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24th Jun 2016

Drawing on Paper

Taking a reflective look at our core material

I recently visited Mottisfont near Romsey in Hampshire and had a browse around the exhibition of drawings that is available in the National Trust house. The methods of artistry were varied - ink on paper, charcoal, lithography, acrylic, pen, pencil, screen print. Looking at my fellow viewers it was clear that we were all engaged by the work despite being a diverse selection of Hampshire society. Which is not uncommon at a National Trust house. Families with small children, those with reluctant teenagers in tow, pensioners, arts groups, weekenders, clubs. All of human life was there at some point or other.

The Schlee Collection: Drawings from Henry Moore to David Hockney features works by major artists including Graham Sutherland, Peter Lanyon, Stanley Spencer and Gillian Ayres. You can see portraits and landscapes as well as observational drawings, abstract works and compositional sketches. The permanent collection at the house is of the same period and medium. Mid-Summer the Schlee Collection is being replaced by one of Beatrix Potter’s illustrations and sketches; another paper, pencil and printing based exhibition and I expect worth another visit.

This all matters to us here at Tower Press because the exhibition is showcasing techniques on paper. We’ve all used pencils, ink, pen; some of us charcoal and acrylic. So in turn we can appreciate it to a greater extent somehow. In this scenic Hampshire enclave, the exhibition illuminates the value that paper holds both in the art world and as a medium to simply convey an objective or message.

Handmade is bang on trend right now. From products to branding, all around the marketplace we’re seeing designs that turn back the clock and at least appear to be crafted by hand. On paper, what you will often see on a piece of print is an appearance of a hand drawn sketch. It gives the leaflet or poster and the brand that it supports a casual, personal feel. A lot of the works in the Hampshire exhibition are abstract, energetic scribbles which give an asymmetric look, forcing the brain to become engaged in trying to figure it out. The same outcome can be achieved using this technique on print. Looking at the subject matter of the other works can inspire more ideas for your print. We see for example observed landscapes; on print this inspires familiarity. On a natural theme, drawings of birds and plants offer a calming and contented emotional response, tending to achieve higher recognition scores. Portrait sketches draw the eye as the human brain is always subconsciously seeking out formations of faces.

Mottisfont itself showcases all that is beautiful about the Hampshire countryside. It is situated alongside the River Test in 1600 acres of woodland and tenanted farmland. It boasts a spectacular and renowned walled rose garden which from the month of June visitors can catch in bloom. The estate walks are typical of the National Trust and invigorate the senses. Whether Summer or Winter it is the perfect setting for taking in, and taking inspiration from art, especially art on the medium of paper.

Our own use of paper here at Tower Press is obviously more commercial and large scale, but looking at these works set off against the Hampshire countryside of early Summer, it’s hard not to feel a bit poetic. The artist and the printer have similar aims - we want to convey something to you using an image on paper. We want you to be interested in and engaged by what you see. We can’t promise to turn out a Hockney on your leaflets or booklets, but our mission to create the engaging is entirely as heartfelt as that of those artists themselves.