Today we’re talking to Miami-based printmaker Brian Reedy, whose work mashes together traditional woodblock prints and pop culture icons like Godzilla, Darth Vader, Alien, and more.
His art is immediately recognizable, and if you haven’t already seen it online you may have also seen it retail stores around the country.
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What do you make? What do you consider your best or favorite work?
I make block prints, a method of printmaking that involves the carving and printing of a wood or linoleum block, like making a large stamp.
First, the image is drawn on the block. Second, the unwanted areas are carved away. Third, ink is rolled over the surface. Finally paper is applied with pressure to make the print.
I don’t have a particular favorite, but if I had to choose from recent designs, it would be the Godzilla vs. the 47 Ronin block print.
How long have you been doing your craft? Who taught you or where did you learn?
I’ve been making block prints for almost 30 years. Although I studied printmaking in college, block printing was not part of the curriculum and I learned it myself.
Block printing is done in two separate ways: The Japanese method uses hard wood to achieve intricate details, and the ink is applied thinly with a brush like watercolor.
The western method that I use applies thicker, viscous ink with a roller. It’s much easier than the Japanese method but less detail can be made in a smaller block.
Tell us about your tiny workshop
My workshop is in my house – although I have a room that serves as a studio, I carve and print my blocks on the dining room table.
I have large flat file drawers to store paper and unmounted linoleum blocks. All of my mounted linoblocks and woodblocks are kept in the nearby closet.
Everything is arranged on shelves like books, with the name of the image written on the side of each block.
What tools are most important to your work?
I use the basic Speedball brand linocut tools and inks. There are more expensive tools and inks available, but the ones I use suit me just fine. They are also easy to buy and are inexpensive.
If you are interested in woodblock printing, I would suggest Japanese tools that can be purchased online from McClain’s Printmaking Supplies.
Any advice for beginners to your craft?
My advice for beginners is to have patience and to not attempt a grand masterpiece for your first block print.
Start small and get used to the process of working in reverse (the print will be a mirror image of what is on the block, so if there is text in your design it must be backwards on the block). It’s also important to understand that you carve away the negative spaces of the design, not the drawing itself.
Also, safety is a concern, as the carving tools are extremely sharp. Always carve away from your body, and your free hand must always be placed behind the hand that is holding the tool.
Any shoutouts to fellow creators? Who inspires you?
I have too many creative and artistic friends to list here, and I find inspiration mostly in my travels. Looking at the art, architecture and design from cultures around the world gives me fresh ideas for my own work.
My wife Simone is an extraordinarily talented person and a constant source of inspiration.
My twin brother Matt is also an amazing artist – he works with different media but we often draw the same imagery, unaware that we are both working on nearly identical artworks until we post them online. If something like that happened once or twice, I would write it off as coincidence. However, it happens so often that it’s spooky.
Any other stories/anecdotes to share?
My artistic career has gone through different transitions. Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, I exhibited in galleries, museums and international art fairs throughout the United States.
About 8 years ago, I started selling work at comic book conventions and it became so lucrative that I gravitated away from galleries.
I then started my Etsy shop, which was not an immediate success. However, it built up steam over time and now I can barely keep up with orders.
My advice to anyone who wants to make money with art is to look for all the options that will yield the best return for the amount of work that is put in.
All of my prints are hand-pulled so large orders from my Etsy shop or from the galleries I work with can take time. To offset that, I work with companies like Hot Topic that use my designs for apparel and pay me in royalties.
There are lots of opportunities for artists, and it’s just a matter of pursuing the ones that fit you best. Despite the hard work, making art should be fun and no artist should lose sight of that.