Meet the Maker: Alison Deegan
Alison Deegan describes herself as a day-time archeologist, night-time printmaker and mum at all times. We talked to Alison about her evocative work and the parallels between her daytime job uncovering archeological features in landscapes and her artistic reconstruction of nature through printmaking…
You are an archeologist by day and moonlight as a printmaker at night. That sounds fascinating. Can you tell us more?
I have a slightly niche career as an air photo interpreter for archaeology. I scour through hundreds of air photos looking for signs of buried archaeological features like burial mounds or earthworks such as medieval moats and field systems. Then I make maps of these remains so that other archaeologists can excavate them, or planners can avoid them or to contribute to the research of ancient landscapes.
Does your day job influence your art?
Absolutely. I tend to think of landscapes as layers built up through time. It can also be a distraction though. My archaeological work has to be spatially precise, so when I’m designing a print I’m often torn between making an accurate representation and jiggling trees, rocks and hills around for a more interesting composition.
How did you discover lino printing?
I wanted a creative outlet after my son was born. I started with watercolours and then stumbled across a lino printing kit in an art supplies catalogue. It had a horrible water-based black ink if I recall but it was enough to get me hooked.
Where do you look for inspiration?
All around, but I tend to be drawn to rural landscapes and the seaside rather than urban subjects, for the moment…
Can you talk us through your creative process?
Whenever I’m out walking or cycling I take lots and lots of photos – mostly really bad ones. Then later when I’m looking through them, something might grab me in the composition or the colours and I start drawing. I might draw and redraw several times but I usually go back to my first attempt. The transfer to the lino can be a tortuous process, simplifying, scanning, reversing and the tracing down to the lino, but I find the design becomes more refined as a result, so I’m happy to work through it.
Can you describe your workspace or studio?
Small, messy and poorly lit, but it is my own space so I can’t complain.
Do you like to surround yourself by particular sounds, foods or objects while you work?
I listen to Radio 4 all day. I like the way something I hear when I’m drawing a particular element will come back to me, even a week or so later, when I start carving that element.
How would you spend your perfect day?
An uninterrupted day in my workroom should be bliss, but experience shows I would just flap around from project to project and achieve very little. A day by the sea in any weather is my ideal.
We’ve heard your favourite smells are fresh ink, cardamoms and workshops. What about your favourite plant?
Artichokes, because they are the only plant growing in my garden that’s there on purpose.