Inside this issue
I grew up on the island of South Uist in the Outer Hebrides and now live in Aberdeenshire. I return to Uist a few times each year. I work as an illustrator and I am relatively new to digital photography but I have dabbled with 35mm film for many years.
In 2012 I paused by my local river and everything changed. I’ve moved away from what many expect photographs to be: my images deconstruct the literal and reimagine the subjective, reflecting the curiosity that water has inspired in my practice. Water has been my conduit: it has sharpened my vision, given me permission to experiment and continues to introduce me to new ways of seeing.
There’s been a resurgence in interest in artists’ books among landscape photographers recently – witness the popularity of bookmaking and sequencing workshops by John Blakemore and Joseph Wright among others. Along with the satisfaction of making something yourself, they offer a tangible output for a collection of images or a photographic series. Beyond the decisions to be made on image selection and sequencing, there is a multiplicity of papers, methods and materials. There is too the possibility that the book itself can become a thing of beauty and it’s been a pleasure to see the images that Shona Grant has been sharing of her creations. As well as developing her interest in photography she has been looking for ways to output this and mixing art and lettering with printed image.
Would you like to tell readers a little about yourself – your education, early interests and career?
I was lucky enough to grow up on the island of South Uist in the Outer Hebrides where my dad worked as a general surgeon/ G.P. in the small Sacred Heart hospital in Daliburgh for 25 years.
I went to Lochboisdale Primary School on the island until the age of 11 when I was punted off to boarding school in Edinburgh. As a child I was very much into the outdoors and I used to head off on my bike to the beach or muck about at the local canal. I golfed a bit; did some fly fishing on the lochs; played with friends at the local dump; all very idyllic really. I wasn’t particularly academic so the fancy Edinburgh school was a bit wasted on me with one school report for maths saying ‘Shona has been working steadily but with progressively less understanding’. I was good at sport and art. I studied Audio Visual Aids Technology at Napier College in Edinburgh. I could have gone to art school but I didn’t fancy 4 years studying anything at the time and the A.V.A course was 2 years, with my attendance being part time! Part of the course involved film production and photography which I liked a lot but the rest of it was pretty dull.
After toying with a few jobs in Edinburgh when I left college, I headed to London working at Hammersmith and St Mary’s Hospitals producing teaching aids for medical students and nurses for 4 years before getting a portfolio of artwork together. I trawled round publishing houses until I started picking up commissions to illustrate books and produce artwork for advertising agencies.
A move to Glasgow followed (husband relocated there with work) and I supplemented my income as an illustrator working as a tennis coach after qualifying as a coach with the Lawn Tennis Association. Then I had my daughter Cathy, dropped the coaching, but continued working from home as a freelance illustrator and looked after Cathy full time. Photography came later.
Who (photographers, artists or individuals) or what has most inspired you, or driven you forward in your own development as an artist and photographer?
The most inspiring thing for me is the British landscape. Its wonderful seasons and skies and trees and coasts and islands and moors and uplands and…and…and… Trying to do it justice photographically is a constant and enjoyable challenge.
Next up for inspiration are painters and printmakers. I really like the work of Joseph Crawhall and James Guthrie, two of The Glasgow Boys who were a group of about 20 artists working in Glasgow (oddly enough) in the early 1880s. It’s lovely stuff. Crawhall used to work with gouache – a sort of professional poster paint – on linen which is quite an unusual technique, and one that I’ve used for some of my paintings. Nowhere nearly as accomplished as his though. Another painter whose work has inspired me is Walter Sickert: his colour palette and technique with oil paints is fabulous. The wood engraver and illustrator Charles Tunnicliffe is another whose work has influenced my own as is the artist and printmaker Norman Ackroyd. His etchings from his visit to St Kilda in the Outer Hebrides are wonderful and very evocative of the place.
Although Paul Strand’s book of South Uist “Tir a’Mhurain” had great impact on you, you credit your father as being one of your biggest photographic influences?