Sheffield-based printmaker James Green: “I didn’t want to look back and regret not trying”
October 21, 2015
James Green, printmaker, originally from Birmingham, now lives in Meersbrook, Sheffield. He graduated from Sheffield Hallam University in 1995 with a degree in Fine Art having specialized in photography. It took fifteen years before he finally took the plunge and worked full time as a printmaker.
In 2006 he was shortlisted for the International Small Print Competition and took part in the Portrait Artist Of The Year (SKY) TV series in 2013. He’s produced commissions for Paul Smith Menswear, The Hepworth Wakefield, Sheffield Children’s Festival, The Folk Forest music festival and Domino Records. His work has been exhibited in Sheffield Children’s Hospital, The Millennium Galleries, Broomhill Festival, and in No Words Required at Pete McKee’s ‘A Month Of Sundays’ Gallery on Sharrow Vale Road and from October 6th he is taking part in Landscape Artist of the Year (SKY Arts).
I met James in his studio at the top of his garden with a great view across the city. Inside it’s white and bright with one table in the centre of the room and a few prints hanging from a line stretched across the ceiling. The table is laid with tools to press a print: lino, a small sheet of glass, inks, a roller and paper. James answered some questions while he worked.
You said that long after your art degree you did some printmaking and that was when you decided to go full-time and live the artist’s life. What was it about the experience that convinced you?
I think I just reached a point in my life when I wanted to make a change. I enjoyed the job I had (at the University Of Sheffield) but I felt like I needed to see if I could make a go of being an artist, seeing as it had been my passion for most of my life. I didn’t want to look back and regret not trying.
Was there anything in your childhood that has influenced your art?
Dallas Simpson paintings and a few good art teachers along the way.
What’s your first memory of drawing?
Probably drawing Greek mythology pictures as school. I loved those stories. After that, I remember drawing monsters and creatures from films like Neverending Story and Krull.
Can you briefly explain the process of making a print?
Well, in basic terms, I select an image, usually from a photograph I’ve taken or an assemblage/sketch, transfer this onto lino, and then cut away the bits that I don’t want to ink up. Eventually I’ll have cut enough away to have a finished image, and then I’ll print it. I roll ink onto the lino, place the paper on top, and then apply pressure using a spoon. Then I peel it off and I have the print!
What are the easiest and hardest bits?
The easiest part probably the cutting. I’ve been doing linocut for about 12 years now, so I feel pretty confident with the tools. The hardest is probably deciding on the image and composition to use.
How long does it take?
It depends, but usually between a week and three from start to finish.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
The landscapes of Sheffield and North Wales, the wildlife in the UK, and of course donkeys!
What’s the significance of the donkeys?
I’m drawn to their modest nature, and feel they are rather under-represented in the art world. I’ve taken it upon myself to champion them.
Some of your designs are clearly Sheffield scenes. How much does Sheffield influence your work?
Hugely. I started off doing a view of Meersbrook where I live, a few years ago, and got rather hooked on the landscape and the shapes within it.
What do you listen to while you work?
Normally BBC Radio 4 or 6 Music, but sometimes my own music too. Lately: Big Star, Cate Le Bon and Unknown Mortal Orchestra.
It must be great to get a commission like The Hepworth Gallery. How does it feel when you see your work carefully framed and hanging in a beautiful location?
I feel very lucky. It was a bit surreal to see my print in the gallery there. I’m a big fan of Barbara Hepworth, and I love the gallery too. It’s a really special building.
You’ve said in the past you are influenced by Stanley Spencer, Egon Schiele, Kid Acne, Elodie Ginsburg (and more), do your influences change?
Well, not really. My work seems to have a life of its own now. I see new work all the time that I think is amazing, but I don’t really feel it influences my work. I think maybe it’s my age.
What development do you see in your own work?
I can’t say I really have a strategy of how my work develops, but I have been working on some larger pieces recently, and also some more abstract prints.
What have you got coming up in the next few months?
I have a fair few events from September until the end of the year, arts festivals, art and craft fairs and festive events. I also co-organise ‘Sheffield Print Fair’ (with my friend Jane), which is an annual event, each November, to celebrate all thing artistic and print based.
Tell me about your band.
It is called ‘The Big Eyes Family Players’. I formed the band in 2000, and it has taken many forms in the last fifteen years. We have released a fair few albums, played a lot of shows around the UK and Europe and play music that is somewhere between modern classical, folk and psychedelic pop. We have a new album out (produced by Dean Honer, of Eccentronic Research Council/Moonlandingz/I Monster) in Autumn 2015, called ‘Oh!’ on Home Assembly Music.
Your favourite Sheffield view?
From the top of Meersbrook Park, looking across the city.
Find James at http://jamesgreenprintworks.blogspot.co.uk, Folksy or http://www.notonthehighstreet.com/jamesgreenprintworks