My becoming an artist was a chance event, so entirely dependent on the kindness of almost-strangers, that I could easily have missed the boat entirely and spent the rest of my life without so much as picking up a sketchbook, let alone an inky roller. And when the chance did come, I was far from keen to seize the day; it took a year of gradually evaporating patience on the part of distant, to me, family friends to press the gift of an Albion printing press upon me and more or less force me back into print.
Sounds stupid doesn’t it? Even if you aren’t a printmaker and are not presently shouting ‘YOU SAID NO TO AN ALBION??’ at the screen, it’s obvious in retrospect that I was an idiot. I was indeed an eejit (as my Irish father-in-law, best mates with the press-offering friends would confirm), but the problem was a big one. It wasn’t that I was afraid of the printing, though after a sixteen year period without drawing, let alone printmaking, it was a serious concern. It was that I knew from the very first suggestion that I might like a press, that this would be no private hobby. Agreeing would launch me on a new path as an artist and open a whole can of worms that were noticeably absent from my part time work, gardening and family life. I can’t say how I knew that, but know it I did, and I was fairly sure that I was going to die trying to make it all happen.
Thankfully I caved and took the press. Fourteen years later, I still get cold sweats thinking I could so easily have missed my chance.
My story does lack the fairy dust of passionate ambition fulfilled and instead reveals considerable ingratitude and dithering on my part. But I did get one thing mostly right; the journey to becoming an artist was a tough one and, while I didn’t die trying, it’s been a staggeringly steep learning curve. Starting with a very simple lesson: always say yes to the offer of a press.
I’m painfully aware that it’s been a long time since my last blog. Increasingly aware and increasingly pained as my brother-in-law and manager of my website, has taken to pinging me emails on the subject. Reminding me of my blog deficiency with an ever-lengthening timeline of my failure to provide.
I wouldn’t mind, but it’s made worse by the fact that I like writing this blog. Here’s the place where I get to write with slack on subjects I fancy. Those who know me will know I have a monthly column at Artists and Illustrators Magazine and have just written a book*. Noble projects both of them, but requiring me to be accurate, conscientious and not to slag off my relations for calling me out on my failings. The book’s done, but the articles are ongoing and once I have cudgelled my brain into embracing a fresh topic for A&I every month, there’s precious little energy to think again for my blog.
That’s about to change. Hurrah. At 10am GMT Friday 8th November I launch a podcast with fellow artist Peter Keegan. We are channelling everything we know about the business of becoming artists into Ask an Artist and hitting the airwaves. This for the greater good of all those out there who want to make a start on earning some money from their art. For the greater good of me, there’s going to be a lovely cascade of blog ideas weekly. The proper show notes and yet another writing job, I’ll be doing over at the Ask an Artist website more or less in the style of a stern but kindly aunt. Here I get the freedom to blog along freestyle.
Of course, I urge you to tie up all the loose ends by subscribing to the show on your platform of choice, embracing my sage show notes over at Ask an Artist and completing the triad by reading this blog, which I promise will now appear on a more regular basis. But it’s not compulsory. Nothing about this blog is compulsory, not even not writing it for a bit. Just saying…
*My book ‘Making Japanese Woodblock Prints’ Crowood Press is coincidentally also due to be released on Friday 8th November. I’d shout more about this, but the first print run is already spoken for in pre-orders, so there’s going to be a bit of a delay while they print some more.