Jessica Hills on Drawing, Etching and Studio Space

Shefali Wardell, one of the founders of Refresh Art Award, was really surprised to see a familiar baboon amongst the entries...


I was happy (and surprised) to discover that this particular print was in the Refresh Art Award entries because I remember seeing you make some of it at the London Print Studio. It's a small world - especially as this is an international competition and the last stuff I was looking for was from Canada.  How is the etching going? And what do you like about it as a medium to reproduce drawings?


That's so lovely to hear, it felt like it took a long time to make! I've been working in the studio alongside a job in the African travel industry, so it's mainly Saturdays and the odd off days when I can work on this.

I came up with this drawing whilst working as a camp manager in Zambia last season, and have a collection of five or so I want to turn into etchings.

I draw with biro, which is a hangover from doodling during lessons in school, and the medium is terrible as biro goes brown and faded after a year or so! But I love the texture I get from crosshatching and the different depths of tone I can achieve with it. So I needed a way to turn these drawings into something that will last, and soft ground etching has really been the answer for me. I actually really like that you need to work for the end result, as it gives me a huge sense of achievement when I finish an etching.


Etching does seem like quite a labour of love sometimes doesn't it!?  That's so interesting about biro - I have often thought of it as a possibly great drawing medium but never knew about the fading!

When you do the soft ground etchings do you draw through tissue on to the plate, and if so, do you use an etching needle or the original biro?

What drew you to the London Print Studio? Do you have a separate 'artists' studio' or do you like the ability to work with open access facilities? I've personally found over the years that I have been quite nomadic in my studio use. Some of that is because I'm not a natural studio artist, but there's also a huge financial burden on artists who need to rent studio space these days.

Do you find that an open access facility, with equipment and technicians, is better value than renting a big space of your own? Is the rented studio a model you've ever used, and what do you think of it as a space to work and against the current realities of being an artist?


It's definitely a big financial commitment to work on my etchings, and the only reason I do it is because I love it, and it gives me more satisfaction than anything else.

Biro is frustrating as I did a few drawings for people before realising that it fades, which was quite embarrassing! So this is why I've moved onto etching which ensures you are giving people something of quality, which will last. I draw through tissue onto the plate, and usually I will have traced my original drawing onto the tissue paper so that in the studio I can get straight into transferring the image onto the plate.

I stumbled across the London Print Studio a couple of years ago and fell in love with it instantly. It is pristinely managed, kept super tidy and in a gorgeous position on the canal, so it just makes for a really tranquil place to work. I also love the environment of being around other artists, seeing what they are working on, and being able to chat to technicians when you have an issue or are looking for advice - you move forwards faster and feel more motivated. They offer half and full day sessions which works well for me.

I've never had the money to rent a studio, but I've worked in garages and sheds, which limits working to warm weather (I need movement in my hands!). Painting has traditionally been my big passion and not having a nice warm space to work in has probably contributed to me not doing as much of that as I would like.

However, I'm just about to move into a small cottage with a heated office space at the bottom of the garden, so I'll be turning that into my studio, which I'm escstatic about!

We're really pleased to have this print in our show, and you'll be able to buy it from this site next year but in the meantime if you'd like to see any more of Jessica's work, buy a print or maybe commission something, her website is or catch her on Instagram @jessicahillsart.

Soft ground etching
Baboons at Kapani


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