Lifestyle

Talent all there in the fine print: Anna creates beautiful collages

By John Lewis

FROM a little caravan in the rambling garden of her Barmah home, Anna Willoughby produces complex fine art which deals with some pretty big themes.

The relationship between memory, people, words and places or human evolution and survival are just some of the ideas that tumble out of the caravan.

Anna’s ideas come to life through her chosen field of printmaking — a rather more technical process than drawing or painting.

Producing her delicate multi-layered collages of trees, words, people and buildings involves more than a brush or a pencil.

A camera, computer, a huge lightbulb, ink, screens, some chemicals, complete darkness and plenty of sunlight are the main ingredients in a Willoughby original print.

Anna has a deep knowledge of the printing process gained from her schooling in Perth and from time spent in Utah in the United States, Sydney College of the Arts, Melbourne’s RMIT and workshops in Spain with Danish printmaker Henrik Boegh, who taught her how to use sunlight instead of acid to produce prints.

‘‘It’s environmentally friendly and it’s much better for your health. Also from a creative perspective, it’s a lot more playful, you can touch things with your fingers,’’ she said.

For some, printing is a mysterious alchemy of science and art, often involving nasty chemicals.

However, Anna breaks it all down quite simply.

‘‘There are two main categories: intaglio, where ink is received into a plate and then pushed out — like etchings; then there is relief printing where there’s a raised surface that you put ink on to and press on to other surfaces — like lino cuts,’’ Anna said.

‘‘There are many other printing processes such as lithography — which is printing from stone.

‘‘Essentially all printing is the replication of an image impressed on to a plate — sometimes using chemical, or carvings, or metals or different textures — a lot of printmakers specialise.

‘‘My specialty is screen printing and photographic etching.’’

Anna’s ideas start sometimes with a photo, or some writing or a combination.

She layers them on a computer to produce an image which she then photographs on to a screen in her caravan darkroom.

Ink is then pushed through the screen on to fine art paper to produce the final image.

‘‘I love the almost scientific aspect to making art. There’s a lot of history — this started way back with the Gutenberg press or way before.

‘‘I love that idea of that knowledge being maintained and passed down — a lot of the art printing processes we use now were once commercial processes, like the digital prints we have today and photography back in the 70s.’’

Her work has been extensively exhibited from Western Australia to NSW, Melbourne and in Nathalia’s G.R.A.I.N Store gallery where she also helped curate exhibitions and deal with publicity.

Her prints have also collected several Western Australian Print Media awards.

She currently teaches art at Echuca Secondary College.

However, Anna now has another focus for her creativity: her firstborn baby, Henry, now two months old.

Her new role has meant art has taken a back seat, but she is determined to keep up her printmaking.

‘‘My goal is to continue printmaking. I’m always thinking about new ideas, and having him has given me more ideas — especially with our memories together, and the memories of other mothers and fathers.’’

Since moving from Fremantle to Barmah six years ago with her musician partner, Simon Marks, Anna has built her own art-making world at home.

She said the isolation was not a problem.

‘‘Barmah has opened up a new world. I have a studio at home that I never have to leave — one that I can afford to set up the way I want to — and that’s a freedom.

‘‘I can still talk to Melbourne artists and exhibit, but I have this beautiful bush around me, which is inspiring.

‘‘It’s a win-win situation; the more people you meet in the area, the more you realise there are people doing similar things.

‘‘I don’t feel isolated at all.’’

Anna Willoughby’s work can be seen at www.annawilloughby.com and at the Four Picture Makers: Emerging Artists in the Northern Country exhibition at Nathalia’s G.R.A.I.N Store gallery until March 30.