Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Interview - Janet Neilson

Janet Neilson is a Melbourne printmaker who produces the most wonderfully detailed and beautiful work. I have known her for many years and she never fails to inspire and energise me with her approach and commitment to her art. She is also an all-round lovely person and I feel very lucky to know her. She is currently showing her work at Melbourne's Hand Held Gallery so I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to talk to her here. Welcome, Janet!

Printmaker Janet Neilson

Tell us a bit about yourself, your work and achievements.

I have always loved looking at prints, and so, in my twenties, I decided to learn about the various printmaking processes. I did some workshops and got some artists to teach me the basics. This led me to study printmaking and sculpture at the South Australian School of Art.

Life takes its twists and turns; and a move to Melbourne had me for many years working full-time in libraries, my art career was put on the back-burner. A decision a few years ago to reignite my art practice has now come to fruition. I have a small ramshackle studio in my back garden where I print my images with my etching press and I have scaled down my library work to a few hours a week. I see this as one of my greatest achievements; not losing sight of my desire to create and making the necessary changes to get back to it.

Janet Neilson - Lemon Marmalade Concertina Book Solar Plate Etchings

What processes and techniques do you enjoy using the most?

Printmaking has always been a constant in my work. I do love etching, but with my home studio I have made the decision to simplify the workspace and the techniques. This has led me to concentrate on linoprints and more recently collagraph prints and monoprinting. My book-focused background has had an influence on my work and I have been preoccupied for the past 12 months with making small artist books. When the printing is done I love sitting and working with my printed images incorporating them into folded books.

Janet Neilson - Preservation

Could you describe a typical work day in your studio? How do you balance different tasks (eg. creative tasks and administrative jobs)?

I don’t really have a regular starting time, though I do love those mornings when I can get out there early, especially just as the sun is coming up and the birds are on the move, singing and chortling.

Each day is different, and the work dictates how my time will be spent. If I am printing an edition of prints I will be there all day making the most of the good light and getting the task done.

The admin jobs tend to get left to last and I don’t give them adequate time! I’m still working on that.

Janet Neilson - Winter Trees

How do you go about developing ideas for new work?

My immediate environment is a constant inspiration and my work reflects my day to day observations and experiences. I use my camera to record things that take my eye, and I do have a back-catalogue of ideas that are waiting to be used. The local birdlife is a current feature in my art; the magpies in my neighbourhood, never far from view, always delight and amuse me.

Janet Neilson - Four folded lino cut print in concertina book

What do you do when you encounter a creative block and need some inspiration?

The ideas come but then sometimes I can lose my way during the process, the work seems to take on a life of its own and I just have to wait for it to tell me which way to go. When this happens I move away from it for a while, focus my mind on other tasks, or sleep on it, trusting that when I come back I will find the answer.


What are your favourite tools/materials for creating?

My camera is important for recording the things I see, and my etching press is very precious. I have a lovely Japanese wood carving tool that I use to cut my lino blocks. It was given to me when I finished work and I love to use it. It fits very well in my hand, and cuts cleanly and precisely.

Close to Home at Hand Held Gallery until April 28, 2012

Thanks so much for you time, Janet! I'm absolutely honoured to be able to feature you here today.

If you live in Melbourne do yourself a favour and get along to Janet's Close to Home show at Hand Held Gallery. In Janet's own words: 'This work reflects some of my day to day observations, interactions and experiences; through various printmaking techniques I aim to interpret some aspects of the extraordinary lives that are being lived around me. The natural environment provides much stimulation and inspiration for my work. I have special trees I admire close to home, trees that I visit, to watch and learn from, to admire and be constantly astounded by.'

Close to Home is on now and runs until 28th April, 2012
(Show opening night: Thursday 12 April, 6-8pm)

Hand Held Gallery
Suite 18, upstairs
Paramount Arcade
108 Bourke Street
Melbourne, 3000
(Entry via Bourke or little Bourke street. Go straight up escalator to top level.)
Gallery opening hours:
Tue-Sat 12-5pm

Every Wednesday I interview creative people I admire (artists, illustrators, writers, crafters). Click here to read more interviews.