Halifax printmaker finds inspiration in music and art

Alex MacAskill has done artwork for the Halifax Pop Explosion and local bands. Now he’s headed to Nashville.

Atop the maze of studios at NSCAD’s Granville campus sits multi-talented Alex MacAskill. He’s actively sketching, scanning, printing and pressing art work for school, as well as for his business Fish Bone Prints.

His workplace is rugged; large wood panels and easels are scattered throughout the area. His desk is accompanied by all the tools he needs: black ink, illustration paper, and a printer. He is an artist printmaker and designs everything from album art to beer holders. The collection of his favourite works are pinned to his work space. He works alone, with folk-rock and indie music filling the air.

MacAskill is pursuing a degree in fine art and managing Fish Bone Prints simultaneously. He has grown an array of clients for his business, including Matt Mays and JEFF the Brotherhood. He’s also worked with local artists such as Wintersleep and The Novaks, as well as many government organizations. His biggest client last year was the Halifax Pop Explosion, which posted his work throughout the city.

“I have been lucky enough that I don’t need to advertise,” he says. “After a few years doing this I’ve developed a kind of signature style, one that is expected when an artist reaches out to me.”

There are a number of steps to screen printing.

“It all starts with pencil sketches to develop the idea of it. From there I take those sketches and make a full size drawing on illustration paper – done with black ink – I scan that onto the computer and work it in Photoshop and add some digital colouring. You have to print the colours differently and separate the layers. From there you use a squeegee to push the ink through the stencils.”

His school work is an outlet of personal expression. MacAskill even dabbles in the unique practice of woodcutting.

“I take a block of plywood and use chisels to carve into it. Then I roll over the ink to hit the high spots, then press paper onto it and begin to trace,” he says.

From a young age MacAskill was very artistically inclined, just like his older sister.

“She was a big inspiration for me,” he says, smiling. “I looked up to her a lot, she went to NSCAD too. She inspired my love of art, and I guess I’m following the same path as her, just carving my own footsteps.”

In high school, MacAskill wanted to find a way to design his own T-shirts for his band and began experimenting in homemade remedies. Through this desire, MacAskill acquired a foundation of skills in print work and ultimately let that flourish into his own brand.

His boyhood passion for both art and music is a combination of interests that now work in harmony to pay the bills, and takes him to places he’s always dreamed of.

“I’ve actually just landed a job with a graphic design firm in Nashville. I graduate in April and start work down there in May. It’s a dream come true. Nashville has a great culture of art and music, I really love it there,” he says.

MacAskill departs shortly after he performs a farewell gig with Drags, his garage rock band. They will be performing their last set at the Seahorse Tavern at the end of the month.