Meet the Maker – Gareth Barnes

Heya, I’m Gareth, an amateur printmaker currently living in Leeds with a 6-year-old Whippet called Lola.  The majority of my time is spent working at a high school supporting blind students, but outside of that I’m busily working on, or thinking about the next print project. I studied design and illustration at university in my home country New Zealand yonks ago, and after that threw myself into different creative adventures – having a bash at film character design, oil portraits, and general illustration. After a handful of years not doing very much creative work, I felt the yearning to get back to it and after borrowing some lino cutting tools, I had a go and loved it.

I’m definitely still a learner in some ways and have plenty of skills to sharpen. I’m really enjoying flicking between creative portraiture and larger scale reduction prints that throw in a bit of colour. 

Describe your printmaking process.

After a few thumbnail sketches of potential ideas and a lot of staring off into space visualising it, I draw out a full-size design, leaving out a bit of detail to add later. I then transfer it to the lino using carbon or graphite paper and draw in a few more details.

If it’s a straightforward monoprint, I’ll draw it up with an ink pen and get carving, but if it’s a reduction I’ll coat the pen linework in a layer of coloured ink to seal it. This helps protect the drawing from getting rubbed off every time I clean the lino after a layer has been printed. It’s the best solution I’ve used so far. Then, when it’s all carved and I’ve high-fived the whippet, I do a test print to check if there are any carved areas to tidy up. Then, I cross my fingers and get printing using my Ternes Burton pins, baren and printing press!

How and where did you learn to print?

I’ve learned what I’ve learned so far mainly through the experience of doing it a lot in a short-ish space of time and learning from mistakes. I have picked up a few useful tips from Youtube and printmaker’s blogs. The Handprinted website has also been super useful for learning about materials and how to get the best out of them. I haven’t really been doing it for very long and there’s still loads to figure out. 

Why printmaking?

One aspect I really like about it is the process. I really enjoy the different stages involved – the drawing, the carving, the inking and working with paper.  It’s been a really helpful creative outlet to focus my mind on (especially during the Covid crazy times). It also enables me to produce work that is a satisfying mixture of graphic, bold, and finer detailed bits. It brings together the different styles I’ve used with illustration and painting from the past, and is very hands-on which is ace.

Where do you work?

I mainly work at my desk in the converted loft of my house. It’s a bit of a chaotic room, where I share the printing space with DIY tools, tents, squirrels, and a load of other things that get stored in lofts, so it’s not quite as photogenic as a lot of studios you see! It’s nice and light and has a futon for my Whippet to snooze on though, which is the main thing really.

How long have you been printmaking?

Since January this year, so a bit of a newbie.

What inspires you?

Other printmakers and other artists of course. Always great to see their jazzy work and what processes they use.  With my portraits, definitely the subjects themselves. The main reason I’m making a print of them is that they’re inspirational and awesome in different ways.

What is your favourite printmaking product?

I think my Woodzilla A3 press is my favourite printmaking product I’ve used. Looks like a dream, saves time and achy muscles. Closely followed by my Pfeil 12/1 carving tool, which I use all the time and has become an extension of my hand…in an Edward Scissorhands kind of way.

What have you made that you are most proud of?

I guess I’m most proud of my Jurassic park print which I rolled out recently. It quickly turned into a much more complicated piece than I’d originally planned, with four layers in total and two separate lino pieces. It was a little stressful at times, but I was really chuffed with the final print in the end.

Where can we see your work? Where do you sell?

At the moment you can see my work on Instagram, and my prints are available to buy on Etsy. You can also message me directly to buy or for a commission.

What will we be seeing from you next?

I’m working on some ideas for a two-colour reduction print which I’m excited about and aiming to have some t-shirts, patches and cards in the mix.

Do you have any advice for other printmakers and creatives?

My advice would be to try not to compare your work to others, and devote your time to what you enjoy, what makes you the happiest. Don’t get bogged down by the number of Instagram followers you have.  Immerse yourself in the creative community and talk to other creatives as it’s a warm and welcoming place. Also, get a whippet.

To see more from Gareth follow him on Instagram