Artist's Statement (A work in‑progress)
20 September 2020 (Version 3.51)
The universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper. * Eden Phillpotts (1862-1960), English author, poet, and dramatist.
Phillpotts describes both my artistic quest and my greatest creative challenge. The universe is full of magic, and my wits are not sharp enough.
My senses detect the presence of magic, but I cannot see what it's made of (yet). I don't know how to put it on canvas, or how to carve lino so I can print it.
The magical things Phillpotts wrote of were not made of fairies, but instead the wonder of the flowers of Buckbean, growing on marshes. This is the magic I speak of too. It's in the colours of Autumn leaves, cloud shadows flowing over the slopes of hills, and the glint of light on the sea.
I paint oil paintings and print original linocuts. So far, the landscape is always my subject. Ultimately, it is the landscape's magic I aim to bring in to focus.
My art has evolved and continues to do so. I have begun to develop a style of my own.
For what feels like a lifetime, I've struggled with adapting from professional illustrator to fine artist. I've now become aware of things falling into place.
Skills, ideas and the threads I'm following, like pieces of a puzzle, are coming together. They'll help me meet a question head‑on…
“What exactly is this magic I see?”
Amended: July 2020
I've struggled to write an Artist's Statement for years. My statements never seemed to explain anything.
Galleries needed a statement, so I wrote a fairly standard paragraph or two. I'm not a natural writer, and dislike 'art‑speak', so felt shy about it.
The fear of writing something seemingly pretentious also kept me in check. It wouldn't be an accurate picture of my down to earth attitude to my art, or my artistic quest.
All of that is why my previous statements haven't shed light on anything much. Too custard to write anything stand‑out.
Words are more than pictures on the interweb
The only way to be findable in the vastness of the internet is still via words (regardless of claims otherwise). So writing for this website is always on my 'to-do' list.
Despite the chore of writing, I've begun to value writing simple plain English descriptions of what I do.
Of course, valuing a craft doesn't automatically make you good at it. Many an avid art collector understands this well.
Being better at art than writing is just fine with me, of course. I'm not always as brief as I'd like, but I'm working on it. It's amazing how much explaining is needed! 'A picture and a thousand words' comes to mind.
What's an artist's statement anyway?
An Artist's Statement is the most valuable bit of writing in a creative's development. It adds definition to their muse, and explains their tactics… or it should.
An artist's statement evolves with the artist. It records their progress toward the buried treasure they seek. Like an artist's art, it's a prose that's always a work in progress.
Writing down what I do has meant thinking about what I do. It's proving to be another thing helping me improve as an artist. That's reason enough to keep going with this writing caper.
I read a book: "How To Write About Contemporary Art" by Gilda Williams a little while ago. After digesting Williams guide, my confidence grew well beyond my abilities! So I can recommend her book.
The result is the statement above. I completed it knowing I'd rewrite, and rewrite it. And I have. I also will.
I feel a sense of achievement. It is the closest I've got so far to explaining my quest – that is: the what & why.
The story of a Landscape artist
Why am I a landscape artist? Why does it fascinate me so? The answer lies in my once upon a time, in a land far far away – yet still here, today
From the age of 11, farmland and woods surrounded me. Before this, I'd lived in suburbia. Even there, untamed nature beckoned. Abandoned land lay at the end of the road like a mystic nirvana.
The developer had not yet built on it. It had begun to rewild in the interlude and was a focus for all the kids thereabouts. The seeds of my enthusiasms were sewn there.
Moving house into the boundless countryside sent my observation into overdrive. Every dry day unfolded outdoors while gaping at the theatre of the landscape.
The ever‑changing script of dawn through to dusk bewitched me. Seasonal ebbs and flows – cameos and leading lights – were encounters forever renewing. Creatures, flora, insects and birds were beguiling dancers holding me captive.
The good fortune of growing up in Yorkshire, the largest county in England, is also significant in my story. The district contains a wide variety of landscape unmatched in the UK – yes, I admit I'm biased.
There's a coastline of sweeping beaches, rocky bays and staggeringly high cliffs. The rolling hills of the Wolds and lush Vale Of York sit side by side. The severe and majestic Dales contrast with the expansive North York Moors. And finally, it's a county veined with a myriad of rivers and waterfalls.
So my formative years roaming the great Yorkshire outdoors shaped what nourishes me.
North Yorkshire is my home today. The county's rich, diverse geography still inspires me, perhaps more than ever.
I've had the privilege of visiting other countries since joining the world of adults. Yet, the UK landscape continues to be as exotic and enthralling as any terrain I've toured.
Though I live in a city now, the wild wide‑open spaces are within me somehow. I'm happiest when enveloped by the landscape while I sketch or paint.
When at home, my contentment lies in making scenic art. Making my art transports me, and keeps me connected to the living breathing thing we call: ‘landscape’.
The wonder and awe of my far far away years have never faded. The child enchanted by the magic of the natural world is still here, very much part of who I am, today. So my story is this: I was always going to be a landscape artist.
If anything, more art ideas ignite now whenever I step outside. More than I can ever hope to paint or print in one lifetime.
Today I'm travelling around the UK as and when I can afford to. Collecting inspiration from other parts of the country is a compulsion I can't deny.
Bamburgh Castle in Northumberland (2016, 2019) is a favourite I'll revisit. A short working holiday in The South Hams in Devon (2017) where I'd never been before, lingers with me still.
Pembrokeshire is my next destination – originally planned for this year (2020), it looks like it won't happen just yet.
Some of my finished linocuts/paintings
My art career story
I've always been a professional artist since leaving art school at the age of 19.
My career has encompassed illustration, design and art. Painting illustrations full-time fueled my early career.
The rise of technology meant I diversified into design for a while. I also briefly taught fine art in higher education and worked in community arts.
In 2007, I graduated from Leeds University. It was the fulfilment of an ambition to complete a Fine Art Masters.
Becoming a printmaker
My first original lino print in an exhibition, a local landscape, was in 2006. It secured a place in a high quality competitive open art show and sold.This marked the point I became a lino print artist – a printmaker.
Spurred by the popularity of my linocuts, I invested in my printmaking activity. I soon established myself in several good quality private galleries in the region.
Both my landscape and seascape linocuts consistently secured places in juried exhibitions. Art collectors still buy as many as five of my limited edition prints at once.
Returning to painting
My first painting in an art show was in 2008. A beach scene selected for display in a juried exhibition (two years after my lino art obtained a place).
I ‘parked’ painting to develop my prints shortly after. Why?
The kind of painting I wanted to paint eluded me. Experiments had yielded little satisfaction.
I didn't want to paint in the same way as I painted while working as a professional illustrator. Professional illustration and fine art painting are very different.
Changing illustration habits, engrained over so many years, into a fine art painting methodology proved painful. I got thoroughly lost with it to be honest. So I decided to concentrate on my linocuts.
Everything was going really well. Then, a grave illness brought my artistic efforts to an abrupt standstill in 2011.
After a lengthy recovery lasting too many years, I'm now in a great place. I'm pleased to say an animated project to renew and rebuild my art practice is well underway now.
So that's the story of my creative history so far.
The future is a blank sheet of paper. We all choose what to draw or write on it every time we awaken each day. There's so much exciting potential in a blank canvas…
Thank you for visiting my website and reading my words. I hope you enjoy my art as much as I do making it. My gratitude and appreciation to all those who've decided to add my art to their collections.
Two reasons I'm a painter-printmaker
I split my time between painting oil paintings and printing prints. This means my art activity is what's called a dual art practice. There are two main reasons why I make both of these things.
First, a landscape artist who is both a painter and a printmaker is less likely to settle into a comfort zone. A comfort zone is where art stops evolving and stagnates.
Each of the two activities continually suggests new ideas for the other one. Looking with the eyes of a printmaker prompts questions about painting, and vice‑versa.
My printmaking and painting are at different points in their evolution. Even so, they're beginning to influence each other's development. This is all good in my view – it will lead to better art.
The second reason is the challenges and opportunities of each medium are different. The sum of all the creative possibilities is greater than if I only painted, or only made prints.
Using paint, I can play with colour and softness beyond linocut's reach. Lino prints, by contrast, are great for texture difficult with paint.
Layering in printmaking is great fun. Trying to achieve the same effect in a painting would need lots of masking. I used a lot of masking in my illustration days. So I know how fraught it can be with willful paint determined to leak under the mask.
I like that the two mediums I work with are diverse. If I could create the same effects with both of them, I'd see no reason to use both.
Artists who paint and make prints - painter-printmakers
The tradition of artists who both paint and make prints dates back to Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528). A forefather of dual art practice. It may, in truth, date further back than him.
Many artists have followed in Dürer's footsteps. The great and lauded Picasso is a notable one. He was a prolific printmaker as well as a productive painter. So in my desire to be both printmaker and painter, I'm in good company!
The list of respected artists who worked in both print and paint is a long one. Here are a few you may not have realised did:
The painter Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn produced at least 2 etchings. Vincent Van Gogh made 9 lithographs and at least one etching. William Turner created many etchings, mezzotints and engravings.
Rembrandt, Gogh and Turner are admired for their paintings. Two of my printmaking heroes were Edward Bawden and John Piper. Renown for their prints, they were also prolific painters.