year one part three: if the horse is dead, get off...

I had decided to set aside this month for some new etching. I was inspired by Seger’s prints at the British Museum and his use of coloured paper. I’d enjoyed working on Ingres paper at West Dean and hoped to try this out. Instead I became increasingly aware, as I scratched reluctantly at the plate, that I really had reached the end of the line. I just didn’t want to do it any more, in any form. The contrast with January and February when I had been busy and happily learning new things was unmistakeable.

Artist friends kept telling me I mustn’t give up the day job, without necessarily understanding all the processes involved and the repetitive printing and packaging. People do like artists to have a “brand” and sometimes, the narrower it is, the more you are recognisable and successful. However, in art history, it is often the “one trick ponies” like Pollock and Rothko who have ended badly. Try telling Picasso not to change! We need change and new challenges to feel enthused and it’s no good trying to stop the process. I had no idea where the search would end but I was sure I’d know once I got there. I knew that the day job would have to be wound up if I really wanted to find a new direction. So it happened, just like that, a bit like falling out of love.

Within a week I had sold the press, the hotplate and most of my materials. I went through all my old work and was astonished at the devotion and care I had given to my early plates. I realised that I had not worked like that for some time. I felt nostalgic but also determined. Etching had been exciting, allowing me to give up teaching and live a completely different life. However, I feel relieved to be moving on. If a third career doesn’t materialise, I shall enjoy the process anyway. I should probably give a grateful nod at this point in the direction of my first career, without which I would have no pension to fund myself. I recorded the termination of my relationship with my etching press in a German essay for an evening class project. A fitting farewell, as my first leisure activity had become a career and my former job was now a leisure activity.

Not much in the way of illustrations for March as I was busily moving the goalposts. Here are two very different images and I enjoyed working with both sets of materials. The first one is a closely observed interior in coloured pencil. It was an exercise from my Adult Ed. class using directional strokes and multicoloured blending. I loved doing this and was keen on the richness of colour and silky texture of the pencils. I was surprised at how the combination of directional mark making and varied pressure really gave a sense of solidity. I was pleased with the green cushion!


cushioned comfort (coloured pencil)

The second image was done in acrylic using textures, sgraffito, layers of colour and oil pastel. I was working from a rather abstract landscape photograph (an aerial view) of field shapes in strong colours. It was not very successful but was a good learning piece and I enjoyed using oil pastel under and over the paint. I am impressed by oil pastels, so Picasso deserves another accolade for that, too.


patchwork landscape (acrylic and oil pastel)

I must mention Angelo Pizzigallo, my very popular Adult Ed. tutor at this stage, who was a fund of information and ideas. He had a giant suitcase full of inspirational materials and encouraged his students to work in the style of a variety of different artists, introducing us to new techniques and combinations. I loved this, working my way through Piper, Nolde, Burra, Kandinsky, Klee and Hopper and trying out pen, coloured pencil, collage, pastel and sometimes all of them at once. It was all very liberating but also fascinating and a brilliant way to learn, as we used their working methods in a new context. For someone who wanted to try different media, this was perfect – and fun.The light-hearted approach and delight at our results concealed some real learning.

Next month: a brush with botanicals