Sharpening the Mind

I like January. It feels clean and fresh, and after all that deliciously rich food of Christmas, it’s nice to eat more simply again. Soup so hot and clear it burns your sinuses, for example. Plates of steaming vegetables with chilli flakes and garlic. Medicinal food to start as we mean to go on.

I like resolutions too. I think it’s fun and useful to have a focus with which to start a new year. However, my resolution from last year was: ‘Eat more liquorice’, so you can see the sort of thing I’m up against. I didn’t even do it! I’ve also heard some people have an ongoing ‘bucket list’ – all the things they want to do, ever, on this Earth. I don’t think it’s for the same reasons, and it doesn’t involve skydiving, Space travel or hurtling in any direction at high speed, but I’ve always got a list myself, full of resolutions and ambitions. As January arrived, learning how to make lino cut prints was at the top.

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It was fortunate that the cats had been to the art shop and bought me some of the above equipment for Christmas (they are well trained!). I also got a wonderful book by illustrator Mark Hearld, which kept me engrossed all the way through the holidays. I could not wait for term to begin. This type of work does not go well with a soundtrack of Electronic Dance Music, or teenagers having a NERF gun war up and down the stairs, or trumpet practice, or I’m sorry to say, even Taylor Swift. Lino cutting involves sharp tools, and I am clumsy.

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Total silence then. Children back at school. It’s too quiet! OK, Radio Four. Pot of tea. What a joy! The sort of activity where one must enter a state of ‘flow’  – a concentrated freedom, a loose precision. It’s a task of contradictions; messy and neat, tightly planned and serendipitous. It’s intriguing. It’s frustrating. It’s craft and art and brute physicality all at once (I have the blisters to prove that last point). I don’t have any truly successful outcomes yet, only results of experiments, and a corresponding list of variables scribbled in my sketchbook. I’m learning!

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I can see so many creative applications, and impatient with myself as ever, I’m itching to get to a point where I can use printing like this in my paintings and beyond. Who knows, I might even sell some print editions if I can get good enough!

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Happy January! I’ve managed to start as I mean to go on – curious and learning and determined. I think this lino printing resolution will be at the top of my list for a long time.

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