Meet the Maker: Robin Mackenzie
I am Robin Mackenzie, a Wood Engraver and Lino Cutter based in Dorset. I create limited edition relief prints using a combination of hand printing and an Albion printing press. My work explores the British coast and countryside. Beginning with walks and research trips I seek to express the landscape and the emotional responses that I feel towards it.
Describe your printmaking process.
My work begins with drawing on location in watercolour and pencil. I like to work quickly and loosely in all weathers to get the lines down and a feeling of the location that I can take back to the studio. I then interpret these drawings into either wood engravings or linocuts, or a combination of the two! I am interested in the interplay of flat colour and textural mark making so frequently play with mono print within my work. I work using the reduction method of making colour prints as I enjoy the thrill of not knowing the end result. I like to plan as I go, deciding on colour and detail as the image naturally evolves.
How and where did you learn to print?
I studied illustration at Arts University Bournemouth, spending most of my 2nd and 3rd year in the print room. I learnt so much from experimenting and making mistakes! I am also greatly indebted to the Society of Wood Engravers for early guidance in technique and good practice.
Printmaking allows me to create the images that I can see in my head in a way I have not managed in any other medium. For me it is the perfect blend of subtle mark making and graphic power. A linocut can be powerful yet soft. A wood engraving can be highly detailed yet abstract. I also love the magic of pulling a first proof and not knowing what it will look like. It continues to be a surprise!
Where do you work?
I work from home and a garden studio. I have recently moved from a communal working space, after 7 years, as I needed more room and a bit more peace and quiet. I am now trying to settle into a new routine and work out the new rhythm of working alone. I have no excuse now for not getting things done in the day!
Describe a typical day in your studio.
A typical day in the studio starts with emails and general admin. I have to get this done at the start of the day so I don't feel it hanging over me and I can then get stuck into the more exciting creative jobs. The day will then progress with either cutting or printing whatever design is currently on the work table. I have a comfortable arm chair that is my thinking space where I can often be found staring at a print or a block trying to figure out what I want to cut! Printmaking forces an artist to slow down and I have always found this thinking time to be invaluable and the forced waiting times, normally due to ink drying..., to be when I have the best ideas.
How long have you been printmaking?
I have been printmaking for about 10 years now. I'm just starting to get the hang of it now.. Hokusai in his 80's said that he was making progress! I am always learning and experimenting and building upon my knowledge. Without trying new things, an artist's work will never progress and it is this journey that fascinates me. I can't think of doing anything else with my time.
What inspires you?
I am inspired by weather, the coast, light and a desire to see the edges of our land. I love being out in the wind and rain with a sketchbook trying to capture the feeling of the wind lashing my face and the wind trying to rip the book out of my hand. If through my prints I can give someone the feeling of this then I am doing a good job. I particularly love the drama of the Jurassic Coast where I live. No two days are the same and there is always something new to see.
What is your favourite printmaking product?
My favourite printmaking product is currently Okawara paper from Awagami Papers. It is so light, yet strong and the oil based inks just sit on it beautifully and layer with no apparent effort. I am using it for large reduction prints and hand printing with a baren. It is a real joy to use.
What have you made that you are most proud of?
Two of the prints that I recently created using the Okawara paper are my current favourites. They depict Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door in Dorset. One on a fine, calm day and the other on a stormy, wind lashed day. These are the two faces of the coast and I was very pleased with the way they turned out.
Where can we see your work? Where do you sell?
My work is available from my website, through the Society of Wood Engravers and a number of galleries listed on my website. Folde in Shaftesbury have been a huge supporter of my work. I shall be showing again at the Winchester Print Fair this year and during Purbeck Art Weeks in the Summer.
What will we be seeing from you next?
I am currently working on a new body of work exploring the Shetland Islands with my artist partner Katy Harrald. I am creating prints of the coast and landscape whilst she is creating beautiful pencil drawings of the flora and fauna found on the islands. The show will launch on July the 26th at Durlston Castle in Swanage, Dorset and run until the end of August. All work will be for sale and there will also be a limited release boxset of ten of my Shetland prints.
Do you have any advice for other printmakers and creatives?
For anyone starting out as a printmaker I would advise reaching out to those who inspire you. I was helped by many engravers and lino artists who were so generous with their advice and knowledge. Also draw. Go out and draw and take those drawings back to the studio. Photographs are useful too but your own unique, way of mark making will appear when drawing on location. Experiment, make mistakes and enjoy the process.
To see more from Robin, follow him on Instagram!