Bleary-eyed and tousle-haired, Kaja gets up at sunrise. I can hear her on the phone, cajoling some reluctant staff to come in early and take receipt of the morning’s deliveries.
She goes to open up the store.
Twenty minutes later, she’s back, having left her surprised assistants to fend for themselves: ‘I told them, “I’ll be at Les’s place. You’ll be fine. Don’t call me.” You should have seen their faces!’ She undresses, snuggles back into bed at my side, sighs happily and sleeps until midday, snoring gently in my ear.
To me, it’s the song of angels.
That afternoon, basking in Kaja’s afterglow, I get busy in the studio. I need a series of mezzotints for the exhibition. It’s my favourite printing technique, producing gorgeous, rich contrasts of light and shade.
One of the things that charms me about printmaking is the cumulative experimentation. Paint an oil or a watercolour — of a tree, let’s say — and you’ve got a painting of a tree. Whoop-de-do.
Create a printing plate of the same tree and you’ve got a springboard for endless experimentation. You can fiddle with tonal variation, texture, colour, levels of detail, thickness and viscosity of ink, pressure. Every print will be subtly different.
There’s both art and artisanship in creating prints. This is the way, in essence, that books were made from Gutenberg and Caxton until digital printing came along. As a printmaker, you tap into five hundred years of craft, of communicating images, words, ideas.
Add papermaking and you’ve got a satisfyingly complete creative instrument which you, the artist, can control, modulate, play at will.
Printmaking is a combination of creative impulse, artistry … and many, many routine tasks. The iterative aspects, which some might find tedious, I find meditative. As I work, using the rocker to prepare the copper plate with thousands of tiny, uniform indentations, I’m able to think calmly about Kaja, what she might become to me.
I consider whether I can afford the risk of letting this woman into my life. It’s become the life of a…