Kerry Day is a printmaker based in Bristol. Her work focuses on botanical still life, working predominantly with lino print. She has exhibited her work at many events organised by Craft Festival, at Royal West of England Academy, Victoria Art Gallery Bath and many open studio/art trails around Bristol. Her art can be purchased directly at https://www.kerryday.co.uk/shop and via Wychwood Art Gallery https://www.wychwoodart.com
Your work puts me in a happy place, its simplicity in palette and quite calming yet revitalising. Your subject matter is very focused, have you always been drawn to plant life-or is it something you’ve developed over the years?
Well, it kind of developed, I previously did a lot of life drawing, and life painting using oil. I did quite a lot of that for a number of years. Then, like a lot of creatives, I had a bit of an artist block, I felt my work becoming really stagnant. And I just didn’t feel very enthusiastic about what I was doing. At the same time I was doing an MA in printmaking. I spent a lot of time being really focused on doing the MA, while trying to run my business. So, the business side; trying to sell and create oil paintings for people- just kind of stopped. Then I was on the sofa one day and I thought I’ll just draw one of my plants, I’ve got so many around me, so I did a few drawings and I thought ‘oh that looks quite nice’, I was just starting to get into doing a little bit of lino print, I thought, why not do a lino print of one of my drawings? And it just kind of came from there! And I thought that’s ok if they turn out well. So, I continued doing that, and I haven’t stopped. For me it feels like what I’m doing now is far more me and kind of feels more together.
How long have you been doing it then?
How long? I think, around 2009, maybe 2010? I was creating the botanical stuff. I became a full time artist in 2006, so I was doing the painting of people a few years before that. But I would say, like most artists would say, that I've been an artist all my life. But it’s true, in one form or another. I wasn’t very academic; and was more interested in doing the creative stuff. So, it kind of made sense that I went into more of a creative field.
The lino printing is quite an old process that has been used by the old masters like Matisse and Picasso. What drew you to using this process?
I think the actual process, it’s such a lovely technique. I recently got my degree in ceramics, which is a 3-D subject, or process, I kind of like the fact that with lino, and the same with wood cuts, that you’re carving into something, so it feels a bit more, I don’t know, like I’m using my hands more. Whereas other printmaking techniques they’re quite a flat process. Even with etching, I know you kind of bite into the metal, but you can see it more with lino, you’re carving into it, you seem to let it go. There’s something about the smell of lino that I really like. Especially if you’re using the traditional lino, which has got linseed oil in it. And when you buy a brand-new pack of lino, the smell of it is absolutely gorgeous. There’s this feel of carving into it as well, yeah it just makes me feel happy.
So, I know that Picasso, he kind of was one of the first to do the reduction lino print method, which is the main one that I use. I don’t know if you know what that is, but it’s a way of using one piece of lino, and you print a layer, cut a bit away, print your next layer, so you’re reducing it down. Some people call it the suicide method, but I really don’t like using that word in association with something nice. So, I always stop people from using that word. I’ve always called it the reduction method because you’re reducing the lino down. So yeah, you need to print your entire addition in one go, which is why I always print in a small addition, I very rarely- in a colour print I would never do more than 25 or 30. Very rarely I would go beyond that. Mainly because it takes months to create. Once you’ve added your addition you can’t go back!
So, you’re clearly inspired by plant life, do you draw inspiration from other sources?
Thinking about it, I don’t think I do. That’s a really short answer! As I’ve said before, earlier, I began looking at people, being fascinated with life-drawing and drawing people, but seeing it more rather than getting a likeness of that person, trying to get a sense of a person. And like looking at the colours of their skin, because I’m really drawn to colour, rather than looking at ‘oh you’re a white person so I’m going to use this colour to paint your skin’ but instead, there’s lots of pinks and reds and blues and greens and yellows in our skin tones. And looking more at that. So, I think that’s what I’ve kept a little bit in my plant work. Looking more at the colour and the shape, rather than deciding ‘I want this to look like a swiss cheese plant’ and it needs to look exactly like that plant. It's more about the shape of the leaf, and the colours within that leaf.
You also work in 3 dimensions- working in clay and metal, can you tell me a bit more about that?
Yeah sure, I did a ceramics degree back in 1994, at the time I was really wanting to do ceramics. And even then, I think I was always destined to do plant-based stuff because looking back at my work, they were quite organic, poddy, planty looks to them.
When I left, it was really difficult to find any studio spaces that would allow you to have a kiln, or to do any messy work in. They were in Bath, and they were quite picky about what you could and couldn’t do. So, I kind of gave that up, and went more into my drawing, into the painting, and that’s how that side developed. It would have been about 10 years ago, I just fancied making some jewellery for myself, so I went to silver-smithing classes, but at the same time I was doing ceramic classes again, because I wanted to do some more 3-D work. The silver-smithing tutor said ‘why not, instead of making a shed load of rings, (which I was doing) why not incorporate some of your ceramic work and your lino work into your metal work? And that’s where my metal sculptures came about. I was already introducing a bit of the lino into my ceramics, getting the feel because I made a cast of one of my linos and made that in ceramics, and then I made that same pattern in the silver-smithing, and that’s where all that came about.
I’ve always tried different things, because I get bored quite easily, just doing one thing. Even though my subject matter is the same, I couldn’t just do lino all the time, so I would dip into a phase of, right I’m going to do a lot of silver-smithing now. When creating my metal work, I tried a bit of stained-glass work as well, I also do a bit of knitting. I just like being creative, but the main things are my lino and my sculptures at the moment. I'm not doing ceramics as much anymore, but I’m sure I’ll go back to that at some point in the future.
More recently on instagram you’ve been painting and sketching, is this for a new body of work or is it how you explore new ideas? Have you got any new work in the pipeline and what are you working on at the moment?
Well, those drawings or the sketchbook work you’ve seen is part of an internet challenge, throughout October where they gave you prompts every day, like mark making, etc, and I thought I’d not done any drawing for such a long time, that I’d take part in it and just do - rather than just showing marks like other people were doing, I thought I’d try and create an image out of it. And surprise, surprise it was one of my plants! I really enjoyed doing that, and so thought I should do my own challenge sometime next year. I threw that idea around in my head for a bit, because I wasn’t quite sure if it should be a drawing challenge, or I could do a printmaking challenge. I teach lino printing so I thought why not give daily lino printing tips, where students - people who follow me - can tap in and get some quick and informative tips.
So now I’m going to do a year’s worth of weekly video tutorial tips. So there’ll be 52 videos, from very beginner level to more advanced level, things like what paper do you print on, or what inks to use, how do you do a reduction - what is a reduction, and how do you plan one? So, this taps into my teaching side of things.
To find out more about Kerry’s work can be found on her website: https://www.kerryday.co.uk/ and instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kerrydayarts/
For those looking at watching her tutorials and other videos her YouTube is: https://www.youtube.com/c/KerryDayArts/videos