Artist Profile: Clare Dales
Sussex-based printmaker, Clare Dales, is full of surprises. We spoke to her about her life, her work, and her new book, Eastbourne An Alphabet.
How would you describe your art? What is it that you do?
I’m a printmaker. I work mostly in lino, but I also love screen print, mono print and drypoint etching. I really enjoy the different effects each gives and it gets really interesting when these are layered up. In my book, Eastbourne An Alphabet, for example, I have layered different techniques as well as drawings under the linoprints. Undertaking a project such as my book pushed me to create 26 individual prints, which also held together as a collection and I had to consider so many elements: the balance of colour and black and white images; the block, or background colours; and of course the size! The original prints are the same size as those in the book, and make lovely artworks on their own.
To create a linoprint, I first have to consider the design, and then abstract the forms so they can create a pleasing design. This is a process which may formulate in my mind over the course of a year in some cases. I then start to sketch directly onto the lino. The sketch has to be done back to front and is then cut out using specialist knives. The next process is to place paper on the block, and either pass it through a press, or use a tool called a barren to lift off a layer of ink. The ink, the amount of pressure, and the kind of paper all make huge differences to the final effect and it’s fun to experiment with these. The very last thing to do is to peel the paper off the block and see the result of hours and weeks of work. It’s either a sigh of relief…or of disappointment if it hasn’t gone to plan!
What is your background?
My first degree was in archaeology, and I went back to university to read architecture some years later having spent many years working with heritage buildings. I got to work in some fantastic parts of the world. One of my favourite projects was working on a Moorish palace high in the Atlas Mountains of Algeria, but all that travel makes one realise just how special England is. We have such a diversity of architecture and landscape, which has been shaped over the millennia. I started printmaking at a one-day course over 15 years ago and haven’t looked back since. I was really lucky while studying architecture that the technicians were all artists and sculptors in their own right, which enabled me to experiment and really helped my practice.
What is the most difficult piece of work you’ve ever undertaken?
The most challenging has to be Eastbourne An Alphabet, but in a good way! I find I sometimes produce my best work when there is a tight brief. The alphabet made me consider the practicalities of book production and I found out some really surprising things about Eastbourne.
What has been your proudest artistic achievement to date?
I think the proudest moment was the first time I had a piece hung in an exhibition. It was 11 years ago in Lewes. I was among some awesome artists and I did think to myself: “What am I doing here?” But, the exhibition went well, and the print sold. It was a print of the independent bookshop, ‘Bags of Books’ in Lewes and it still hangs in their shop.
Where can we see your work?
My prints sell in galleries along the south coast, as well as in Alfriston Arts, and I also take part in the Artwave Festival over the August bank holiday. This year, I’m at Isfield Fair and the Artists Open Houses in Eastbourne during November. Look at my Facebook page for the details. The book is available from independent bookshops, Towner Art Gallery, Waterstones and online at Amazon. I also have an Etsy store.