Thursday, 23 July 2015

Kiss of the Henchspider

I've come to the conclusion that life is going to be stupidly busy for the foreseeable future so if I'm going to get any artwork done, I'm really going to have to push myself. My creative output has been ridiculously low over the last couple of years and I'm fed up with that.

So, whilst working on the current (very time-consuming and knotty) freelance project, I've managed to spit this etching out in what for me is double quick time.

The Henchspider is companion to the Harpy and works alongside my Requires Improvement print; they all go together really and are concerned with the same themes. The things that stop us doing what we should be doing. Those who are familiar with my work over a number of years will have spotted that the Datamonger is back... It's a bit like EastEnders when old characters return... Watch out to see who else pops up from the past.

Friday, 5 June 2015

James Gillray: etcher and satirist

It was the two hundredth anniversary of the death of James Gillray this week. Gillray was one of the leading political cartoonists of the 18th Century and so good at it was he that his images are still influencing cartoonists today. Many since have paid homage to one of his most famous images, The Plumb-pudding in danger, which depicts William Pitt and Napoleon Bonaparte carving up the globe as though it was a joint of meat. Steve Bell paid tribute with an updated version in the Guardian this week; The Baked Bean in danger, replacing Pitt with David Cameron and Napoleon with Nicola Sturgeon.

Gillray was an etcher (which makes him even more interesting to me) and sold his prints from Mrs Humphrey’s Print Shop. Miss Hannah Humphrey, publisher and print seller, is another fascinating character; unconventional (for those times) in business as in her personal life, taking risks in both. She and Gillray lived together above the shop which occupied three different locations during its existence. Apparently, they trooped off to church to get married on a couple of occasions but Gillray thought better of it on the way. Here’s an interesting blog about Mrs H. I would like to know more about her. I feel I’m rather doing her down by mentioning her living arrangements rather than focusing on her business acumen… I’ll come back to that in a future post.

Gillray’s final years weren’t cheery ones. When his eyesight began to fail, he wasn’t able to produce work of sufficient quality to satisfy his exacting standards. He became depressed, began to drink and descended into madness, producing no further etchings in his last few years. Ever devoted, Mrs H looked after him until he died in 1815, following him to the eternal print shop shortly after in 1818. Maybe this is a cautionary tale for etchers… though I guess there wasn’t much he could have done about his eyesight back then. We are much more fortunate these days with modern medicine and technology. It does worry me as I get older though, and now that I have to have special glasses to work on etching plates...

There is an element of satire in my last PB print, Requires Improvement (petty bureaucracy and the things that stop us doing what we should be doing). I’m not sure that it’s necessarily political, though it does deal in part with the insane burdens placed on local government by central government agencies. My next print will be more of a social satire – if that’s a thing. Watch out for the henchspider… don’t get trapped in his web.

 James Gillray ~ Two-penny whist. 
 Mrs Humphrey modelled for one of the women in this etching

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Everyone has to deal with a harpy at some point

It's true isn't it. We'd rather it wasn't but it's a fact; each of us, at some point in life, will be beset by the sharp-clawed, pendulous-bosomed, winged demon that for a period of time will make life miserable. This is my way of dealing with it; turn her into an etching.

This particular harpy had a henchspider who was even more annoying. I feel another etching coming on...


Good review of Scratching the Surface here at the Winchester School of Art Library Blog. Thank you Stephii Baker.

The exhibition is on until 16 June so still time to see it!

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

It's up!

After all the months of hard work and preparation, Scratching the Surface is up. We hung the show last Tuesday - Sarah, Sheila, Deb and myself. It took longer than we thought it would; 42 prints fitted into a tricky space like a giant jigsaw. It's always the same - you start off by thinking you're never going to be able to fit it all in, but we always manage somehow.


Hanging an exhibition is always fun, if a little stressful at times. We were racing against the clock by the end of the afternoon; the last wall was hung in record time. We're all very pleased with how it looks though.

The private view was well attended and the show is on until 16 June. Wander along and have a look.

Scratching the Surface
Jewry Street gallery
The Art Cafe
De Lunn Buildings

Friday, 1 May 2015

Guest blogging

This week I'm guest blogging for Red Hot Press. We're hanging Scratching the Surface next week so Katherine and Sarah asked me if I'd say something about preparing for the exhibition. You can read it here. And of course, please join us at the private view on Thursday 7 May from 7 to 9pm. The exhibition continues until 16 June.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Cowprint postcard exchange

 Over a period of about six months, Cowprint members sent art through the mail; image relays in postcard form. Each handmade work of art was inspired by the image and text of the previous and became part of a circular chain, ending where they began - with the two artists who started them. The postcards are currently on display at Red Hot Press.

Participating artists:

Linda Bennett
Deb Boultwood
Jenny Goodhand
Sheila Lockyer
Jutta Manser
Jo Price
Jenny Rickman
Maureen Riley
Irene Smith
Naomi Thorne
Tim Watson

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Visit to a local printmaker

Jo Barry ~ Water Meadows

Last week, along with some fellow Cowprinters, I had the privilege of visiting the studio of Jo Barry. Jo, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers, lives in the New Forest which inspires her to produce rich, atmospheric landscapes full of light. She captures the beauty of her surroundings in her etchings, drawings and watercolours, often depicting early morning scenes captured whilst out walking her dogs.

Jo Barry ~ Music of the trees at dawn

Jo was very generous with her time and, as well as telling us about her career over the years, showed us how she makes, inks and prints her plates. It's fascinating to watch other artists work; everyone has different ways of carrying out each stage so you can learn some useful tips too.

Jo Barry ~ Glorious light
It was a most enjoyable morning spent with a very welcoming and interesting printmaker. Check out Jo's website here.

Jo Barry ~ Heaven peeps through the blanket of the dark

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Lessons from comedy

I've just been reading Paul Merton's autobiography which came out last year. What's the life of a comedian got to do with art? Quite a lot actually. 

It's not a well written book but I like the chap and it's how he speaks so you can read it in his voice and it doesn't grate or bore. And it's a really good account of how a comic starts out and builds a successful career. It's clear he was pretty single-minded and determined to be in comedy from a young age (he read all the biographies available and collected silent films of stars such as Buster Keaton) and is highly analytical in his approach to his craft. He familiarises himself with the venue thoroughly before he goes on, assesses the audience by watching their reactions during the acts before his own (and during his performance of course) and he reflects at length on all his performances, analysing what worked and what didn't. 

It seems obvious now - being a comedian is no different than any other creative pursuit. It takes the same dedication, motivation, determination, reflection and hard work that art or writing or music take. Merton gave up his job in the Civil Service at 22 to live on the dole in a depressing bedsit so he could write comedy. He and his writing partner John Irwin treated it like a nine to five job; in other words, they put in the hours and gave themselves a routine (for the day /week I mean). 

This reinforced my own thoughts about my current situation. I had a fairly strict routine when I worked at the council; necessary in order to manage the demands of the job, caring for the Aged P, Cowprint, teaching and my own creative practice. Now that I no longer have the Monday, Wednesday and Friday at work, where I have to be in a certain place between the hours of 9am and 5pm, routine has gone out the window. I am all over the place. This isn't good for me or the Aged P who has dementia. So, routines need to be established and devising them is top of my list for this week.

Sunday, 12 April 2015


It's been good to have a couple of days in the studio this weekend; all that essay-writing and data work was sapping my creativity. I'm now thinking about monoprinting and preparing for a course I'll be teaching soon so here are a couple of direct monoprints of Netley Abbey, a late mediaeval monastry, now just ruins, fairly near here. I had fun with the old stonework in this technique... suits it quite well I think. These were very quick to do, just a couple of hours each, so a change from etching which always seem to take me months to finish.

Friday, 10 April 2015

Scratching the Surface

At Cowprint last week, we had an interesting session looking at and selecting work for Scratching the Surface, a Red Hot Press members' exhibition of etching and drypoint. Some lovely work... it's going to be a good show. Plus we are very lucky to have Ali Yanya, drypoint master, showing with us too. Private view on Thursday 7 May from 7pm to 9pm. Come along and see what it's all about.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

After the storm

There hasn't been a whole lot of blogging going on this year so far. Having left the Countarium in January, I immediately started a short but very intense teaching course so have been up to my ears in learning and teaching theory, micro-teaches, coursework and assignments for the last three months almost. Having been teaching for years, I thought it was about time I got a qualification in it. Handed my portfolio in on Monday so just waiting to hear if I've passed...

There really hasn't been time for new artwork but I have managed to finish off Requires Improvement (or petty bureacracy and the things that stop us doing what we should be doing) so that's ready to be framed for our Scratching the Surface special at Cowprint next week.

There are a few interesting creative things coming up over the next few months; postcard exchange exchibition in April, Scratching the Surface in May, a monoprinting workshop in June and the possibility of a Cowprint show in the Autumn. There may well be some interesting developments on the teaching front too but that's up in the air at the moment. I hope to have plenty to blog about over the coming months so keep watching this space.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Cowprint Postcard Exchange

Linda Bennett

Cowprint met for our first session of 2015 last week. We started the year well by finishung a project started last summer; a postcard exchange. We drew names from  hat and selected two people to start off a chain each. Those two made a postcard, wrote something on the back and sent it to the person they had drawn. That person then made another postcard and wrote on it, responding to the image and words on the card they had received, and sent it to the person they had drawn... and so on until the two people whi started the chains each received a card.

We're hoping the review the complete chains at next month's meeting so we can see if the images and words following a logical progression. In the meantime, here's a selection.
Irene Smith

Jenny Rickman

Sheila Lockyer

Jenny Goodhand
Tim Watson
Jo Price

Friday, 16 January 2015

Henry Moore Prints

Goodness, here we are half way through January already and I'm only just writing my first blog post of the year. There's been very little art in my life over the last couple of months. Work has been all consuming and what time there's been away from it has been taken up with caring responsibilities and Christmas prep. New year, new outlook however. New start in fact. Last week, I hung up my abacus and left the data factory for good. Mixed feelings about it but that's another blog post.

So, back to the art, now that I (temporarily) have more time. On Wednesday I was in Winchester for a meeting at the Art Cafe about an exhibition we're having there later this year. The cafe is just opposite the Winchester Gallery so I took the opportunity to pop in and check out the current exhibition - Henry Moore Prints. I'm not a fan of his sculptures particularly but there are some lovely prints in the show, which consists of mostly lithographs. Many are monochrome but some use two or more colours in a really subtle way. I particularly liked Minerva, Prometheus and Pandora, a lithograph from 1950; I'm thinking about Greek myth a lot at the moment.

Moore really uses the different effects achievable with lithograph; Lullaby (above) is a good example. I don't know how it's done, some kind of oil and water resist maybe, but the background of the image has a wonderful stony texture. The sleeping figure emerges out of the stone, almost like one of his sculptures. All the forms in his prints have that weight and solidity so characteristic of his sculptures.

The show is on until 31 March.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods

Big changes are afoot... BIG changes. It's sad and exciting and scary all at the same time and whilst I'd rather not be experiencing this change right now, it's kind of necessary and unavoidable. Apologies for the crypticness of this post; don't feel able to say too much about the situation just at the moment.

Creative time has been pretty thin on the ground over the last few weeks. This is not a cheery thing and I am feeling exhausted and diminished. Hopefully this will be rectified soon though and I'll get my creative mojo back again. I have three projects to work on so it'll be good to get stuck in to those once Christmas is out of the way. May 2015 be a much better and creatively fruitful year!