All I got for Christmas…Looking forward to a creative 2023

I got 250 sheets of Five Seasons Paper. I might have dropped a massive hit complete with link but my Secret Santa got it spot on. I’ve only recently become aware of this paper when artist Charles Shearer,  gave a talk on his work to Cowprint Artists Group – he produces monoprints and collagraph prints and often using Five Seasons Paper. When I’m monoprinting I always got the best results with newsprint paper, but newsprint paper isn’t acid-free and certainly isn’t archival. I’ve seen claims treated that it can last up to 50 years, but mine yellows and becomes brittle within a year. Great, for playing, experimentation and test prints, but little else. I think its cheapness is an asset because I’m not too precious or cautious. Five seasons paper isn’t just affordable it’s made from 100% recycled paper,  another plus. This paper is only suitable for dry/flat printing, so less texture, shallower plates.  I’m looking forward to experimenting and to the Cowprint workshop with Charles Shearer.

The Story of Art Without Men by Katy Hessel was another gift, which has also led me to the podcast The Great Women Artists. I’m not even sure how this one passed me by, but I’m currently on catch-up. The book intro asked how many of a number of female artists were we familiar with, and I pretty smugly thought I’m gonna know most of these. In truth, I was only familiar with a few. In my defence, I would say I’m pretty hot on female artists from the 60’s onwards. History needs to be reconsidered, rewritten, and re-interrupted not just for gender, but for everyone who has been othered. Race, Ethnicity, Culture, Class.

I can imagine the likes of Piers and Jeremy rolling their eyes. Political correctness gone mad! I remember the stigma attached to the label ‘feminist’, way back in the eighties, but we’ve come a long way baby! The toxic masculinity decrying the snowflakes of today-  I wish this was their swan song but sadly, it feels like everything thing is polarising. Art is an important tool of resistance – because it asks us to think, to feel, to empathise, to experience. It’s a gateway to understanding not just ourselves, but others and the world. But with the ‘cultural vandalism’ of arts funding cuts, this sadly may not be available in the wider community or even in schools. There are plenty more opinionated middle-classed, straight, white men willing to defend the status quo, so maybe 2023 is the year to get involved in challenging it.

Cowprint Artists Group & 20:20

I came to Cowprint Artists’ Group through studying printmaking courses at Red Hot Press in Southampton. Sadly, both Red Hot Press and Badger Press, my local printmaking open-access studios have closed in the last few years. This pushed me to become a more active and engaged member of Cowprint Artist Group – the Southampton-based Artist/Printmaker group originally affiliated with Red Hot Press. It’s been great to learn about other members and visiting artists’ practices, to get tips on printing-making materials and methods. And as always you get out of something that you put into it.  Cowprint is currently exhibiting at Southampton City Gallery until 4th February 2023. Celebrating 10 years of Cowprint Artist group, there’s a wide range of styles and printmaking methods, including a collagraph from myself. I also took part in the 20:20 Print Exchange. This is an international print exchange coordinated by Manchester-based print studio, Hot Bed Press. It’s been going on for 13 years. I think a studio needs 10 members to participate, each artist has to produce an edition of 25 prints on 20cm x 20cm paper. In return they receive a box set of 19 randomly picked prints and one of their own. My print runs are usually no more than 10, and I found it challenging. I don’t often work at such a small scale – apart from my coffee cup collagraph prints. I decided to produce a drypoint print and ordered my copper plates. On the third plate, I etched something I was happy with. With no local open-access printmaking studios, printing making has become more problematic. The Portable Printing Press I’d bought during lockdown was great for collagraph, but I struggled to get the consistency of mark-making, of the depth of colour from my drypoint plate. I eventually got to 10 good prints from about 30 attempts, by which time I’d decided that I no longer liked this plate! The coffee cup collagraph plates were too small for the 20cm x 20cm size, but too big to get two of three plates well placed in those dimensions. So I tried the base of a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream carton( if you have a better excuse for eating ice cream I’d like to hear it.) This worked really well on the Portable Print Press. However, inking up the plates, gave a very varied outcome in colourways. Revisiting these now, a varied edition would have been fine, but I was struggling to amass enough that I was completely happy to put my name to. Producing 25 identical prints was problematic for me. I decided that swimming against the tide wasn’t getting me far.  I produced 25 monoprints entitled ‘heads’. I checked the rules, monoprints are acceptable. This process really got me to push myself to learn the in’s and out’s of my portable press. It’s also given me some ideas to explore this year. It’s also given me a set of 19 prints from other printmakers and having received them, I’m delighted. I’m also happy that I put the effort in to produce something I was happy with. I already have a few framed and on my wall. All 20 participating cowprinters collected their prints at our pre-Christmas gathering, so was great to see the wide range of artists’ styles, subject matters and printmaking methods. There’s a touring exhibition of the 20:20 print exchange – sadly Cowprint hasn’t a studio – but I’d love to see the whole array of prints. Receiving my 20;20 box of prints was like receiving another Christmas present.

New Ideas - Looking forward to 2023

For Christmas, I also got plenty of new ideas. So I’m going leaping into the New Year feeling excited, inspired, and motivated. I’m also feeling grateful for everyone who supported my creative practice in 2022.  Watch this space in 2023! Although I have a feeling of deja vu, did I say this at the beginning of 2022? I have put many studio hours in this year, and feel that my practice and my work is really moving on. Reviewing my work from this year and considering how to go forward with it, has been really useful. It’s great having that lull time just before and after Christmas. When else do you get the time to ponder life, and art and how many After Eights you can eat in a day? I’d recommend a fresh pair of eyes over your sketchbooks, and discarded ideas – things you’ve abandoned or rejected – maybe you were hasty? I’m considering how to take it to the next step. I’m looking forward to my Cowprint Artists Workshop with Charles Shearer in February. To evolve my collagraph prints. I’ve got about a dozen paintings underway. I was hoping to get involved in a Printmaking Cooperative and get studio access, but I’m not sure that will happen, so I need to look at Portsmouth print studio maybe? I would love to do some etching again. But I’ve got plenty to be getting on with.  I can also work with materials that work well with the press and the tools I have. However, I could do with a big fat juicy new roller for my birthday if anyone needs a hint! I may decry capitalism, but I’m a sucker for a new bit of art kit.

I moved to Hamble on the outskirts of Southampton in late 2018, and was just starting to find my feet when lockdown stole 2021. Obviously, 2021 still happened, but it was for me (and probably you) a pretty insular experience. It carved a furrowed path that I’ve had to make conscious efforts to break out from in 2022.  Hamble is a beautiful village, with beautiful walks, plenty of good pubs and places to eat, there’s even a supermarket – working from home these days, it would be easy never to leave the village! This has just reminded me of something else I got for Christmas –  a copy of the 2023 Hamble Lifeboat Calendar, in which I was one of the artists featured.  Hamble Lifeboat is an independent lifeboat station, which completely relies on fundraising.

Looking forward to getting back into the studio, starting tomorrow. I’ve got back into life drawing – in person rather than via zoom. Courses coming up, Exhibitions to prepare for, Exhibitions to visit, ideas to explore. I’d better get on with 2023.








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