Back Then

January 1, 2018 by Emma Davies   Comments (0)

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I have realised how much I have missed printmaking. Why has it taken me so long?

I do know.

When you leave the comforts of University with all of it's facilities, at first it doesn't seem like that much of a wrench; as you are embarking on the next stage of your artistic journey (over used word I know) so in part, it is quite exciting as you are full of ideas and visions as to how your work might progress. 

However, as the years go by, you find that you have established a practice that is quite different to the one you had anticipated as you have navigated around NOT having the facilities that you had at university - i.e. the print room, the woodwork room, the editing suites. As these are not readily at your disposal once you have left. 

However - this is coming from a 40+ year old, who when graduating way back in 1993, the internet, mobile phones and all these technological gadgets like digital camera's and sound recording equipment etc that one can now buy through Amazon - well none of that existed. So, to access our information as to where we might access any form of technical help, we had a PRINTED copy of A-N sent to us every month and we relied very heavily on word of mouth, leaflets and art magazines. Now - well - you just 'google it'. I sound like I have just emerged from the dark ages - I can assure you that I have not been living under a rock for the last 25 years, BUT 

Back, then, when we all left university, we had to keep in touch via the TELEPHONE and WRITING LETTERS. Who'd have though it! So, keeping in touch and keeping or establishing networks, was very difficult. Especially, when, on my financial knees, I had to move out of the city and into rural Northamptonshire to live in a house with free rent (long story).

And thus began my 'lost years' as an artist. I had fits and starts and a few successes and became quite known locally for my landscape and figurative work. However, I knew that drawings and paintings, framed and hung on a wall, was not the whole me, not even close. When studying for my degree, I would say that I probably had the most radical approach to my practice out of my cohort. Not the most skilled, or consistent, but I revelled in being non conformist and pushing the boundaries. The network was there to encourage me to do this. The travel, the questioning from tutors, the visits to galleries. It all helped. And my rebelliousness.

Rural communites don't take to radical ideas too well (well they didn't then, things have eimproved since then), so my audience for that was non existant. I began to drift into being a very confused artist, trapped by circumstance, trapped by the untruth that to be a successful artist, one has to 'sell' work. By thinking, 'will this sell', immediately strangles any intuitive and experimental thoughts out of ones mind. Art becomes a product. It limits.

I also became a parent. Mum's and Tot's groups, Primary Schools, local parent networks, embarrased child - not conducive to boundary pushing. I tried it once,local school visit to my studio, my daughters class, aged 11, pre teen - she did not want me talking about a nude self portrait and how it symbolised fertility and ageing in women. But talk I did. She's never forgiven me. 

Now of course, aged 17, she's all about boundary pushing, so 'I'm free, free who I want to be' (cue an iconic 1990's Manchester track). It hasn't been that cut and dry - ever since 'nude self- portrait gate', I have been edging forward, poking my boundary pushing stick now and then. So, in a nutshell and as a very rough estimate, I had about 10 years being lost, about 10 years finding my way back and then particulary over the last five years, my work has begun to get back to a place, a direction where I think it ought to be. And I am defintely much more clued up than when I left university. As I have lived and breathed surviving as an artist and navigated many of the pitfalls along the way. 

My network is now expansive - and crucial. Friends and colleagues who are on similar wavelengths and who can question my work. An audience that can stretch internationally (thank you social media) and the opportunity to build upon my contacts daily. Impossible back then. The facilities issue can still be problematic. I have used printmaking in my practice away from the print room - as you are forced to investigate more domestic techniques - a rolling pin, and blistering my hands through applying pressure was my strategy. However AA2A enables you to access equipment (printing in this case) that will produce work that would be impossible using soley basic techniques. 

I was going to talk about the processes that I am working through in the print room, as I am fully immersed in it - and am becoming addicted once again - to all it's idiosynchrosies (sp?) and nerve wracking moments, but I got side tracked by asking myself why it had taken me so long.

I shall endevour to do that next time.



Back in the Print Room after 20 years.

November 21, 2017 by Emma Davies   Comments (0)



A couple of weeks ago I had my 'refresher' course in the print room led by the brilliant Kevin Holdaway. An 'action packed' hour, crammed with instructions, hints and tips. I frantically tried to write down everything thing he said as we went along, as I did not want to break or ruin any equipment. I then went off for lunch to compose myself and gather my thoughts.

It really is a case of going for it. But sensibly (as in when attempting anything new and long forgotten). I took a deep breath and centered my paper. I followed each and every instruction. Kevin was trying very hard not to directly watch me as he was being busy around the print room, while I was trying not to look an idiot in front of the two students who were very competent around the equipment. I fessed up to one of the students - 'I am just going to watch you and do what you are doing!' 

I am screen printing.

The first muck up was that either I a. didn't add the mixer to the ink or b. I didn't add enough pressure. Either way - I know for next time. I'll do both.

As I got the hang of it my confidence grew. It's like riding a bike Kevin said. You'll never forget. By the end of the session my body was maneovering around the equipment like it was yesterday and I was a lot younger. It reminded me of muscle memory. Place my hips here, stand like this, stretch my arms there, put this amount of pressure on now, flick this like that......

Here is a list of things that I did:

Applied a ground coat of ink.

Applied a second coat - but rough, so it's mottled.

Made stensils of words from newsprint.

Centered them on the paper and ran over third colour.

I am making protest posters. These particular ones will be as my own fine art prints,  inspired by protest posters made by participants during the pilot of the participatory project 'You Can't Shake Hands with a Clenched Fist'.  

The next time I am in the print room is tomorrow. 

My plan is: Experiment mixing my own colours. Create some new grounds. Make new stensils. Experiment with layers of colour - see what works. Practice with the watercolour crayons - do they create the effect that I am looking to acheive? 

My first task is finding the same screen and remembering how to attach it - and if I can't, taping up my own screen to the size I need it. Hopefully there will be a student in there again to come to my rescue..... 

And if I could work out how to put images on this blog I would show you the results....