Anita Saunders is based in Wiltshire and is known for her paintings and prints of animals.
“Is it difficult to capture the unique characters of dogs portrayed in your screen prints”?
I think capturing the unique essence of any living subject is always a challenge for an artist. Speaking personally, it’s always about the eyes. I admit I spend a lot of time trying to get the eyes right in all my work, as they bring the subject to life. However, where screen printing is concerned, the method can throw up its own unique set of challenges. If the registration of one colour on top of the other isn’t quite right, it can be disastrous. So, even if the initial drawing portrays the characteristics of my subject perfectly, I must work hard to ensure the end result is right. After all, some of my most complex compositions require over twenty individually hand drawn screens to make up the final image, so there’s a large margin for error.
“ In “Fire Crest” you have used oil paint on metal leaf. Can you tell us more about your choice of support and its benefits?“
I love applying oil paint to metal leaf. I like the fluidity of the paint over the non-absorbent surface. However, the most exciting property to me is the way the light bounces back through the painted surface. This reflected light gives the paint a heightened intensity of colour and a sense of warmth, which really appeals to me. I think you can see this in the vibrant splash of colour on the little bird’s head in ‘Fire Crest’. Using the incredible properties of light is something I tuned in to through working with stained glass and for me, using gilded surfaces with oil paint is very exciting. I love the way the paintings change throughout the day and under different light conditions; it fascinates me.
It’s not a quick process though, as there is a lot of preparation before I get to the painting stage. The panels or canvas boards I use are first painted with a coloured ground. I like to use a deep red. Then the metal leaf size is painted on to the surface and left to cure before the paper-thin metal leaf can be applied. I usually leave the gilded panels for at least 24 hours before adding a layer of oil-based varnish over the top. This prevents it from oxidising, as the metal leaf contains copper (pure gold leaf doesn’t require this). However, as I use oil paint, I then need to add an additional acrylic varnish layer to protect the first layer from the solvents in the paint. So, all in all it takes about a week of gilding and varnishing before the panel is ready to paint.
“Is there a story behind your oil painting “Elvis-Ram”? Is the Ram actually named Elvis?”
That’s a lovely question. A lot of my animal subjects are named as their titles suggest but this is not the case with Elvis the ram.
My husband and I take an early morning walk most days along the bridal path near our home. It’s a lovely walk which passes fields filled with busily munching sheep. As my grandfather was a shepherd and my brother and I spent a lot of our youth with him and his flock, I have a huge soft spot for these lovely creatures. I can’t help but speak to the sheep we see along the way. They all have personalities and I admit I do give them nicknames! So, when I was painting this beautiful ram – who, it has to be said is probably a bit of a superstar from a ewe’s perspective – the twinkle in his eye, together with his lovely fleece quiff, made me think of Elvis and so the name stuck.