We are lucky to have relief printmaker Ian Phillips joining us in July for a two day Reduction Lino Workshop! We spoke to him about his incredible work:
I am a relief printmaker based in Mid wales. I studied Illustration at Leicester and then worked as a Freelance Illustrator in London for a number of years.
I came to my senses in the new millennium and moved to Wales to live in the hills and concentrate on printing the landscape. I work full time as an
artist and also teach, give talks and take workshops on the joys of lino.
Describe your processes.
Until very recently I worked solely with reduction linocut print making. A relief process. After a day spent collecting drawings I return to the studio.
The drawing is then transferred to a sheet of lino and the consecutive layers are cut and printed from the same lino sheet. Starting with the lightest
and finishing with the darkest colour. You have to print the whole edition at a time. All that is left is the sheet of lino with the areas of the final
colour remaining so you cannot go back and print any more. This is also known as the waste or suicide method.
I am now also experimenting with multi-block lino prints and,with Pine Feroda on large
woodblock prints. (Pine Feroda is the collective name used by five artists working together on one print. The artists are Ian Phillips, Merlyn Chesterman,
Rod Nelson, Julia Manning and Judith Westcott).
How and where did you learn printmaking?
I actually taught myself. I studied Illustration and lino was one of the techniques we were introduced to. I enjoyed it but didn’t follow it up. It was
only later, weeks before my degree show, that I decided to use lino, badly, for my final show. After graduating I worked exclusively in lino and kept
looking for my own solutions to improve my mistakes and achieve what I wanted in a picture. I gradually became obsessed by it. Until very recently
I wouldn’t have described myself as a printmaker. Now I do.
I don’t know. I just love it. After twenty years I still get completely involved in the process. I love the inherent contradictions in the medium. The
complete control in transferring a sketch accurately to lino then the spontaneous quality of cutting pattern freehand within the confines of the drawing.
Then the painterly freedom of mixing and rolling up the ink. Of course after all that there is the magic moment when you peel back the paper to see
what you have created and it is always a surprise, so all that control was just an illusion.
Where do you work?
I have a studio in the Old College in Aberystwyth, Mid Wales which is an amazing building. A cross between Harlech Castle and Hogwarts. Although when I’m
drawing I could be anywhere in Wales or the UK, walking up a mountain or sitting on a beach, with my sketchbook. I’m also working a lot down in Hartland,
North Devon, at the moment with Pine Feroda.
Describe a typical day at work.
Luckily I don’t have one. There is, unfortunately, always admin to do and emails to answer but there is a lot of variation; I might be driving down to
Bognor Regis for a printmaking workshop at Handprinted;
clambering over moorland in the rain to get a good view for a drawing; framing and delivering work; Ideally if it’s in the studio I’m losing myself
for a week or more in the cutting and printing of a new picture. My favourite type of day is when I’m kitted up and, having driven to a deserted laybay
somewhere, stroll off for a day’s drawing in the hills. It’s all worth while then.
What inspires you?
Spending all day outside in the countryside, walking, looking and drawing. The weather doesn’t matter and the further I walk the more excited I get to
see what’s just around that bend or over the ridge. Once I think I’ve spotted a great composition for a drawing I really get a bit giddy. It’s all
there for the looking and I’ll never see it all or ever get bored of it.
What is your favourite printmaking product?
My favourite product is currently a Ball Bearing Baren, that a fellow printmaking friend, Laura Boswell, brought back from Japan. It really helps when hand printing large prints on heavy paper, and it makes a really cool
swooshing noise when you use it. Everyone I’ve shown it to wants one, until they hear the price..
I’m also currently testing a new Tabs form of registration which seems pretty neat, so I could become quite taken with them and they’ll become the next best
What have you made that you are most proud of?
This was a hard question to answer. However I have literally just finished a new print with the print collaboration, Pine Feroda, in which I pushed my cutting and inking abilities further than I have before and painted with the roller as well as
Really though I’m actually most proud of my nine year old daughter Lily for working so hard to do her first reduction print in a day (pictured below).
It’s lovely and she was very insistent on doing most of it herself. She mixed colours, cut and used the Baren. Brilliant.
Where can we see your work? Where do you sell?
I sell from my studio, in Aberystwyth, through my website, Reliefprint.co.uk, and in various
galleries in the UK.
What will we be seeing from Ian Phillips next?
I’ve got a new series of new multi blocks prints I’m currently working on which, hopefully, will be quite exciting. In terms of showing work I have two
exhibitions coming up with the print collaboration Pine Feroda. We are showing
at the Rebecca Hossack Gallery, 2a Conway Street, London (4th May – 28th May) and the Devon Guild of Craftsmen, The Riverside
Gallery, Bovey Tracey. (21st May – 3rd July)
Do you have any advice for other printmakers, designers and creatives?
That’s a hard one. Everyone’s situation, motivation and circumstances are so different. What I know applies to what I do and how I got here which might
not always be relevant or interesting to others. I would say though that your art should excite you somewhere in the process. Conversely it’s okay
for some bits to be boring too. It IS work, after all, and should be respected and treated as such by yourself and by others. Also, when you can, take
a risk with stuff like colour and technique and always, always be honest in what you do. ( Except when you can’t ). Finally remember when it comes
down to it, it’s not brain surgery and no-ones going to die if you get that blue wrong so relax.