isolate each one for a different colour, and then overlay them
For Birmingham Reflections, I cut four blocks of lino and overprinted each of them.
In the blue block for that piece the top half was a bright cerulean blue, and underneath was a cobalt. Then I used a red, which was more of a pink really, it picked out the purples and helped make any oranges.
The yellow I used on the lower part was an ochre for the water, and above that was a lemon yellow resulting in bright greens and oranges.
How do you know when it’s right?
I proof (test print) as I go along to see where the next set of cuts may be needed.
From the first drawing to the end result (for the work above) took about two and a half weeks, working six or seven hours a day. You can use four blocks and each one when overprinted will create different colours and that’s where the skill and tricks come in.
When I was at college I was interested in colour right from the start, as well as the structure and composition of colour.
In printmaking, the way it’s put together is important. A lot of my work is quite colourful and I think at heart I’m a painter, though with painting you can produce something fairly quickly and with printmaking it takes longer, but you have absolute control.
Colourful Creations Eric Gaskell ARBSA 7 May – 16 June
Make sure you visit soon to see Eric Gaskell’s solo exhibition, Colourful Creations. Eric combines colour, drawing, and composition to create vibrant and bold lino-cut prints and mixed-media pieces. He is a newly-elected Associate Member of the RBSA, and entry to this, and all exhibitions, is free.
Many works are for sale.
Watch Eric at Work
You can see a whole series of Eric’s videos at YouTube. He filmed one about his lino-cut ‘Mousehole’ (pictured here).
To view the video and check out Eric’s YouTube channel click here.
To join Linocut Friends, go to Facebook and search the name of the group in the search bar.
Call for Entries
If you are a contemporary printmaker making original prints – etchings, lino-cuts, screen-prints, or engravings – then why not enter our next major exhibition?
The current Call for Entries for our Print Prize Exhibition runs until 4pm on Wednesday May 23.
Why not help us celebrate contemporary printmaking across the UK and be in the running for a top prize of £1,000?
Open to all artists: go to the RBSA website where you’ll find more information and the application pack.
Banner image: Sea Serpent. All images © Eric Gaskell