Although I enjoy painting, from an early age I have always preferred to draw.
The immediacy of a pencil line or a ball point pen on a scrap of paper is so appealing and rewarding. Unlike the preparation and planning of the painting process, I very much like the way you can record an instant observation, or ‘doodle’ away your unconscious thoughts and ideas.
These preliminary lines or collection of ‘marks’ can capture so much. In my opinion they are equally as important as any completed works, and in many instances can be the starting point for many. This may be one of the many reasons why I enjoy making original prints, particularly etchings and engravings, because they are very much a ‘drawing’ based medium.
I like to experiment and combine the different etching techniques. I also enjoy using various drawing media, such as soft pencils, bamboo pens and brushes, to try and achieve a particular 'look' or 'feel' to some of the images.
My working methods follow the familiar path of preliminary sketches, accompanied by endless scrutiny and corrections until I am happy. I repeat this over and over before starting the plate making process.
Original etchings are not photographic reproductions or computer generated images of existing paintings. They are original works, and have long been a favourite method of expression for many artists. They involve the controlled erosion of a copper plate using acid to achieve a desired effect. The etched plate is then inked by hand and printed onto paper, with the use of heavy pressure from a roller press.
Because of this individual method of hand printing, each separate image is slightly different from the previous, making each print original and unique. When the edition is complete, the plate or plates are then cancelled or destroyed, to ensure strict limitation.
Unlike traditional painting techniques, the 'plate making' process has many unpredictable stages of production before the final image can be viewed. Right up to the last moment, printmakers are always working with their fingers crossed, because we are never entirely confident as to how the finished plate will finally print! This can be very frustrating, but also very rewarding especially when your efforts meet your expectations.
As with many artists, my interests and influences are wide and varied. Initially I was attracted to the landscapes of Oliviero Masi, after seeing his etchings in a London gallery. Gallery owner Lee Brews arranged for me to work for him in Milan. Preparing and printing Oliviero's plates in the day, then using his facilities for myself in the evening. Although I did not fully appreciate at the time, this combination of working for an established printmaker and study was extremely fortuitous and inspirational.
During this time and continued good fortune, I met and worked with Douglas Portway. A friend of Oliveiro's and Lee's, who came to Milan to make his prints. An artist, with whom I spent a couple of weeks while Oliviero was away.
It was a precious time watching him draw directly on to the prepared copper plates, then handing them to me, to etch and print. After only experiencing Oliviero's work, Douglas's unconventional approach was so different. I was immediately attracted to his loose and expressive drawing style. During that short period he was very giving with his time, offering help and suggestions. A genuine bloke with a extraordinary talent, I was very lucky to have met him.
I produced many landscape etchings during my time in Italy and when returning home to the UK. Eventually turning towards figurative subject matter and taking inspiration from Douglas Portway. Today I enjoy both, sometimes it can be the beauty of the composition, other times it is the simplicity of a few lines and shapes that can suggest so much.