Jackie Newell is a senior member of the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers whose gritty recent etchings depict the process of urban development. We caught up with Jackie to congratulate her on winning the Jackson’s prize at RE Original Print 2017, and to ask her about her working techniques as a contemporary printmaker.
Duncan Montgomery: Hi Jackie, thanks for talking to us today and congratulations for winning the Jackson’s prize at RE Original Prints 2017. I wonder first if you could tell us a bit about your background and your artistic practice.
Jackie Newell: My initial art training began with two years studying graphic design at Ravensbourne College of Design. I then moved to New York and continued my studies at The New York State University at Purchase New York (SUNY Purchase). It was here that many more opportunities presented themselves, and I was first introduced to printmaking, which I chose to study instead of graphics.
I particularly enjoyed the process of printmaking, and decided to explore all aspects of it. Stone Lithography and etching appealed to me most, as I could exercise my love of drawing and apply it in a new and exciting way.
After graduating, I returned to London, and studied for an MA in printmaking at Camberwell College of Art. I was elected to the Royal Society of Painter Paintmakers (approximately 25 years ago) and have been making prints ever since.
DM: How do you work up from a sketch on site to an etching or a monoprint or collagraph?
JN: I like to start with a drawing from observation. Then put it aside and make another drawing from memory. This allows me to use my imagination and not to rely on too much accuracy. I prefer to use charcoal as a drawing medium, as it allows me to push marks around. I also like to use a putty eraser as a drawing tool, as it creates tone and adds texture. After several drawings, I then decide on the most appropriate method of making a print. I do sometimes start with a Monoprint, and I do on occasions make collographs, although I prefer to combine these methods in order to achieve a stronger print.
I prefer to use a copper plate, as I can add all manner of material to achieve my desired effects. I also enjoy the process of etching as there is always an element of surprise that I find exciting. I work from home in my own workshop using a Hunter Penrose Littlejohn printing press.
I start by rolling soft ground onto the plate. This ground allows me to achieve a smudgy effect like my drawing in charcoal. I then draw a light image onto good quality tracing paper, and place it directly on the plate. Next, I gently smooth it onto the plate to hold it in place and transfer the texture of the paper onto the soft ground. I don’t bother using a bridge, as I like to add as many direct marks as possible, and I want the print to evolve from my initial drawing, rather than be a copy of it.
I then draw directly onto the tracing paper, using a variety of pencils and tools. I also place textures directly on the plate under the paper and use varying pressures to remove the ground. When I am happy with the drawing. I will remove the paper, take the plate and immerse it in a bath of ferric chloride for about 45 minutes. After this, I remove the ground from the plate, ink it, and take my first proof.
At this point, I examine the proof to see where it needs to be defined.
Next I clean the plate, and apply a hard ground. I can then add to the existing marks, adding definition and also finer marks. I repeat the process of biting, proofing and reviewing the print. Finally, I use a lithographic tusche to paint directly on to the plate. I then add aquatint twice from a resin box, and bake it on the plate. I repeat the process of biting and proofing.
At this stage I usually know what to expect, and with luck the print is to my liking and ready for editioning.
DM: Your recent printmaking shows a strong focus on architecture, particularly in those parts of London which are still under construction. I’ve noticed that there are a few other artists who seem to be excited by similar subjects (some of whom, like Melanie Bellis and Anne Desmet, are also members of the RE). Do you feel part of a ‘movement’?
JN: I have often exhibited with Anne Desmet and more recently Melanie Bellis as part of a show of prints rather than subject matter. Although, we share an interest in architecture, I don’t think we can be described as a movement. I would say that I am interested in structures as well as architecture, particularly when they are either under construction, or in a state of decay. Pylons, across France and particularly in the mountains, fascinate me as do any communicating structures. Manhole covers are also of interest to me. Maybe this stems from my formative years at design college.
London is an exciting city and also accessible to me. It is a city that is always in a state of flux. Structures and buildings combined with ever-changing skies, and the refraction and reflections from the river, add an exciting dimension.
DM: What’s next? Do you have any projects on the go at the moment which are nearing fruition?
I have recently been busy with editioning prints, getting them ready to send to other galleries where they are currently on show. I now intend to go back to the drawing board to create work for a group show in September, and also to work on a new Monoprint to enter the Masters show on Monoprinting, which is already open for submission. I am thinking of making a one off concertina book or scroll in mixed media (Monoprint, drawings and Chine-collé).
The image at the top of this article is Jackie Newell, “Blackfriars Bridge 2 Arches” (Soft ground etching and aquatint, 30x44cm). Interested readers can find out more about Jackie’s work by visiting her website.