“When asked to describe the type of work I create, I tend to fall back on the vague term ‘mixed media’ or more recently ‘mixed print media’. No single technique gives me everything I need to develop an idea.
I like to call my work ‘narrative-constructions’. Each artwork is built slowly layer by layer, starting with the germ of an idea — often a narrative — which becomes the first layer.
I do make traditional etchings, but am rarely satisfied with them. I work on zinc plates with nitric acid, usually a 10-1 dilution. When it comes to aquatint, I don’t use the more traditional resin dust method, as I am asthmatic and very wary of dust in any form. Even when I wear a face mask and use an aquatint cupboard I am uncomfortable, so as an alternative I use an air brush and diluted liquid hard ground to make the necessary fine dots ready for the etching process. The air brush tends to clog up quickly no matter how thoroughly I clean it, so I spend more time cleaning it again before the next use. This does not improve my temper, and could explain why the resulting prints might not attain the same standard as those of a a ‘true etcher’.
A lot is left to chance, but the element of happenstance underpins everything I do. No print I have ever made has ended up as I first envisaged it, but many of my prints find their way into my multimedia work.
I start with an idea of what I am going to use. At the moment, for example, I am fascinated by pre-historic cave art, and I make drawings which I then enlarge or reduce with scanners and photocopiers.
At this stage I will have a whole pile of drawings in various sizes and colourways which I can then cut and paste and generally play around with until I’m satisfied with a particular layout.
Next, I need a setting or background. This is usually a monoprint with collaged elements.
I take the components of the layout I’ve created, turn them into stencils and print them onto my chosen background. Or I might use the cut-out image itself, inking it separately and collaging it on. For areas that need softening or bringing forward, I use tissue paper that has been inked and crumpled and torn in a random fashion. Sometimes I add gold leaf or strip away parts of the paper’s surface.
I experiment endlessly until I am satisfied.”
Profile of the artist
Olive Webb SGFA came to printmaking somewhat late in life. She studied architecture and worked in architectural drawing offices in London, then taught for ten years before gaining an Honours degree in Fine Art from the University of Hertfordshire (formerly St Albans School of Art).
From 1995 until 2005 Olive exhibited her art with the Heiffer Gallery in Highbury, London. Through the gallery she exhibited her art at the Covent Garden Festival and the Mayfair Arts Festival. Olive is a Member/Director of Bath Artist Printmakers and exhibits regularly with them. For more about Olive and her art, please visit her web site www.olivewebb.com
Bath Artist Printmakers are the only fine art printmaking group in Bath. To mark their 30th anniversary in 2014 Bath Artist Printmakers are exhibiting at the Royal United Hospital and Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution. http://bathartistprintmakers.co.uk