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Learn the principles of printmaking with Eric Gaskell

Eric Gaskell ARBSA began making canal lino-cuts in 2004. This was the start of a journey from north to south across the UK canal network. In this exhibition, see a selection of black and white lino-cut prints from Gaskell’s book, Canal Linocuts.
In this article, Eric Gaskell shares the main principles of printmaking, how to use colour and learning when a print is complete.
See Eric Gaskell’s work in the online exhibition, Canal Linocuts until 6 March.
Saturday Bridge, Eric Gaskell ARBSA
What is a print?
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 print makers 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.
Isis Lock, Oxford, Eric Gaskell ARBSA
What are the main principles of printmaking?
Drawing is the key element in anything I’ve done since leaving college. 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.
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.
Gas St Basin, Birmingham, Eric Gaskell ARBSA
How do you use colour in printmaking?
There are two different routes you can take:
  1. Reducing a block by covering in ink and then cutting away. Ink it again and the colours show through from underneath. The colours create new colours as they overprint each other. The trick here is to know what to keep and what to cut away
  2. Use more than one block, isolating each one for a different colour, and then overlaying them
Snowhill Bridge, Eric Gaskell ARBSA
How do you know when a print is complete?
I proof (test print) as I go along to see where the next set of cuts may be needed.
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.
See Eric Gaskell’s work in the online exhibition, Canal Linocuts until 6 March.
About Us
The Royal Birmingham Society of Artists (RBSA) is an artist-led charity which supports artists and promotes engagement with the visual arts through a range of exhibitions, events and workshops.
The RBSA runs an exhibition venue – the RBSA Gallery – in Birmingham’s historic Jewellery Quarter, a short walk from the city centre.
The gallery is currently closed due to Covid-19.
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