The “Working Together Group,” that explores creative graphics printing processes on Friday afternoons at the Bribie Island Community Arts Centre, was treated to a visit from a special visitor this week- Jim Aikenhead. Jim lives in Caboolture and is a long time artist and teacher who was a respected lecturer at QUT for many years. At the amazing age of 90 years old, his creative spirit continues to burn brightly and his enthusiasm for graphics processes, particularly lino block printing on fabric, is contagious and inspiring. His advice to the participants was enhanced by all the amazing examples of his work that he brought along for the group to experience.
He explained that “the idea” before starting an artwork is essential – this must be original and unique, never copied. His inspiration comes mainly from Nature – specifically where “rhythms” or “movement” is conveyed. His works depicting marine fossils and a waterfall were wonderful examples of this theme. Many layers and “overprinting” techniques are used and he emphasized that artwork should bring “light” into a home. Up to five lino blocks can be overprinted in loose or more restrained compositions.
We were reminded that the negative spaces in a design or composition, were as important as the positive ones. When carving a lino block- special consideration should be given to dealing with the “hard edges” of the block. Many of his are cut into almost sculptural shapes, before printing.
On a practical level, he often uses a mixture of oil paint, turps, and polyurethane, with flocking added on top of the block, to print on fabrics – usually on Indian cotton with 220gsm, but other kinds of cotton and rayons can be used. Expensive framing is not essential, – cheaper improvised framing can be just as effective and compliment the artwork. Above all, we were reminded and encouraged – one is never too old to be an artist!