In this post I've brought together a selection of questions I've been asked by journalists and visitors to my studio that fill out some of the details behind my working practice. I hope the answers will give you an insight into my life and work.
Can you describe a normal day for you as an artist?
I have two kinds of normal day: one where I get to be creative and the other where I do admin! The first is more interesting… After taking my children to school, I like to spend the whole day at the studio as printmaking is something with a long set up and clearing away time so it isn’t efficient to do just a little. I have a lovely studio in Northumberland where I work alongside some wonderful creative people. If I’m doing monotypes, I set out all my papers, inks and textured materials then look back at the prints I’ve started and see what needs to be done next. Then I get to work inking up the plate and printing. It’s really intense work so after each print I have a little break with a cup of tea and a biscuit. Sometimes I go for a walk to get some fresh air and renew my concentration. In the evening I will answer my emails and plan my admin for the next day.
What did you want to be growing up?
This should come as no surprise – I wanted to be an artist! I guess there are very few people who know for sure what career they want to do from a young child but I was always clear in my own mind that art, craft and textiles were my thing. I wasn’t a typical teenager – I spent my time painting, sewing and knitting!
How did you end up in the job you’re doing now?
I turned self-employed as an artist when I left university. I had very little money and no real business plan but I never thought to earn a living any other way. Looking back I think I was very naïve about the difficulties but sometimes ignorance is bliss!
Which three people (alive or dead) would you like to work with?
Stanley William Hayter (1901 – 1988), printmaker, worked with some of the biggest names in modern art in the first half of the 20th Century. I would love to have made some etchings in his studio in Paris – Atelier 17 - and hung out with the likes of Picasso, Miro, Giacometti and Chagall.
Barbara Rae, Scottish painter and printmaker (born 1943). Her work has been a big inspiration to me and I would love to see her at work on some monotypes. It’s an unusual medium that I use too and it would be wonderful to work alongside her and maybe pick up some tips!
Paula Rego, painter and printmaker (born 1935 Portugal). I narrowly missed having a tutorial with her when she visited the Ruskin School when I was there. I would like to make up for that by seeing her at work and maybe proofing some of her etchings.
What inspires you about a scene to decide to make a print of it?
I keep my eyes open all the time for images, patterns and silhouettes I can use. I’m looking for clear-cut image ideas that are simple enough to adapt well to the medium and leave room for all the wonderful mark-making and colour effects you can get in the media. I’m looking for ideal forms of something in nature that we all respond to so rather than one view at one moment in time, I’m making an idealized version that sums up my response to that visual idea.
Do you have an idea of what each print should look like before you start to create it or does the printing process direct you in some way?
For the monotypes, I have a rough composition idea and the shapes are determined by the stencils I cut but beyond that it’s a case of responding to what happens in each layer and letting it go the way it wants to in terms of colour, tone and mark-making. The best moments for a printmaker are when the image takes on a life of its own and seems to surprise you with an unexpectedly good result.
For the etchings, the composition and details are pretty much decided at the beginning but I give no thought to colour until the proofing stage as by that time I’ve got to know the piece and colours are suggested to me by the first couple of proofs.
For each new monotype that works out successfully are many discarded?
My monotypes take a really long time to make so I want to avoid throwing any away if I can help it. Traditionally, monotype is a very swift medium where artists would expect to throw away many attempts but my method is more like making an inside-out painting with a lot of consideration given to each layer within the piece. All the same I do get the occasional one that has really gone awry!
I hope you've enjoyed this Q & A. If you have any questions of your own you'd like me to answer feel free to ask them in the comments below and I will do my best to answer.