Interviewed by withremote
I grew up in rural Oxfordshire surrounded by cows and lawnmowers. Then I went to art school in Sheffield, an industrial city in the north of England. At art school I made a video of Bill Clinton laughing on a 60 second loop and dabbled in painting. I spent a semester in Vancouver in my second year at art school, where I got into etching. After graduating I moved to Vancouver for a year, then London where I worked as a technician in an art gallery or five, continuing to make my own work sporadically. In 2001 I won an award which gave me free access to a printmaking studio in Oxford for one year, where I worked on a series of prints of wrestlers, then I joined East London Printmakers, where I still work. ELP is a printmaking cooperative with 30 keyholder members and 130 associate members. We run a printmaking studio and organise exhibitions, talks, events and so on. I also have a studio of my own where I draw and paint and procrastinate. That is my haven where I can let my imagination run riot without fear of judgement. Last summer I spent a month at Cork Printmakers in Ireland on a residency. I make a living from selling my work in exhibitions and on Etsy, teaching printmaking and doing commissioned illustrations. I have done two book covers so far, one for Penguin and one for Faber and Faber. This is something I want to pursue more seriously in the new year.
What printmaking medium do you most often work in, and why?
I make etchings, linocuts, woodcuts, wood engravings and screenprints. I like them all, and when I'm bored of doing one I switch to another! I draw all the time, and drawing is what connects all the work, as well as the fact that I tend to work in series.
How did you get started in printmaking?
I did some on my Foundation Art and Design course before I went to art school proper. I fell in love with etching and the richness of aquatint. I think etching attracts a certain kind of personality! Someone who is quite methodical and careful. However, I know a lot of really experimental, messy etchers, so maybe not... Anyway I fit into the former category.
Do you find yourself having to explain to your family just what it is that you do, at every family get-together? In other words, "print education"?
No, my Dad's an artist too, and both my parents have been very supportive. I do sometimes find myself explaining how I made a print to friends. Some of my friends have been on the workshops I teach and this makes them appreciate all the effort that goes into making a print!
Describe your creative process.
I scour the internet, second-hand shops, markets and museums for images which interest me. These are usually things which are a bit unusual in some way. Pictures of bearded men, wrestlers and hunters in particular. I then make drawings in my sketchbook. Some time later I'll go back and look at the images that interest me the most and develop them into prints. The nature of the image usually suggests which print process would be most suitable. For instance, if it's got lots of detail I'll make an etching, or if I want it to be big and colourful I'll do a screenprint.
What's your least favorite part of the process?
I actually love it all. Even the editioning! I get into a kind of a trance with it and it can very quite therapeutic, although that's not why I do it.
What inspires you?
I'm quite competitive, so if I see another artist's work I admire I'll want to do something as good if not better. I also find good movies inspiring, as well as good writing and music. In terms of what images inspire me, I'm really into old photos, wall charts and postcards. I collect educational and political posters so if I'm feeling bored I look through my collection for a boost of enthusiasm!
How has your work changed/evolved since you started?
It's constantly changing, although the longer I go on making things, the more I see connections in my work going way back to when I was a student. In each new piece I make, I try to challenge myself. For example, I might make the biggest etching I've ever done, or a screenprint with the most colours. I hope my work has improved, but
at the same time what I'm striving for is to recapture the sense of wonder I had as a kid. I use a lot of crayons and felt tip pens. In many ways I draw now the same way I did as a kid. I think it is so important to play. So many adults have lost the sense of what it is to play. You see that spark reignited in them when they are around a kid with a ball or whatever, but most of the time they're in this boring adult world. I'm lucky, I get to play and people sometimes end up buying the results of that!
How do you get past creative slumps?
The periods where I'm not feeling inspired are really tough. These can last from a few days to a few months! Whenever I think about giving it up I think about the alternatives and realise I've got it pretty good - I'm doing what I love and have immense freedom which you don't get in many other jobs!
How do you promote your work?
I exhibit in galleries, take part in craft fairs, try to improve my google ratings by posting my work in as many different places on the internet as possible. I always carry postcards to give to new people I meet and try to keep my mailing list up to date. One of the book cover illustrations I got was from someone I met at a Christmas fair and through Etsy I've got an exhibition in Germany as well as offers
from America. Basically, just putting it out there as much as possible!
Any long-term goals as a printmaker?
To make the perfect print. This is what I strive for every time I start a new one.
And anything else you'd like to add?