One of the saddest things for me about the restrictions we've all been living with over the past year has been the closing of art galleries. I have books filled with art and you can virtually tour many of the great art galleries of the world online, but it's just not the same.
The last exhibition I went to before lockdown was imposed illustrates this perfectly. It was curated by Frances Hatch and featured her work alongside ceramic pieces. Francis is a highly skilled printmaker but this exhibition featured her texture-rich paintings created en plein air using pigments made from the earth she was standing on. What really grabbed me was the presentation of the paintings; there were no frames and no glass between the paint and the viewer. It would have been impossible to view them any more directly. What a contrast to the way we've had to view art ever since!
I can't wait to get back to seeing art 'in the flesh' but in the meantime books and magazines filled with artists work, memories and pictures of exhibitions and the art on my walls is sustaining me. I thought I'd share five printmakers who's work I really enjoy, whether online, on paper or on a wall...
I've always enjoyed Norman Ackroyd's work and managed to see his exhibition 'Etching the Archipelago' at the Watts Gallery last year. I was mesmerised by this and it prompted me to buy two RA published books of his sketchbooks. The work is incredible, but almost more incredible is the research that is done to produce the work. Every year he goes out to sea in a small boat, armed with a sketchbook and his watercolours and paints what he sees. As you can see from the final etchings, Norman Ackroyd is not a man afraid of a bit of weather and I imagine those sketchbooks smell as salty as the sea they were filled on.
Personally I love a seascape and in my humble opinion Norman Ackroyd captures the beauty and drama of the sea beautifully. He also manages to capture viewpoints that most mere mortals would never be able to see 'in real life'. As someone who enjoys sailing, especially coastal sailing in Scotland, these pictures bring back memories as well as just being superb objects of wonder for me.
I came across Laura Boswell via her monthly column 'The Working Artist' in Artist and Illustrators magazine. Each piece is accompanied by a picture of one of her prints and I found I was flicking to that page first to see what pearls of wisdom she had to offer and to enjoy her prints. Laura works in linocut and Japanese woodblock. She really pushes what's possible, especially with the linocut prints and I find her techniques fascinating. Just as I was starting to think about getting creative she started a podcast alongside painter Peter Keegan called 'Ask an Artist' all about how to become a working artist; obviously I subscribed straight away!
Laura is incredibly generous with a wealth of online tutorial videos demonstrating her techniques and giving expert hints and tips along the way. I have benefitted enormously from watching these, both for instruction and just as really enjoyable TV! I've long wanted to own one of her prints and when she started producing lower priced prints as part of the artists support pledge I put one top of my birthday wish list.
Gill is an artist I've discovered through Instagram. As soon as she popped up in my 'suggested for you' feed I followed her and I love seeing what she's creating. She's become someone who I actively look for since I so enjoy following the progress of her prints. She's another very generous artist who showcases her techniques for both her printing process but also those really important behind-the-scenes things like prepping the lino and registering paper. I love seeing the studio shots of where she works and the views which inspire her prints.
Gill lives in Norfolk and is very obviously inspired by the scenery and wildlife on her doorstep. She makes linocut prints using both the reduction and multi-plate processes, and has a way of using colours and blends very cleverly that I really enjoy. Her prints really capture a sense of Norfolk and it's scenery. I love them for their deceptive simplicity, clever use of blends and colours and the fact that they so brilliantly capture the essence of a place that I adore.
Chris Orr is an artist who's work I have long been acquainted with having been introduced to it at a young age. He employs a range of printmaking processes but most often lithography (which remains a fascinating mystery to me). To me Chris's work seems familiar and yet challenging. I recognise many of the places and scenes he depicts (often London) and yet the work is so full of ideas and almost hidden detail I still find new things in prints that I've been staring at for years.
One of my most treasured books is a copy of his fantastic 'The Miserable lives of Fabulous Artists' which is filled not only with his wonderfully brilliant artwork, but has explanations of his thinking behind each picture (and a personal dedication, hence why it is so treasured!). If you like complicated work that you can keep staring at for years Chris is your man!
I don't know whether it's the Norfolk/Scotland connection or the fact that her work is just so beautiful but I love looking at Angie Lewin's prints. I've been given several cards featuring her work and I keep them on permanent display as I so enjoy them. Angie is a master of beautiful composition. She's very obviously a designer and illustrator and I find her way of breaking down natural forms into repeating patterns fascinating. I love the sense of movement that seems to come through in all her prints and I am fascinated that she uses such a wide variety of printmaking techniques yet has such a strong style that comes through in all her prints.
So there you have them. Five, quite different, artists who's work I love. If you'd like to see more of their work just click on the name and you'll be taken to that artist's website. I'd love to hear what you make of them, please feel very free to comment with any thoughts...