A printmakers view of Art & Everything
A printmakers view of Art and Everything
by Rod Nelson – printmaker and tutor at Pegasus Art
‘Art – a rummy business’ JMW Turner
In truth, I hardly know why I am a printmaker, or artist or whatever I am. I’ve doodled, made marks
and drawn pictures since I was a child. In that, I was just like most children: the thing is, I never
stopped – and maybe the desire to hang on to the child in myself kept me at it. Here I am at 70, and
still that child is alive, doodling, making marks, fiddlying about. I still draw often – sometimes well,
sometimes not but the doggone persistence is still there, grizzled, battered but also a bit defiant and
now with a kind of versatility. Then I made prints since I was in my early twenties…linocuts initially,
then illustrations, and finally to bigger pieces after the transformative encounter I had with the work
of Shiko Munakata. There is something about woodblock prints which has always excited my
interest…and that’s never left me. When I saw it at the age of 10, Durer’s ‘Melancholia’ mesmerized
me. I had never seen anything so ‘deep’. I’ve hardly progressed since then and still tingle at this
So what is an artist? I’ve decided that an artist is just someone who does something – and that’s a club
to which I can confidently say I belong. It isn’t much a of a definition but to go beyond it, gets one
into the sticky, persistent and unanswerable question of what ‘Art ‘might be. This morning I quickly
and incompletely doodled this diagram – for which, many thanks to Sarah at Pegasus who asked me
to write this blog, because without such prompting, I rarely think.
Kate Raworth, in her book ‘Doughnut Economics’ says the following: ‘If we want to rewrite economics,
we need to re-draw its pictures too. The most powerful stories throughout history have been told with
pictures. Our brains are wired for visuals.’
I love diagrams, and this buoyant assertion gives some heft to my taste for them. Someday soon, I will
make a collection of great diagrams, starting with Feynman and working from there. Diagrams are maps
of reality, and they change the world. Kate Raworth’s astute observations allow us to bring ‘content’ to its
rightful place in Art, alongside ‘style’. When content and style are in balance, there is an alchemy possible
which otherwise remains untapped. I referred earlier to my hero Shiko Munakata (1903-1975), and on
this occasion, I want him to have the last words, because I think he knew about these things.
“The nature of the woodcut is such, that even a mistake in its carving will not prevent it from its true
materialization. Technique alone is not enough. The indirect must be allowed to triumph over the direct
to create a work that is somehow incomplete.”
Rod Nelson runs Woodblock Printing Workshops at Pegasus Art – get in touch if you’d like to find out when his next course is, please get in touch: email@example.com
Rod, who lives near Nailsworth has made prints most of his life. Having professionally worked with wood, he has very good technical understanding of the possibilities of the medium. He takes inspiration from many different sources – from nature, from landscape, and of course, from other artists and printmakers.
The artist who has had the greatest influence on his work was the maverick Japanese woodblock artist, Shiko Munakata whose work has a great sense of freedom, and respect for beauty and decoration. However, he has also drawn inspiration from other woodcut artists Europe (notably Germany), China and Japan.
As well as having work in exhibitions around the country, Rod’s work has been shown in various UK galleries, Shanghai, and in Germany. He was a founder member of the print-making cooperative Pine Feroda, and currently teaches woodcut at the renowned college of the arts and crafts at West Dean in Sussex, as well as at the Royal West of England Academy Drawing School, in Germany, in Holland, and in Nailsworth. www.woodblock.eu
He is co-author (with Merlyn Chesterman RE) of the book Making Woodblock Prints, published by Crowood Press which is available to buy at Pegasus Art Shop for £9.99 and can be signed by the author during the workshop!