Words have been central to many of Leonard McDermid’s artworks from the 1960s onwards. In the 1980s, aware that the printing industry was being transformed by one of the most dramatic periods of change in its five-hundred year history, he acquired a small hand press. Like many other artists, he founded a traditional press to help preserve the craft of letterpress printing. He welcomes the limitations and the artistic possibilities offered by the hand printing process, and he is delighted to witness how the art form is flourishing and continuing to develop in the work of contemporary artists.
Letterpress printing has become an increasingly significant facet of Leonard’s artistic output. He has latterly enjoyed the fellowship of a vibrant book art community and recognition as both poet and publisher, winning the Callum McDonald Memorial Award in 2010 (jointly, as publisher for And for that minute..) and 2018 for Landway. As part of the award Leonard was invited to be a Poet in Residence at The Harvard Center for Hellenic Studies Summer School in Greece.
Leonard McDermid was born in Kent in 1933 and grew up during World War II on Thameside and Clydeside. His father and grandfather both worked in the Greenock shipyards. He left school aged fifteen and worked at various jobs, including two years as a national serviceman in the Royal Artillery. He returned to full-time education in 1958 at the age of twenty-five.
1958-1962 Medway College of Art
1963-1964 Brighton College of Art
1964-1965 Newbattle Abbey College
1965-1966 Taught art in Aberdeen and lectured in economic history in Kent
1966-1969 University of Edinburgh
He subsequently taught art, mainly in the Scottish Borders, while also regularly exhibiting his work. In 1984 he was invited by the Marine Society to work as an art tutor for three months aboard a troopship in the South Atlantic. In 1988 he undertook a further commission at sea, travelling over fifty thousand sea miles to areas including the Americas, Scandinavia, Africa, the Far East, and the Arabian Gulf during the “Tanker War”. Artworks Leonard made during this time were exhibited at Shell Centre and the Marine Society, both of which added representative works to their collections.