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Behind the print: "Memories of Tuscany"

Elaine Marshall evokes the lush colours of early summer in the Italian countryside with her new linocut “Memories of Tuscany”, inspired by drawing trips with friends and family.

Pen drawing by Elaine Marshall

Why did you decide to make “Memories of Tuscany?” Do you have any special connection to that area? Is the farmhouse a specific location?

The farmhouse surrounded by olive trees and vines in my linocut “Memories of Tuscany” is ‘Al Centino’, in the hills near Lucca in Tuscany.

The owners had bought my prints in Greenwich Printmakers gallery, and they invited me and my artist friends to stay there during the spring or early summer “to keep the burglars away”.

We happily obliged them and over four years, my friends and family and I spent many productive weeks drawing and painting the landscape, which was especially beautiful in early summer, with the vines just in leaf, wild flowers in bloom, all accompanied by the call of the cuckoo. The two figures on the veranda represent my friends.

You’ve done some beautiful drawings. Is sketching a big part of your practice when you are working towards a new print?

The pen drawings shown are just a few of the many drawings done on the spot, and they provide reference for my prints.

Pen drawing by Elaine Marshall

Pen drawing by Elaine Marshall

The colour palette really captures the lush greens associated with Tuscany. Was that something you always envisioned for the final print? Did you experiment with other colours? I like the pop of yellow - is that a specific plant?

I spend a lot of time thinking about colour. I like putting shades of colours on the glass slab and rolling them so they blend together. This is known as a ‘split roll’.

The yellow for the flowers – possibly buttercups? – is added in watercolour.

The line work in your linocuts is beautifully fluid. Is that something that comes from experience?

I have made linocuts for years. I use sharp, mainly Japanese tools – and concentration! I have to be by myself in the studio with no distractions.

Series of linocuts in yellow, green, blue and orange showing sunflowers and other plants, by Elaine Marshall
"Sunflower Variations", linocuts by Elaine Marshall

What do you enjoy about working in linocut?

After tracing the original design onto the block, I find the actual cutting very satisfying.

What were some of the challenges of making "Memories of Tuscany"?

All my prints are challenges, and I think about and even dream about them to find solutions. I may make more linocuts on this theme from my drawings of ‘Al Centino’.

Linocut showing mums running with buggies in Greenwich Park,  by Elaine Marshall
"Running Mummies", linocut by Elaine Marshall

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m making another similar print now. This one has a vine leaves, grapes and glass of wine on a plate in the foreground.

Elaine’s featured artist exhibition runs at Greenwich Printmakers until April 2 and her wonderful prints are available in the gallery and in our online shop all year round. For more information, visit her artist’s page and her website.

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