I came to being an artist in my 50s after spending 30+ years in and around local government. I’ve always taken photographs, but after redundancy and a spell of ill health I wanted to do something for me. I say ‘being an artist’ but that’s a phrase I still have trouble with. I have no formal training in art of any sort. I’ve been on a few photography courses and a couple of painting days and even a writing workshop, but can I use the title ‘artist’?
I’m a poor judge of my own work but getting it into positions where it can be seen – and I suppose ‘validated’ – is hard for any artist, but when you are also getting on in years and in intermittent poor health it is harder still. If you have limited mental and physical energy you have to give first priority to getting through the day. Making work comes next and putting it out there can come a poor third. That’s the wrong way round I know, but you become an artist to make art, not to be a salesman.
I don’t know the answer to this. To paraphrase the old philosophical riddle, “If you make art but no one sees it, is it still art?”
After setting this blog up last year I’ve finally come back to it and worked out how to post!
Because of the COVID-19 lockdown I haven’t been able to use the studio at a local college as I have been for several years now. I have a press of my own, but I enjoyed the social contact and the sharing of ideas you get in a shared workspace. At the same time I’ve had foot problems that stopped me standing at the press. So I went back to using a gel plate and since the end of March I’ve managed to get in at least one day, usually two in the spare room I use as a home studio.
I’ve made monotypes before of course, using oil based inks and an acetate sheet as a plate. This is a slower process to gel printing, especially when you share press time. Gel printing has been I suppose a release. It uses acrylic paints so drying time is much quicker, so encouraging me to work fast and be less fussy. I spent quite a while last year, when I had similar health issues, making a large number of small 7″x5″ prints, experimenting with colour palettes, with registration, with ways of using opaque and transparent colours in layers and with ways to apply the paint to the plate and to vary the marks and textures produced.
This year I’ve gone up in scale, after acquiring 12″ x 12″ and a 12″ x 14″ plates. (The makers are US based, hence the use of inches rather than cm/mm) The change of scale has allowed bigger, bolder approaches but these larger pieces also feel ‘more serious’ if that’s the right expression. Certainly the 5″x7″ prints feel more like studies and of course that’s how I approached them.
I read somewhere that the artist Wilhemina Barns-Graham described the screen prints she made at the end of her life as being like ‘slow motion painting’ and that seems to apply even more to gel printing. It Screen printing seems to have released for her a flood of creativity in those final years and that also strikes a chord with me. The time since March has been probably one of the most creative periods of my life, a period when after 25 years I feel as if I’ve finally stopped dabbling. I’m not her age, not yet anyway, but I certainly have many more years behind me than there are ahead! So this sudden burst of creativity means a lot to me. As things stand there are over 40 prints completed and which I am willing to put my name to. I’ve posted them on Instagram and Facebook and they seem to be liked. Sadly the Covid Lockdown means opportunities to show them are even harder to find than usual for someone like me, but I’ll persist.