While there are things going on in my studio which I will say something about soon, I felt it was time for another Studio Conversation and I’m really excited to bring this one to you today. Anne Skinner and I went through DoJCAD together although Anne did painting while I was busy screen printing fabric and embroiderying. After leaving art college Anne, like me, went into teaching, working for many years in further education where she was part of the very successful Fine Art department at Dundee FE College. However despite her teaching career Anne has continued her practice as a visual artist exhibiting widely in the UK as well as internationally. Her work is in many private collections and she has been an exhibitor at several major open exhibitions including the RSW, RSA, VAS and RGI, where she was awarded the Langside College Award. However, I was keen to ask about her most recent work, a collection of beautiful screen prints currently on show at the Dovecot, Edinburgh where she is Invited Printmaker at the Edinburgh International Festival 2019. If you are in Edinburgh during the Festival it is well worth a look. I started by asking her about our time at art college. Anne, we are both graduates of Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art, Dundee. What are your memories of your time at art college and do you feel the teaching and your time there has left a lasting influence on your artistic practice?
- Apart from the sense of belonging and connecting with like minded people, one of the things that I remember from my time at Art College, was the range of different disciplines we experienced over a two year general course. Even if you didn’t have an natural aptitude towards them or not, you were expected to become reasonably proficient in each one before you could progress through the college system. There was a strong emphasis on the “fundamentals” – for instance, in life drawing we learned from the skeleton, drew and understood the function and structure of the muscles as well as drawing the figure from life. In embroidery you had to accurately construct a variety of stitches in a straight line and make sure the back was as neat as the front. ( much to my consternation as my textile friends will tell you!) I was able to experience textiles, graphics, sculpture, silversmithing, printmaking, embroidery, weaving, anatomy, life drawing, painting etc and it was this variety of skills that I was able to carry through to my teaching, particularly at Dundee College where I was responsible for the personal projects of our students as well as teaching in both the fine art and design departments. This ability to be “jack of all trades” while working with my students has stood me in good stead and has helped develop my also my own artistic practise as well.
- Teaching meant that you had to be one step ahead of the students and as one of the subjects I taught was sketchbook and idea development a considerable amount of time was spent researching, attending workshops and keeping up with current trends in the art world. I loved this part of the job – nothing better than trying out new techniques to show students and watching them develop it in their own way. This helped me in my own work too so instead of just using the skills I gained at Art College I have explored different ways to paint, created applied art works, artists books, prints, collages etc so teaching has most definitely influenced my own work.
It is always interesting to hear about the working spaces and practices of artists so can you describe your studio? Do you like to work with music or the radio playing or do you prefer silence?
- I have a studio, which over looks the River Tay, at home in our converted attic. The space allows me to have two different areas – one is a messy area mainly for painting, monoprinting and experimenting etc and the other area is a cleaner area for planning screenprints, cutting and office work etc. I have a storage area for paintings, prints and a plan chest and drawers full of bits and pieces – you never know what you might need for future work. It is rather chaotic – I am a very messy worker which probably surprises lots of people when they look at my work. I suppose I try to order out of chaos!
Generally, if I am working out ideas I prefer silence but otherwise I listen to the radio, cds, or ask Alexa – anything from Bob Dylan to Sheku Khanneh-Mason. I have quite eclectic taste in my music as well as art.
What are your favourite materials and techniques?
- I can’t really say I have a favourite technique – it is what suits the concept best or what I am trying to achieve. I suppose I am a mixed media artist so anything goes and if you look at my back catalogue of work you can see what I mean – definitely a variety of mediums and techniques. But I suppose if I had to choose it would be paint.
Having trained as a painter I have always loved oil paint – there is nothing quite like it- but because I didn’t have the facilities to use this when I left art college I developed a love of watercolour. We didn’t get taught this at art college, in fact, it was slightly frowned upon but it meant I could continue my art at home on a table top. When I got my studio I started to use acrylic as it has a quick drying time ( such a contrast to oil) and which meant I could work on a larger scale. Because of time constraints – teaching, raising a family etc, it meant I could work in small pockets of time and achieve a result so it suited me well. I love collaging anything from fabric to papers and applying handmade print to the surface as underlying layer before I start painting. Recently I have been making a conscientious decision to work in simple watercolour only, as a challenge and a way to develop new ideas so we will see where that leads to.
I also have found that the practical techniques and constraints of screenprinting to be a good counter balance to the more intuitive way I work with my paintings.
Do you have favourite themes to which you return for inspiration?
- Interesting you should ask that Sheila as it is only looking back that I can see the variety of themes I have been inspired by over the years. It seems I tend to focus on a theme/ concept until I have had enough of it. In my career major subjects have been tabletop still life, imaginary Egypt and Morocco, Venice, Italy and lately I have been inspired by the natural environment ,probably because I have had more time to take walks and spend time looking out the window of my studio observing the changing seasons. I find that whatever way I develop my work it usually has been bubbling away in my mind for quite a while before it surfaces. I have quite a false starts before a piece of work emerges. I tend to have too many ideas and different ways to interpret my theme – the curse of the jackof all trades education – and working with students in all sort of disciplines means I can see all sorts of possibilities from one idea.
Recently you have been working in the DCA print studio, can you describe what techniques you have been using and what do you enjoy about the printing process? What does it bring to your work?
- When I stopped teaching I realised that I needed a new challenge in my life to fill the gap that teaching left so I joined the Dundee Contemporary Arts Printmakers studio. It took me a considerable time to understand the processes involved and develop my ideas. I think what I like about being an artist is that you never stop learning and any “mistakes” are really learning opportunities to take you in all sorts of directions you never imagined. I realised that there was no point in me trying to make the prints look like my paintings so I deliberately started to work in quite a simple graphic way. I use different processes to create the finished work including photographs, Monoprints, as well as drawing and painting to achieve my results. Like my paintings I work with a limited palette of colour and subject matter, in this case the natural environment in winter. I like the fact that you can have editions of the prints which means you can put prints out to multiple galleries at the same time.
You have exhibited widely both in Scotland and London, are there any future exhibiting plans you can tell us about?
- I have been very fortunate during my career to have been approached by galleries throughout the UK to exhibit my paintings and more recently my prints.
I was delighted to be asked to show my prints in the Dovecot Studios in Edinburgh during the Edinburgh Festival, as invited printmaker with the Dazzle exhibition. It has been good to see my my prints together for the first time . It finishes on 26th August.
I will be taking part in the Frames Gallery 40th Birthday celebrations in September. After this it is back to the easel to see what develops – more painting – new prints – mixed media? Who knows – it’s not just the end result – although nothing better than seeing a framed piece on a gallery wall and even better if someone buys it! – but it is the journey that I love about art – always new challenges. So I am now getting the sketchbooks out- it is good to go back through past work as well as looking forward and start exploring new ideas.
The exhibition of Anne’s screen prints continues in Edinburgh at the Dovecot Studio until the Festival ends, 26th August, but for information if you are unable to visit personally you can find out more about the work she has produced for Dazzle and Anne’s other work at Anne’s website and she can also be found on Instagram at this link. Thank you very much for taking time out of your busy schedule Anne. I’m sure you are needing a holiday after all the work for the Festival exhibition but I look forward to seeing future work, whether it be screen prints or paintings.