This week on Meet the printmaker, we have a lovely printmaker at the start of her printing career, Sophie Painter from Sophie Painter Studios.
I hope to be able to show you printmakers at every stage of their career on Meet the printmaker so it's really great to feature someone just beginning their journey!
Have you been printmaking for a long time? What first attracted you to linocut?
I haven't been printmaking that long - I first got a beginners kit around October 2019, with a plan to print Christmas cards. I never did get around to sending out homemade cards but I was immediately addicted to linocut and I've not looked back! Most of my family and friends got lino prints for Christmas last year. I've always been creative and have dabbled in most crafts during my life but printmaking has really captured my heart! It has been a lifeline over the past year or so, giving me a creative outlet alongside work (in my real job I'm a doctor) so it is really nice to have something completely different as an outlet. I like the challenge of conveying a seemingly simple image from drawing to print form, and the huge variety of styles and effects that you can get with pretty simple tools. It's great fun working towards my own style!
Do you have a favourite part of the printmaking process? Is it the designing or the carving or the actual printing or?
Definitely pulling that first good print! It's so satisfying to see something come to life that's been in your head. I find printmaking very meditative and it's been really helpful for my anxiety to get lost in the process.
Cornwall and the coast seem to feature a lot in your prints, would you say this is your biggest influence? Have you always been fascinated with the sea?
Living by the sea or by mountains makes my heart happy! I grew up in Devon and when I moved back to the South West about 5 years ago, I ended up in Cornwall, and absolutely love it. I take a lot of inspiration from the things around me, whether that be landscape or objects - I think almost all of my prints are based on something from my house or somewhere I've been! It's led to a fairly eclectic mix of prints but I like having the variation; I get inspired almost anywhere (last week it was a nice front door!).
How do you print? Do you have a printing press or do you prefer to print by hand? Do you think this will change in the future?
I do a bit of both - I have an Xcut Xpress, which is actually a die-cutting machine which can be adapted for printmaking. I love it because it's small and very portable, which is ideal as my studio is pretty small so I wouldn't have the space for anything larger. I probably print about half by hand and half via the press. I always pull the first test print my hand though! My husband recently made me a custom wooden baren and a smaller printing tool (it sort of looks like a wooden spoon, but would definitely not be useable as an actual spoon!) which are really lovely to print with.
I think I'm right in saying that you mostly use Japanese Vinyl? I've used that in the past and I fall in and out of love with it as it's so different! What attracts you to use vinyl over traditional grey lino?
Yes, I mostly use Japanese vinyl, mainly for practical reasons, because I find it easiest to store! It dries flat and doesn't become brittle over time, which I've found with some of my earlier designs on traditional lino. I also like that the contrast between the surface and the core of the vinyl makes it easy to see where you've carved, and you don't need to prep the vinyl additionally like you would for traditional lino.
Some of your prints have wonderful folklore stories attached to them. Is this something you plan to do more of in the future?
Yes! I love all the folk stories around Cornwall, and it's a lovely creative challenge to try and tell a whole story in one image. I have a list of different Cornish stories that I'm hoping to work through! I'm thinking of branching out into other stories too, and perhaps things like nursery rhymes?
What are you working on at the moment?
So many things! I often feel like I have a million ideas floating around my head. I have more to do in the folklore series, and I am working on some designs of Cornish towns. I mix the more complex designs with simpler ones, such as the vintage cameras I've been working on lately, and I'm doing some experimenting with different inks and techniques to try and expand my repertoire. I have a few multi-block designs that I want to perfect, so I'm doing lots of registration practice! And this year, I'm hoping to actually print those Christmas cards that I never got around to last year!
Where would you like Sophie Painter Studios to be in five years time? Do you have a five year plan or do you take it print by print?
In my dreams, I would like Sophie Painter Studios to be my full-time occupation in 5 years time - quite a change from currently! At the moment though, I take it print-by-print as I'm juggling work too. I have set goals that I would like to achieve by the end of my first year being officially 'open', such as getting some work displayed in some local galleries, and I'm getting more involved with my local creative community (as far as Covid allows!).
Quick fire question round!
Favourite printmaking tool?
Flexcut Micro Palm 1mm U tool
Favourite printmaking paper?
HoSho Japanese paper
Black and white or coloured prints?
What is your favourite print (of your own prints)?
Probably the Mermaid of Zennor - I was really pleased with how that turned out.
If you could meet any artist (alive or dead), who would it be?
A huge thank you to Sophie for taking time out from what must be an incredibly busy career as a Doctor to be interviewed today!