Meet printmaker Colin Blanchard
Printmaker and illustrator Colin Blanchard caught our attention in December 2016, when he got in touch and told us about how the Xcut Xpress had started a 'small revolution' among printmakers. Colin realised that the Xpress had the potential to be a convenient and portable linoprinting tool, and has since shared his progress and the prints he's created with his die-cutting machine. Since this month's issue of Creativity is all about the evolution of craft, we couldn't think of anybody better to talk us through how art and craft has, and will, developed with ever-changing tools and techniques.
Tell us a little bit about your background; have you always been an artist of some kind?
I was born in rural North Lincolnshire in 1952 and I think art and design is perhaps in my blood; my father and his mother before him being very modest amateur artists. I was lucky that my generation had better opportunities and I was able to go away to art college; finally completing a postgraduate certificate in Printmaking in London the 1970s. About eight years ago, my wife and I set up a full-time artist studio and print workshop at Craigshaw Barns in Scotland, and we have never looked back.
What in particular inspired you to begin printmaking?
I remember enjoying making linocuts at school, but it was during my second year at art college when I discovered the amazing potential of photo-screening techniques that I began to develop an approach I still have to this day. I am still fascinated by the often very traditional craft skills required to create truly original prints: meaning prints that are not in any way a reproduction or imitation of any other medium, but that have qualities and effects and that only handmade prints can offer. Like most printmakers, I still enjoy exploring and mastering new and different creative methods which in turn constantly evolves and develops my imagery.
A key aspect of Colin's prints are the addition of his own poems
Could you explain in detail the process of creating prints?
There are several ways in which print can be made relatively easily using a small press like the Xcut Xpress. Historically the oldest and still one of the most versatile and gratifying ways of making multiple prints is known as ‘relief’ printing. This simply means rolling ink on to the surface of a ‘matrix’ – i.e. a block or plate, (or even an object) and taking a print from it. Blocks can be carved from wood, made up from from card and collaged material (called collographs) or the simplest and most popular – cut into the surface of sheets of ‘flooring’ lino, or one of the modern alternatives with small, different shaped tools, known as gouges. Lino prints can be simple one colour images (which can sometimes be hand coloured afterwards) or made from several blocks – one for each colour of the design. Or, and this is a method I use a lot myself, a technique known as ‘reduction’ printing can be used.
Colin likes to incorporate his interest in the outdoors and wildlife into his prints
How did you first come to realise the potential of the Xcut Xpress machines for printmaking?
I have often found it hugely rewarding to demonstrate some part of the practical printmaking process at shows or talks about my work, and the fact that the Xpress also folds away very neatly for transport got me thinking. I was taken with the fact that the Xpress had an adjustment dial on it to alter the pressure - a vital part of being able to control quality and consistency in printmaking. I quickly realised that this terrific little machine had huge potential for smaller scale ‘kitchen table’ (but nonetheless high-quality) printmaking.
A print that Colin created with the Xcut Xpress machine
What has been the response the printing with the Xcut Xpress?
A small revolution seems now to be going on, with printmakers all over the world beginning to use the machine for a variety of printmaking methods. Personally I look forward to soon creating some special limited edition lino cuts, specifically planned to be produced on the Xcut Xpress. I have already made one adaption, which was to make a longer print bed for it from a cut-down chopping board. This enables longer prints to be made and gives more space for the all-important registration system needed for multi coloured prints.