Michael Papworth, Printmaker
Today we meet printmaker and artist Michael Papworth and find out about more about his stunning landscapes.
What was your first job?
My first job was working as a gallery assistant at The Darryl Nantais Gallery in Linton. I had just finished a week’s work experience there and the owner took me on part time. It was a great opportunity for me as I was surrounded by many artists work and could really get inspired each working day there. I was also meeting artists on a daily basis, so this developed my communication skills at an early age. I worked as a picture framer for 4 years which has now become a very useful skill as I have the opportunity to frame my own work as well as creating it.
What is your favourite subject matter in your own work?
I have always been fascinated with landscapes and the relationship between sky and land, and how calm or dramatic scenes can be created. I use texture, colour and the unique process of lithography to create this and tell a story of a forever changing landscape of how I see it, so the viewer can see what I think is a perfect landscape. You will often see a single tree in my work and although that is quite a simple scene, I feel it is striking enough to create a reaction.
Your style is very distinctive, how did you find it?
As I was selling my work from an early age of just 13 I was creating pictures in any medium and every subject matter I could think of. I got so frustrated because I couldn’t find my own style and I would forever be striving for it, but soon realised it doesn’t work like that. However, experimentation was the key to success and I was ambitious enough to carry on. It wasn’t until I was studying art at Long Road Sixth Form College in Cambridge that I started to focus on landscapes and became aware of Michael Carlo. As I studied Carlos’ work I began to develop a style of my own. I was inspired by the strong clump of trees that he includes in his pictures and through a lot of hard work I finally found a distinctive style that was unique to me and how I see a landscape. It’s important to include every little detail of my own vision of how I see the outside world, even if I have drawn a purple oak tree. It’s how I see a picture working, not what reality is telling me.
Through your day job you get to see so many different artist's work. Do you have a few favourites?
Yes, I have worked with many artists over my 3 years at The Curwen Studio and one of my favourites has to be Robin Duttson. I am fascinated by the detail he creates within his apple blossom pictures. The reason is all down to the detail and time he takes to draw each individual stamen of a flower. This, combined with the bright summer colours he uses makes a fresh and exciting image to look at. And of course I have to include Rolf Harris for his big personality and character. He is so inspirational to work with and to hear the stories he tells me and the songs he sings, After a day’s work with him I’m straight to the drawing board creating a new lithograph because being surrounded by famous artists gives me so many ideas of my own.
What has been inspiring you lately?
Now that spring has arrived the landscape is forever changing and the sun is just perfect for creating more lithographs. I have been travelling up to Wells-Next-The-Sea just lately because I have my first ever solo show there which is called ‘Grease and Water’ which starts on Friday 5th August 2011. So I am certainly inspired by the landscape up there as I have only ever drawn around the Cambridgeshire area or from memory. Gallery Plus is holding my entire collection for two weeks so I have started to create beach hut scenes, and more lithographs which specifically focus on the North Norfolk area.
What is it about lithography that makes it your preferred method of making work?
Lithography is a process that can work for any artist and their own individual style. It is so versatile to the point where we are still finding different ways of working even to this day. That is what I like about it, there is room for experimentation in every way, from the drawing stage to making the plates. It doesn’t stop there, because I came from a painting background before I started work at The Curwen Studio in 2007, it meant that I could transfer all of my skills into the lithography process. It’s just like painting, but instead of using canvas or board you draw onto transparent film, just like tracing paper. This is then exposed onto a light sensitive plate which exposes the hand drawn marks to a very high detail. So when the printing plate is placed onto an offset press the quality of the hand drawn mark in incredible. It’s also the layering of each colour one at a time that is the most exciting thing about creating an original print. You never know how the image is going to turn out until the last colour is printed.
Do you make work using other materials?
I am currently focusing on producing hand drawn lithographs so I don’t have much time to use other materials. Although when I take time off work I do occasionally go back to painting, but I do have to be in the mood for that, whereas I can create lithographs all day long if I could. What I have found though is after just a year of creating lithographs I suddenly went back to painting and found it dramatically changed as I was thinking about it as if I was creating a print. It’s a strange thing to see my work slightly changing as I am switching from printing to painting and vice versa.
If you could have any artist's work on your wall at home, who would you choose?
As my work shows my interpretation of what a landscape looks like in good detail, I often include abstract work which creates a massive contrast between realistic trees and abstract land. I feel there is a fine line between this combination and like the link it has with the landscape itself. So with an interest in abstract work I would definitely choose a painting by John Hoyland. This is because I can never work out how he creates them and that’s very important to me because it keeps the viewer thinking and constantly asking questions about how that was created, therefore adding to the experience of buying a picture. Plus the fact that my walls are covered in landscape pictures and it would just be nice to have something different created by another artist other than myself.
What keeps you motivated?
Living just outside Cambridge and growing up next to fields means that I am surrounded by the subject I enjoy drawing the most. Every day I go out I see a particular landscape that I have never seen before, and I have lived here for 22 years! I was once told that people who have brought my work are finding themselves driving through the countryside and spotting a ‘Michael Papworth tree’. I know I am quite picky about the trees I draw, and I suppose now that I have my own style of landscape and trees, it’s nice that people are seeing what I see when looking out into the vast landscape of East Anglia.
To find out more about Michael and his work visit http://www.michaelpapworth.com/gallery.html
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