Fri, 26 Apr 2019
LIZZIE Perkins has had a varied creative career in art: from her time at art college in the 1960s, to teaching art at St Bart’s School in Newbury, and running an art shop in Wallingford for 25 years. Now at a time in life when others may be taking it easy in retirement, Lizzie’s passion still burns strongly and there aren’t enough hours in the day to do the work that she loves – screenprinting and painting watercolours. GILL DURRANT went to watch her work in her Upper Basildon studio.
The common theme in all of Lizzie’s work is nature and more specifically animals. She loves to take hundreds of photographs of them – preferably in their natural setting, such as the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust centres for native bird species – also, for more exotic animals, places like Cotswold Wildlife Park. Her photographs then form the basis of many of her prints and paintings, but she enjoys using a computer to construct the composition from which to work. Lizzie retrained in screen printing after a long break and learnt new techniques which she has readily adopted. She took me through the painstaking process of making one image and has created picture boards to illustrate the way she works, which will be available for visitors to her studio in May.
Each screenprint is built up from 12 to 15 layers of colour delivered through a series of stencils, starting with the palest tone and overlapping colours until the final, darkest layer is added.
For each layer she cuts out a separate part of the design on a sheet of newsprint – the tiny holes create a lace-like perforated sheet that is placed carefully on to the paper that covers the board under the screen itself. Ink is then passed through the screen with a squeegee, using just the right amount of pressure to leave the pattern desired on the paper beneath and not to smudge. Lizzie must have done this thousands of times to be able to create her detailed and delicate images, such as the one she showed me of swans on a sun-speckled lake with wind-ruffled feathers. Great care goes into capturing the play of light on surfaces and capturing the subtle tones of colours. Lizzie can make up to 40 prints of each image, each time taking care that the ink is not overloaded and nothing splashes or smudges. Unsurprisingly, the whole process for one screen print takes several weeks.
Lizzie’s watercolours share a similar subject matter, but also include beautiful paintings of plants and flowers. She uses masking techniques to enable her to freely paint the background, sometimes on wet paper, which gives a lovely contrast to the much more controlled painting of her animal and bird subjects. She is always pushing herself to improve and try new techniques. Most recently she has decided to leave more empty space in her pictures, to contrast with the colours and to give depth. Each picture has a new challenge, particularly with screeprinting, as she considers how best to represent difficult aspects like ripples on water.
In addition to her watercolours and prints, Lizzie sells many of her images as greetings cards and notelets.
You can visit Lizzie’s garden studio in Upper Basildon during Open Studios (May 4-27). Details of her opening times and directions to her studio are in the widely-available Open Studios directory. Her work will also be on show in May in the café at John Lewis, Reading, along with that of several other Open Studio artists.