I have been commissioned by Daisi – https://daisi.org.uk/ to make a short film about my practice for Primary school children to inspire them about artists. Whilst filming I realised how improvisational my work is – and I always say I don’t know what I am doing or where I am going with each print. A better description is that it’s the jazz of printmaking – using structures and elements to create a new work – always different. Pictured are some of the various images I draw from currently – paintings made in Morocco – riffs and rhythms that interplay in the new work.
This is my first new piece coming out of lockdown. I have been surprised by what an unproductive time this has been for my own practice. This is also the first new blog post for 12 months which shows that my attention has been elsewhere. Concentrating mostly on participatory work with Double Elephant Print Workshop has taken me to schools and communities across Devon and Somerset, especially working a lot with Somerset Art Works in mental health settings. Lockdown brought all that to a close but I have been working with colleagues to maintain a DEPW on-line presence…#GOTTAPRINTTHROUGHTHIS.
Now, with Devon Open Studios on the horizon and some work at Highgate Contemporary Art I am making again – and enthusiastically so.
Six months in Essaouira, Morocco may have heightened my sense of colour – if such thing is possible. It’s hard to assess influences on work especially if working with abstracted images. I used a lot of bright Moroccan dried pigments to make paintings which are now slowly filtering back into the work I am making….images especially of buildings under construction, rooftops, alleyways, architecture. Currently though, most of my time is being taken up running participatory workshops with Double Elephant Print Workshop – especially with Recovery Devon, alongside adults experiencing poor mental health. More daily influences but they are all welcome.
Here are three pieces of the new work. One starting point was an image by Cy Twombly which led to the red vegetation/plant like piece. I’ve become interested in the juxtaposition of something organic with a non organic geometric shape – the representation of a 3D object in 2D and how this confounds the image or makes it impossible – which follows on from a previous interest in making something unique, something that can’t exist in the real world.
These pieces and others can be seen this year at The Exeter Art Show – Maynards School, Exeter April 20-22, Printfest, Ulverston, Cumbria May 3-6, Crediton Open Studios 6-8 July, Limekiln Gallery, Tavistock from 17 June and Devon Open Studios 8 -23 September
I have now made 6 or 7 new prints on Somerset paper using a technique that uses 1mm pvc sheeting. I am cutting the plastic into shapes to describe the design. Pieces have drypoint or carborundum added and are then inked relief or intaglio or both. The jigsaw is then reassembled on the press and printed in one impression. The prints can be editioned and I would intend to print a maximum of 5 of each although have experimented with different colourways. I will be taking the new work to Printfest in Ulverston in May – https://printfest.uk/
Double Elephant is 21 years old. Established in 1996, we mark this with a group show at Exeter’s Royal Albert Memorial Museum. 35 members are showing 75 prints. I gave a speech on the opening night and it feels great to have achieved this for Exeter – very proud of us for keeping going through thick and thin. I have 3 pieces in the Dartmoor themed show –
Organised primarily by our Director Paula Youens, it is a great survey of printmaking. There are many other great prints to be seen –
Double Elephant Print Workshop has recently completed a third residency at Franklyn House Hospital in Exeter. This time we worked on images that focussed on food and healthy eating – the designs were later printed onto foamex and displayed in the dining area. The designs started with a basic drawing that illustrated a poem or song and then we used simple printed motifs – such as vegetables and fruit to fill in areas of the picture. Participants made the motifs using cut foam and card. We then coloured in the pictures with paints. With all our workshops at Franklyn we find that patients arrive in an uncertain and often nervous state – not sure what they are coming to. Very quickly though a group activity such as painting and print we find everyone is chatting and joining in, in a common endeavour. Sometimes our themes triggered memories of childhood songs and games leading to laughter and sometimes tears. Our inspiration were songs such as “Chick, chick chicken lay a little egg for me” and Tea for two”
Here are three new prints – a kind of variant edition of three monoprints from lino all on Misumi Japanese paper. Colours were all chosen simply on a gut instinct and through the process of colour mixing. They are each two colours printed over black with a texture detail added to the central areas. For each, in my mind’s eye I had a picture of how they would be – a bright yellow and nut brown, white against strong blue – although in the mixing I added some green to the white and finally red against a kind of mauve which was a combination I dreamed about some days ago. Simple. I hope that in combination they make a trio that work well together and that each enhances the others.
First of all, there are no rules – and that’s the point. The colours an artist chooses may well identify that artist and become part of their signature palette but sometimes “bad” aesthetic “taste” may be a positive choice, it may be the artistic decision – colours used to develop an emotion the artist is trying to evoke or to enhance a meaning in the image for example. I suppose the “rules” suggested in the interior design article still apply in an art context but for me colour mixing and printmaking is about developing an intuitive nature and I’m often mixing not knowing quite which colour will come out. It is rare that I mix a colour and discard the result – just keep going and it should come good is my motto.
Of course we have the likes of Josef Albers, Hans Hoffman or Bridget Riley to name but a few, who can act as our mentors but every artist working figuratively or in abstraction makes their own specific colour choices. For many artists it is all about the colours.
Albers demonstrated to great effect that the proximity of one colour to the next is highly significant. For me one starting point is the temperature of the colour – warm or cold and colours of any hue can be warm or cold – a warm blue or a cold one. Sited beside each other or overlaid they can make the overall design very dynamic and I’ll often choose alternately warm then cold. Of course as a printmaker I generally lay down one colour at a time, I see how it changes what came before and then I think about the next one.
It’s great too how once one colour is mixed and laid down, if you use that colour as a base for a new second colour, the two will have a sympathy for each other maybe like sisters… but get it wrong and it just looks like laziness in the colour mixing and the second colour kills the first.
Commonly, I’ll print black first to create the ‘drawing’ or underlying design upon which the subsequent colours are laid down. Picasso was an advocate of printing black first in his linocuts – an intuition counter to the received wisdom or working light to dark. Black makes later colour work harder and often gives them a graphic edge – enhancing the nature of the image as print.
Think of a box of chocolates – your favourite brand. You are familiar with your favourites – for me a thalo blue or crimson. These are often used first and lead the decision making in how other colours are mixed and used.
The rarest, perhaps most expensive chocolates you save until last and eat them sparingly. Maybe sometimes though, you gorge on them. Royal Blue is one such – a pigment so strong it stains everything.
The familiar characters in the chocolate selection – might be white or golden yellow – often used in conjunction with others. But each has it’s own character and mixed judiciously can become the star performer in a composition.
Then there are the choices you turn to least – the ones still left in the box after Christmas, usually with the soft fruit centres and for me these are greens and browns, earth colours. Maybe for me these are the most challenging and the ones I have to think hardest about. For another artist, these may be their favourites. Some people love Strawberry Parfait…!!
Take another brand of chocs and all bets are off. Within a certain range, the artist become confident and learns to know intuitively what and how new colours can be made from the core colours. I love the way thalo blue, orange and crimson in certain proportions can make a beautiful sienna or nut brown and always with infinite variations.
(Respect to Hans Hoffman for the featured image. A great inspiration.)
The welcome sign for Fielding ward has been delivered and installed – so fits well in the space and links well with the other prints I made for the entrance corridor, quiet room and on the ward itself. It’s been great to be involved with Art for Life and to see an integrated project for one whole ward through from start to finish.