A Passion for Print
How did you choose your occupation or hobby? Was there a time of discovery and excitement as you began to think "Yes, this is for me!" Did it creep up on you slowly or was it a lightning bolt moment? Here's how it happened for me:
Close up detail of Land marks etching
I have often been asked why I chose printmaking as my main means of producing art. Wouldn't painting have been more straightforward and not required so much specialist equipment? The answer is that I fell in love with printmaking a long time ago and my love affair has been going on ever since.
I tried etching and monotype for the first time when my A Level art teacher invited me to go on a week's summer school at the local university. I had no idea what it was about but I was really excited about doing something new. There I learnt etching and I was riveted by it: such a cool way to draw on metal using a chemical reaction. Printing on an old press and peeling back the paper to reveal something fresh and crisp was incredibly satisfying and I knew I would want to do more, much more. It was all so physical and engaging with wonderful new smells and textures.
On my degree course I pursued printmaking whenever there was an opportunity and my tutor was the world renowned printmaker Jean Lodge. I loved experimenting with all the wonderful materials and inks to find my own way of doing things. There was an incredible synergy between these printing methods and my chosen subject of patterns in nature. I was buzzing with more ideas than I had time to implement.
I pursued etching and monotype on my MA course. Very few students did printmaking so most of the time I had the resources of the department to myself and could pursue ambitious work and etch large scale plates. I also experimented a lot with monotype (often called monoprinting) using rich colours and crisp shapes. I devoured printmaking manuals to find out what other artists did then incorporated these methods into my own practice. From that time on I knew I would never abandon this incredible world of colour, texture, process and experimentation.
The magic of print
When I was teaching adults, I shared my enthusiasm for these techniques . I found that many people lacked confidence in their artistic abilities so I used the magic of printmaking to give them exciting and unexpected results. There's nothing quite like the feeling of peeling back the paper to find something new and amazing revealed underneath. I incorporated a lot of colour and texture into these classes to move people away from their fear of failure at drawing. These methods worked their way into my own practice as an artist and I began to incorporate them into my landscape work which gave it the characteristic style it has now.
Detail of a new etching plate
All the traditional printmaking methods have their own unique qualities and I love them all. It's the crisp precision of the mark and the even way the colour is pressed onto the paper. There are so many unique marks and interesting layers that would be impossible to achieve in any other medium. There's an elegance about the printed mark: if you look really closely at a handmade print, the detail appears even more incisive close up, akin to marks you might find in nature.
A suspense thriller
I think above all it's the suspense that keeps me going. There is an exhilarating tension as you work on a plate not knowing exactly how it's going to turn out. The preparation time can take a couple of hours or several weeks, with the suspense of how it's going to turn out building all the time. Then you have that moment of revelation when the first print is seen, damp and freshly glowing - joy or despair follows! If it hasn't turned out as you hoped then battle commences as you make changes repeatedly to get the outcome you desire. Victory is sweet when finally won.