I am an intaglio printmaker
My work is primarily concerned with the relationships between landscape and the human being. I am most interested in mankind’s effect on the landscape and the passage of time.
Topography and geography are my prime focus. From drawing the landscape and being out in the elements I have developed an interest in the layering of the land. There is often evidence, albeit very subtle, of things that have occurred in a particular place at a
particular juncture in history. For example the “scar” left by a building long gone or an ancient foot path trodden by people or animals for centuries. In some of my pieces a type of cartography developed as I put my “mind’s eye” above the area of interest. I began
“mapping” the chosen subject, the aerial and ground view are both visible in some pieces.
From “mapping” the chosen subject area made me curious about movement and how I could incorporate that into the prints and drawings I make. I consider elements like how the wind affects the growth of trees, or how water will find its natural path; and then of course the
direction of the water itself, or the movement of a crop blown by the wind.
Whilst studying in London I became fascinated by the townscape and in particular the movement of traffic. To me the road ways and public transport systems are the “arteries” of an urban area. This has led me to a comparison between these roadways and the transport system in our bodies, the movement of blood within us and how it keeps us functioning at every level.
Color is a very important element and I have adopted a particular type of key. Ochres and blues define land, water and light. Reds denote blood, skin and transport and direction. Metallic pigments describe fire, earth and elements hidden underground. Greens appear seldom, and I use them to describe the more unusual surfaces such as rocks or fossils and usually in combination with a warm complimentary color.
Intaglio is an Italian word to describe the cutting or making of grooves in a plate that will be printed from. Ink is applied onto the plate and pushed into the grooves, then the surface is wiped; so that when damp paper is put on the plate and the whole thing is put through
an etching press, the lines appear on the paper and a print is made.
It is possible to etch many different metals and materials .My personal favorite metal plate is copper. It is a very malleable metal. I also work with steel on occasions too. Because copper is so malleable I have enjoyed bringing the practice of mezzotint to some of my prints.
Mezzotint is a way to make deep velvety blacks in image; it can also make very rich color areas. It is a form of engraving so no grounds or mordents are used in the process. The plate is rocked with a tool that creates a series of grooves across the surface of the plate; the plate
is then burnished back to varying degrees to create the image. Usually with mezzotint one works from black to white rather than drawing
with line and adding tone later as would happen in etching. Preparing a mezzotint plate is very time consuming, and very often I bring mezzotint to a plate after I have etched it to create an area of rich dark instead of using aquatint. There is a juxtaposition of deep
etched line and soft rich tones.
The primary intaglio method I use to make my prints is collagraph. Collagraph is a process that uses found materials collaged together on a base plate to create the surface. For example the base plate area maybe something as simple as cardboard; then a textural surface is “built” on the plate with any materials that will adhere to the surface using glues or varnishes. The plate can be heavily worked, both by adding and taking away materials on the surface. Before the plate is ready for the first inking it has to be sealed and dried thoroughly. Lino also makes an excellent foundation for collagraph. It can also be “etched” and cut in combination with collagraph. Carborundum is one of my primary materials to bring into the collograph process; this a tough grit that comes in many different sizes from coarse to fine. It can be applied in many ways including mixing with glues and painted on the plate surface or by simply applying the glue in lines or broad areas and dropping on the plate. The excess can be removed after the glue has dried. Carborundum can hold a lot of ink therefore creating very rich areas of tone and color.
My first introduction to collagraph was by etching lino whilst I studied at Canterbury College of Art. I was so excited by the possibilities of this material as an etching plate. It was so tough yet pliable; it can tolerate endless reworking and is perfect for large scale printing plates. Sometimes over etching the lino either by accident or by design has led me to the most incredible discoveries in terms of the finished piece.
Collagraphs and etched lino both have a very “organic” element which for me fit perfectly with the subject matter that interests me. I am able to create a very tactile and textural surface. Both the matrix plates and the finished works are very much three dimensional.
Paper is a very important part of the printmaking process as it is the surface that receives the image from the plate: the print. As my collographs are so heavily worked and the paper is so deeply embossed, I prefer heavier weight papers. For etching and mezzotint lighter print papers suffice.
Making my own paper has become part of my artistic journey too. Not only do I have the ability to custom make the size, texture and color for any particular piece, it also lends itself perfectly to the deep intaglio of the plates I create. My own hand made papers are very pliable and can be pushed deep into the groves when put through the etching press. Although the paper I make appears somewhat thick and sturdy it has the element of fragility especially when damp. Some happy accidents have occurred due to this and led to new paths being explored. I enjoy the unpredictability of printmaking very much as one never knows what you will get until you take the print out of the press. Some of the papers I have made remind me of skins or hides which is very appropriate for my imagery.
It is the general rule that original prints are made to be part of a numbered edition for sale. Because of the experimental nature of my work and the unpredictable outcome described above, I rarely make large editions. I prefer to call them “suites” as there is usually only two or three prints and they can vary considerably. There may be several images from the same plate but all of them might be different in so much as they may be on handmade paper or fragments of paper that can be pieced together to make a whole. Sometimes I bring
the practice of chine- colle into the prints; sometimes I change the color slightly both in the ink and the paper used. Sometimes I even break the plate up or just print sections of it. So for me the edition or suite are prints made from the same plate, just no wholly identical in size or shape. There are exceptions to this; the plates I make as copper etchings are larger editions and are numbered in the traditional way.