If being an artist is not your full time vocation then making time to be creative can be extremely tricky. Life, with its work and family commitments pulls us all in many different directions and taking time out to be on one’s own, to pursue that artistic itch can often be viewed as just too self-indulgent or unnecessary, and as a result perpetually pushed to a future date and time. I have found ways to navigate this frustrating path, discovering that writing can be a great release for pent up ideas as it requires no dedicated workshop space and can be packed away quickly when the children land. Digital photography has also played an important role, enabling me to create images without mess, but since stepping back into the print room earlier this year at the University Centre Somerset, I have had an urge to get inky. For months I have been promising myself that I would attend one of Jane Mowat’s print workshops at her studio in Hurstone and in July I finally committed.
Jane is a member of Somerset Art Works and many of you will be familiar with her distinctive woodblock prints that feature strong-limbed figures with flowing hair, often surrounded by flora and fauna. What is so attractive about her work is that you get a great sense of comparison between the large, yet delicate prints on Japanese papers with the solid wood block that becomes an art piece in its own right – lino would never gain this status, it is purely the method and tool to achieve your aesthetic.
I was apprehensive attending Jane’s workshop, you naturally want to make the most of your time and come away with an image to be proud of, forgetting the fact you are learning a whole new skill base that Jane has spent twenty years experimenting and honing. I needn’t have worried though, Jane is an experienced teacher and lectures part time on the National Diploma in Art & Design course at the University Centre Somerset, Taunton. Her demeanour is very relaxed which makes her one of those teachers that gently imparts knowledge and encourages your potential at a pace to suit you. It was a surprise to all of us who attended her weekend workshop that by the end of the first day we all had a finished print to take home and were asking Jane for bigger pieces of wood to get gouging!
Our group consisted of all levels and abilities from keen amateur, to semi and professional artists, all with different expectations but all keen to learn a new skill. Among our group was designer and illustrator Anne Mortimer who relies on her drawing skills constantly when working, where results have to count daily and attending the workshop was an artistic opportunity to play and not be precious about the outcomes. I am sure that this creative break invigorated her everyday work just as it invigorated us all. The art of making instills a great sense of self worth and achievement which is beneficial for a holistic approach to our health and well being, we just need to remind ourselves that it is valuable time well spent and should never be on the bottom of our ‘to do’ list.
Jane recently spent a day working with Somerset Art Works’ Young Prospectus students. The project has enabled young people within Taunton’s Pupil Referral Units (PRUs) to engage and informally explore a college environment and experience a series of workshops led by various SAW artists. Jane naturally taught them how to prepare, design and print their own woodblock and you can read about their successful outcomes on the dedicated blog on the link listed below. I’m looking forward to seeing their work which is to be exhibited at Taunton Flower show on the 4th & 5th August.
As you can see Jane is well versed in teaching all abilities and if you like the idea of attending one of her workshops she is currently planning dates for the Autumn. You will also be able to visit her studio near Wiveliscombe during this year’s festival.
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WORDS & PHOTOGRAPHY by Davina Jelley
Published on July 27, 2017 // Davina Jelley