Jo Spaul Illustration
I’m an illustrator / artist producing work for magazines, books, brochures, websites, signs and more, but I also get involved in local community projects, creating murals and larger pieces for schools and playgrounds. Alongside this, I have a range of linocuts and merchandise that I sell in galleries and on line. My work is very varied and I never know what my next commission will be ( I have had some unusual requests ), which I like. I mainly work in lino, scraperboard and papercut, but drawing is always an important tool for me. My preferred subjects are the natural world and protecting the environment.
How did you get started in printmaking?
I was introduced to printmaking at school, through the tiny intricate wood engravings of William Blake and Thomas Bewick and thought I’d have a go myself.
Describe where you work.
I work from home in the spare room – kitted out with extra shelves and cupboard space. I start the day with Radio 4, but it gets a bit lonely, so I’m thinking about getting a dog – which will be good company and force me to get out for some fresh air and exercise once in a while! I recently moved to Norwich from a little village on the north Norfolk coast – but it’s sometimes a bit suffocating living in a city surrounded by so many people and buildings… my inspiration has always come mainly from nature, so I am keen to get out and explore any local parks I can find.
What's your favourite printmaking process?
While I was training, I took up lino printing, but also enjoyed etching and aquatint – all the different stages and processes involved as the image gradually reveals itself. I would really like to start experimenting more again, playing with the possibilities of the materials – I think this sense of play has been lost for me over the years as it has all become a little formulaic and rigid.
What's your creative process for any given print? (eg. sketch first? Pre-planned or free-form?)
Firstly I will sketch out lots of small ‘thumbnails’ until a design is agreed on between myself and the client, then I will work into it, producing a larger / full size cololur rough, where are the details / colours / elements will be finalised. This design is then transferred into my chosen medium, whether lino, scraperboard or cut art, all of which involve cutting out the lights from the black base (using a tool of sorts ) leaving the dark areas or shadows. If the medium is lino, the last stage involves printing, otherwise just colouring is needed to complete the work.
What do you enjoy most about printmaking?
I think what I find most enjoyable is the physicality of the processes - the cutting, peeling, pressing, along with the element of challenge on the brain to think in terms of ‘drawing with light’ as opposed to the more familiar darks that we are used to.
What's your least favourite part of the process?
If I’m producing artwork for galleries, exhibitions or craft fairs, I will print batch of linos for colouring and framing, which can get very boring and repetitive after the magic of taking that first print, so I try to vary the colours or the mount combinations to keep a freshness and interest in the product.
What are your inspirations (other artists, people, places, events, etc.)?
Like I said, I think nature will always be rich in inspiration for me – the patterns, shapes, colours, simplicity, and it has much that we can learn from. It is a constant source of reference for me. Artist-wise, I would have to mention William Morris (pattern, decoration), Lautrec (fluid lines and flat colours) Beatrix Potter and E H Shepard (playful stories and love of nature), as well as many current and local artist/printmakers.
How has your work changed and evolved since you started?
I’ll be honest and say not enough. But then I’m my harshest critic! As an illustrator, I have got used to producing art for other people – recreating what they have already imagined in their mind. I’m at a point now where I’m really looking for something to take me in a new direction, so I have enrolled on some classes that should open up some new doors. I need to get back into doing it for myself and enjoy the simple creativity of it.
How do you get past creative slumps?
It often helps me to get a bit of distance – get out in nature and go for a few long walks and let the wind blow the cobwebs away. That is usually when the creativity starts to flow again. I often make lists that help to refocus me on my goals, but I think it is also important to reflect on how far you have come too, and give yourself a pat on the back. I’m not one of those people that respond well to a kick up the backside or the tough love approach. I’m better off after a bit of gentle encouragement and compassion – all the better if it has come from myself.
How do you promote your work?
Through my website, internet directories and also by sending out mini brochures of my work to various people. Marketing isn’t my strong point, and I think if I was more confident I would probably have more success, but when you work for yourself you have to have so many different hats that it’s easy to stick to the things you find easiest and bury your head in the sand a bit when it comes to the more difficult things!
Any other comments or advice for others who want to try making hand-pulled prints?
Enjoy the playing side of it – like a child I guess, try out different surfaces for making the image - and printing on too. Let curiosity guide you, and resist the urge to pass judgement on your work as it will stifle the creative flow.