Now that “Winter Hedgerow” is completed and hanging in Chalk Gallery, I would like to share a little more of my working process which I have documented in photographs over the last year or so.
The wind-blasted hedgerows that line stretches of the A27 first caught my attention two years ago. I had been driving to my studio in Worthing listening to the radio and finding a state of gentle awareness that so often arrives once the children are packed off to school, and I have the space and time to draw and print. I admit that I dislike cars, and traffic, despite driving one and being part of the traffic… The naked trees struck me as so vulnerable amidst the pollution, noise and speed. They also seemed to say ‘winter” in a way that was so irrevocable. These sketches were my first emotional response.
I knew the subject matter did not lend itself to lino print in that there are a predominance of tangles and textures, rather than clearly defined shapes. However I am a lino printer, and I could not resist tackling it in my favourite medium all the same. I decided to approach the lines as expressive rivers of energy rather than attempting to depict every single twig. I felt I could still capture the cave-like dense nature of the hedgerow, and its nakedness, with the bold lines which result from my style of carving. I draw in pencil and felt-tip pen with little concern for neatness. It feels as if I am carving an idea out of the page as I work, and I will layer up, change colour, and scribble over until the design is clear and confident to me.
Then begins the process of tracing, transferring, sometimes re-drawing and finally carving. The lines take on a personality of their own during this process which is one of the aspects of lino printing that strongly appeals to me. The medium and process start to dictate and tell the hedgerow how to look. It is never an option to create a ‘accurate” copy of reality so the artist is presented with a problem to solve instead – how shall I do this?
I use only three pfiel lino cutting tools; a large and small gouge, and one v shaped. Again, I like restriction. It forces me to problem-solve, and I find this is where creativity is at it’s richest.
The background needed to be a ‘rainbow roll’ in order to capture the atmospheric effects of a landscape; sky gently fading to white, and the green of the fields de-saturating to grey as they move towards the horizon. Creating the right palette of tones blending evenly across the roller is almost as time-consuming as the carving process!
The first print was created and I initially called it “Winter on the A27” because that particular spot was still so important to me.
I had trudged up and down the hard shoulder photographing the hedgerow from different angles and had quite a collection of images stored on my computer, so I decided to develop the project. I also felt it needed to exist in a large format to have the impact I had felt when photographing it. Two more prints were designed; a companion piece of the same size, and a larger 30x40cm piece.
I continued to carve and print through the winter months of early 2021 finally bringing the series to a completion in March.
The last step will be to sign, edition and frames these prints ready for their new home in the Chalk Gallery, Lewes, which opens again on 15th April.
It’s been a long project. But it’s been worth it.