Friday, July 17, 2009

Printsy Interview - Jennifer Mackie


Between 1998 and 2003 I studied an undergraduate degree in Illustration and Printmaking and then a Masters Degree in Design. Since graduating I have taught at both college and university level. I live in a small village at the mouth of the river Tay in Scotland.

Printmaking was embedded in the undergraduate degree I undertook and although it was the illustration side of the course which initially attracted me I quickly came to love printmaking and have never looked back.

I am fortunate enough to have access to large printing presses through the local university so I can use them for the actual printing of my work and I have a (very) small space at home where I work also. I really enjoy that space, since it allows me to get up and walk away from my work when I need to but know that it is right there as I left it when I am ready to go back to it. Also I am lazy and hate clearing things away and this space means I can be messy and just claim that I am being creative.

I love relief print making, the first time I felt the thrill of peeling back the paper from the linoleum to view the image that I had made, after it had gone through the press, was so addictive I knew I would never grow tired of it.

I keep a sketchbook to hand at all times and all of my ideas, inspirations and insights are recorded in it. From there I select the images that I think will work as prints and develop them further if necessary. I transfer them on to linoleum using old fashion carbon paper, I can rarely get the composition exactly right otherwise and then something of the essence of the original drawing is lost.

Then I cut the linoleum but often add details at this stage which were not in my original drawings simply because they suggest themselves to me when I am working with the linoleum.

After all these years I still forget to reverse any lettering included in the print but I have learned to accept that it is all just part of my style

From there I ink up the piece of linoleum and print. Et Voila!

Well while I’m cutting I think that I love the cutting stage best. Then when I’m mixing inks or inking up I think that I love that stage best, and finally when I am doing the actual printing I think, oh no I love this bit best!

The truth is I love it all.

Except the cleaning up stage! Did I mention how messy I am?

I think that which inspires me most is story telling and narrative, both spoken and written. This probably stems from my love of stories, books and the types of illustrations, which accompany them. I love nothing better than finding a beautifully illustrated book or hearing a wonderful story.

I’d like to think that all of the time I am learning and advancing my craft. Occasionally I will finish a piece of work and feel that I did it to the best of my abilities and be very happy with it but usually I wonder if I had changed this or that would it have been more successful and this kind of questioning always propels me forward in my work.

I just let time take it’s course and find that although there are times when I am not very creative it passes and I seem to have renewed vigour. I always think it is kind of like a fermentation process and that every now and again I need to let things stew.

In general I don’t promote my work much, I am really hopeless at it. It is a wonder I sell a thing!

My advice to anyone who wants to try relief printmaking for the first time is have a go! It really is a very simple process and although you must be careful not to hurt yourself with the cutting tools (I have countless wee wounds on my fingers!) the results will be well worth it I assure you. There is something so immediate and rudimentary about relief print making it is very satisfactory.

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