Saturday, 24 March 2012

residency at Katherine Lady Berkley

I had a great week as artist in residency at Katherine Lady Berkley school. This is an image of a selection of lino prints some of the year 9's produced during a day long masterclass i ran. The students brought along photos they wanted to work from, and i had them drawing from the image, reworking the shapes with a thought towards the marks you might make in the lino. Finally we talked about hand burnishing the prints and printed the lino with watercolour ink. None of the students had done lino printing before, and i was really impressed with the work they produced. 

I was working with classes of year 9 to year 13. As well as the masterclasses this I did talks and demonstrations about my own work and influences and did short classes getting the students to experiment relief prints and scalpel sketches, I also did some one on one tutorials with students. I was also lucky to join a year 10 graphics trip to Slimbridge wildlife centre where the students were doing observational drawing and researching logo designs in the cafe there.

Monday, 19 March 2012

On the importance of drawing to Process 1

This last week I’ve been the artist in residence at Katherine Lady Berkley school. There’s a certain atmosphere in schools; must be something they put in the walls or that everything is slightly smaller. I really didn’t enjoy going to school when I was younger. I found it uninspiring  and restrictive. However, I really enjoyed my week at KLB, it’s got great facilities and the students and staff were enthusiastic. Part of my role there was to talk to the students about my practice, and I wanted to use this opportunity to reflect on my methodology, and how I think about and generate my art.

I think one area of my practice that I’ve naturally gravitated towards in these talks has been the important role that drawing plays in my work. It always seems to be a cornerstone in any concept I want to develop. Over the course of the weeks I saw patterns growing in the repetition of my presentations. One of these was that I regularly told the students about the different types of drawing I do; from observation, memory, imagination, copying other artists drawings looking at technique and drawing from multimedia resources like the internet. I really wanted to emphasis how useful it is to tap into all of these inputs, both in terms of technique and utilising the breadth of material out there.

It’s also important to feel comfortable drawing and a big part of that is having a good sketchbook. When I was at school there was a tendency for students to dislike sketchbook, because it felt like a chore. So I showed them some of my sketchbooks which kind of double as notebooks and are probably the only really anal part of my practice. I think in my mind it’s a bit like Indiana Jones’ notebook, but I like to romanticise everything… In fact today- as I type- is the first time I’ve left my Dec-Feb notebook at home and I do feel slightly exposed in a weird way. But, the point I wanted to make to the students is that in order to keep a sketchbook it’s important to find a format that works for you. I use a6 size Seawhite fake moleskins, and I’ve found that that size and design suit my purposes and I have one on me most of the time, and in that way it has become a very accessible document for me.

This week I’ve spent time thinking about my scalpel sketches (see my flickr account for images) and how they represent a progression in my drawing. It’s been the first time I’ve had a chance to reflect on them. What is the relationship between a papercut and a drawing? 

Monday, 5 March 2012

the myth of Karl Schmidt-Rottluff

I was first introduced to the German Expressionist Karl Schmidt-Rottluff by my old tutor, who told me how the artist would sit on the troop train during the first world war carving into his woodblocks; looking out of the window at the broken landscape as it rolled by. This is emphasised by the roughness and energy we can see in his subsequent prints. Now, through my own research I've found no evidence what so ever that this is true and i suspect my tutor heard it from a bloke in the pub. However this myth, has lived on in my imagination.

I think there is a certain romance that comes to mind with the combination of travel and creativity. Look at the folk singer, sleeping rough on a goods train, trekking across the states, overseeing the open empty space as it chugs by. Absorbing the rythm of the rails. What's that quote about the artist just passing through? Regurgitating what he can see or feel. Both part of the space and separate to it.

Then we have the jump from conceptual movement to the physical movement in making. Like the strings on the battered old acoustic guitar Schmidt-Rottluff plucks away with his knife, he cuts and gauges. Excavating the scene, exposing his composition. Invigorated by the ruins of war, the terror the distress. Around him the smells, the noise. The soldiers fear as they move into battle. Shells explode overhead. The wooden carriage creaks, and he keeps digging, lost in his imagination.

Then in printing, we see these marks transposed onto paper. The artists working out. Spade marks. Rough, dirty, human, real. There's no perfection here, not in the hell of war. In the trenches, in the dark train carriage. Fear and death matted in his hair and under his finger nails. 

This is a link to some of Schmidt-Rottluff's work in the MOMA collection:

Thursday, 1 March 2012

What is the importance of the process in printmaking?

The other day I was talking to a researcher in the print research department at UWE, discussing the finer points of registration for relief printmaking and, looking at his preparatory notes I said that I didn’t tend to bother planning or being careful when I was doing my own work.

This had led me to think about the role of process in my practice. Is it important for the printmaker to plan every detail of their next run ahead? Why is planning and preparation important in printmaking? Is there something to be said for going gun-ho into a print job or is that just careless?