There are all sorts of artists exhibiting at Art on the Hill, using all sorts of mediums and materials to express themselves in their art. Alexandra Buckle is a printmaker who cuts into sheets of lino to create printed landscapes in many layers of ink. We went to see her working...
Alexandra says she’s always been artistic and particularly interested in colour. When she first came to AOTH many years ago, she was selling paintings, some jewelry she’d made and also her lino-cut prints. That year her prints did so well, she says it was the first exhibition when she really started to believe she could do this as a business, as well as a passion. She hasn’t looked back and has come back to AOTH ever since, where she says her work is received really well.
The lino-cutting process is intricate and detailed. Alexandra works from photographs she takes herself- water and trees feature heavily because of the contrast and interesting light they create. She also loves the colours that appear in the natural landscapes she favours. Prints of scenes in Devon, the Lake District and local landscapes cover her studio walls at her home in Bicester.Alexandra uses a reduction lino-cut technique, which is a process that happens in several detailed stages. ‘Patience and Commitment are words that are often mentioned when people talk about my work’ she laughs.
Cuts are made into a sheet of lino to create a relief that she uses to print the first layer of colour. She then washes off the lino block and goes back to it- making more cuts, gouging out more of the surface of the lino. This is then used to print on top of the first layer of the picture- using a new colour. This goes on, each time more lino is cut out from the same sheet. By the end of the process there isn’t much left of the surface of the lino block. The process can take a number of weeks-often Alexandra takes a break from a particular picture before finishing it- and each one is made up of between five and nine layers of colours.
The results are bold, multi-layered and stylised representations of watery, wooded scenes, and bright colourful flowers. The journey itself can be a surprise though- Alexandra says each piece takes quite a bit of planning, but over the years she’s become more proficient at matching the image in her head with the end result on paper: ‘I know what I’m aiming for, but I don’t always know how successful I’m going to be until I get to the end. There’s something in my head that I’m aiming for. Sometimes I get there and sometimes I don’t! ‘ Of course, because of the cutting away of the lino- once you’ve made a print, you can’t go back, so each one is very limited and a complete original.
In any case, her work has been a popular feature at AOTH for many years- she was one of the first ever sellers at the marketplace when it was introduced. She says the event has a special feel to it, and enjoys bumping into other artists during the weekend:
‘I think there’s a really good community that supports the event, and it’s been on the calendar such a long time that a really good attendance has built up around it.’
Art on the Hill attracts some very talented local artists, such as portrait painter Mark Fennell, who has lived in Brill for 23 years. We went to talk to him about his work and being able to exhibit it on his own doorstep... ‘It’s great for the village and great for the kids’ he says. ‘The workshops are great, and it’s nice to think you might inspire children in the village to paint- when they see some of the art there- if that’s what they’re into. It’s a great exhibition for amateur artists to exhibit and sell their work, and also draws in some other great professional artists from Bucks and Oxfordshire art societies. ‘
Mark paints in oil and acrylic. He has sold several of his paintings at AOTH over the years and has also been commissioned to paint portraits by people that have seen his work there- that’s the kind of work he really enjoys. His talent has been recognised in many places- most recently being shortlisted again for the Artists and Illustrators, ‘Artist of the Year’ Award, which will see his painting of Brill resident ‘ Tony’ on show at the Mall galleries in London in February and March this year. The portrait is an honest and incisive depiction of a human- deftly capturing his character and mood.
Painting a face with honesty has played an even more significant part in Mark’s work in the last year where he has undergone treatment for Lymphoma. During a period of his treatment, he set himself a task of completing a self-portrait every week for over 4 months. This took him through all the stages including losing his hair.
Some of them were from life- as he sat in front of a mirror. Some of them were from selfie photographs, and some of them- when he wasn’t feeling well- were charcoal sketches. He wanted to be proactive, keep busy and focused and make sure something positive came from this difficult time in his life. ‘The art has been my companion throughout. It’s helped me through it.’ He says. ‘I look back at the pictures and think that on the whole I look determined to beat this thing and get through it, and that was the idea with most of the pictures- to get across that determination. Of course some of them look a bit miserable- but that was part of it! There were days when I wasn’t feeling well, and didn’t want to spend too long doing it.’
Away from portrait painting Mark loves the landscapes and colours of Brill. His studio looks out across the common with the iconic Brill windmill centre stage. He goes out in all weathers, enjoying the atmosphere of a place, and likes to give himself 2 hours to paint a landscape, enough time before the light changes too much.
‘The Artist’ magazine will feature Mark’s series of self-portraits in their magazine in June. Mark’s Portrait of Tony AKA ‘Boulders’ has been shortlisted for the Artists and Illustrators ‘Artist of the Year’ Award. It will feature in the ‘Artists of the Year Exhibition’ at the Mall Galleries in London from 25th February to 2nd March 2019. You can vote for it online: awards.artistsandillustrators.co.uk/vote-now/