Monday 29 June 2015

Brit Decor: Talks to HeraldBLACK

Whilst at University one of my favourite things to do on campus was mooch around the Fine Art building and explore the various studios, where I would always find a hive of creativity as artists worked with various media.  I loved soaking up that creative buzz, even though my own choice of artist's tool was a computer, it all felt very organic. 

In this setting I was always drawn towards print-based works, fascinated by the sense of process that goes into, for example, screen printing. I also used to spend time gazing at the finished pieces of artwork and visualising these framed and hanging in my own home - and this thought process is still with me today. 

There is no doubt about just how easy it is to pick up a stunning mass-produced print but you can't beat the sense of satisfaction from acquiring  a unique version, fresh from the artist's studio. And this is how I came to discover the work of Stephen Dow aka HeraldBLACK, when I recently became the proud owner of one of his works Arches II, which now takes pride of place at the cottage (see 'below'). 

Intrigued about the artist behind the work, I decided to catch-up with Stephen and find out more...

Why HeraldBLACK?

I wanted something that was a bit more anonymous, a nom de plume but for artists I suppose. I didn't want to use my name, although HeraldBlack is based on it. My first name is derived from the Greek for crown or garland, symbols used in heraldry. My surname comes from the Irish for black so indirectly I am using my name. 

HeraldBlack is something that feels very personal and connected to me. To me it also sounds like a font or a paint colour, or even a printing term so these connotations sit fine with me.

Where did it all begin?

I studied printed textiles and photography at art college almost 20 years ago. After graduating I undertook an internship with John Rocha in Dublin but did not pursue printing after this. I didn't have the self confidence at that time to set up as a freelance designer.

I ended up in retail & worked as a home accessories merchandiser for the last 10 years but always yearned for something more creative. Eventually I gave that up at the end of 2013 and stepped on to a new path in 2014 at Shadwell Print Studio. I set up my website 6 months later & have been printing, learning & developing since then. 

What inspires your work?

Sometimes literature. I was very inspired by the descriptiveness of François Mauriac's novel Thérèse Desqueyroux and used this as a reference for years. I'm often inspired by my surroundings and avidly photograph and Instagram as a means of keeping a visual diary. I've also kept notebooks for years so a sketch or collage there may end up being translated into a print.

Which other artist do you most admire?

That is such a hard question, it's very difficult to narrow it down.

I really like the work of photographer Eadward Muybridge who did studies of locomotion of humans & animals. I love the notion of a series, repetition and slight differences between each image. The strange arenas and rooms that Francis Bacon painted his subjects in always fascinate me as does his handling of colour. The Beckett Suite of etchings by Diarmuid Delargy are works that I have always loved since seeing them in a gallery in Belfast in 1996. His depiction of Beckett reminds me so much of my grandfather that I have wanted to own a print ever since then.

How does a typical day begin in the studio?

The day usually starts with gathering up the previous day's work off the drying rack and laying it out, reviewing it. A break from looking at the work you've spent hours producing can be very helpful. If the muse is present then I'll get set up & working on some new prints straight away. If not then it's probably time for a coffee and some critique with one of the other printmakers in the studio. Depending on the process I'll set out inks, paper, printing plates & cloths on the workbench and get going. I tend not to have too rigid a plan of what outcome I want, I've learned that this can lead to a certain amount of frustration & disappointment. Being more flexible and open to the possibility of 'happy accidents' generally makes for a more rewarding day. I'm typically at the studio three days a week for between 4-6 hours. I will work the rest of the time from home, working on notebooks & plans for prints, updating the online shop & responding to queries & queuing in the post office sending orders out.

Do you have a favourite piece of work? If so, which one and why?

I don't have a favourite piece of my own work. There are probably elements & sections of a print that I like so I suppose that's what keeps me printing, trying to perfect my craft & achieve that perfect print (if such a thing exists!). I'm constantly re-evaluating the composition, colour balance & overall sense of a piece that there isn't one print I prefer the best. I am rather pleased with the Arches: Sun & Sea series I recently added to the shop. This was a development of a previous series of prints but in response to a customer's request for more colour in my work. It was a pleasing outcome. 

If I had to pick one piece of someone else's work I greatly admire it would be Picasso's 'Girl in a Chemise' c.1905 from his Blue Period. The sense of melancholy from this painting proved a source of inspiration for my final year degree, and I'm still haunted by the painting almost 20 years later. 

Images/ Mike Ahern & HeraldBLACK

What does the future hold for HeraldBLACK?

HeraldBLACK has had an online presence for one year. I'll reach out to new customers by exhibiting and participating in art fairs later this year. The face to face engagement and discussion about a piece of work and the process sometimes gets lost online so its always good to have direct feedback. I'm working toward having a stockist this year too. 

I'm considering applying some of my print designs to other products, I'd love to see how my work would translate onto textiles, or a stationery range. Working collaboratively with someone that could do this would be wonderful.

You can view & buy works by HeraldBLACK by clicking here and follow his progress via his Instagram page.

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