Dan Howden is a Manchester-based illustrator, printmaker and animator. He is known for his awe-inspiring linocut prints that consist of 30-90 different registrations. With each layer, Dan adds another dimension of tonal depth, resulting in prints which are almost photographic in nature.
In the instance of this dedicated printmaker, “the time aspect of linocut printing has never been an issue”, he tells It’s Nice That. “Part of the appeal is the routine and the effort it demands.” In 2011, Dan intuitively taught himself the linocut process during his foundation course. Initially used as a way to introduce more colour into his work, the time-consuming process became a passion and since then, Dan has continually tested and developed his printmaking skills into an “unorthodox, layer-oriented approach.”
“My process can, at times, be extremely reductive… depending on how many components there are”, explains Dan. “I try to exercise a strict less-is-more policy, as once you pass the 70th layer threshold, the prints are at risk of resembling bad paintings.” As for the subject of the prints, Dan draws on his experiences. The many scenic and structural compositions are made as a way to “scratch [Dan’s] recurring itch for nostalgia.” More recently, the printmaker has indulged in his “love of trash and temporary architecture” through the Portacabin Series. Odd juxtapositions of renowned heritage sites such as Athens’ Parthenon are contrasted against rickety portacabins and industrial machinery.
In another print titled Summer Duvet, Dan evokes the feeling of the sweltering heat of a summer’s night spent writhing around on a clammy duvet. The meticulously crafted shadows that ruffle the duvet spread create a remarkably accurate impression of moving fabric. Dan attributes this illustration as his “most successful” and hopes to work on more editorial commissions where he can create similar kinds of artwork of this nature.
On the topic of creating these painstaking prints, Dan adds, “I get a lot of enjoyment from isolating myself in a small room for long or short periods of time”. He “biblically lives off Doritos and water”, taking breaks only to wash his tools or “click along to John Mayer.” This evident devotion to mastering the craft of linocut printing has sparked a desire to learn new skills and software in an attempt “to become more creatively rounded.” He goes on to say “I hope that in a year or two, I can benefit from new skills and work in a more collaborative environment.”
Despite any potential new creative endeavours, if anyone’s worried about Dan leaving behind his signature trade, there is nothing to fear as he claims he will “always be a linoboy!”. And so we can all sigh with relief in knowing that there are many treasures to come from Dan. He’s even been working on a five to ten-minute linocut animation for the past two years. Titled Mel’s, we’ll eagerly await this undoubtedly splendid film from Dan until the year 2021.
About the Author
Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor. Feel free to drop Jyni a note if you have an exciting story for the site.