Artistic isolation

IMG_2908Mersea Oyster Shed by Julia Brett

Artists have always sought isolation to find their muse – but it is very different when isolation is thrust upon you! Woodford Arts Group was set up to keep local artists in touch, and that ethos continues in lockdown, says Julia Brett

A lot of artists have home studios or areas to work in, but some forms of artwork need to be done in professional workshops. Artists, like writers, try to have a schedule, a discipline, although by its very nature, the muse strikes when least expected. It doesn’t keep office hours.

Having recently moved more into printmaking, I regularly book studio time at a printmakers. This is because the techniques I’m using involve a lot of hazardous chemicals and acids. It also gives me access to a large press, but more than that, it also allows me to mix with a small community of other printmakers who share their techniques and enthusiasm. This is, of course, on hold for now. Luckily, I do have a smaller press at home which allows me to continue working. I work on copper and other metals.

The Mersea Oyster Shed shown here is a copper etching with aquatint and was completed before the restrictions were put in place, but I have managed to print a limited edition of prints at home.

Another method of printing, which can be done without a press, is called mono printing. For all those people stuck indoors, this is an easy way to get creative and stave off boredom. It’s something parents can do with children, from the very simple art of potato stamping, which many would remember from school, to the more sophisticated. There are lots of free YouTube videos that show this easy technique.

YouTube is also a great source of free art lessons. Plus, Facebook and Instagram are awash with artists offering free tuition at the moment.

The shutdown has affected many of us in different ways. Woodford Arts Group member Darren Evans had just opened his exhibition at Lopping Hall when it was cancelled. Our own travel-themed exhibition planned for the end of May will no doubt also be cancelled. But hopefully, we will put this exhibition on later in the year. This will take us out of Woodford to all corners of the globe and we have all been continuing with our art in its many forms. In the meantime, we will be putting on a virtual exhibition and will publish details of this nearer the time.

Fellow member John Rowlands is a metal sculptor and has recently finished a piece of work of rugby players in action. He is now working on a large commission in his garden. You can see John in his workshop on our podcast page on our website. These podcasts are a work of art in themselves as Cheryl Gabriel, who was a BBC producer-turned photographer, has used her considerable skills to ‘produce’ us!

Other members of Woodford Arts Group are also still working from home. David Varney continues to work on his resin pieces, which can also be seen on our podcast page.

Many members’ plans have been disrupted, and to quote Ged Rumak: “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” Ged planned lots of open-air painting at the coast but is now working from sketchbooks. Plein air sessions were something else we as a group planned to do more of this season, especially around Woodford, to get the community involved.

Alison Stenhouse has also been working on a coastal theme of the east coast, while Emma Liebskind has been making use of her garden, pondering natural forms and structures that represent home and places of safety.

All in all, we are keeping in touch and encouraging each other until we can get together again and get our Travellers’ Tales exhibition back on the road.

For more information on Woodford Arts Group and its members’ work, visit woodfordartsgroup.org