A fulfilling week of printmaking

IAIN HODGKINSON’S COURSE, Yorkshire, June 2018
by sam stone

We had tears when departing from our printmaking week. I hear from the hosts that it’s not unusual, but to me this was unexpected. The student in question was a robust lady, a seasoned artist, and the unlikeliest candidate of the week to be so emotional.

She had been a quiet participant during the week. A listener rather than a contributor at the dinner table. Up early to celebrate the working day and to bed later than some. A worker, determined to get the most out of her stay, unlike many of the others she carried on sketching and painting when we returned to the farmhouse, weary at the end of a busy day. More reserved than shy, she engaged in all the week’s activities with enthusiasm. In my chats with her, I knew she was enjoying the freedom to sit down and sketch. An escape from the interruptions of kids, the washing, ironing and shopping.

On the roof of Yorkshire where we were based, there was little to distract her other than mealtimes and the chatter of others in the group. Much of which focussed on art materials. Chat about new pens, paper or brushes on the market. The vibrancy of ink tense colours which some found invaluable while others rejected. Inevitably our discussion over dinner turned to the work of artists that inspired us. Hockney was on our lips more than once after a visit to Salts Mill while Norman Cornish was a discovery for many of us as we reviewed the styles of artists working in the North of England.

All the students were prolific workers, maximising their time from our visits out and about the Yorkshire Dales. Skipton Castle was a favourite, as was the canal side departure point for the day barges. The town was unexpectedly busy and a bit daunting for the few new to sketching in public. So the chance to take a break in the famous art shop offered some light relief from a busy day of sketching.

Later in the week the remote locations of Gordale Scar, Janet’s Foss and Malham were suitably quiet despite the bluebird skies. These locations along with the farm itself undoubtedly inspired the group to be very prolific. Sketchbooks filled with multiple scenes in a variety of media. All of which were displayed on the dining room table on our last day.

Iain’s print session on the final afternoon was the cherry on the cake. In full flow, our masterpieces graced the washing line to dry in the intense afternoon sun. A timely reminder of our escape from the normal weekly chores. They came thick and fast as we rolled out a selection of inks and took turns interesting the colours on our already carefully prepared backgrounds. The inspiration for our woodcuts came from our sketches penned or painted during the previous days. We were free to choose our subject matter, but Iain guided us on how best to translate the composition for print. Unlike etching, working in the negative can scramble the brain, but with some gentle hand-holding we all managed to negotiate the common pitfalls.

Iain’s speciality is printing on coloured or collaged backgrounds. We were just eager to ink up and print. We obligingly headed his advice and spent the latter half of the morning after cutting out scenes from thin wood, preparing out backgrounds. Of course, he was right. The variety of prints we made were all testament to his great skill as a tutor, and some of us are now hooked on the technique.

As for tearful goodbyes, hopefully, they were only temporary. Iain has more courses planned next year. I know we will all stay in touch by email or on social media, so I look forward to seeing some or all of the group again. The little community we made during our weeks’ residential course was uniquely rewarding and I would truly love to sketch with them all in the future.

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