Clare Grossman talks about using colour, scale and layers of experimentation to create a sense of nature’s energy and power in her new monotype etching series.
What was the starting point for “Where the Honey Wind Blows”?
The inspiration for this series is the tops of windswept pine trees near my home, on Hampstead Heath. It’s important to achieve a certain spirit of place. I search for the 'essence' of the subject, and I aim to create images that hover along that fine line between realism and abstraction.
These are monotype etchings, combining printmaking techniques. How do you create them?
I often work in series (varied prints connected by a theme or recurring element) as opposed to editions (a number of identical prints). This means that I have a master etching plate for the series, which in this case is a drypoint plate. I start from drawings and then create the master etching plate, which will link the different prints in the series.
Once the etching plate is made, the creative journey in printmaking has only just begun. I usually start by making monoprints (painting or manipulating ink directly on a plate and printing from it, creating a unique result) on several sheets of paper, usually Somerset Velvet, and each piece is worked on via a monotype plate.
I draw in my sketchbooks while I’m in the print studio. This is how I work out my thoughts, so I can feel where to go next with each piece.
The etching plate, with its fine-drawn lines, is often printed in the final stages of each piece’s journey, but sometimes it's printed up in stages and monoprinting is used again as a link between the figurative element of the drypoint plate and the abstract qualities of the monoprinting.
How important is colour in your work?
Colour plays a big role, as it has its own language. Its subtleties and varying expression can create a very different feel in the prints. I like to consider that what I do is connected with play and experimentation. It is very important to me that I work bravely, never worrying about whether or not I will 'ruin' a piece by overprinting. I have a colour palette in mind, but this always changes as I progress with the series, so I can attempt to say something different or improve on my original idea.
Why do you like working in series rather than editions?
When I’m making a series of often 12 or more works, I can take liberties with each one and regularly work on a series for weeks at a time, sometimes going back to the master plate after some time away to express something different, or with the desire to achieve something 'better' or more coherent than before.
Each resulting print has usually been through the press many times on different days, and I need to look at them at their different stages, both all together and individually, as each piece will guide me to work on it differently.
These are big prints – have you worked at this scale before? What do you think it brings to the work?
The scale of "When the Honey Wind Blows” is a metre wide. I’ve made several monotype etchings of a similar scale over the past few years, and I feel most free at this size. It makes me feel less separate from the work and more physically connected and engulfed by the subject. The wide, panoramic dimensions of this series has given me the chance to create a sense of movement and energy – something that is characteristic of nature and its power.
Clare Grossman has a special exhibition in Greenwich Printmakers Gallery as our featured artist until March 8, and her beautiful prints are available there all year round.