I’m always watching out for new and interesting printmakers, and a few years ago I started to notice some beautiful historic portraits appearing more often under the name of Lucie Spartacus. Her bold representations of 19th Century figures in classic poses often stand out and grab my attention, so I decided it was time to reach out to this emerging talent in her home-made studio in Bordeaux, to find out more about her love of Art history, 19th Century Portraits and strong women from her nations past.
So what’s your name and where do you come from?
My real name is Camille and I am from the south of France. But I hide behind the pseudonym Lucie Spartacus, an obscure reference to a 19th century artist that I particularly like. I chose that alias years ago for my pinterest account. Without much thought, I used it when I joined instagram.
What got you into printmaking?
I used to draw a little and I always liked to do manual things. About two years ago, I discovered linocut on the internet and I bought a beginners kit.
Did you study print-making at University or College? Or did you come across print making another way?
I did not study print-making or any other art medium for that matter. But I’ve been interested in art since I was a child thanks to my mother who draws, paints and is very handy. I studied art history in Paris for a long time, especially 19th century art. During my studies, I learned a little about the oldest engraving techniques so I had some vague theoretical knowledge about printmaking..
When you started out what kind of things were you doing?
My first linocuts were copies of prints by two French artists, Félix Vallotton and Jean Emile Laboureur. It took me a little time to dare to make my own creations. But from the beginning, I was attracted to subjects related to portraits and people.
Where are you based now?
I lived in Paris for a long time but now I live in Bordeaux.
Can you describe where you work and how you’ve set up your studio space?
I set up my little studio at home. I tried to organize a fairly practical space but it always ends up being a bit of a mess. A lot of boxes and folders to store plates, prints, inks, paper etc. I don’t have a big press but I use an xcut xpress which is foldable. Each step of the process happens at the same desk. I’ve also been doing a little DIY. I use a fridge shelf to work the ink and I made my drying rack with pieces of wood and clothespins.
What inspires you? What are the main themes that you explore the most with your printmaking?
I love 19th century art, literature and history. I am especially drawn to the genre of portraits and I find a lot of my inspiration in 19th century photography. I carve a lot of women. I think I’m naturally more drawn to them because I’m a woman myself. The status and the history of women during the 19th century, as well as their representation in the art of that time are subjects that particularly interest me.
Why? What is it about those themes that draw you towards them in your work?
These are subjects I was interested in before I started printing. So it happened pretty naturally. These themes were already part of my life.
Are there any artists that really inspired you? (not necessarily printmakers)
I love 19th century art in general, painting, sculpture, photography and also printmaking. I love the academic art as much as the avant-garde so I couldn’t name names. And in the field of printmaking, I like the work of Gustave Doré and Félix Vallotton Prints. Goya’s engravings are absolutely amazing. I particularly like the history of France in the 19th century. (I sound a little obsessive)
What’s your favourite place to go to find inspiration?
I find inspiration in art books, museums, and of course on the internet. I use Pinterest a lot and I create boards when I am working on a lino to gather ideas.
Who is your favourite fellow lino cutter and printmaker? Are there any artists that really stand out for you?
There are so many. I became interested in contemporary printmaking artists when I started doing linocuts. So I discovered many of the artists whose work I like on the internet and especially on Instagram. it’s really hard to name just a few but I’m going to do it anyway 🙂 I really love the works of John Watson, Ramon Rodrigues, Anya Barabanova (lino_squirrel), Fiona Bearclaw, Karin Rytter, Peter Nevins, Mat Pringle and Linocutboy…. I can go on and on
With so many ways to print, what draws you to linocut? and do you also use other techniques?
For the moment I’ve only tried linocut. It seemed to me that it was the simplest printing technique. You can learn by yourself and the material is not too expensive. These are very down-to-earth reasons.
What is the part of the process you relish the most? Draw? Cut? Ink? or Press? (& can you explain why?)
It changes. Sometimes it’s carving, which can be very relaxing. Other times, it is printing, when everything is going smoothly. But it is never drawing because I am not very good at it. This is why I sometimes finish the design when I am carving. I make some decisions at the last minute.The printing part can be also very frustrating, but solving technical problems is also extremely rewarding and gives me confidence.
What’s your go-to choice of music or latest online tv series to soak up when your getting in the zone?
I don’t listen to music as much as I did a few years ago and never when I’m carving. I listen to podcasts, especially in English, which is not my mother tongue. Often I’m focused on the carving and I don’t listen anymore. But the voices are relaxing.
How do you like to develop your ideas? Is there a creative process you follow that helps you?
I work in a fairly ordinary way. I try to practice drawing and I draw in a notebook. Sometimes one of these sketches inspires me to think of a print. Other times it is the other way around. I have the idea for a print and I try to translate it into a drawing. I use photos as models, old photos mainly. I also sometimes do selfies to get the pose I want.
How did your style develop?
I have no idea.
Were there any lessons you learnt while you developed your lino cutting technique that you think feel were real milestone moments for you?
I don’t feel like I’ve had one single pivotal moment but rather an accumulation of progress which often related to the improvement of my equipment: when I bought my first good tool, for example, or when I started using oil-based inks. For the rest, I think you have to practice to progress and that takes time.
What do you use to print? Wooden spoon, etching press, book press?
I use two barens, a small wooden one, and a traditional Japanese baren. I don’t use the iconic spoon although I’ve incorporated it into the props of my allegory of linocutting. I also use my little xpress x cut, a tool for scrapbooking that can be used as a printing press. The printmaker Colin Blanchard has put online some very useful videos on this subject.
What’s your go to tool/paper/ink in your artist’s toolbox.
I use Pfeil and flexcut tools, Canson Edition paper and Clairefontaine simili Japon paper (i don’t know what you call it in english), Caligo safe wash relief ink and Charbonnel aqua wash. I use traditional lino and vinyl carving blocks.
Where do you go to top up on your supplies? We get readers from all around the world so local art supply stores or websites you can order from are always welcome.
There is a great printmaking supplies store in Paris, Joop Stoop. In Bordeaux, I buy my paper, lino and some of my inks at the Geant des beaux-arts or at Boesner. I also buy some of my material on the internet, Jackson art supplies and Hand printed UK.
Have you ever been tempted to try another material like wood for carving into?
I would like to, but right now I’m concentrating on linocut. Although I’d like to try other printing techniques, such as mezzotint and letterpress.
The challenges of colour registration are always a bit of fun and lots of people ask me about it, how do you make sure your layers lineup so nicely?
My layers don’t line up nicely most of the time 😀 I use masking tape to mark the position of the sheet of paper but I am seriously considering buying Ternes Burton register pins because registration drives me a little crazy.
How do you get your work out there and in front of people? Online, Social media, Galleries, Public Spaces, Paste-Ups/Graffiti etc?
For now I put my works on social media, instagram and facebook. I hope to be able to organize an exhibition in the future.
What’s the favourite piece of work you’ve produced? and why do you think you like it so much?
This is a tough question. I don’t think I have a favorite print but sometimes I’m happy with myself. I feel like I’ve done what I wanted to do. Recently, I was happy with the face in my portrait of Tolstoi.
Do you fulfill commercial briefs for work alongside your own artwork? or are you like me and just use your printmaking as a creative outlet whilst you’re not clocking in and out at the day job.
Living off my prints would be a dream, maybe that would be my dream project.
Whats next? Do you have exciting plans ahead for you?
Nothing specific. But in my practice of linocutting, I would like to take a step forward and perhaps make larger, more ambitious linocuts.
Portrait or Landscape?
Narrative Scene or Abstract?
Narrative scene but I’d love to be able to create patterns. I love patterns and I am for example very fond of William Morris work.
What’s your top tip? any advice for budding artists out there?
I don’t really feel legitimate to give any advice but i would say that it is important to develop a personal universe.
In a digital world, what is it about printmaking that means people still love it?
I believe that since machines have been around, some people have attached particular value to handmade things. And it doesn’t change.