This week on Meet the Printmaker, we meet the printmaker behind Inky Dog Studio, Jane Constable.
Please introduce yourself and what kind of prints you create...
My name is Jane and I'm the "flesh and blood" artist behind Inky Dog Studio! Although I'm fascinated by all methods of creating prints, working in lino currently dominates my practise. The subject matter of my prints tends to gravitate towards nature - living creatures - particularly birds, for which I've had a passion since early childhood. Up until now, the scale of my work has been mostly quite small, but that's something I'm working on...
How long have you been a printmaker? Is it a full-time career for you or a lovely hobby? If you are a full-time printmaker, what does a typical day for you look like?
This question raises the horrible realisation that I'll be 60 this year!! But to re-frame that thought more positively, every day I feel so happy and thankful that I finally appear to be working in a job I've always dreamed of! To return to your question though - I've been working "seriously" with printmaking since 2018, although I've "dabbled" in it on and off since I did my foundation course in Art & Design in 1980! I'm happy to say that printmaking feels like a full-time job at the moment (although I don't like to take anything for granted!). A typical day for me? Well I tend to get up about 7, mug of tea and toast, shower and dog walk, before going up to my top floor home studio by 9-ish to start work. I usually start off by processing/packing any orders (always a priority with me), then I'll work on current projects whilst the light is at its best, which is when I'm at my most productive. If I'm starting to flag around 5pm, I'll break off for a post office run and then a cuppa to re-fuel. I may then spend some time on boring but necessary book-keeping and similar soul destroying tasks that it's fatal for me to put off... I'm the type of person who finds it hard to relax and have to sit there with my sketchbook in the evening to scribble down any ideas that happen to fly into my head - although I've been consciously trying to wind down and chill lately, otherwise the old anxiety tends to kick in...
What was the spark that first got you hooked on printmaking? What is it about your medium that draws you in each day?
Well, most of us have had a little play with lino when we were kids at school, right? But my first "proper" introduction to printmaking was when I did my foundation course back in 1980. Apart from relief printing, I encountered etching, lithography, and silkscreen - all fascinating mysteries which I had frustratingly little time to get into on a 1 year foundation course. After foundation, I went on to study for a degree in Textile Design at Central Saint Martin's School of Art (1981-84). Although I specialised in printed textile design, most of my time was spent with gouache, working out repeats - and I also digressed into constructed textiles - in particular, knitted fabrics. Fast forward 20-odd years, I took a PGCE to teach Art in schools and it was during the next 16 years that my love of all things printmaking was firmly re-established - so much so, that in 2018 I decided to "retire" from teaching to become a full-time printmaker! I think the thing I love most about creating a print is the process. I find it comforting, reassuring. I never tire of it...
What inspires you? What or who would you say your biggest influences are?
I find that the most unexpected things inspire me. Because I don't happen to live in one of the "prettiest" parts of the UK, I look for things that interest me in my daily comings and goings - the beautiful colours in the pigeons that pick around on the pavements in the town centre; the hundreds of pied wagtails that congregate noisily in the trees alongside the busiest of roads; tiny plants that manage to grow in the most unlikely places. I love the drawings of Henry Moore, and my art books (mainly early 20th Century art and design) are always a source of inspiration. And of course, since joining Instagram I have found a whole wealth of inspiration in the printmaking community :-)
If you could give some advice to new printmakers, what would be your most useful tips for beginners?
I would say, take your time to find what works for you. Explore different ideas, materials and ways of working. Discover the things that make you "tick" creatively. If you're on social media, try not to get bogged down with "likes" and "follows", which can be discouraging and totally misses the creative point of what printmaking is all about. Take time to develop in your own unique way, be prepared to adapt and change - and don't expect things to happen overnight!
What do your prints say about you? How do you want people to feel when they look at your prints?
"What do my prints say about me?" - that's a difficult one... on occasions I feel I have a bit of an "identity crisis" with my art, as I have tried out a number of ideas over the past 2 1/2 years without developing a distinctive "style" as I've noticed other printmakers seem to have. I went through a phase of working in more of a "vintage" style, influenced by 1920s imagery and textile motifs, including my "stylised cat" designs which have become popular art prints on the home/decor online store iamfy.com. Most of what I do now though is representative of British wildlife, with a strong emphasis on birds. Birds are a lifelong love of mine. Birds take me back from being a 60 year old woman to a 6 year old girl, who screamed with joy when a Heron flew over her garden one day; to a painfully shy 16 year old who used to get up at 5am on a Sunday to go bird-ringing with a group of fellow geeks on Pitsea Marshes. Of course, I want people to *like* my prints and feel happy when they look at them, but some of the reactions I've had, messages I've received from people who've either bought my work or just seen it in my posts - have moved me in so many ways, more than I can say...
Are your prints influenced by external events (social, political) or do you prefer your work to remain neutral?
My personal political beliefs are firmly to the left, but I don't consciously bring these beliefs into my artwork. There have been a couple of pieces: my postcard print I made for #oneofmanypostcard, a charity art initiative from brilliant printmaker John Pedder @johnapedder which I named "Have a Nice Life". The print showed a group of swallows fleeing the UK after "The British People" (or 52% of them anyway) voted to leave the EU. This was probably as political as I get in my art. As far as social issues go, I have strong feelings about mental health and the weeping woman in my mini print "Golden Frame of Hope" is a biographical representation of myself in a way, for so many different reasons.
Do you have a favourite part of the printmaking process? What brings you the most joy?
I think for me its the "peel and reveal" of a new print for the first time, as this is the culmination of all my hard work and the realisation of my creation - I find it really exciting. It can be disappointing though. The artist Grayson Perry once spoke of his experiences with his pottery and said: "When I go to open the kiln, I think to myself - this is going to be the best pot I've ever made. But when I actually do open the kiln, it might be the second best, or maybe the fifth, or eighth best pot I've ever made..." Sometimes this reflects my own experience when I peel a print off the block for the first time - but it's always exciting.
How do you print? Do you have access to a studio or are you a home printmaker?
I started off in 2018 with the dining table as my workspace and a wooden spoon as my press. That Christmas, Santa Claus brought me my first little press, an Xcut Xpress which came highly recommended by the wonderful printmaker, Kat Flint @flintkat - wonderful little piece of kit! Now in 2021, I have moved to a new-build townhouse and I'm lucky enough to have a lovely room on the top floor which has huge windows and overlooks a windmill - the light is wonderful. I also invested in an A2 press made in the Netherlands by a very clever man called Jan (also known as @wood_zilla on insta), which I now use to make all my prints on. To answer your question in a less long-winded way, I'm a home printmaker who's been lucky enough to upgrade from a kitchen table workspace to having a room to myself!
Every day feels like a school day when you're a printmaker and failure is not talked about too much online.. what would you say is the most challenging part of printmaking?
Yes - you're right when you say failure is not talked about a lot online, and I'd say that is a pretty big downside of social media. For me, the most challenging part of printmaking is... carving!! Contrary to what a lot of printmakers say, I find carving my design, so it turns out just how I want it to, very challenging indeed! I'm actually pretty envious of people who find it the most relaxing part. I set myself very high standards and often fall short, which sometimes stresses me. I'm a pretty chaotic worker and would probably benefit from having a more organised workspace!!
What is your next big printmaking challenge? Do you have a plan for the next 12 months or do you take each day as it comes?
When I bought my A2 press last year, I had in mind that I wanted to start creating larger scale prints - which didn't quite happen in 2020 - so I guess that is a challenge to carry over to 2021! I would also like to make some more illustrative work. I've always loved Aesop's Fables and have just bought myself a book which is wonderfully illustrated with stunning wood engravings by artist and printmaker Agnes Miller Parker - hugely inspiring. So yes - I can definitely feel a series of larger scale prints inspired by Aesop's Fables coming on for 2021...
Where can people find out more about you and your prints?
I have a website, www.inkydogstudio.com which is actually in the process of receiving a total facelift. You can follow me on @inkydogstudio and I shall bore you with updates on said facelift! My designs are also available as giclee art prints on https://www.iamfy.co/shop/inky-dog-studio.
What is your favourite print (of your own)?
Strawberry Thieves by Karin Rytter @karin_rytter_studio
Music/podcasts when you're creating or silence?
Rarely silence! my favourite music artist is Maya Jane Coles
Printing press or by hand?
Press - every time! Wooden spoon is history!!
If you could meet any artist (alive or dead), who would it be?
One word to sum up your style?