Wednesday, 17 February 2016

The making of Velvet Ears

Social media can open interesting doors and make unexpected connections. I created this print last year, based on a photo taken by one of my online pals (whom I have never met in real life) of a puppy belonging to friends of hers. A few tweets gave me the permission of both the photographer and the puppy's owners to turn the image into a collagraph monoprint, and as a thank you the first two prints from the edition went to the parties concerned.

Although each print in the edition of 15 is made from the same plate, the image is created by wiping and removing ink in a painterly way. The results will therefore be slightly (or even greatly) different each time, making each print a monoprint. This is easier to show than to explain so I have finally got around to making a video of the process.

After giving away the first two prints in the edition, I put another one in the Taster Exhibition for last year's York Open Studios, where I am pleased to say it was the first sale made. Others from the edition are now available in my shop.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Just a print

Last Christmas I sent tiny etchings to some of my friends and family; each one was a numbered and signed print from a limited edition of 50. Most thanked me for their print but a couple thanked me for their 'card'. I smiled and nodded and fought back the temptation to ask anxiously if they had dropped it in the Christmas card recycling point at the supermarket, or cut it up to make a tag for next year's wrapping. How could I correct them without sounding like a bossy teacher or an over-sensitive artist? Finally one lovely friend phoned and gave effusive thanks and said she would treasure her little robin as a "Jane Duke original", but then corrected herself and said "... of course I know it's not really an original, but it is to me".
"No, no" I replied, "it is an original."
"Really?" she said, surprised and delighted, "Oh I thought it was just a print!"

Drypoint etching 6 x 6 cm

It's easy to see why there is confusion; despite having one of the richest vocabularies in the world, the English language still uses the same word to mean an original piece of art hand created by the artist and a scanned reproduction of an image run off on a machine. The problem has been exacerbated since the 1990s by artists selling giclée (inkjet) reproductions of their paintings as 'limited edition prints'. You can hardly blame the non-artist public for not immediately making the distinction. So what are printmakers to do to protect our craft? We can sulk and stamp and weep or we can quietly, determinedly and politely make it possible for people to see and understand what we do.

I enjoy giving short demonstrations at art events and in my studio during the York Open Studios weekends, and I also have leaflets on my stand at art shows, explaining the processes. I post step by step demos and photos of work in progress here on the blog and I have put a printmaking guide and a glossary of terms on my website. And then of course I also teach workshops for those who are curious enough to want to try for themselves.

I've now taken another step, and after wrestling with self consciousness and fear of making a hash of it, I stuck my phone in a clamp, switched on the camera and made my first YouTube video. Appropriately perhaps, it shows the making of that little Robin etching which was given out at Christmas and which brought some misunderstandings to light. I'd love you to watch it if you have 5 minutes.

Now I've made this leap I will be making more of these videos. I hope they help to spread the word about what printmaking is, on behalf of all printmakers whose work is so much more than 'just a print'.

At the time of writing the remaining 'Robin' prints in the edition can be purchased in my shop