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Artist Showcase: Alan Stones Printmaker


As the first of many artists to be higlighted in our monthly ‘Artist Showcases’, this month we are featuring Cumbria-based artist and printmaker Alan Stones.

A permanent artist in our collection, Alan Stones has had a successful and interesting career filled with printmaking and oil painting. Among many other things he was part of the New Light Award in 2020-21, and is now a Patron of Printfest.

Alan studied Fine Art at St Martin School of Art in London from 1969-71. In 1985 he won the Gulbenkian Foundation Award which took him to Lowick House is Cumbria to experiment in printmaking and shortly after lithography would become a signature medium in his practice. Where did his minimalist style come from? We interviewed the artist to find out more about his practice and what led him to create the monochromatic & minimalistic prints signature to his collection today.

You can find his collection in our ‘Original Print Gallery’ located on the ground floor in the Western Wing of the Gallery.


Tell us about the process of Lithography and why you work in this medium?

I start by making a drawing, usually over a lightbox, with ink onto True Grain Film over a lightbox. This may involve many alterations by the time it is printed. The next stage is for a light sensitive aluminium Toray plate to be placed in an exposure unit over the drawing where it is exposed through ultraviolet light. After this it is ready to go onto the press. Unlike with an etching press, which involves paper being squeezed between two heavy rollers only a slight pressure is needed to transfer the ink from the plate and onto the paper.

Finally the printed paper is lifted off the plate. With so many processes involved there are a great many opportunities for errors and at this point I will be holding my breath in anticipation of what might appear . . .


Alan in the studio

Couple by Alan Stones

Alan in his studio

What was the inspiration and the catalyst which created your signature minimalist style?

A year after my residency in the Falkland Islands, I had an opportunity to return to Lowick House for a couple of weeks. My intention was to make, among other things, a print depicting two trees on a hillside. At that same time my partner, Rebecca, had flown off to New Zealand to visit her family. I had been thinking about the two trees together but standing separately on the hillside as a metaphor for Rebecca and myself.

However, I was working on a smaller press than previously and without the constant assistance of John Sutcliffe. I was struggling to print the ground of the hillside in a colour that was satisfying.

After several hours (walking) it dawned on me; Actually, I wasn’t that interested in the ground of the hillside. What was exciting to me were the two small hawthorn trees and their relative positions on the line of the hill.

This print, ‘Couple’, was the first of many such simple prints. I think these prints get their strength from my enjoyment in simplifying my drawing in a way which allows for metaphorical interpretations: two trees together; a flock of birds; fell walkers with their burdens (rucksacks) on their backs – images which can stand for personal, but universal, moments.


Do you think your residency in the Falkland Islands has changed your practice; how you make and what you make?

At the beginning of 1995, I was invited by the Falkland Islands Government to visit the islands and spend three months there working as an artist. In retrospect I do think that the stark and treeless landscape of those islands and the vast ‘emptiness’ of the Atlantic Ocean may well have influenced the conception of my ‘minimal’ lithographs. I had been able to give myself permission to leave out extraneous elements and enjoy the simplicity.

Gardener Cottage, Fawkland Islands

Wanderer IV, £95

There is an element of art and science which underpins Alan’s work. The high contrast and minimal drawings combined with the almost scientific method of lithograph printing.

The figures become one with the landscapes he creates. Each print is like a high exposure and high contrast snapshot of rural life

“I work as a painter and printmaker and ‘people’ are at the heart of the things I make. I depict ‘nature’ too, but this is nature as a metaphor for human activities or nature very much affected by man.

Looking back it is evident that there are on-going themes in my work and possibly the most constant of these is ‘identity’ or, more precisely, degrees of engagement we have with each other."

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