Introducing our Designer of the Month..... Susan Yeates!!
Susan studied Fine Art Printmaking at Loughborough University and now runs her art and design business, Magenta Sky, from her home studio in Woking, Surrey. She also owns a pottery café called Fired Frog Pottery café in her local area.
We love Susans style and traditional methods of working and we couldn’t wait to share her work with our community!
Read on to find out more about Susans design processes, inspirations and aspirations for the future.
In her own words....
What first sparked your interest in print design?
I think it stems from childhood as I have always been interested in art and design. I loved doing screenprinting whilst at school and continued this on into university.
Who do you design for? Who is your muse?
I mainly design for the pure pleasure of it - I am very much into mindful drawing and creating for the sake of creating.
I would say that my daughter, Ariana Gloria is my muse because since she was born three years ago I have returned to creativity and being an artist full-time. She inspires me to do what I want to do and I love watching her pick up a pen or paintbrush and making marks with such freedom and pure creative expression.
What / who are your major influences?
I am hugely influenced by nature and also other Linocut artists from the past and present. I love to take photos of flowers, leaves and things that inspire me when I am out or in my garden. These all get stored on my phone and laptop for sketching from when the inspiration arises! I am drawn to bold prints, vintage patterns and bright abstract colours on all sorts of things including clothes, homeware fabric and ceramics.
Describe your style in 5 words
Bold, colourful, classic, fun, hand-made
Describe your design process
Most of my design work starts with some form of inspiration such as a photo, research trip or mood board. I then work in rough sketches across a number of sketchbooks (I have a LOT of sketchbooks). I sketch a variety of different things from simple patterns and colour explorations to specific things like florals. From sketch phase I then move into a finished linocut print or painting. Sometimes this is done directly onto the finished product e.g ceramics or fabric, and at other times I scan in and use my digital skills.
I enjoy working in different ways but here is an explanation of my linocut process.
The Linocut Process
I do a lot of sketching and drawing in pencil and pen, so this is how I come up with ideas and finalise layouts. From there I trace over the drawing using a pen and tracing paper and then using carbon paper transfer the design onto a linoblock. After I have transferred the image I use special linocutting tools to cut out the motif. I usually cut around the edge as well so the motif is ‘floating’ and carve out design details in the centre using a mixture of fine and broad v-tool and u-gouges. Once carved I ink the block using block printing ink and a roller and print on to paper or fabric using the small relief press in my studio. The prints need a good 2-7 days to dry so I have to be patient. I often scan these into my computer and use Adobe Illustrator to then vectorise the motif, play with the colours and generate a pattern.
Favorite music when designing
I love listening to classical music and jazz music when I’m designing. I have a playlist that I am addicted to at the moment on my phone called Smooth Jazz with Etta James and Ella Fitzgerald on it and it really sets the mood. I find music very influential when I create – sometimes I have nothing at all and enjoy the silence around me and other times I listen to music or even podcasts. It is always relaxed and uplifting whatever I select.
Best exhibition/museum/research trip/inspirational place
I absolutely love going to botanical gardens and we are lucky to have RHS Wisley near me that I visit regularly to sketch and draw. I love the fresh air and the beautiful scenery and even if I am not drawing the flowers and plants at the gardens there, I find that just going outside and taking in nature just resets me to be creative. Before lockdown I also loved to visit the Bankside Gallery in London’s Southbank that has a great selection of printmaking exhibitions as well.
What is your favorite part of the design process?
My favourite part of the design process has to be carving the linocut block. This is because I find it so relaxing and mindful - I can lose hours just concentrating on the task at hand. Sometimes it can take a while but I love the tactile nature of it and the way that the design gradually develops as you work.
I also love the sketching stage where I am coming up with ideas and playing with possibilities. I usually have at least 5-10 sketchbooks on the go at anyone time with ideas galore!
Oh, and I love receiving my fabric through from Fashion Formula – that is just so exciting when you see your ideas come to fruition.
What is your favorite medium to work in and why?
It is very hard to choose a favourite medium as I work in so many. I probably have around 4 mediums that I use the most and enjoy for different reasons. I love sketching in pencil as it allows me to be loose and free with ideas – I can explore, rub out, work quickly or take my time, depending on the subject matter. I also love fine-liner pens for their clean quality and detail. Watercolour really gives me the loose freedom and way to explore colour in a quick and bold manner. And then finally it has to be linocut as this is what I do the most of (and wrote two books on it – Learnng Linocut and Beginners Guide to Linocut!)
What are you working on at the moment?
I am working on a number of things at the moment. I am continuing with more linocut fabric designs which I aim to sell through Fashion Formula but also as products on my own website. I am playing with some brightly coloured watercolour pieces that I hope to develop into cards and fabric as well. Some of the designs I will then paint onto pottery for sale in my pottery studio. I am also busy creating and teaching a selection of online courses on sketching and drawing.
What do you hope to accomplish in the future?
I aim to develop and expand my portfolio and the pattern design side of my business. I definitely have another book (or five) that I want to write on art and design and expand my online art teaching.
What has been your career highlight so far?
My career highlight so far has to be publishing my book ‘A Beginner’s Guide to Linocut.’ I worked with a fabulous publisher, Search Press, who helped me to really fine-tune the projects but also made it a fun experience. They took amazing photos of the linocut pieces and my process and shaped it to be such a clear and colourful book. I was really proud of this project and sometimes just can’t believe that I actually wrote it!
Your biggest challenge you have faced as a designer
The biggest challenge for me as a designer is always the technology as I am very much a tactile and hands on person. Give me a pencil, a paintbrush a linocutting tool and I am in my happy place. I love to create and make new things I often find it a struggle to translate my original pieces into digital works as I just want to create the next new thing. Or maybe it’s just a lack of patience as well!
Do you have any tips for new designers starting out?
I guess my best tips would be to find your own way of working and a style that suits you. I am lucky that I am able to be very independent in how and where I work which gives me a lot of freedom to create what I want to rather than being tied to a brief that restricts me. I have also learnt over the years to keep nurturing my creativity by giving myself space to learn, read and just draw for the sake of drawing. This keeps me constantly inspired and bursting with ideas rather than burning out.
Susan Yeates designs are available to shop on the Fashion Formula website.
Other useful Websites and Links:
Main artist website: www.magenta-sky.com
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/magentaskyartsandcrafts/
Beginner’s Guide to Linocut Book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1782215840/
Pottery Cafe Website: www.firedfrogpottery.co.uk