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Picture gallery: A look at the work of Norfolk artist H.J. Jackson who is celebrating his 60 years of printmaking with an exhibition in Wells this week

15:31 24 July 2013

H.J. Jackson at work

H.J. Jackson at work

Archant

When H.J. Jackson produced his first hand-printed linocut at the age of 14, he had no idea that he would go on to become a highly collected and hugely popular print artist.

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Sixty years later Mr Jackson’s passion for his work is as strong as it has ever been.

This week he is celebrating his six decades of printmaking with his only solo exhibition of the year, at Gallery Plus in Wells.

Mr Jackson, 74, who was born in King’s Lynn and now lives in Norwich, said: “I remember doing the first hand-printed linocut.

“It was at Melton Constable Secondary Modern School, as it was known then. Since then it’s all I ever wanted to do.”

That small single-colour print of a galleon in full sail was instrumental in helping Mr Jackson – John to his friends – to obtain a place at the Norwich School of Art the following year.

It was also directly responsible for him pursuing linocutting as a craft as part of the National Diploma in Graphic Design.

It was while at the School of Art that Mr Jackson became interested in coastal themes, stimulated by visits to Sheringham, Cromer and to the fishwharf at Great Yarmouth during the annual visits by the Scottish Fishing Fleet.

By the end of the 1950s, however, his interest was taken up with the closure of the local Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway, where his father, grandfather, and other family members had all worked, and the clearance of large areas of Victorian Norwich.

After leaving college, Mr Jackson no longer had access to a printing press, but discovered he could transfer ink from lino to paper by rubbing with the edge of a tobacco tin – a method he still employs today.

After working for more than 30 years in marketing and publicity, printmaking during evenings and weekends, Mr Jackson was able to pursue linocutting full-time in 1995.

Now a Senior Fellow of the Royal Society of Painter Printmakers and a Member of the Society of Wood Engravers, Mr Jackson has perfected his craft, hand-burnishing each of his full-colour linocuts with the use of his tobacco tin.

Working from photographic reference, Mr Jackson produces a drawing to the size of the proposed print. He then plans the number of lino blocks needed, some printing more than one colour.

The drawing is photocopied onto tracing paper, reversed and transferred using carbon onto the lino.

With drawing ink, he identifies the areas to be retained before cutting using only two tools: a V tool and a small gauge.

The different blocks are printed using oil based inks and pin-hole registration. The printing is carried out entirely by hand burnishing using a tobacco tin.

The declining fishing industry features strongly in Mr Jackson’s work, and he likes his boats to look as if they have been to sea. The multiple layers of ink result in a ‘treacly’ appearance which helps to gives them the look of working vessels.

Mr Jackson said: “I spend a lot of time designing a piece but when you print it is instant.

“As I’ve worked in reverse I never really know how the piece will turn out until that moment when I pull away the paper.

“That moment is magical and it excited me just as much now as when I started 60 years ago.”

Mr Jackson has done thousands of prints since that first print from school, which no longer exists.

Mr Jackson said: “I threw it away in the early 60s. It’s a real shame, because however terrible it was it would be great to have it now as part of the collection.”

Mr Jackson is exhibiting a selection of his recent linocuts at Gallery Plus, Warham Road, Wells.

His exhibition started on Saturday and runs until August 4.

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