So as you may well know, we’re leaving the UK on June 25th with a one way ticket to Canada, where we will be giving a new life a go on the IEC visa for the next 2 years. Months have melted into weeks and then soared into days, with that odd combination of time feeling simultaneously fast and slow.
It’s weird how May seemed so chilled. The end of June still seemed far enough away that we felt like we had forever to get everything sorted. I will admit though, towards the end of May I started having printmaking anxiety dreams. Dreams in which I arrived at the studio and all of the screens were strapped up ready to ship off, completely un-usable. And another one in which my rooster litho stone had, for some reason, been carved into as if it were a lino block – only leaving the lines raised, with the rest of the dream involving me struggling to make an edition. Niche anxiety dreams right? What happened to the teeth falling out or just endlessly falling?
Over the last week or so, that anxiety has gradually shifted into an interesting mix of acceptance and focus. I have managed to get my head around the fact that there just isn’t time to complete the multitude of projects that I have lined up in my head. This has allowed me to concentrate on a select few things – making a frame for the print I’m giving my cousin as a wedding gift; printing and framing a gift for my grandma; finally editioning the roster litho; and trying to use up any excess book cover screen prints and recycled paper folios that are still in my 2 plan chest drawers.
The result of this has been a very satisfying and productive last few days in the studio – having made over 40 sketchbooks, editioned the rooster, and made 4 frames for various people including my cousin and grandma.
Despite the stress of leaving such an amazing space and opportunity behind (albeit to pursue a lifelong dream) – I feel that being forced to let go a little bit over the last week or so has been a really valuable experience. Yes I will always strive to do more, and to do better – but sometimes you just have to go with what life gives you and mould yourself to it. Things don’t always have to come to fruition right now, because you can always find a way in the future if that’s what you need and want to do.
So since the move things have felt a little stagnant. Upheaval can really make it feel like you’ve hit the pause button within your personal life, while everything else races on around you. I don’t know where the last 2 weeks have gone! All I know is that my etsy is feeling a bit stale (although I did sell a bag last week), and that life is too short to get stuck in the oh-my-gods of a sideways shift in your day to day life.
Simply getting back in the studio last Tuesday to print labels for my bags was enough to get the ball rolling again. Sometimes you need something like that to force you back into action. So last week I spent Tuesday eve, Wednesday day and Thursday eve in the studio working on various bits and pieces – some etsy stuff, and some lithography. I managed to finally etch the 2nd colour layer for my white rooster commission, and after a few teething problems managed to get the main image layer printed on some paper samples I picked up from John Purcell Paper a couple of weeks ago.
I’m still new to lithography, so when the ink wouldn’t wash out of my closed stone I did feel a pang of anxiety! Paul assured me that the ink should still take, it just might take a little longer to get an evenly inked print. I spent 4 hours in the studio last Thursday, partly sorting out my new etsy packaging, but mostly stressing over getting my white rooster litho to print like it had before!
I’m so happy I’ve got the White Rooster proofed on a few different types of paper now, as it means I’m closer to getting the edition done. I tried out Fabriano artistico in traditional white in both 225 and 300gsm, Zerkall 902 smooth in 225gsm and Simili Japon in 225gsm. I think I’m going to go with the Simili Japon, top right in the picture above – it’s nice and smooth and is a lovely warm white, which I think suits the image better. So excited to be editioning my first lithograph!!!!
So in those times of self doubt, or when you’re hit by the need to create but there’s nothing coming to you, it can be really tough as a creative. I often have moments where the desire to make is overwhelming, but all my ideas have decided to desert me – which is ridiculously frustrating! There are also the times when the ideas are there, but because of external sources the mood just isn’t with you.
I’ve faced both within the last week or so, and have had to really push myself through both the internal and external difficulties – but it’s been worth it, and I feel like I’ve got a few good things on the go now that I can really get my teeth into.
There is alot to be said for putting the effort in despite yourself, pushing through when it feels like you can’t, and just blindly making when your mind is grey. Once you get past those moments of difficulty, you feel so much more powerful and accomplished. They will come back, and that is just part of being an artist (or any kind of creative being!!) It’s knowing that you’ve pushed through before that will help you push through again. Each time you do, you will find yourself stronger on the other side and more determined to keep doing what you’re doing.
Last week I’d gone to the studio after work with the express intent to just make something, but arrived and my mind was blank. All those ideas jotted down in notebooks, sketches and doodles of possible prints – it was like they’d never existed! I had a chat with some fellow printers, stared blankly at a table top for a bit – and then told myself ‘you’re here, you’ve made the effort to come, just get something done!’ The fact I was exhausted didn’t help. Up at 6:20, long as hell journey to work, 7 1/2 hour day, then studio….doesn’t make for the most actively creative mind, but then again I have heard it said that sometimes the best thing to do is work whilst you’re tired. So, I went onto my pinterest and had a look at my research boards, and I started drawing. I ended up staying at the studio until around 8pm – and although I didn’t do any printmaking, I did hash out a few pages of drawings and began to develop a new idea that I’m pretty excited about.
Fast forward to Wednesday, my new dedicated studio day (I went down to 4 days a week in January, with the idea that an increase in time to make work is worth the financial sacrifice of losing a day’s pay.) Horrendous journey across London into the studio – the Northern line suspended from south to central, multiple changes and delays and much under-my-breath swearing at the travel gods for smiting me so. I arrived at the studio in no mood to do anything, and found that the technician that had been helping me with my recent Lithography project had gone home as he’d not been feeling well.
Plans for the day scuppered. Nothing you can do. I hope he’s ok. It’s a shame he’ll miss his Spanish lesson this evening, he’s loving learning Spanish….Right….What now….
I took a deep breath, got out a couple of zinc plates that needed a ground put on, and decided to get to work on a raven print I’d been meaning to do for a while. I started by going through the motions of prepping my plates. They had some old ground on them, I got a rag and white spirit and it came off nice and easy. Then to de-grease….amonia, whiting and water, rubbed onto the plates with a bit of old press blanket until the water ran off in even cascades without repelling from the edges. Careful placement of tissue paper to dry. Then to the hot plate. I dig my nails into the 2 non-descript brown blocks to distinguish hard from soft, and place the hard lump on my plate to let it melt a little. Smears of mordant across my plates. I roll the ground out to an even layer with the dedicated roller, and carefully remove them without burning my hands or disturbing the ground. I love the satisfaction of carrying out tasks like this. Things you can do without really having to think, that just come as natural actions that are an extension of you.
Plates prepped, I sat and drew until lunch – figuring out the construction of my image. Consumed my consumables. Transferred my final sketch to one of the plates with tissue paper and red chalk, and got to work with my etching needle.
After only 5 hours in the studio, I had gone from emotionally exhausted and mentally not-in-the-mood to creatively exhilarated. My elbows ached from working in a strange hunch, and my wrist and fingers were stiff and sore – and I absolutely loved it.
I have taken my first tentative steps in lithography (this January)
I consider myself to be someone who draws. My practice is hugely informed by and preoccupied with drawing – so for a while now I have wanted to try my hand at lithography – one of the most mysterious techniques within printmaking.
So I grind my first stone until my arms are half numb and feel long and stringy. Then I move my stone (with a bit of help!) to a well lit part of the studio, and chalk transfer my design onto the cold, smooth surface.
I arm myself with litho crayons and cautiously begin making marks….Mistakes are made within seconds, those first few marks with a no.4 crayon feeling particularly alien. I use a craft knife to attempt a carved point, but the feel is nothing like any pencil or charcoal I have used before and I am having to re-learn my approach to both carving the soft black stick, as well as figuring out how it reacts when pressed against the cold litho stone.
Becky remarks on how I wear my emotions on my face, red cheeks giving away my frustration.
I persevere and get to a point I feel happy with and that feels like a natural conclusion to the day. Down tools. Cover my stone carefully with tissue paper and a ‘please don’t touch!’ Then make a mental note to have a good think about how to approach the feathers and how to incorporate flowers into my design before returning to the studio the next day.