Richard Spare

Stonechat (oil)

Oil on board
Image Size: 230 × 190mm
Unique Piece

Portrait of Richard at his studio
Richard Spare (left) and Jasper Johns (right)
Richard Spare (right) printing Banks' Florilegium at the Egerton-Williams studio
I enjoy the almost sculptural quality involved in working a plate and particularly like the rich, velvety line produced by drypoint, which, in combination with vibrant colour, I use for my prints.
— Richard Spare

Richard studied painting at Maidstone College of Art (1971-74). He has continued to produce his own work ever since and has become intensely involved in printmaking.

A Master printmaker, Richard has editioned work for many contemporary artists, including David Hockney, Robert Ryman, Francesco Clemente, Donald Sultan and Keith Haring. In 1977 he worked with David Hockney as his assistant, setting up an etching studio for him. It was an interesting time as Richard was able to watch Hockney at work on his sets for the Glyndebourne 'Magic Flute'. In 1988 Richard spent several months in New York working with Jasper Johns, proofing and editioning complex carborundum prints.

Today, Richard concentrates solely on his own work, which derives from nature and travel. The garden he has designed at his studio in Charlton is a rich source of inspiration. Filled with hollyhocks, foxgloves, poppies and wisteria, it is a small haven for wildlife and has been a starting point for many of his prints. Richard's studio is a homage to the art of printmaking, with its lovingly-restored antique etching presses, housed in a converted Victorian coach house.

A frequent exhibitor at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition and a twice invited exhibitor at the Discerning Eye exhibition at the Mall Galleries, Richard also regularly shows his work internationally.

Solo international shows include a series of annual exhibitions throughout Japan, spanning eleven years, which included Tokyo, Fukuoka, Osaka, Yokohama, Hiroshima, Matsuyama, Sendai, Sapporo, Kobe, Kyoto, Nagoya, Kagoshima, Kawagoe, and Nara. He has also had solo shows in Ballarat and Daylesford, Victoria, Australia. He has been Guest International Artist at the Toorak Village Art Affair, Melbourne.

In November 2017 Richard travelled once again to attend 28 solo shows of his work in cities across the whole of Japan, from Hokkaido in the north to the Pacific Islands in the south. This beautiful country, its art and traditions, continue to be an abiding influence on his work.

Solo shows in the UK include The Craft Centre & Design Gallery, Leeds City Art Gallery, Trevelyan College, University of Durham and The Burton Art Gallery, Bideford, Devon.

Notable mixed shows include The Art on paper Fair at the Royal College of Art and the Originals, Society of Wildlife Artists and Royal Society of British Artists Open exhibitions at the Mall Galleries.

Richard's work appears in many collections worldwide; public collections include: The Victoria & Albert Museum, British Library, Museum of London, Cartwright Hall Art Gallery, Royal Cornwall Museum, Trevelyan College, University of Durham, Aston University, Chelmsford Museum, Penlee House Museum and Gallery, Leeds Art Gallery, Maidstone Museum, Imperial Health Charity, Art in Healthcare, The Central and Regional Library of Berlin and Federation University Australia, Ballarat, Victoria.

He achieves a dreamlike quality in his work with simple yet very appealing subject matter.
— Will Ramsay, Founder of the Affordable Art Fair (AFF)
Ramsay, W., ArtReview, Vol. 51 (Oct 1999), pp. 44-5.

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What's a Drypoint?

Richard is primarily a printmaker and draws directly into the copper plate (to the extent of lugging a box of copper plates away on holiday!).

In 'drypoint' the image is inscribed into the plate surface (in this case, copper), with a sharp etching needle. Depending on the force and angle used (and Richard likes to incise the surface very deeply - which, unfortunately, is rather painful on the fingers!) fine, sharp pieces of metal are thrown up either side of the line.  This burr holds ink, as does the furrow created by the needle, and the result is a warm, velvety line.

The copper plate is then electroplated (‘steelfaced’) with a fine layer of iron, to give the burr the strength to withstand the printing process.

Inking up and wiping the plate is done by hand, before it is run through an etching press. Years of experience have taught Richard exactly how much ink to leave on the plate to achieve the specific velvety effect he wants.

The 100% pure cotton paper is printed damp so that it readily moulds itself to the plate and accepts the ink. His etching press is an antique; indeed the process has changed very little since the days of Rembrandt!

The plate is re-inked, wiped and run through the press for each print made, and thus each print will vary slightly.

Perching Kingfisher

Finally, after the drying process, each print is hand-coloured, signed and numbered. When the edition is completed, the plate is defaced or destroyed.

Etching, engraving, aquatint, drypoint and mezzotint techniques are all termed 'intaglio' - i.e. the image is held in marks made into the printing surface. A characteristic of intaglio prints is the 'platemark', an impressed mark around the image, caused by the plate and paper being forced together in the printing press.

The meticulous hand painting with carefully selected watercolour, - each colour chosen for its vibrancy with the rich drypoint line, often takes as long as the printing process.

So for example the ‘Perching Kingfisher’ will be one of an edition of only 100; each hand-printed, hand watercoloured, then signed, titled and numbered by Richard. There is thus no one original, as there would be with a painting. Each drypoint print is an original, each one being slightly different and sold in a limited edition. Indeed the art world refers to handmade prints as ‘original prints’, as they are not reproductions and not mass/machine-produced.

When the edition is completed, the plate is chopped up on the studio guillotine (formerly Sidney Nolan's) and recycled.

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