Print Group member Sue Jarman based at The Forge is our featured artist of the month.
How would you describe your current practice (eg materials, techniques, themes, key questions, approach)?
I draw nearly every day, it’s like my daily exercise – it enables me to observe and capture moments, and to see things I would otherwise miss. This is how I synthesise and develop ideas and document my thoughts.
Watching and capturing people in spaces, what I affectionately like to call visual eavesdropping has always fascinated me. Focusing on body language, clothing, personal moments and human interactions captures my imagination; there’s always a story to be noticed or constructed.
Text is an integral element too, so there’s always going be a narrative attached. As a result of this I always feel the need to title or attach an explanation to my work. Sometimes the words come to me and are constructed from the visual journey itself, but other times the images are a direct response to text and stories. This is one of my favourite ways to work.
In contrast to figures I love to capture landscapes – these can be wilderness or urban
environments, but often are a result of an experience, a journey and the joy of capturing the essence of a place.
Travel and journeys inspire me and feed my creative juices, and that travel doesn’t need to be to an exotic destination, although that is appealing – it can be as simple as a daily train commute, being sat in a busy street or café or perched halfway up a mountain in winter. But what I am conscious of is that the spirit and atmosphere of a place informs my media, materials and composition choices.
What are you working on at the moment (forthcoming exhibitions, events, workshops, etc)?
Last year has been challenging, especially for the arts and creative professions. Exhibitions, creative workshops and other events planned were unfortunately cancelled or postponed. ‘In Our Garden’ an exhibition celebrating the centenary of Welwyn Garden City, put together by a group of us from The Forge was one which will hopefully now go ahead in 2021. I have several new applications and projects in progress that will hopefully go ahead as planned this coming year.
I draw regularly with a group of other illustrators based in London who I met through my studio space at Candid Arts in Islington – it’s been predominantly outside venues this year, but this suits my love of sketching and working in different locations – one little gem was Woodberry Wetlands.
I’ve also adapted my solo people watching style to suit the challenges of social distancing. All this work forms a reference resource to inspire, inform and be develop further.
During the first lockdown I started woodblock printing, something I’d been thinking about trying for a while but hadn’t got around to. And with the added bonus of not necessarily having to rely on a large industrial press, it seemed a good time to embrace it. It’s been really interesting working with relief printing instead of intaglio and comparing this with my drypoint/collagraph and screenprinting work.
Online life drawing sessions which started during the first lockdown have also now become an important part of my practice.
What are you plans for the coming year?
I want to increase the scale of my work whilst still producing pieces that are packed with narrative. I’m also putting together sets of drawings, to be printed as limited-edition books. And of course, more drawing.
What is the question that you most get asked about your work?
Generally I receive the most comments and questions on the story behind the work, my use of media and how I lay down my marks.
Who are what inspires you?
My inspirations are quite eclectic – everyday life, travel, the work of other artists and illustrators, and I love to lose myself in a second-hand bookshop. Words, poems and stories fire and feed my imagination. Art, fashion and lifestyle photography influence my compositions and my colour choices.
Which artists do you most admire and why?
One of my favourite artists is Eric Ravilious, I love his illustration, printmaking and composition – and the way he depicts and uses light is wonderful. I have a book on his scrapbooks that I return to time and time again.
Also, the Swedish artist Mamma Andersson, with her beautifully expressive and subdued figures and landscapes, and soft muted colour palettes.
Photography is another strong influence – Bruce Chatwin’s travel notebooks were an early influence. And then Hannah Starkey, her choreographed and constructed portraits, dramatic lighting and compositions really do resonate with me.
How has your relationship with Digswell Arts strengthened your practice as an artist?
Joining Digswell Arts as a print member a couple of years ago enabled me to be part of a community as well as to be able to regularly have access to a print space that allowed me to develop my printmaking, and to push it in a new direction. I am really enjoying the support, encouragement and community aspect of being part of The Forge. And my print work has moved on in a way it could have never done in isolation and without access to a dedicated print space.