Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Making an Etching Plate: The Bloomsbury Sisters

One of my family's favourite things to do during the Summer was (and still is) to go driving in East Sussex. The one rule was that, if someone pointed out somewhere they wanted to go, we would go there: follow a sign down a lane to a pretty village or pop into a shop. We discovered many things this way including breathtaking cliff top views and a heavenly book shop in Alfriston called 'Much Ado Books'.

There is a house tucked away between Lewes and Alfriston called Charleston. If you're ever looking for artistic inspiration, as I was at the age of 17 when we first visited, please go to Charleston. This olf farm house is the (rented) family home of the Bloomsbury Group. This house was home to many inspirational people during and after the war including artist Vanessa Bell, her husband and art critic Clive Bell and fellow artist Duncan Grant. It was visited by famous minds such as John Maynard Keynes, E.M Forster and of course Vanessa's sister Virginia Woolf.

Every surface of Charleston is adorned with artwork from the group, including ceramics by Vanessa's son, paintings, furniture and sculptures. The artwork creeps onto every surface: onto the walls, the window frames and doors. I spent a year working on a study of Charleston and the people who lived and worked there and it still influences my work today. 

During my time at bip art in Brighton, I created an etching plate celebrating two of the great Bloomsbury minds: Vanessa Bell and her sister Virginia Woolf (who's house is just round the corner from Charleston and is owned by the National Trust).


I used a soft ground so the I could achieve lighter marks with a more hand drawn feel. I much preferred this method to the hard ground that I used to create my pencil pot etching as I think it's more sympathetic to the hand of the maker.

 I'm not normally a big portrait artist but there's something about these two sisters looking at one another that resonates with me. The plate inks up beautifully and will soon become an edition of prints now that it has been proofed.



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