Bethany Marett shares how she was inspired by the architectural achievement of another woman artist, Mary Watts, to create her new linocut for the Greenwich Printmakers at 40 exhibition at Watts Contemporary Gallery.
Although perhaps a diversion from my typical subject matter, in terms of my outlook as a woman artist, I really engaged with the Watts Chapel when I first visited the Watts Gallery – Artists' Village on a research trip for the exhibition back in March.
I wanted to create a work in response to this beautiful creation by Mary Watts that over many years she designed and built. It is an incredible work of art and on entering the chapel, I was overwhelmed by the colour, splendour and real sense of peace that the chapel holds. I wanted to convey this mood in my print; I especially liked the view from the rather crumbling churchyard with the gnarled old tree in the foreground.
I took a selection of photographs on my visit and chose the one that I felt had the most interesting composition. I then flipped the image and drew it out onto my lino plate. I like to use soft cut lino as I find it easier to carve and thus I have better control over my tools. During the process, I periodically spread charcoal over the parts that have been cut out in order to get an idea of how the image will look. I love the high contrast of a black and white image that relief prints give - it is the deepest black.
I worked on this piece over several evenings and the tree branches were especially time-consuming to carve out. I managed to give the tree rather anthropomorphic qualities, as I broke down the patterns of the bark and the light into line. As I was making the print, the branches felt like knuckles and the knots like knees.
When I had finished carving, I inked up the plate and I proofed the print at home using my Blue Boy nipping press, before going on to modify some of the image. There are always going to be parts that you decide to change once printed. I like to have my image breaking out of the confines of the border, and for the final version I did remove more of it than initially planned. I also had to make decisions about how many graves and headstones to include, as I wanted the focus to remain on the tree, with the chapel in the background. I used my ‘artistic licence’ to imply the graveyard and edit out what I didn’t think worked in the picture.
Once I was satisfied with the outcome, I printed the final versions using the Albion Press at Thames-Side Print Studios.
Bethany is going to be at Watts Contemporary Gallery this Saturday (September 31) between 12-3pm as part of the Meet the Artist series – come and visit to meet her and learn more about her print on the final weekend of the exhibition. For more information, visit the Greenwich Printmakers at 40 exhibition page here.