Getting plaster was easy as they use it to carve all those arabesques but getting a really hard plaster was impossible. Clay was ok- but relief printing inks? – Well I just took them with me.
I think one of the most creative highs in Morocco was at the School of Art in Tetouan, where the students decided to apply a ‘flocking’ technique to the putting on of gesso to get a half tone affect. This they did by flicking the gesso with a toothbrush. ‘It won’t work,’ I warned sceptically but they proved me wrong and took Castprinting into a new realm.
A little abstract in quality, and was getting into woodcut - in fact I really liked woodcut. A friend called it ‘haptic’ (I still cannot find this word in the dictionary) I think he meant a quality that makes you want to touch it. Anyway, I liked it because it was physical. But you have to cut the image – carve it, when I wanted to paint it and the other thing is the print comes out back to front- mirrored!
It took me a year to get it. First I tried scratching in clay. The man from The Independent asked me ‘What was your Eureka point?’ To tell the truth it came slowly; I didn’t go running down the street naked, having jumped out of the bath water – ‘When I realised I should scratch right down to base of the clay’ I said obligingly. He got so carried away by clay that he started inventing things like ‘runny wet clay,’ hence why the convict was confused
Actually I did have a sort of Eureka point, after a period of depression, when I wanted to give it all up. I’d done it but didn’t like it because the result didn’t look like woodcut!! Then in the morning looking at it, realised there was something good about it not looking like a woodcut. Acceptance was my real eureka.
One day I was introduced to a woman from the
continent, who was part of a ‘Sommerakademie’ in Northern Germany
and she invited me to run courses there in Castprinting. Whilst there, a German
professor of Art, who was also teaching there, came up to me and kindly invited
me to Morocco, where he ran workshops with local people. ‘You are coming
to Marrakech aren’t you Jon’ – he assumed. This was the
start of Castprint courses in a palace called the Dar el Glaoui and I went
back there several times under the sponsorship of the British Council. The
Moroccan celebrity who ran the palace, rather than put me up in a hotel gave
me a room in the palace - where I slept with the mosaics and washed in the
courtyard fountain, under the orange tree.
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Castprinting even got me into prison – an English one I hasten to add. After the article came out in the Independent I got a phone call. At the other end was a convict! He had tried it out from the wrong description (Author’s artistic license) in the article and wanted to know how to get it right. ‘Maybe I should come and teach you,’ I replied, not wanting to give it away for nothing.
But not all the promotions of my invention have been so glamorous. I’ve taught it in schools and collages and also in my own studio.
Why did I develop it? Well, I was making art where the brushwork was important. Big gestures of paint inspired by the movement of mountains.