It's interesting, I find, how much life is affected by managing expectations. Well duh? Yes, I know, but it's still interesting. Last year I set off for the Printfest in Ulverston thinking Lake District (I don't like to let too many facts get in the way) and drop dead gorgeous scenery, perhaps some sparkly blue sea (please, don't judge me) and then prints at the end of it all. Wow! What a day it was going to be! Result: a long dreary drive full of dull, uninteresting scenery and a muddy stretch of water off to the side. Add to that a shockingly bad mood (all on the inside. I think...) and I probably didn't get the most out of Printfest, even once I'd cheered up somewhat.
But I wasn't going to be put off by last year's mistakes. This time, naturally, I set off with the expectation of a ridiculously long drive, given the distance travelled, and all of it glum, followed by a crowded venue where I might or might not be in the mood to engage. It even started to drizzle somewhere past Preston, but of course I wasn't miserable because hey! what's a spot of rain if it's already going to be a slog? So of course Cumbria was far more stunning than I remembered. That was at least partly because of the rain - it spread a gentle silver haze over the world, making the colours harmonise and (if it's not too contradictory) glow. But also because of the gorgeous shade-range of spring leaves - subtle bronzes, zingy greens, soft golds, coppery oranges - and the bluebells and wild garlic lining the roads; the unexpected possibility of seeing ospreys (though I didn't investigate - too damp, surely, for a distant view of a bird (or birds) probably hunkering down out of the rain as much as possible); the glorious flat-silver watery coils on the foreshore, with a sullen storm-grey sea further out (so ok, I guess the rain played its part in that scene); the wonderful wind-drawn shapes of trees
Cheerfulness notwithstanding, it was still drizzly in Ulverston, so it was a relief to make it to the Printfest and be out of the damp. Printfest was more or less exactly as I remembered it from last year - a faintly chaotic layout (which is attractive but a problem insofar as you're never sure you've seen everything) and (from my point of view) a fidgety lack of space. If you stop, anywhere, you're blocking someone from seeing, blocking someone from moving on. I was on the Hot Bed Press stand for a day at the Hepworth Print Fair, back in April? March? That probably spoiled me somewhat, in that the space there was very generous. Still, just a minor quibble really - the space is what it is,and that's fine.
Printmakerwise, a few of the same names as last year, though not as many as I thought there might be. I didn't look in advance, this time - I'm not convinced it helps. A whole range of printmaking methods, as you might expect, and I really liked some work, quite liked some more, was pretty unconvinced by the rest - again, as you might expect at any such event. Fouzia Zafar (I think she's been nominated this year's Printmakers' Printmaker) showed very large and therefore quite dramatic work which I never managed to look at properly. Don't quite know why, because it looked fantastic, but maybe the size of the pieces meant I could stand back and still see. The crowdiness (it should be a word) of the place did mean that I felt rather overwhelmed at times and happy to drift past. Still, my loss, I suspect. Annwyn Dean's work I already know and love from numerous artists' book fairs, and yes, I did end up with a little something. What can I say? I'm a spendthrift - to go home empty handed would be unthinkable. I also acquired one of Alexander McIntosh's forest prints - this particular strand of his work seemed familiar, and I'm wondering now if he's ever taken part in the 20:20. Martin Mitchell produces the most amazingly skilled work - I would have assumed they were engravings, but (since his email address incorporates the word mezzotint) I think not. The prints he had there didn't appeal to me as much as I felt they should, but I was very admiring of the work that had gone into them and would be happy to spend a long time appreciating them nonetheless.
Who else? Who else? I thought I would be able to identify the work and therefore the printmakers I liked from the catalogue, but I'm finding that a lot more difficult than I expected. Emerson Mayes (for his drawing skills), Anja Percival (for light, as ever, but there were some line-based prints in her browser that I liked too), Heike Roesel (can't quite pin down why, but they were somehow cheerful and I liked that), others I'm sure but I can't identify them definitely so they must remain unsung, today at least.
And then there's the ospreys. I can't miss an opportunity to see ospreys. So I need to go back soon, very soon.