Q and A with Clive Hicks-Jenkins


In the first of a new series of interviews, I sit down with some of the artists from the Penfold Press to find out a little bit about their work and what goes into making it. First up, Clive Hicks-Jenkins.


Morning Clive, I know you to be a very early riser. What's a typical day look like?

Ha! Yes. First, I sort the dog out, he takes precedent at the start of the day. Then I check e-mails and catch up with ‘work' related replies. After that I figure out whether there are imminent delivery deadlines (to publishers or galleries or to my framer) and then juggle my work for the day to ensure everything remains on schedule. I start work and then keep going as long as I can, stopping only to exercise the dog and eat. My days can be very varied. While I don’t really like to work on several projects simultaneously, occasionally I have to. When that happens it takes a lot of management. Some days require Zoom meetings.

Can you tell me a little about your workspace, and how does it affect your work?

In Lockdown I re-located from my top-floor three-roomed studio to the dining-room on the ground floor. Gallery exhibitions were on hold indefinitely, but I had a ton of illustration projects on and the large dining-room table was perfect for the work. There’s a big bay-window overlooking the approach to the house. Light pours in and the view across our gardens and to countryside beyond is glorious, lifting my spirits even on a dull day. 

As a printmaker my whole day is about routines, I've been asking artists if they are similar. Do you have any routines you follow within the studio?

My practices are diverse, and I have different routines for the various arenas of work. When I’m preparing to illustrate or direct for the stage, my routine centres on reading and note-taking. If I have a week of animation scheduled, everything will be about making the puppets and scenery and creating storyboards, discussions with my collaborators and tracking down and licensing music. When there’s an exhibition due then there are huge amounts of work at the computer screen: making inventories, WeTransferring images to galleries, checking texts for catalogues and gallery panels etc. So there are daily routines, but they’re all very different. 

When printmaking my initial processes include making a painting as a basic guide to work from, usually in gouache and pencil. These can be just a starting point and we can veer in quite different directions once we start with the proofing processes. But it’s always good to have a goal, even if you move the posts once the work has started.



Has any artist influenced your printmaking? 

As an easel artist I came late to printing, so I was wary of looking at other print-makers because I thought that would just be disheartening or send me down routes that were not my own. My relationship with you informed everything I attempted, so you had more of an influence on what I make and how I make it, than any named printmaker. I explain to you what I’m trying to do, and then you offer advice on how we might go about it. You're open to experimenting, which is the way I am, too. A few years ago I remember we walked round the Sir Gawain and the Green Knight exhibition together, and examining the prints at some remove from their making, neither of us could figure out how we’d got the effects that we had. You think you’ll never forget how you solved a problem and came to the conclusion that worked, but you do.

What role has printmaking had in the development of your studio practice?

Having worked on the Sir Gawain and the Green Knight series, I thereafter did several illustration projects that used the processes of colour separation I’d grown so accustomed to on the prints. I don’t think I would have done that without having worked with you. The experience certainly changed the way I see colour, and I think may have impacted my painting techniques, too.

Have you ever given any thought to why you make prints?

Because I greatly enjoy the process of working in layers to construct images and mix colours. Making screen print separations is so different to working in paint at the easel, and I find the variation of practice is energising. Prints are a bonus insomuch that they enable me to be able to produce work for all pockets. I’ve found that prints have spread my reputation wider because their reach - their having been produced in editions - is longer. 

Music is a big part of my daily studio life, do you find you play music whilst you work?

I tailor my music to whatever I’m working on. When illustrating Olivia McCannon’s hauntingly beautiful re-telling of the Beauty and the Beast story (published by Design for Today) I played the Philip Glass opera of Beauty and the Beast and Georges Auric’s score for Jean Cocteau’s 1946 film of the story, endlessly. I can’t listen to the spoken word when I’m working, but music is crucial. 

Can you give me an album recommendation?

I am constantly playing Daniel Hart’s score for the film The Green Knight. Didn’t greatly like the film, but I LOVE the soundtrack.

Excellent, that brings us back nicely to the Green Knight. Thanks Clive.