Printmaking can be something of a lonely art. I often spend days where the only communication shared is me yelling ‘Oh for God’s sake’ when Radio Four’s afternoon play turns out to be yet another cheering tale of redundancy, terminal illness and relationship angst. This makes it all the more marvellous when I get to meet other printers. I’m delighted to be able to share a couple of pictures by a printmaker and illustrator I met down in Margate. He’s called Alan Burton and he’s the only other printmaker I’ve met so far who draws directly onto the lino in dip pen to give the image it’s quality of line.
Dip pen and ink have always been my weapons of choice. I went to an infant’s school run by two sisters, Miss Bradley and her younger sister Miss Sylvia (those of you who read Victorian novels will appreciate that they hadn’t really embraced the twentieth century), we wrote with dip pen and I longed to be the ink monitor who filled the ink wells from a large glass bottle of weak blue ink. Later I progressed to spiky little mapping pens which could be bought in the stationery shop at my boarding school along with little bottles of black ink. Later still my future mother-in-law took me to a shop near the British Museum* where we bought boxes of assorted antique pen nibs and I have been using these ever since. When I began working full time as an artist a few years ago, my brother-in-law bought me a huge bottle of Indian Ink, finally fulfilling my ink monitor fantasies…
Using pen and ink direct onto lino is a great way of working if you, like me, print with oil based inks. Firstly it stays on the block, good naturedly ignoring repeated washings with white spirit, and secondly it makes where to cut a no-brainer. It gives such a lovely line that the drawing does all the work for me: I just chop out the blank parts. Alan and I stood locked in the mutual pleasure of finding a fellow sympathiser. Why, we wondered, didn’t everyone work like this and why, I wondered, didn’t I get out more?
*Not Cornelissen. If I didn’t still have the nibs, I would have difficulty in believing the shop I bought them from ever existed. Sadly it is long gone, along with the elderly proprietor and the wall to ceiling little wooden drawers.