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Maz Jackson - SGFA

Continuing our series of Interviews with members of the SGFA, we talked with Maz Jackson, an intriguing artist who has been called  "an imaginative and allegorical post-modern medievalist". She works using 15th century methods, images worked up in egg tempera, which is laid down gessoed, linen wrapped oak panels. The results are totally stunning.

Maz Jackson_Cowdog_with_5_bees_Egg_TemperaTell us a bit more about yourself. What got you started and why? (what were you doing before?)

I cannot remember not drawing painting and making things. My Dad ran a large village shop with his brother, employing 6 women and selling a myriad of goods from all over the world, cheeses, teas, pink silk corsets, men's flat caps, mousetraps and paraffin stoves. A place full of colour and characters. On Sundays we would visit museums, churches, cathedrals, seaside or go to the ballet and opera after going to mass (colour and ritual here too, different and Latin then, as we were all Catholics, my mother was Irish, hence a kind of pagan slant to religion).As a little girl, I would draw with wax crayons on large sheets of grease-proof paper from the shop that should have wrapped cheese and bacon. When at school I won art prizes and was always in the art room. On to gain a degree in Fine Art at Norwich School of Art, where I hung at the Royal Academy as their choice of student. I sold my first drawing at 15 and have been painting and exhibiting and winning awards, both national and international ever since. Creating things is just like breathing. 

What inspires you? How do you come across the "stories"?  I find your work has an ethereal, spiritual quality, where does this arise from do you think?

Inspiration comes from anything, anywhere at any time. I am never without a sketchbook and draw from cups on the table, to things on the television, to being a passenger in a car, bus, train or plane, birds in the sky, a hare in a field and from my imagination. This library of sketchbooks feeds my head to produce series of paintings, prints, installations, sculpture and books. I also realized some time ago that the rich childhood my parents gave me gave me a very strong foundation to build on, tradition and stories, rituals and wonder.

How would you describe a typical project? Do you work from photographs, do prelim sketches, etc, or go straight to canvas?

My work is a continuum, each piece grows from another. Some pieces are an amalgam of different sketches, some just arrive by drawing straight onto the surface that is to be worked up. Some are strong drawings that stand for themselves, the message is there already and a line is enough, catching the essence.

Maz Jackson_Birdman_2What are you working on at the moment?

A series of wood engravings and egg tempera paintings, everything overlaps.

You are a member of the SGFA, what does that mean for you? Has membership helped you in any way (inspiration, awards, discussion, etc). Are you a member of anything else?

Selected to be a member of the SGFA about 27 years ago (maybe longer!) I have always enjoyed and strived to improve the quality of my drawing, whether it be a single line or something complex. Drawing is, for me, is the most important part of any artists work, I love looking at other people’s art, and drawings always delight, as they seem to be the most intimate and honest.

The SGFA is a dedicated, like-minded group of artists who love drawing and give of their best and do not hold back on quality or content. It is a great honour to be part of it, there are no prima donnas, just artists who work and care about one another and the quality of their work. I am also a member of Florence Biennale Artists, Trevisan International Art, OpenArtCode International Artists, Former Chair of the British Egg Tempera Society and Norwich 20 Group.

Maz Jackson_Birdman_Wood_EngravingYou use egg tempera in your paintings, why do you use that? How different is it? Do you have any tips on using it, what to do, what to avoid?

Egg tempera is a very pure way of painting and has less restoration than any other paint medium through history. It began with the cave men binding pigments with egg, and is still practiced by tribes today. I use mineral pigments, as organic pigments tend to fade (as seen in many medieval paintings where the faces are now green, due to flesh being under painted with terre verte and the fugitive organic pinks having faded or  disappeared altogether). Mineral pigments, which have each been ground with a muller on a glass plate, are mixed with fresh farm egg yolk and distilled water, following the 15th century methods of Cennino d'Andrea Cennini.

These methods were taught to Michelangelo, Botticelli and many other medieval and renaissance artists and artisans during their apprenticeship. The method followed involves painting on oak panels that have been sized, wrapped in linen, painted with seven layers of handmade gesso (on all sides to prevent warping). The panels are then scrapped, sanded, polished with a damp linen and left for several weeks before being chosen to suit a particular image. An image is then drawn and gilded with 24 carat gold leaf and then painted with rhythmic dot and dashed brushstrokes with egg tempera.

Maz Jackson_Peacemaker_Bird_TotemThe whole process can take months, or years sometimes, to build up the painting to a satisfactory conclusion. The surface then takes 8 months before it refuses any more paint as it becomes semi-waterproof and then takes a year, or preferably 2 or more to harden to a beautiful patina. There is something magical that happens when the pigments bond with the egg, the colours are so pure and vibrant and have an amazing quality. Having painted in many media until 20 years ago, egg tempera has me hooked. So my studio is full of things at different stages, and if I get stuck with a painting I can have a day gilding or making panels, engraving or printing, time is never wasted. I pass on the method with talks, demonstrations and as a tutor once a year at the Edward James Foundation, West Dean.

Bit of fun, if you were a Strathmore paper which would you be, and why?!

Whichever paper is best for making paper aeroplanes, I would like to fly........

Peacemaker Bird Totem is at present being exhibited at the Castle Museum Norwich and then is to be part of my exhibit selected for 2015 Palermo Biennale. The 2 wood engravings  were selected for the SGFA Menier 

You can find out more about Maz from her website 


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