Friday, October 26, 2012

Soaring to Success-Interview with a Printmaker from England: Carol Nunan

                              Soaring to Success
                                     Interview with an Artist from England: 
                                             Carol Nunan

My name is Carol Nunan. I live in a small market town in the North East of England not far from Hadrian’s Wall.  I am a printmaker currently working mainly with monotype and collagraphs but occasionally I dip in to linocut, photo etching and mixed media printmaking.
 An interest in art has been a strong influence in my mother’s family. My grandmother’s youngest sister (on my mother’s side) went to The Slade School of Art in the late 1920s /early 30s. This was very unusual at that time especially for a young woman from Ireland. The likes of Professor Henry Tonks were amongst her tutors and by all accounts she was very good. However, she was never allowed an opportunity to pursue any art career once World War II broke out. She was ordered home to Ireland by my great grandfather and that was that. My mother’s sister also went to Art College in Dublin and she went on to teach. I have a clear picture of myself in class at the age of 7 deciding I wanted to be an artist like my two aunts though I had no idea what that actually entailed. I just loved drawing and painting and that’s what I wanted to do. 
At 17 I started Art College with no clearer idea of what I wanted to do. By default I ended up doing graphic design although at the time if things had been a little different I think I would have liked to have done textile design. Anyway, I worked as a graphic designer for thirteen years. My last job in that industry was design manager for Procter & Gamble UK where I was responsible for the brand heritage of household brands such as Pampers, Fairy Liquid, Flash, Ariel, Lenor (Downey in the States), etc. Then my daughter was born. Initially I went back to work but when she was a year old my husband and I took the decision for me to be at home full time.
I discovered printmaking after the birth of my son. I was still recovering from severe postnatal depression by the time he was eighteen months old and my husband was often away with his job for up to three weeks at a time, crossing all the continents, so I had little time for myself. On one of his weekends home I grabbed the opportunity to do a monotype day workshop. I had no idea at the time that one day would have such a significant impact on my life in the years to come. Six years later my tutor, Rebecca Vincent and I became business partners when we started a small independent printmaking studio (Horsley Printmakers) to make and sell our own work whilst we both continued to teach the printmaking workshops we offered through the University of Sunderland’s Centre for Lifelong Learning.

Two years ago my husband was made redundant and this precipitated the end of our joint business venture although Rebecca and I continue to work together on occasional projects. At that time though I needed a more secure income so I left to take up a part time position at a local art centre. Sadly that job only lasted 11 months. However, the circumstances that basically put me in a position where my back was up against the wall, has forced me into taking my work and myself seriously. As Julia Cameron says in her book ‘The Artist’s Way’, “Anger is fuel … Anger is meant to be acted upon … Anger points the direction. We are meant to use anger as fuel to take the actions we need to move where our anger points us”.  And so, 5 months down the line I have embarked on just that, taking my work and myself seriously, to generate a proper income for my family and me.
 What are my fears? 
My fears are probably the same as most people; fear of failure, fear of my prints not being good enough, fear of me not being up to the job of turning what I do into a successful business. Possibly also, fear of success, in case I balls it up!
How have I faced them? 
One day at a time. When I first walked out of my job the fear was paralyzing. Initially I thought what the hell have I done, and yet the prospect of continuing in the job was far worse than that of leaving it. By that point I had really begun to believe my own self-defeating hype and that which had fed into it across the preceding months. I had, without realizing it, become very isolated. I was however; humbled by how many of my friends rallied round once they were aware of my circumstances. Offers of help, practical and otherwise came in from all kinds of unexpected quarters and gradually a path began to emerge.

4. What makes me different…unique from others? 

I produce one-of original prints. The theme is flowers loosely inspired by the Art Nouveau / Art Deco periods, - Charles Rennie Macintosh, Clarice Cliff, Josef Hoffmann, etc. In November 2011, as part of my first solo exhibition, I brought out a range of table lamps and coasters while working with another craftsman using my print images. This is when things really started to get interesting. The table lamps flew out the door, as did the coasters. Since then I’ve lost count of the number of people who have said to me my images would look great on textiles as well. In addition to that aspect of my work I am also in the process of creating an e-course specifically aimed at artists who want to improve their marketing and to help them in their approach to defining their own marketing strategy that includes everything from step-by-step guide to approaching a gallery to being able to put into words what makes them special for the purposes of being able to promote themselves across on and off line platforms. I’ve found Kelly Rae Roberts “Flying Lessons’ really good in helping me to clarify and have confidence in my own knowledge and experience in these areas, though I have a long way to go to be in the same league as Kelly.

I currently have a blog that doubles up as my website, and I also have a Facebook Page and I’m on Twitter @CarolsOriginals.
 The techniques I use to make my monotypes have been garnered from Rebecca in the first instance and then developed by me over time to suit the way I work. Fellow artist/printmaker, Mandy Pattullo was the person who set me on the road of making flower prints. She is a guest tutor at Horsley Printmakers and I signed up for an evening class she was teaching. When I first started making my own flower prints I couldn’t see any merit in them at all and I was surprised when others responded so favourably towards them.

My other favourite printmaking medium is collagraphs. I learnt a huge amount from Peter Wray, Fellow of the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers. He was very generous with his extensive knowledge of the medium and I learned a great many tips and tricks which not only made life easier and much quicker in making prints from plates but his help also opened up a shed load of new creative ways to approach printing the same plate.

What are my goals & inspirations? 
What’s great about where I am now is that my husband, although back in full time employment, is my biggest supporter. This wasn’t always the case but now we can both see that my work ‘has legs’ and the potential to allow us both to be masters of our own destiny rather than be at the behest of fickle employers. Two years from now I hope I will have a thriving collection of e-courses for artists. Alongside the courses I plan to have expanded the number outlets and the range of high end products that feature my print images. Ten years from now I would really like to build on my own success and work with a small group of likeminded artists to create a ‘stable’ not unlike Angie Lewin’s St. Jude’s Gallery.

 Where is my creative space?
 My creative workspace where I do my printmaking is back in the studio that I once shared as a partner in Horsley Printmakers with Rebecca. I go to the studio once a week. It isn’t enough really but I don’t have the space at home and I need to the use of a press. It is great to be back in this space, which I rent from Rebecca as it is away from the house and all domestic distractions. The fact I am paying for the use of the space also focuses my mind not to waste the time I have there. I can switch off and concentrate completely on being creative.

What are my “whispers” or callings begging me to do? 
Actually, since I joined the course I’ve been inspired to paint. Not that I have put that into action … yet … but it’s something I might do when life slows down … just a tad!! Right now I feel I need to build on what I know I’m good at and not get distracted by something else. I’d also love to do more textile work, ceramics, jewelry, you name it but right now I have enough to be getting on with.

What made me decide to take this e-course with Kelly Rae Roberts?
I came across Kelly Rae Roberts website a while ago. I’m trying to remember how. I think it might have been through another e-course, Susannah Conway’sUnravelling’ course or simply through Susannah’s regular posting on her blog ‘Something for the Weekend’.  At the time I was taken with her creative work and I had a quick look at her courses but did nothing about them. She kept popping up though through other participants on Susannah’s courses. Finally, I spotted a post by Jessica Brogan who was doing Susannah’s “Blogging from The Heart” course with me where she said she had just signed up for Kelly’s last Flying Lessons course and this was the last time it would be available. Instinct told me this was exactly what I needed right now “Following the breadcrumbs” as it were. I was that bit further down the line with my own work and I knew I was ready to hear what she had to say about various aspects of making a business out of ones creativity with which I was less familiar.

Do I keep a daily journal or sketchbook, or write in a diary? 
The short answer is NO! I am trying very hard to develop the habit. I missed that bit in college (long story), was never a diary keeper when I was a kid although I did try, and right now I’m trying, unsuccessfully for the most part, to get into the habit through Jessica’s Art Book Group doing The Artist’s Way together. I will get there.
How do I market myself?
Once I left the day job I got back to my blog, which lay dormant while I was working. I’ve developed a new one and my next step is to convert it to a website where my blog resides. My work is currently in a number of galleries in the North East of England, North Yorkshire and Scotland. I make every effort to keep a good working relationship with them being professional at all times and making sure they have what they need to promote my work on and off line. I have my blog linked to my Facebook page and Twitter account so that anything I post goes out to my network. I also produce a bi-monthly newsletter. As yet I haven’t got into online selling and no I don’t advertise. I might in the future though. I am selling through my off line outlets quite successfully and I’ve had enquiries for online sales but I have a number of practical issues to iron out not least of which is packaging of glass lamps so they arrive in one piece and different electrical requirements for different countries.

What type of music (if any) do I listen to when I create?
I tend not to. I like listening to BBC’s Radio 4 that is mostly news, informative programmes, dramas and that kind of thing.
 Who is your favorite artist, photographer, author? … 
The person who has had the biggest influence not so much on my creative work but more in setting an example of what one can do if you’re good and you really believe in yourself is a local watercolour artist Mary Ann Rogers. Her work sells worldwide now and yet she started out as a single mother with two small children to support when her husband walked out some twenty odd years ago. She is self taught and started out on Maggie Thatcher’s Enterprise allowance – I think that was about £30 a week at the time – a pittance even then. She became the highest selling self-published artist in the UK in 2009. No small feat.
 Are you encouraged to follow your creative path by your family or friends?
Yes I am. My husband as I said before is my greatest supporter, followed by my mother (who also took up painting some 30 years ago) and of course my friends. Not sure my kids take me seriously though.
 How do I come up with titles for my work?
With great difficulty to be honest. I don’t think my titles are particularly inspiring. They are more descriptive to me so I have some idea of which one is which.
Do you work on one project at a time, or have several going on at a time?
It depends. My monotypes flow one into another. I simply start and then one print suggests the next step and then the next. At other times it is the colours I feel like using on a given day. With my collagraph plates I can’t make up my mind if it’s a good idea to start and finish one or make several at the same time moving from one to the other. In order to get a body of similarly themed work the latter way of working might be best but on the other hand each plate has to be ‘learned’. By that I mean the first time I print a collagraph plate is more for information, what’s there, how does it print, what’s working, what’s not, making adjustments. The it’s about trying different ways of inking it up, trying different techniques to find out the full extent of getting the very best out of the plate. Sometimes that involves printing the plate, trying a few things, then putting it away for a short of longer period of time to ruminate over it before returning to it with renewed insight and then really getting a set (if I’m lucky) of really good prints from it. In that instance I find it difficult to be working on more than one pate at a time.

Thanks Carol, for allowing us to peek into your artistic life, sharing your tips and ideas.. and getting to know about you!  Your story is very interesting and inspiring to the rest of us.  I appreciate the chance to interview you from across this huge Atlantic Ocean, and grateful in this world of technology, that it can bring us all so close...we have a common goal, to succeed, to soar -  with creative wings!!!

Thank You, and wishing you the best of success!   Sincerely,  Joan

…We are all unique, we are all special.  We all have a different path, a different way of approaching our art. That is exactly why I want to do these interviews, to celebrate what makes us, US!      Thank you for participating : )              
                                                     Joan Carver       (e)       904-230-6155



Christine said...


Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed this interview. I love Carol's prints. The funny thing I learned reading this was the way the lamps went flying out the door. I've been thinking about combining my art into lamps recently and just got the supplies to work on trying them out, to see how it goes.

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