Artist Interview with Clare Melinsky
23 March 2022
Clare’s lino cut prints show the strength and quality of the cut line.
She graduated in theatre design from Central St Martin’s and ever since has been working as an illustrator. She is easily diverted from her lino cutting by the distractions of the garden outside the workroom window in South West Scotland. Despite this she’s managed to illustrate the 40 covers of the Penguin Shakespeare as well as the latest edition of the entire Harry Potter canon!
1. How would you describe your style in 3 words?
Cheerful, distinctive, artisan.
2. What has been your favourite project to date and why?
This is a bit like Desert Island Discs: I would choose my Shakespeare covers, commissioned by Penguin in 2005. There was a lot of pressure as there were 40 covers in total: it was almost like having a regular job for a while. The covers stayed in print for some years which is rewarding, as so much of my work is very ephemeral. My partner and I aimed see as many different Shakespeare plays as we could during that time, and subsequently, mainly at the Edinburgh festival. There are still some of the more obscure plays that we have never managed.
3. How has the past year changed the way you work?
Not much has changed for me to be honest as I have always enjoyed working from home and the CIA have kept me busy with lots of projects!
4. What is your current workspace like?
I work in a sunny ground floor room at my home in the countryside in South West Scotland, which looks out onto the garden. I have a large cast iron platen press. There’s a wood at the back of the house and a burn running alongside. Lots of hardy perennial flowers and a small fruit and veg plot. Whenever the sun is warm I drop what I am doing and go outside with my gardening gloves on for a couple of hours. The climate here is so wet that you absolutely have to enjoy any fine weather when it comes!
5. What is it about the linocut process that you enjoy the most?
Cutting the lino is a very calming and intense activity, I’m ‘in the zone’. The reward comes when you take the first print: even now, I can never truly know what the final image will actually look like until I start to print.
Where the colours merge always makes an interesting blend. When I print a second block over the first print, more subtle, interesting and unexpected things start to happen: it’s exciting! Making the drawn line into a cut line transforms the quality of the line itself. I am still always surprised by what I have created when I see the first print.
6. What is the best and worst thing about being a freelance illustrator and why?
The best thing for me is having the CIA as my agent, so that I can enjoy my life in the remote countryside and still access the world of work in London.
Sometimes, I do feel isolated, but that’s my choice.
7. How did you develop your signature style? How does it differ to when you first started out?
To start with, I taught myself traditional technique by looking at Thomas Bewick’s early 19th century wood engravings, and the more primitive woodcuts of 18th century popular song sheets. A seminal moment was a retrospective of the Curwen Press at the Tate Gallery in 1977. That’s where I first saw mid-20th century graphic work by Edward Bawden and Ravilious and their contemporaries.
8. Looking forward to 2022, what and who would be your dream project or client?
I very much enjoyed the hospitality of Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in 2019 when working on ‘The Lost Orchard’ for Raymond Blanc. Something along those lines once a year would keep me happy. In a sunny Mediterranean setting please.
9. What do you wish you’d known when just starting out that you know now?
I don’t have to mirror what’s been written; I can add my own interpretation to the text.
10. Having worked on various projects from advertising to editorial to packaging — which has been your favourite avenue and why?
I get excited about any new commission. Something new and different is always a challenge and can lead anywhere.
11. What role does craft play in this digital age?
There is a big appetite for craft workshops these days, as an antidote to digital. And the same applies for hand crafted images, or products.
Love this and want to see more? Take a tour of Clare’s folio!
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