Behind the print: "Lion"

Updated: Sep 24, 2019

Tammy Mackay talks about how she made her etching and drypoint "Lion", exploring themes of youth, extinction and the impact of growing up in South Africa, and how much it means to her to be selected for the National Original Print Exhibition.



Lion, etching and drypoint, by Tammy Mackay

Why did you decide to make “Lion”? How did the idea for it come about?

I have been working on a series about being young and what it means today, explored mainly from a personal perspective, reflecting on my own childhood and watching my children grow up. My ‘Young’ series explores the theme of youth and the vulnerability and freedom intertwined in that.

“Lion” explores the theme of safety, and the narrative is linked to my interpretation of “Daniel in the lion's den”. Having grown up in South Africa, where violent crime is sadly a regular occurrence, safety has always been a consideration. As a parent, you always hope your child will be safe. The boy in “Lion” is my son, asleep on the sofa, a few years ago now. The lion is an extinct one, carrying on the theme of extinction from my other work.


Tammy Mackay with her print "Lion" at the National Original Print Exhibition at Bankside Gallery, London

What techniques did you use?

This print is mainly etching with aquatint. I started with the lion and figure then added the line in the background. Then I added aquatint, spotted out with crayon, to the background to give a bit of texture. I dropped it down slowly into the acid to get the gradation. I carefully burnished the clothing on the boy, and the rest of figure is in drypoint to get a very subtle quality.


This is quite different in style to a lot of your recent work.

Having worked with photopolymer prints for a while now, it was really nice to go back to traditional etching and to get a quality I was happy with. I shall be doing more!


Tammy Mackay at the the launch of the National Original Print Exhibition

Why is being in the National Original Print Exhibition special?

I’m really delighted to have finally made it! I have applied unsuccessfully to the National Original Print Exhibition for many years now. It just shows that you should never give up. It is nice to be part of an international print exhibition and to get recognition for a process you work in, and to be with some of the big names in print.