This week on Meet the Printmaker, we meet Margate based printmaker Mat Pringle.
Please introduce yourself and what kind of prints you create...
My name is Mat and I'm an Illustrator, Printmaker and Arts Educator living in Margate. I primarily make reduction linocut prints but I've recently been doing more multi block prints as I find I don't have to plan them as much.
How long have you been a printmaker? Is it a full-time career for you or a lovely hobby? If you are a full-time printmaker, what does a typical day for you look like?
I've been a linocut printmaker for about five years or so. It's not a full-time career as I also juggle teaching Illustration and Printmaking at the BRIT School and up until September was the primary carer for my daughter Eden (she's started school now) which took up the majority of my time.
A typical day involves cycling along the coast to drop Eden off at school and then I might head into my studio (Resort Studio/Hello Print) a shared facility in Margate with brilliant printmaking equipment. I share a studio space with Nick Morley (Linocut Boy) so generally arrive, drink some tea and feel a bit inadequate when I look at his magnificent prints.
Once I've overcome those feelings of inadequacy I might carve or print for an hour then it's time to collect Eden again.
What was the spark that first got you hooked on printmaking? What is it about your medium that draws you in each day?
It wasn't much of a spark initially. I hated it at college; shitty tools and dry subject matters put me right off. Fast forward fifteen years and my partner brought some basic linocut equipment back from Japan. I tried it and there still wasn't much of a spark - I enjoyed carving - but the printing part wasn't appealing. I was getting pretty crappy prints using cheap water-based inks.
I kept experimenting with different parts of the linocut printmaking process and eventually found my way. One of my favourite parts of linocut is it's a process that has allowed me to retain my illustration style. The lines I draw onto the lino with dipping pen and Indian ink are the same I'd draw on a page. And there's a physicality to the entire process I adore. I was at the point where I hated using Photoshop for my illustrations and linocut allows me to not have to use Photoshop at all. I love getting inky hands and actually mixing colours and carving the lino.
Basically fuck Photoshop.
What inspires you? What or who would you say your biggest influences are?
Oh too many things. It's a problem as my work to the observer is a little incoherent. I love music and records hence my 'An Alphabet of Musicians' linocut series (2018). I love nature and animals; where would printmakers be without nature and animals?! We're all just churning out lovely prints of hares and moths and birds. I love books and films (for example my 'We Have Always Lived in the Castle' print and my 'I Know Where I'm Going!' print). I love folklore which led to the Instagram collaboration #linocutcoven.
The linocutcoven project involved a lot of my favourite printmakers like Kat Flint, Izzy Williamson, Cally Conway, Karin Rytter and Kathleen Neeley. So they're definitely influences. Anya Barabanova (@lino-squirrel) is another current favourite; she does incredible reduction prints with beautiful composition and colour. It reminds me a bit of the Russian illustrator Ivan Bilibin's work. Just absolutely stunning.
If you could give some advice to new printmakers, what would be your most useful tips for beginners?
Don't bother. All the printmaker spaces are taken. Soz.
Erm I guess if I had to give some advice I would say try and forge your own path. There is SO much work out there that looks the same with the same type of content. And a lot of it's technically great and looks lovely but I'm not sure we need more botanical prints or hares or whatever. I need to be careful here because my work veers into this territory. I just think it's important to find your own direction and avoid making generic printmaking content. And if you're going to do a hare do it really really really fucking well.
What do your prints say about you? How do you want people to feel when they look at your prints?
That I lack direction and I have an amazing/dreadful (delete as appropriate) record collection... More seriously I think they probably just tell you the things I love and I try to make my prints express that love by drawing, carving, colouring and printing them as well as I can.
Are your prints influenced by external events (social, political) or do you prefer your work to remain neutral?
Not so much but in the last year I've found myself more politically charged and inclined to do work accordingly. For example the BLM movement had a profound affect on me and I've been working sporadically on a series of prints of POC murdered by the police. It's primarily fed by the injustices but also by the growing feeling I ought to try and make my work say more beyond just being a pretty picture for people to consume.
Do you have a favourite part of the printmaking process? What brings you the most joy?
Carving. If anybody says anything else for this answer we can't be friends.
The planning and drawing phase is often stressful but by the time the carving comes it's pure JOY. Then the printing is stressful and the promoting on Instagram algorithm bullshit is soul destroying.
So yes, carving.
How do you print? Do you have access to a studio or are you a home printmaker?
I think I do it mostly the same as everybody else. I do use registration tabs though.
I print at home and at Resort Studio. Bigger stuff at the studio.
Every day feels like a school day when you're a printmaker and failure is not talked about too much online.. what would you say is the most challenging part of printmaking?
Ha I talk very openly about my failures on social media! It's another frustration with Instagram; all these meticulous studios with all these smiling beautiful printmakers trying to make me buy their shit. Stop it! It feels so contrived and false. In the past year I've found myself increasingly drawn back to the bin fire that is Twitter just because for all it's faults - and OH MY CHRIST there are fucking hundreds of them - it feels like a more real platform than Instagram.
The challenging part for me is often the printing which I've been winging for far too long. I'm exceptionally lucky that I have Nick on hand to guide me but I'm pretty sure he's getting tired of my print troubles.
And the challenge of finding an audience without feeling like I have to commodify myself into some gross/slick algorithm friendly all-singing all-dancing idiot. I mean, I'm an idiot and I'm okay with that but don't make me do the other stuff please.
What is your next big printmaking challenge? Do you have a plan for the next 12 months or do you take each day as it comes?
The Tiger reduction print I did last year wiped me out to be honest so nothing as ambitious as that. I've got a few prints in the pipeline and I'm really enjoying working on my 'Beryl and Huxley' wee witch series which I'd like to develop into a book. Beryl has got a cheeky subversive way about her and I think kids need a bit of that right now. Well maybe not so much Eden...
Where can people find out more about you and your prints?
I bare my soul on Instagram (@matpringle) and Twitter (same). I also have a website (www.matpringle.co.uk)
Little question round...
What is your favourite print (of your own)?
'We Have Always Lived in the Castle'
Music/podcasts when you're creating or silence?
I thought you said quick fire? Atm Fiona Apple, Joni Mitchell, Scott Walker, Sandy Denny, Fairport Convention, MF DOOM, Black Sabbath, Sun Ra, anything on Clay Pipe Records, The Velvet Underground etc etc. Just buy my 'An Alphabet of Musicians' book to see more.
Printing press or by hand?
Oh press every time. I'm far too lazy for hand printing stuff.
If you could meet any artist (alive or dead), who would it be?
Damien Hirst (dead). Lolz. Erm maybe Harry Clarke.
One word to sum up your style?