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Work / Illustration

Nathaniel Russell adapts his woodcut technique to create positive propaganda posters

Artist and illustrator Nathaniel Russell’s latest series sees him adopting the woodcut technique to create a series of the kind of propaganda posters you might find in a kindergarten classroom, a doctor’s office or recruiting station. “It’s like propaganda for the cosmic, wondrous and the human,” says Nathaniel. “They also serve as reminders for me personally to be better and do more to become the kind of person I want to be!”

The posters use a considered colour palette of black coupled with various primary and secondary colours, and depict disconnected words and phrases such as “Not Yet”, “Joy”, “If” and “Wind”. Each one is accompanied by pared-back illustrations using textured blocks of colour and shapes.

For inspiration, the artist looked to old protest posters and underground fliers from the 1960s and 70s, as well as lots of German expressionist woodcuts and book designs. With these prints, and in relation to his work as a whole, Nathaniel tries to keep things simple, efficient and economical. “I want to be funny and sad,” he says. “The end goal is to somehow express the variety of human experience and feeling in a line or shape – that’s something I’m working towards anyway.”

Nathaniel was keen to avoid the traditional aesthetic of wood cuts made with carving tools. “I used some cheap plywood and cut out shapes with a jigsaw, that I then glued to a wood backing,” the artist explains. “This way I could print multiple colours at once. I printed small editions by hand in my basement, so no press was involved.” This process allowed Nathaniel to work in a more eco-friendly, non-toxic way than he has done previously, and though it was labour-intensive, it became part of the fun he says.

“I hope I get across an idea of reflection and improvement, of openness and empathy,” says Nathaniel. “A sense that your struggles are my own and vice versa.”

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Nathaniel Russell: Woodcuts

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Nathaniel Russell: Woodcuts

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Nathaniel Russell: Woodcuts

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Nathaniel Russell: Woodcuts

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Nathaniel Russell: Woodcuts

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Nathaniel Russell: Woodcuts

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Nathaniel Russell: Woodcuts

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Nathaniel Russell: Woodcuts

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Nathaniel Russell: Woodcuts

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Nathaniel Russell: Woodcuts