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In Conversation with... Thelma Sykes 

At Pinkfoot, we are passionate about the artists we represent and we believe their work deserves to be enjoyed and appreciated by as many people as possible. We are excited to announce our new series, 'In Conversation With...', where we talk to our artists about their life and work, and share what they have to say with you, allowing you to learn more about how some of your favourite artworks have been created.

We are delighted to say that our first conversation is with Thelma Sykes, SWLA.

Thelma Sykes SWLA

Thelma Sykes was born in 1940 in Yorkshire. 
After graduating from Durham University she migrated to the English-Welsh border, close to the Dee Estuary, a wetland that was to lead to a change of career. In her first decades of professional life, Thelma was a a computer programmer/systems analyst but she sees little disparity between her two careers: the character trait that identifies structure and pattern in computer languages is equally alive to the repeating designs & rhythms within the natural world. 

She crossed the Mersey for her work in computer programming and haunted the Dee at all other times and tides. The true transition in her career came by chance when she borrowed binoculars to look across the Estuary at the Welsh Hills and a Heron flew into focus, centre lens. A Grey Heron, but that colour enriched to stunning blue by the bright winter sky. It was a New Year's Day walk that fuelled a passion for the Dee Estuary and its birds and it became important to share these riches.

Her reputation as a field naturalist continued to grow alongside a passion for printmaking: recognition of her talent for both came in 1999 with her election to the Society of Wildlife Artists. 
Thelma enjoys exhibiting alongside other printmakers, and is inspired by the works of a range of Artists past and present; Robert Gillmor MBE, Edward Wadsworth, Agnes Miller and Georges Braque to name a few. She exhibits throughout the UK, and, as a member of Professional Artists in Cheshire, in Europe. She was represented in the exhibition of Western Printmakers at Chong Qing, China as part of the Millennium International Printmaking Festival.

Her work is in public collections in the UK and in China; four prints from the collection of the Grosvenor Museum, Chester were included in the Museum’s major print exhibition in 2012, “Colourful Impressions: The Joy of Modern Prints”.
Thelma explains how her experience in computer programming has benefited the process of print making over the years. Her logic, discipline, eye for detail, and creative flare helps Thelma create visually expressive images that capture the essence of the bird or place. Not to mention, the many hours spent sketching birds in marshlands and estuaries. Thelma talks about the time spent before the printing process, getting to know the bird's personalities, traits, form and charisma. Filling many sketchbooks, this process would take months or even years to understand how a bird might move and behave. This patient observation, and subsequent understanding of her subject is evident in her work as she captures the spirit of the animal. 

The technique of relief print she has grown into is to use two or three blocks in a print, some or all of which are progressively reduced. She often cuts a wood block in combination with linoleum to add texture or pattern.
Thelma Sykes ... in her own words

“My compositions reflect my fascination with of the development of natural pattern – fractals, Fibonacci numbers, symmetry, spots and stripes: the repeating patterns of nature structure the rhythms of my work. I see a link between organisation and chaos in nature and the process that an artist undertakes in composing his image. By what means can the artist reveal to his viewer a creature that life has shadowed or patterned for stealth?”
Creating 'Scootering' (Scoot Skirmish)

"I do enjoy the process of composition; some of this is intuitive; some calculated.

I try to orchestrate the way in which the eye will move around the image. For instance, the western eye reads more readily from left to right, so my skirmish coots, in 'Scootering' move that way, too. Their white bills and shields contrast strongly against dark heads which draws the eye; I set these contrasts at different heights to convey restlessness; the intervals between them are irregular too, which pulls the eye through the group to the fleeing bird.

Then the backward curve of the leading bird's wings echoes the arc of the splash behind it and together these return the eye to another run. I think to crop the wings of the rising birds and the feet of the lower bird, will zoom the viewer in close enough to experience the beat of the wing, the spray of the water and to share in the excitement of the moment.

The print is a straightforward, one, two, three-stage reduction block, printing from light to dark, but I brushed ink from the upraised wings to suggest movement. My registration needs to be spot on through all three printings if the splashes of water showing against the dark flanks of the coots are to stay crisp. It is, and the printmaker in me is satisfied.

My pre-occupation with structure and technique should be transparent to the viewer; my aim in the linocut is to share this fleeting moment of skirmish - and, oh yes, to raise a smile."
Find Out More

We hope you enjoyed our conversation with Thelma Sykes. If you would like to learn more about Thelma, and view her collection of works with us, visit our website to find out more
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