INDIE OXFORD INTERVIEW: SALLY-ANNE STEWART
Sally-Anne Stewart shares how her journey to lino printing led to leaving a ten year career in journalism to pursue her love for art. She talks inspiration, Artweeks and even her favourite biscuit. >>
Reigniting a love for art after ten years in journalism
I had always done little bits of art on the side here and there, such as making birthday or Christmas presents for friends and family. However I often found it difficult to find the energy and motivation to regularly create art outside of working a full time job. When my daughter was two years old she was in nursery three days a week and at home with me for the other two – my husband offered to scale back his work to four days a week so that he could have her on one of her days at home, and I had that as my ‘art day’. He’s a very kind man! Having that ring-fenced time meant I could try out more challenging things during daylight hours, and I ended up taking on a few commissions from friends, which led me to try more complex prints and develop my skills.
Sally-Anne says, “I like different mediums of art, like watercolour painting, but after becoming intrigued by lino printing I found some videos on YouTube and had a go myself. I think one of the best parts of it is that you’re slightly removed from the final result because it’s the lino block that transfers the image onto the paper, not your hand. So there’s always an element of surprise when you get to the final peel-and-reveal stage.”
The art of linocut printing…
Essentially it’s relief printmaking, so carving into a surface to create an image that can then be printed. Artist’s lino is made from compressed linseed oil, and you carve into it using sharp tools. You can create images just with simple lines, or by using your tools to make different kinds of marks. The possibilities are endless, really. Then you apply relief printing ink to your carved lino using a roller, and put it through a press to transfer the image to the paper. The parts you carved away end up white (or whatever colour your paper is), and whatever you didn’t carve away is what ends up being printed.
The beautiful city of Oxford is a great source of inspiration for art
Oxford has a wealth of beautiful older buildings, but I tend to find myself drawn to the more modern architecture such as the St Cross Building, Wolfson College and St Catherine’s College, which I’m working on a print of at the moment. I’d like to do more of Oxford Botanic Garden as well, as there’s so much beauty there.
Sustainability is an important brand value
I try to minimise waste and environmental impact wherever I can – my packaging is all recycled and/or biodegradable. Obviously creating art can be a messy business so there’s a lot of cleaning up at the end of a printing session – I clean up my oil-based inks by wiping them with vegetable oil, and have amassed a huge pile of oily rags as they can just be used again and again. It’s not a pretty sight but it’s a good demonstration of just how much things can be re-used!
The ‘peel and reveal’ stage always brings an element of surprise
Usually the surprises are good, thankfully, although of course as a beginner there were a fair few horror shows. The stakes get a bit higher when you’re creating a print with multiple colours, as generally you need things to line up with the previous layer (or layers) of ink. There are ways to do this which are pretty much fail-safe, although things can still go wrong, however much painstaking prep you do.
Oxfordshire Arts Week, a perfect event to welcome people into the studio and give a glimpse of where the magic happens
I really enjoy it when people come to visit the studio. We can chat over a cuppa about printmaking, art in general, cats, gardening, even favourite biscuits. I’ve come to realise that I really miss having colleagues to chat to, so it’s good to get a fix of conversation.
Sally-Anne adds, “Artweeks visitors are always lovely, and it’s great that people in Oxford are so invested in the festival – it means a lot to us artists!”
Your love for things often inspires your work, so which is your favourite biscuit?
That’s tricky one! It would probably have to be a custard cream. I have actually pondered making a custard cream print, so watch this space!
Try your hand at linocut printing at one of Sally-Anne’s workshops.
Expect a step-by-step introduction to linocut printing; we start with trying out some mark-making to get to know the tools, and then move on to transferring designs onto the lino blocks before carving and printing them, it’s very immersive and a lot of fun.
My workshops have mainly been at Silvie on Iffley Road, and we have a lovely (and well-deserved) treat of cheese and wine at the end. If people head to my Instagram profile there’s a link in my bio to sign up to my mailing list – that’s the best way to keep up to date with upcoming classes.
Looking ahead to Christmas and Artweeks 2024
I’m hoping to run some card-making workshops in the run-up to Christmas, and am looking forward to getting started in some of the print projects on my (very long) wishlist after the school summer holidays. For next year’s Artweeks as I’d like for a change to be part of a group exhibition, so I’m on the lookout for potential venues.
“If there are any businesses out there that might be interested in hosting a band of merry artists across two weekends in May 2024, please give me a shout!”