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Posts Tagged ‘printmaking in Spain’

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An interview by Bart Sedgebear

Manchester Girl Came Long Way

Maureen is from Manchester, U.K. In her last incarnation there she was a suburban housewife with two small children. That was in 1964 and she was feeling restless again. She had always been restless, at school, in church, in her job as a secretary earning coolie wages in the Manchester textile sector. This time it was bigger. She wanted out of suburbia, out of Little England. She had experienced only two weeks of sunshine in the previous year and yearned to feel the sun. She had painted her children’s bedroom walls with a bullfighter theme. Painting made her happy. She had attended a few night classes with a professor from the Stockport College of Art. “I needed to know how to stretch a canvas,” she says. After a half-dozen lessons the art professor said to her, “You don’t need to come any more. Just go home and draw everything.” She sold her first couple of portraits and thought the life of the artist would be easy.

One day, when her husband arrived home from work as a sales rep, she said to him, “Let’s move to Spain.” They had been on holiday a couple of times on the Costa Brava on Spain’s northern Mediterranean coast and enjoyed it.

In July 1964 she stepped off a plane at the Málaga airport, a thousand kilometers south of the Costa Brava. She was shepherding her two children and struggling with the carry-on luggage. Her husband was waiting there to drive them to their new home, a cobblestone, Roman-tiled fishing village 50 kilometers up the coast. As she stepped out the door of the plane she was buffeted by a wave of heat like nothing she had ever experienced before. She wondered if she had done the right thing.

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Time Flies

Flash forward a half century. She’s sitting midst easels and etching presses, stacks of canvases and exotic papers, worriedly anticipating the return of the wren that built his nest outside her studio window last week–and looking back over a life that took her by surprise.

Q: What happened?

A: We sold our house in England and pooled the money with another English couple to build a restaurant/bar and 12 apartments on a bluff over a Mediterranean beach in southern Spain. We ran the business working alternate weeks for a few years, the wives cooking and the husbands doing the shopping and tending the bar.

A couple of years in I rented the whole top floor of an old house overlooking a big vegetable patch and made it into a wonderful studio. The woman who owned the house was called Conchita Bueno and she was truly buena. I would paint there during the off weeks and any other time I could steal. Sometime during the fourth year, with the business taking off and me selling some paintings, I got restless again. We didn’t speak hardly any Spanish and we had never really integrated with the villagers. What’s more, the town was turning into a tourist trap for wayward Brits and Northern Europeans who formed English-speaking cliques and whose idea of adventure was to go to a “native” bar. It wasn’t an ideal place to raise children. I felt that I needed to get out of there. But how? I badly needed some serendipity.

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It came along in the form of an American lad who wore cut-off jeans in mid-winter and always carried a couple of cameras. He moved into the ugly new block of flats opposite our restaurant and began coming over for breakfast, and we had time for long chats. It turned out he was writing articles for American newspapers and was determined to stay in Europe. He liked fried bread, had never heard of it. One morning he and I made mayonnaise together in the kitchen, him pouring the oil slowly into the bowl and me whipping it into the eggs with a wire whisk. Shortly afterwards we coincided at a party of those boring expats and spent the whole night in a corner reading aloud to each other from a book of Yeats’ poems. We read Beggar to Beggar Cried. That did it.

Q: What happened then?

A. Two weeks later I was back on the plane with my kids, headed to my parents’ house in Manchester. I was there for six months working in my brother’s flower shop while my soon-to-be second husband searched for a “real” Spanish village well off the Mediterranean coast, found one, rented a house there, and helped the owner install a bathroom. We’ve lived in that village ever since. It hasn’t changed much as it’s in a steepish valley that doesn’t have much room for “development.” Here we raised my two kids and one of our own.

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Becoming a Printmaker

Eventually we bought an old house and fixed it up. As we had no money left nor collateral, the village mayor co-signed a loan for us to do the renovation. That is how our pueblo has treated us. Some years later we built the studio and converted the goat shed into an office for Mike and have happily lived and worked here ever since. Much later we built a cabin to accommodate the print artists who came from all over the world to attend my printmaking workshops. Workshops are what you do when a disastrous world economic crisis slows your flow of art sales to a drip. Even in this I was lucky. My husband was a freelance journalist and photographer who had worked in PR in the US, so it didn’t take him long to adapt to being an artist’s online publicist. Try googleing “printmaking courses in Spain”  and see the first results.

This was the etching studio of the Rodríguez-Acosta Foundation in 1979-80

Q: How did you become a printmaker?

A: More serendipity. Louise Waugh, a wonderful English watercolorist friend, stopped by the studio one day with some beautiful etching proofs. I was astounded. How did she do that? She said she had been accepted to study in the etching studio of the Fundación Rodríguez-Acosta in Granada. “You just take a portfolio of your work and leave it with them, and then go back after a week to see if you’ve been accepted.” I did. I was. A whole new world opened up for me. I worked there for two-and-a-half years, under the direction of the magical printmaking maestro, José García Lomas, “Pepe Lomas,” who had been exquisitely formed in Barcelona and Paris. Pepe liked his students to be earnest and I was certainly that, so he spared no effort to see to it that I mastered his traditional techniques. It’s a good thing I did. Everything starts there.

The Creative Life

Q: Let’s talk about the creative life. How do you see it looking back?

A: And forward. That’s something I need to clear up. A writer friend of ours recently turned 40 and expressed concern about being “past her prime.” What nonsense. You’re never past your prime until you stop struggling. I made my first print when I was 37. Consider Georgia O’Keeffe, nearing 98, virtually blind, and still painting.

As for “the creative life,” Mike and I have discussed it a lot. We agree that authentic creativity goes beyond putting paint on canvas or ink on plates. For us an artist’s first mission is to take responsibility for crafting a creative life. That can mean different things for different artists but the essential part is about making a vital and artistic ecosystem for yourself, tailor made for your own needs, tastes, challenges and aspirations. And don’t fail to leave some space for serendipity.

Don’t worry what other people think of your lifeplan. It’s for you, not for them. Do you want to raise chihuahuas or learn Mandarin. You can do that, and more. When I was headed back to Spain in 1969 to start a new life my two brothers, both successful businessmen, expressed their grave concern for me. They thought I was crazy. Forty-some years later they came down individually for visits, and both confided to me, “I wish I had done what you did.”

Q: Do you have any advice for young artists who are starting out, say, where you were in the mid-sixties?

A: I can make some general suggestions, but every artist is a world apart. First and foremost is the importance of actually working, filling sketchbooks, painting, making prints. If you don’t do that conscientiously it’s all pointless. Inevitably, what you are seeking, to live from your art, entails some risk, but it need not be an impediment. There’s a simple formula for taking the stress out of it: Figure out what your wildest dream is and give it a try. The worst that can happen is that you have to go home and get a job.

You’ll have to sell some work, of course. You’ll need to exhibit and participate in art fairs and other cultural events. Whether or not you ever sell much work over Internet, a compelling presence on the Web will be an important element in your success. Your story is just as important as your work and you’ll need to develop it and find interesting ways to divulge it. Right now the media for that are websites and blogs, videos and podcasts and, of course, social media. Later there will be something else but the essential element will still be your story: your humanity, your humor, your best teacher, your hopes, your unexpected successes, the morning light on your nasturtiums, your cat, and your trip to Tasmania or the Grand Canyon. Don’t worry about including any sales pitches. The captivating life and times of a full-time professional artist is sales pitch enough, and your potential clients will appreciate your low-key presentation.

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More Preparation

It would be good to study something, too, regardless of whether you get a degree. You will learn how to learn and this will serve you well when it comes time to build a a website or a sailboat. Don’t laugh. A dear artist friend of ours in Colorado makes lovingly- crafted three-quarter size Indian canoes and people hang them from their ceilings.

Travel all you can. Read all you can. Without it you cannot become a complete artist–or person. Read quality fiction and non-fiction. Everything fits into the artist’s blender.

Q: Do you have more suggestions, something to help artists survive a crisis?

A: I discussed that more extensively in an article I wrote some years ago. Here’s a link to it.

Q: What about working space and conditions? How important are they?

A: Ample workspace is essential for a visual artist, especially considering that you might need to mount courses in there. That studio is your sacred space and you must devote some thought and resources to it. You also need privacy and tranquility. At first you may need a day job, but don’t let it prevent you from spending quality time in your studio. Program that into your life. Set some objectives, make some plans. Write them down. They will help you navigate the hard times to come.

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Think about what kind of work you’re going to do, how commercial you can go without compromising your creativity and your self respect. Who are you going to sell to and how? Resist the temptation to spend time and effort cultivating rich clients. Normal people–teachers, nurses, programmers, office workers, small business people and the like, are better, more loyal and constant. They will think of you when they need wedding presents or portraits. Then, if a rich client comes along, that’s OK, too.

Don’t despise anyone. My best client for paintings (this was before etchings) when I started out in Granada was a young pharmacy employee. He would phone me occassionally and say, “I’ve got some money saved, Maureen. Can I come out and have a look-around?” We’re still friends.

Q: What about the coronavirus pandemic? How do you think that is going to influence the lives of artists?

A: I think that’s impossible to predict at the moment. The first thing that occurs to me is that involuntary lockdown has given artists valuable time to think and observe, time they have never taken before. I hope they take good advantage of it. As for national and world events, they could go from revolutionary social and political changes to just more of the usual muddling through. Only one thing is clear to me: our creativity–in the broadest sense of the word–will be stretched to its limits Artists may have to plant potatoes. In any case, look on the bright side. Creativity is what artists are good at.

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Days Full of Printmaking, Seafood, White Wine and Laughs

When Mary was leaving after her first course with Maureen she said, “I want to come back here with my husband, Robert. So I’ll be seeing you again.” That was eight years ago, but Mary kept her word. In the meantime she has set up her own printmaking workshop at home in a small town outside Milan, Italy and she wanted to do a refresher course with her maestra before beginning serious work.

“I’m so glad I came back,” said Mary. “I learned so much making prints with Maureen this time. It was so fun working with gold leaf. I’ve got some at home but I never knew how to use it. This visit served to convinced me that I need to come back a third time and stay longer! And Robert doesn’t object. He had so much fun. He wants to come back to visit the great little seafood bar Mike and Maureen took us to and to eat another of Mike’s paellas on their terrace.”

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Jan Reawakens Her Printmaking Enthusiasm in Granada

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Jan Stickland is coming back. After two serious operations in the past year, she decided to try her newly recovered wings with a solo trip to Spain from her home in Australia and an intensive printmaking workshop with Maureen here in Granada. She achieved both with high marks. When she left she was full of ideas, plans and a determination to buy an etching press and set up her own studio at home. “Maureen made me see that it was not only possible but necessary,” says Jan. “The truth is I always feel best when I’m making art.”

Jan is a country girl, raised in a village in the state of Victoria where her mother would pack her a lunch in the morning and she could spend the entire day walking alone in the woods. “I got to know every inch of that forest,” she says nostalgically. Having spent her professional life as a primary school teacher, with what she refers to as a “disjointed relationship with art,” Jan is now retired with her children grown up and independent. “It’s time to get back to art,” she says, adding, “I confess, though, that my principal motive for coming to work with Maureen was not mainly about printmaking. It was to relax and clear my head. But Maureen quickly took me far beyond that. This became a working holiday. We worked hard together and I learned more in a short time than ever before in my life, and not just about printmaking techniques and creative printing, but also studio practice and organization. In her studio Maureen seems always to have the materials she needs–down to an important scrap of grandmother’s lace or a pressed flower–close at hand. She buys most of her materials on Internet and they are delivered to her door.

This was Jan’s second visit to Spain. She was here last year after being chosen to represent Australia in the IMPACT 10 Encuentro, the tenth edition of the International Multidisciplinary Printmaking Conference created by the University of the West of England which was held in the city of Santander, Spain, from September 1 to 9, 2018. Jan had another compelling reason to visit Spain. Her son married a Spanish girl and they live in a hillside village in the province of Alicante just a 15-minute drive from the Mediterranean coast.

In answer to the question, “Why printmaking?” Jan replies, “It’s the serendipity, the magic that happens every time you pull that blanket back off a freshly pressed print.”

While Jan was here she also found time in the afternoons to stroll through the village and try its restaurants. One of those afternoons she coincided with the annual “Fiesta del Agua” and joined in the fun with the village young people. On her last afternoon, she accompanied Maureen on a delightful walk through a pine forest (“ahh, the smell…”) located 1,000 vertical meters above the village, where it’s 6-8ºC cooler on summer afternoons. We wouldn’t be surprised to see Jan coming back one of these years. It’s not just the printmaking. There is also her family down there in Alicante, just a short bus ride away.

Photos by Mike Booth
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Alaskan Artist, Rhonda Horton, Braves 30-Hour Flight to Come to Maureen’s Workshop

Rhonda and her husband, Rich, had been planning this trip, their first to Europe, for more than a year. For Rhonda it was more than a vacation. It was an opportunity to work  intensively–one on one–for two weeks with an Old World master printmaker and to collect some ideas for establishing her own printmaking studio at home. At the end of her time in Granada she hoped to have produced an exquisite artist’s book. And she did.

Rhonda had scrupulously prepared a full set of pencil drawings on paper as the basis to create an artist’s book on Alaskan sea birds. After admiring them Maureen said, “These are drawings are great but to achieve maximum image quality on solarplates they should be re-drawn in India ink on acetates.” She showed Rhonda how it was done and Rhonda spent her few first morning and afternoons preparing beautiful new drawings.

Then they decided on a format, adaptated to some elongated sheets of handmade Indian paper that Maureen had selected for Rhonda’s artist’s book, and burned the images on the plates. Maureen happened to have on hand some beautifully textured handmade paper acquired from the Paperki paper mill in Hondarribia, Spain, 30 years ago for the cover of the book. Rhonda loved some work that Maureen had done with chine collé and decided to incorporate that technique into her book project, as well.

Then it was just a question of printing up the images and assembling them meticulously into three artist’s books. Rhonda called it “Quiet Song” after a poem that occurred to her on awaking one morning in Maureen’s Gallinero artist’s cabin:

Quiet song, show me the morning
A shout before noon, show me the day
Birds of the shore, show me the night.

A special element in creating ambiente throughout the whole process was Rhonda’s husband, Rich, occasionally sitting quietly at the end of the studio playing his guitar and singing. The delicious atmosphere he achieved was like having a Rennaisance troubador providing live-music accompaniment in an artist’s studio.

Maureen attributes the success of their work together to the fact that Rhonda arrived with a clear project in mind with the images already worked out. The finished product is an exquisite piece of work that reflects the input of both Rhonda and Maureen. The effort expended by both over two weeks is evident in the proud, hard-working faces of both in the second and third photographs in the montage below.

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More Photographs from IB Bremen’s Printmaking Workshop in Granada with Maureen Booth

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Friends Nostalgia, Better than Apple Pie

I was thumbing idly through the visitors’ book in the Gallinero the other day and I was touched by many of the observations made by the remarkable people who have stayed here and worked with me in my studio over the past few years. Here are some of their too-kind comments that moved me.

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Phil Clark, Wales

To Maureen and Mike

Thank you so much for a great two weeks learning new techniques. We always enjoy learning and finding new and exciting ways to print. The print studio is a great space to work. Thank you for the great tapas trips and spas.

You are both very kind people and thank you for sharing your knowledge.

Diolch yn fawr.

Phil and Hilary, Wales

Jess Klausen, New Zealand

Mike & Maureen,

Thank  you so very much for hosting me these last two weeks. I will never forget your generosity. I have learnt so much about Spain, printmaking and myself. I am honored to be the first New Zealander.

So many doors have been opened for me and I am excited for the future, thanks to you.  So thank you and thank you. I hope to be back.

Jess

.Nevine Sultana, Bangladesh

To Maureen & Mike

I had such a wonderful time at your place. The Gallinero was such a treat and the studio was amazing. Dolly was an extra bonus. I will be missing her so much.

Mike, a big thank you to you for taking so much care of me. Your paella was amazing.

Maureen, a big thank you for all your kindness. I really enjoyed my stay here and look forward to coming back.

Take care.

Nevine from Bangladesh

Carole Pearson

Maureen,

Thank you so much for a wonderful week. I am rested, instructed, filled with creative hope and stuffed with all the goodies you keep bringing me.

And not to forget Mike’s paella–a dream.

Muchas gracias to you both. Adios for now.

Carole

Gina and Ross Miller, Australia

Maureen,

A truly enlightening experience from the first moment you step into the studio. Maureen, like all good teachers, has an ability to instill self-confidence and adapt to your own artistic themes, style and concepts.

Her personal success and experience as an artist are considerable but she willingly shares her vast knowledge and experiences of technical processes and aesthetic values. Our folio production over three days seems equal to weeks of work.

Thank you so much for an inspirational journey.

Saludos,

Gina and Ross Miller, Selby, Victoria, Australia

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Here’s wishing a joyous Winter Solstice and a happy and prosperous New Year to all my people.

I want to make you a little gift. If you follow this link (http://youtu.be/4zNnkAbQ-1Y) it will take you to my Printmaking Tips video (one of my Master Printmaking Courses series) that is posted in a secret place on YouTube that can only be accessed with this link. I hope you find something there that might refine your work a little bit.

Two thousand fifteen has been an excellent year for us. Our good friend Rafa Sánchez, the surgeon whom Mike goes hiking with on most weekends, recommended a new doctor to treat my arthritis. Dr. Salvatierra changed my medication, which immediately reduced pain and swelling in my joints. It was like magic. I feel better than I have in years.

My other special joy for this year has been our grand daughter, Lucía, who has been staying with us for a couple of months during her first pregnancy. It’s a boy, due in February. This will be our third great grandchild, as Lucía’s little sister, Elisa, already has two wonderful children, Gabriel 4 and Julia 2.

I’m starting work on a new commission that proves to be challenging and fascinating. An old friend from California, a musician, composer, musicologist, documentary film maker and record producer, wants a portfolio of etchings based on a suite he composed when he lived in our village for a year back in the early 70s. I think I’m over the first hurdle. I’ve decided on an approach to the images. Wish me luck.

A group of 12 students from The American School in Switzerland (TASIS) are coming back this year during their winter break for five days of printmaking in my studio. I love working with young people, and it’s surprising the quantity and quality of work they can turn out. I’ll ask Mike to make some pictures of the workshop and post them here.

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Dolly as a baby. Angelic, isn’t she…

 

Shall I tell you the Dolly saga? Dolly is one of Cuca’s two pups, the one we kept. She’s just over a year old now. The father was a little Jack Russell-type terrier. We should have been forewarned. From early on she constantly tried our patience: hyperactive, chewy, yappy, and if we made her nervous she would take revenge by peeing on our bed. We were always of two minds whether or not to find a good home for her.

Then last month a young woman from the village showed up at our door asking if we had any puppies. She had been promising her two girls (10 and 4) a puppy and had to deliver. As soon as she saw Dolly she was smitten. (As you know, the Devil takes many forms and Dolly is diabolically cute.) As María José walked proudly down the hill with her new puppy on a lead Mike and I exchanged meaningful glances. Had we done it? A week went by. Apparently we had.

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Family portrait lacking just a couple of cats.

Then Dolly started showing up at our house from time to time. I would phone María José and she would come up dutifully and retrieve her. She said her girls were wild about Dolly but she was concerned because they never left her alone. If they weren’t dragging her along on the lead they were hugging her on their laps. No peace for the wicked!

A week later María José showed up with Dolly in tow. Her mother had said that Dolly had to go. She had come into heat and, along with her other shennanigans, was making life at their house impossible.

Dolly’s back, but with a difference. She’s almost perfectly behaved. It’s a miracle. She’s so happy to be in a familiar place with old friends–especially her soul sister, Blacky the cat.

Dolly now comes when we call her, goes where we tell her, hesitates for permission before jumping up on the furniture, hasn’t eaten any shoes, socks or plastic kitchen utensils since she’s been back. She’s discreet and affecionate, a pleasure to have around. In short,  we have never had such an appreciative puppy.

I almost forgot to mention Mike’s latest project, a new site he started in August. It’s called Somos Pineros (We’re from Pinos) and it showcases the photographs he has made in our village since we arrived here, pictures from the end of the sixties till day before yesterday. The text is in Spanish but the images are universal. Here’s the link: http://somospineros.com.

Do take good care of yourselves next year and come and see us when you can. Printmaking is good for you!

 

 

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Fran Ramírez, Madrid, Spain

Fran Ramírez is a talented and dedicated artist. We have been doing collaborative work together in my studio for more than 10 years. As you can see from the images below, Fran has his own particular view of life in Spain plus a unique vision in his paintings and prints.  He has recently finished the restoration work on a new studio in Madrid for himself and his photographer wife, Marta. It also includes a discreet exhibit space. We’re anxious to see the work they hang up there.

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Audrey Feltham, Deer Lake, Newfoundland, Canada

Audrey and her husband Jim were here for just a few days but in that time she did some interesting prints and we learned a lot about the Canadian northeast. Jim told some wonderful stories of his experiences as a high-school teacher and basketball coach in a village on the northernmost coast of Baffin Island, which enjoys low winter temperatures of 40-50 degrees below zero. “How far is it from the nearest town?” I asked. “About an hour,” he replied. “By road?” “No, by plane. There aren’t any roads.” And like that. Here’s wishing the Felthams well, and do bundle up, won’t you! (more…)

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Australian artist Jini Grinwald was the inspiration for this print. She saw some flamenco dance drawings in my sketchbook and said, “This one would make a lovely liquid-metal print…” See whether you agree:

Maureen Booth's Granada flamenco print

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