Molly Lemon is a printmaker who specialises in wood engraving. Living in rural South West England, Molly engraves images inspired by nature and the rural landscapes surrounding her. In our interview, we got to ask Molly about her artistic processes, why nature inspires her work so much and what her thoughts are on climate change and conservation.
What or who inspired you to take up art?
Making art was something I always did. I remember sitting on my bedroom floor each morning painting with watercolours. Throughout my art education, being dyslexic meant that I always found research and learning about other artists really challenging, which seemed to take the joy out of it. However, since joining Instagram, I’ve been inspired by so many amazing artists and printmakers. It’s a great platform to not only discover artists but also chat to them, swap knowledge and watch their work develop.
When did you first discover wood engraving?
It was complete chance that I learnt wood engraving. I had studied printmaking for 4 years during my foundation course and then at degree level, but I didn’t know what wood engraving was. In 2017 I had been spending my summer helping out at UWE’s School of Art and Design on a book arts project with Sarah Bodman. As a thank you, she put me on a wood engraving course with wood engraver Ben Goodman, who teaches on their summer school. It’s amazing how one thing leads to another. I doubt I’d ever have had tried the technique if it wasn’t for that summer of volunteering.
Can you describe your wood engraving process and what essential tools you use?
Wood engraving is a traditional printmaking technique, first developed at the end of the 18th century by Thomas Bewick. You use very fine tools to engrave onto hard wood such as boxwood. You always work on the end grain of the wood rather than the long grain. Once the design is finished you ink it up the woodblock and print it, much like you would a lino cut. I use my antique miniature Albion press to print my engravings, it’s over 150 years old!
Nature features a lot in your artworks, can you explain what about nature inspires you so much?
I grew up on Dartmoor and I spent my summers outside exploring, so nature has always been such a big focus for me. I also love how when you create images of nature it doesn’t matter if they’re not perfect or if they’re a bit wonky, nature is imperfect and organic, so it helps me to let go when I’m creating an image.
Living in such beautiful surroundings of the Cotswolds must mean you get a lot of inspiration locally. How important do you think living in the countryside has been to the progression of your art?
After I graduated from Winchester School of Art I moved to Bristol. I spent 3 years working in the city as a picture framer, it was a really important time for me, gaining skills and learning what life was like post education. However, I missed the countryside and the sounds of nature so we decided to move. I think moving to a rural setting has lead to me living a slower pace of life, (such a cliché but it’s true) which helps me focus more on my art. It also gives me access to amazing, dramatic landscapes. One down side is that I don’t have a car, so I am pretty isolated and haven’t had the chance to visit many exhibitions over the last few years which is a big loss.
Your website mentions your concerns with global warming and conservation, how important is it for you that these messages are conveyed in your artwork?
This is what drives me most. I want to help the environment, there is nothing more important right now. I think no matter what an artist tries to convey in their artwork, the viewer will have their own interpretation. That’s fine of course, that’s what makes art so interesting. However, I think my love of nature and how much I respect it always comes through. I spend hours adding tiny little marks on the wood to portray the fur on a sleeping squirrel or the movement in tall grass. I take time on these things because the details matter in nature, they’re what make it beautiful and what make it work. Last year in June I decided to donate £1 from each print sold to environmental charities. Almost a year on I’ve nearly hit £1000. I will continue to do this, as it’s so important to look after our world.