Artist in Focus: Emily Crookshank

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Artist and printmaker Emily Crookshank takes us through her work, inspiration and the never ending possibilities of the creative process.

Emily Crookshank graduated from Glasgow School of Art in 2011 and moved to London as a full time artist a year later.  Since then Emily has had a sell-out at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, been invited by the master printmaker Norman Ackroyd CBE RA to show at The Original Print show and been selected for the National Original Print Exhibition, showcasing excellence and innovation in contemporary printmaking.

Artist and Printmaker

Sitting in Emily’s fantastic new studio in Peckham looking back over the last 4 years, Emily credits her first studio in Deptford with sparking the transitional change that has led her up to the point that she happily sits before me today.  


‘I had a tiny space and almost no money – so I set myself the challenge of working simply with paper and charcoal, and started to explore the potential of materials.  Using the materials as my starting point, the paper became part of the drawing - a material in itself - rather than simply the surface.’ 


Inspired by Georgia O’Keefe’s approach to nature, capturing the essence of form by stripping back to the essential, Emily set herself to task.  ‘By setting parameters and limitations, I discovered so much more by pushing the materials further and exploring them to their limits.  In this endless experimentation with materials, I realised you’re never done.’


Then it was with printmaking that ‘something clicked. I realised that I could approach printmaking in this search to understand materials better. Because it is all in the materials, experimenting and exploring with them. From paper and charcoal, it is exactly the same with copper, steel and zinc.’ 


On a creative level, ‘It is also a process that suits the way I think and work. Stripping something back and then building it up again. That process of understanding.’ 

Emily and her printmaking Bible where each stage of the process is explored, recorded and referred back to.

Having first studied printmaking at Glasgow School of Art, ever resourceful, Emily bought an old clothes mangle and started experimenting with monoprints from old plates in her studio in Scotland. 

Then it was on moving to London that everything changed.   Working with GrandyArt Emily met fellow printmaker Guy Allen, who introduced her to Artichoke studios and a new world of opportunity. ‘I knew instantly that was where I needed to be.  The people, warmth, the community, the very building and space itself was so inspiring – you can go there and be completely free to create.’


A year later Emily had raised enough funds to be an Artichoke key-holder with full access to the facilities, all importantly in Emily’s case, both day and night. Describing her day in the studio Emily explains, ‘printing cannot be set by time constraints.  It is in the evening, when everyone’s left and I’m alone in the space, where the ideas start to take shape.  I enter a different mindset and focus, in my own time and space.  You need the whole day to have your evening and you go through the day to earn that time.’ 

Mutations, 116 x 136cm, 12 Unique etchings
‘Sometimes the process behind the artwork is as interesting as the finished piece itself.  The enjoyment is in the creative process.’
The story of a single artwork – Mutations 
Emily’s largest work to date is Mutations, a series of 12 unique etchings, framed in series. 

Exploring tone and texture via the plate, Mutations shows the work as a process, created as a continuously evolving drawing. 

Each etching is created from the same etching plate, scratched, polished, scraped, etched, re-etched, burnished and then printed again.  Every time it changed, it was printed once, then changed again.  The result is a dynamic and transformative drawing that 'mutates' from one state to the next.
Exhibiting them together as a single piece, in the order they were created in, reveals the energy running through the drawing and fluency through the series as a whole.

This leads us on to the plate itself which Emily also exhibited originally alongside with the artwork, because ‘seeing the plate was important, what the metal had been physically put through in creating that artwork.’
Monoprint, Lunar Flare III, 30 x 26cm, £350 unframed, £425 Framed
IIIOIV & IIIOX Monoprints, 1 of 1, 44 x 38cm, £275 each unframed, £350 framed
Lunar Calendar (detail), Monoprint, 30 x 26cm
Circles within Circles
From the restraints of Deptford to standing in this wonderfully spacious new studio space, it becomes clear why Emily has hit such a rich creative vein. Taking me around the space that allows her greater scale than ever, to 'develop ideas, to see how different things are related to each other and to consolidate ideas and use the things I’ve learnt,’ we turn to the large charcoal work-in-process on her studio wall.
‘I’m drawn to circles,’ Emily explains. ‘The Circle is a simple movement.  But so much thought goes into the simplest thing. Simplicity is an achievement in itself and the simplest things can be the most interesting. 

When you take this into printmaking and ask it each time about specific printmaking techniques, every one answers a question, illustrates the constraints and highlights the difference.’
This is a central part of the process that lies behind her work; balancing the composition and form, with the knowledge around how to create that image.  ‘From the first step of making a mark on the paper, you feel your way, it is a balance and a judgement. That is what is most satisfying – by knowing when it is right.’
Laying out Monoprints 
Walking away from the studio my head is buzzing with infectious enthusiasm and I’m totally inspired by the time we’ve spent together.  I’m thrilled to be working with such a brilliant young talent and so impressed with the success Emily has achieved through such dedicated and total commitment to her cause.  Hooray for Emily Crookshank, to my mind, one of the greats.
A new collection of Emily's etchings will be on show at The Summer Collection 2017 at Oxleaze Barn, Filkins, Lechlade, Glos, GL7 3RB from 10th - 14th May.

For more information on Emily Crookshank and a portfolio of work go to
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