Artist Focus: Jean Edwards

Tell us a bit about yourself

I used to be a primary school teacher and ultimately a headteacher but throughout always an art coordinator trying to make sure children had a good experience of art to set them up for later participation in and appreciation of art. I now work in the School of Education at the University of Northampton where art is not a large part of my role. This has led me to making more of my own art and seeking other opportunities to be involved in art education such as writing a textbook for students and taking part in the sketchbook circle. 

Tell us about your style

I love drawing and since August 2012 I've been making and posting a drawing every day - this is my way of ensuring I keep art present in my life and not something I plan to do but never get round to. 
I'm also a printmaker, making collagraphs using found and recycled materials. 

Since joining the sketchbook circle I've been inspired to explore monoprinting using a Gelli plate and using collage techniques. Both of these have led into new areas of my own work.

What are the inspirations for your work?

I'm primarily inspired by the world around me - the local environment and what I see in galleries and museums. Lately I've been involved in urban sketching and being able to see the work of other artists drawing their localities and sometimes working with them on location has been great.
The interaction with my sketchbook partners has been inspiring too - leading me to new approaches and ideas that I had never explored before. The collaborative approach in one book and the different ways that unfolds is so interesting and continues to surprise into the third year of my participation. 
I've also begun to explore making art with digital technology and exploring the interaction between making 'real' art and then developing it further with digital tech - this is something that I've been working on with colleagues and students at university. 

What projects are you working on?

Apart from my ongoing daily drawing I've set up a local urbansketching group called DrawingOutside:Northants. We meet every Tuesday evening somewhere to draw so I've been searching for interesting places and wet weather alternatives! I'm also preparing to attend the International Urban Sketching Symposium in Manchester in July, which will be huge injection of ideas I'm sure. 
I've signed up to take part in my local Open Studios in September so I'll be working hard on making new prints and collages between now and then. 
In an attempt to connect my life as an artist and my job I'm writing an application for a PhD although this does keep getting pushed out of the way. 

What tools and materials could you not live without?

A sketchbook and 4B pencil for sure, and a close second a very sharp scalpel, PVA and mountboard as these are the basis for my printmaking. 

Tell us about your work space.  How do you ensure it continues to fuel your creativity?

When I made the decision to try daily drawing I realised that if have to regard everywhere as my work space so I put a sketchbook and pencil in all sorts of places - my car, my work desk, my handbag, my work bag so wherever I am I can draw. At home I can transform my kitchen into a printmaking workshop in about 15 minutes and I love spending the afternoon printing, listening to the radio and being continually surprised by the process. I also make art in my spare bedroom which is where I keep all my art stuff - often the tools and materials themselves can suggest a creative idea if there is time to play and experiment. I read somewhere that when inspiration and creative ideas are lacking just being in your workspace for 15 minutes will lead you into something and that often works with me. If all else fails I go in the spare bedroom and tidy, get distracted and end up making art.

Any tips for busting out of a creative rut?

That's an apt question as I do feel a bit lacking in motivation at the moment! Something that keeps me going is the daily habit. I'm approaching day 1400 (on June 22nd) so that over time has made me less likely to wait for inspiration.
I find working with others via the sketchbook circle a motivation because of my partners' input and the need to not let them down. Also chance interactions on Twitter with other artists and artist teaches can kickstart an idea or share a project that grabs my attention - the monthly art # on Twitter for example, where I can see lots of artists working on the same theme and giving and receiving feedback and encouragement.