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Meet Graham Clarke, the artist who created Kent Life's fabulous Christmas cover

PUBLISHED: 14:06 21 November 2012 | UPDATED: 22:23 20 February 2013

Graham Clarke, artist, author, illustrator and humorist, is one of our most popular and best-selling printmakers but still found time to create Kent Life's original December cover

Humour and humanity


Graham Clarke, artist, author, illustrator and humorist, is one of our most popular and best-selling printmakers but still found time to create Kent Lifes fabulous Christmas cover


Graham Clarkes studio in Boughton Monchelsea, near Maidstone, is a veritable garden of delights but definitely not in the sense of Bosch!!


For a start, it is a beautiful building, with high ceilings made of laminated portal frames that look almost like an upside-down church or perhaps a boat.


The studio was built in the early 1980s and is ensconced in the middle of the garden, with trees surrounding it. You would never know that its there.


There are several rooms, a study and a work room besides the large main room adorned with Grahams remarkable prints. It is absolutely no surprise when Graham answers my question of whether he would ever have liked to live and work in London with a straightforward No.


Despite this, the advent of the 2012 Olympics led to Graham creating a large arch-topped etching of the city entitled All the World in London. This was created to host the bid in 2004 and was, he says: The most complex etching since my first 35 years ago.


With its vibrant celebration of the city, this is a work you can stand and contemplate for a good long time, bearing more fruit the more you look at it.


This is not the only work that rewards close observation.I personally loved a Cornwall print (Graham and his wife Wendy have a cottage with a studio by the sea in the county), which had a bright red giant crab in the centre of its scene of a fishing village.


There are also some remarkable etchings of natural life and indeed Graham cites Ronald Searle as one of his artistic heroes when he was growing up. Other heroes are Van Gogh, Breughel - from whom he seems to borrow the picture of teeming human existence - Edward Bawden, another master of complex prints, and Samuel Palmer.


But probably the greatest is Anon, for carving sculpture, icons, stained glass windows, childrens paintings from schools, says Graham in a democratic appreciation par excellence.


You get the impression that the mischievous gleam in Grahams eye is picking up details of yourself to put in his next print. As he says: My inspiration is what you see in the pictures. Ill only make images of things I like. Occasionally work is produced at other peoples suggestion, but Ill only carry it through if its what I like.


Certainly his work shows an observation of people and a deep humanity which is genuinely affecting. There is so much inspiration, we are surrounded by the earth, cottages, churches and then theres the seaside and the elements, all subjects of inspiration, he says one of the great advantages of living in Kent.


I produce thousands of watercolours and they also appear in books: Kent provides my subjects. It has to be something that warms my heart, or family life, or a thing Ill read, it can come from anywhere: village life, history.


Graham explains why he chose to create prints: Because you can both keep them and sell them with an edition of prints. Its not the same with watercolours when they are printed commercially. But we now have our own publishers and there are a dozen or so books Ive created too.


Graham adds: Art in its broadest sense has every good thing that mankind has ever created, with the possible exception of medicine. But for art to be relegated to something peripheral to real school and real life is outrageous!


So is formal art training important? For nearly everybody, but Ive met one or two who have none and are brilliant. I really believe in informal art training: now art training has become more formal especially when people use computers. It has to be done with humour and hard work.


Grahams advice to young artists is simple. Never ever let anything out of your studio that you are not really happy with. Always make sure presentation is spot on, get a good framer and use the best materials. My etching materials are all supplied by TN Lawrence & Sons Ltd.


My advice to young artists is go and have a look at Grahams work. And for the reader, take a trip to see his work at the open days, which will give you a chance to purchase and enjoy and seize the opportunity to acquire the beautiful Kentish Christmas cover, entitled Warm Up tunes, that Graham has created especially for Kent Life.


GET IN TOUCH


Graham Clarke, Up The Garden Studio, Green Lane, Boughton Mnnchelsea, Maidstone ME17 4LF, 01622 743938 or info@grahamclarke.co.uk.


Open days: 1, 8 and 15 December12-4pm



READER OFFER


Kent Life has collaborated with our cover artist, Graham Clarke, to offer readers an opportunity to purchase a copy of Warm Up Tunes, with 25 per cent of each sale being donated to Kent Life Charity of the Year, Hospice in the Weald.


The original, limited edition, hand-coloured etching is created entirely by hand using traditional processes more than 200 years old. The image size is 305mm x 253mm and the edition size will be limited to 300 with a number of the traditional artist's proofs available too.


Warm Up Tunes (unframed) - 215 (inc VAT) plus postage and packing 7


Warm Up Tunes (with single off-white mount) - 238(inc VAT) plus postage and packing 7


Warm Up Tunes (framed with mount) - 314 (inc VAT) plus packing and courier delivery 15



Please order direct from the address below, payment by cheque or credit/debit card.


Graham Clarke


Up the Garden Studio, Green Lane,


Boughton Monchelsea, Maidstone ME17 4LF


01622 743938 or info@grahamclarke.co.uk


For details of Graham Clarke's etching processes and methods used in the production of his etchings, etc, please visit: www.grahamclarke.co.uk






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